July 21, 2010 Perfectionism, The Highly Sensitive Person, and How Grieving Our Childhood Pain Is Essential To Healing

 

Hi everyone.  I hope you are enjoying the summer.  I hope you are not heaping lists of  “shoulds” on yourself (home improvements etc.) to accomplish–only to realize, “What was I thinking?!  I can’t do all this stuff!–the KIDS are home!”  ha ha.  Yes I remember, and I still do it somewhat but this summer is SO much better.  Back then it was a priority for me to make happy, fun summer memories for my children and connecting with them emotionally. I always ended up throwing out my long list of shoulds.  If you don’t, you end up saying to yourself, “I didn’t get this done and I didn’t get that done.  Instead make a list of all the things you DO accomplish after they happen–write down each special conversation, each walk in nature, each memorable meal together etc.  By the end of the summer you will have a wonderful memoir of how special your summer actually was instead of a list of what you didn’t get done.

Even with my best efforts when my children were growing up, I was too busy satisfying their needs for a fun summer and way too many “shoulds” for myself that I often felt like I missed it–summer would just zip by me and I was left feeling regret. 

I think often times we are busy like that to avoid our painful feelings that we experienced in childhood. As children of narcissistic parents, we found ways to cope and survive the lack of love, encouragement, acknowledgement, and acceptance we all desperately wanted and needed. We are perfectionists, compulsive over-workers, compulsive shoppers, compulsive list-makers, and then call ourselves procrastinators because we put things off–but it’s really because we have unrealistic expectations of what we need to accomplish.

As highly sensitive children with N parents, nothing we ever did was praised or applauded as we deserved unless it was something they wanted us to be doing.  This was so confusing to us so we rationalized that we must not be doing enough or doing it well enough.  Now when we overwork because of perfectionism it is because we are still trying to fill an unmet need from childhood–one that will never be met but can be resolved if we allow our sadness about the truth of it all to come to the surface.  Grief is a positive, healthy emotion that is necessary to heal your childhood wounds.  You deserved so much more–you deserved…”love”.  You did not get it and you are still not getting it from them.  The problem is not with you…you are so loveable!  Aren’t you!  You know it.  You are smiling right now aren’t you because you know it on some deep level. :)  That is the truth that you must listen to.  The love you need and deserve exists–we know what we deserved.   

For some reason, we were born into families that couldn’t love us.  I had a hard time resolving this–it didn’t make sense.  I was drawn to reading a lot of new age books on spirituality to figure this out.  Reading all these books really helped me get a new perspective.  I now believe that I have more innate inner strength than my siblings and parents.  I am able to grow and give to others even more because of what happened to me being raised in an unsupportive, dysfunctional family.  It appears to them as if I am the failure, that I am too sensitive to get along with their constant drama and negativity, and so I am to be pitied and seek help so that I will “fit in” better with them.  In reality, the exact opposite is true and it is true of all of us.  We  (HSPs) see the truth, we KNOW we deserve love and better treatment and we know we don’t deserve feeling bad about ourselves any longer.  When someone sees you as LESS THAN and you know you deserve more–you don’t have to be around that person.  Simple as that!  You may need to try a few times to get them to see you and understand you, but if you keep on coming up short in their eyes, and this is causing you a great deal of stress, then it’s time to distance yourself from them and get some healing support. Some of us can’t even try to be ourselves with them–it’s too excruciating to reexperience the rejection, so we must just leave so that we can begin to heal.

We all NEED acceptance.  It’s very important to look elsewhere for people who accept you and understand your self-expression for support.  We (HSPs) eventually grow from the pain of it all, and we learn to rely on our selves if we can get away from the negativity that they and society use to control us and keep us DOWN.  They know we are different and special and yet they are not evolved as we are and so they do not have the inner strength to say,  “Wow you have these great gifts of sensitivity and awareness and depth–you are different from us, you should go out into the world and share your knowledge, vision, gifts, and message of love and peace to the world–we understand and we are in awe of you.  So GO, fly away and be the best that you can be!” ha ha Wouldn’t that be the greatest to hear anyone in your family say that!?!

In order for them to say that to us, they would have to be very secure and love themselves a lot (or be an HSP like you)!  They don’t love themselves at all!  They want to control us because they have so much pain and if we leave them it makes them feel their pain so they blame us.  They don’t have the “insight” to see what we see or want what we want and to see that their pain has nothing to do with us.  We are holding ourselves back, waiting for their permission to leave.

Reading the books on spirituality helped me to believe that my spirit (everyone’s spirit)  is going to live for all eternity and the lessons I learn in this lifetime will never be forgotten. I believe we all evolve at different levels and different speeds and some of us souls are more advanced than others. We (HSPs) are continuously healing our post traumatic stress from our very real childhood wounds, and it is necessary for us to separate from those who caused these wounds and move forward toward new healthier people!  We must not feel guilty for healing–GOD wanted us to be all that we can be and he is with us in all our healing.  We each have different limits to what negativity we can be around–we need to honor these limits and take care of ourselves whatever it takes!  Alice Miller often talks about the “never-ending work of mourning” in her books and how important the grieving process is for our recovery–we must accept it as essential to our healing and to our eventual freedom from our inner-prison of self-doubt.  

If my child wouldn’t speak to me, I would look at myself and say, “what did I do to cause this”, and say to them, “I’m so sorry, let me hear your pain and your side of the story and comfort you until you feel better and we will work it out to your satisfaction.”   These are words I know I’ll never hear from my family of origin.  Perhaps my soul is more evolved and advanced than theirs and I chose (with the gift of God’s free will) to be in this family in this lifetime to learn about the pain of rejection and about my own strength in overcoming it.  Maybe I chose them so I could learn what not to do as a mother to my own children and develop empathic skills to help others by surviving such extreme manipulations as a child. I know that I am finally glad to be me, and I am proud of myself for all that I have figured out and how this knowledge has helped a lot of other people to heal. 

The grieving process has opened my life up to the most wonderful feelings of joy, love, and trust in my creativity, and this is what keeps me going in this direction.  When I love and value myself and my feelings, all of them, I have more to give others to help them to heal as well.  I believe we are all highly sensitive for a very special reason and that we are more advanced and need to heal separately from our families until we are strong enough to give back to others…others who are ready to heal and ready to feel.

With support we can grieve for not getting the love we deserved and we can have a happy, healthy, guilt-free, and independent life.  The joy and relief you will feel when you allow yourself to grieve will feel wonderful and so you will know you are going in the right direction.  If you need help grieving and someone to listen, this is what I am here for.  I believe this is my true purpose in life.  Nothing gives me more joy and satisfaction than helping a highly sensitive soul to heal the painful wounds that are holding him/her back from his/her true potential on this planet.  Thank you sensitive souls out there for being here on the planet.  

My most clicked on post by far is the post Feb. 20, 2010  Moving on From a Narcissistic Parent.  There has been a lot of comment activity on it lately and I have written a lot of content on one comment that is a sample of my Email Coaching.  Please check it out because I feel that these comments left by others are so supportive to what many of us are going through.  Thank you to all my commenters for sharing your pain and experiences and encouragement–your words are so helpful to others who have not yet found their voice.

Please also check out my new PAGE called “Portrait of an INFJ”.  Soon I will be adding the Portrait of an INFP.  Very many of my clients have turned out to be these two temperament types (but not all) and I believe it would benefit those who are to read the description of your true potential as was written in Keirsey and Bates book on temperament types. (See Recommended Books).  It certainly gave me hope when I read it and I hope it does the same for you.  I care and I am here for you. 

Love, Elaine

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6 responses

  1. This sums it up perfectly, Elaine:

    “In order for them to say that to us, they would have to be very secure and love themselves a lot (or be an HSP like you)! They don’t love themselves at all! They want to control us because they have so much pain and if we leave them it makes them feel their pain so they blame us. They don’t have the “insight” to see what we see or want what we want and see that their pain has nothing to do with us. We are holding ourselves back, waiting for their permission to leave.”

    I am definately a busy bee. I do it to avoid facing my racing thoughts – that I don’t do enough, that the stuff I do isn’t good enough, that I just plain don’t measure up. I’ve done this ever since my teens – I noticed that if I stayed active in clubs and sports I could avoid the intense depression that would set in when my only option was to hang out at home.

    When I’m not doing anything I feel trapped and anxious. My mind races and makes lists for my next task. At work I feel like a horrible employee, yet at review time I’m always told I’m doing a great job and people appreciate what I do. It doesn’t register with what I think about myself.

    In my new journery and as a newish mom, I have been working very hard at letting go of that behavior. I closed up the jewelry making business I use to do on the side because I realized it wasn’t enjoyable and was keeping me away from my husband and child. I try to stay more focus in the now and enjoy being still. I started reading again, which is a happy medium for me – still doing something, but also being relaxed and still.

    I love your blog. I always feel uplifted after reading your insight. {{{HUGS}}}

    1. Hi OAD. Thank you so much for your comment. So glad you like that paragraph–it’s such a complex issue and only those who have “been” there can understand. Great that you understand the roots of your “busy-ness” and are aware enough to make some changes. Sounds like you’ve made some very wise and healthy changes in this regard. Congratulations! You are doing great!

      I also can relate to doubting the quality of my work–I used to do this all the time–now I know that everytime I do something I’m extremely proud of, the doubts will show up soon after like clockwork…but I know the truth and I ignore the doubts. Sounds like you are starting to see this too. That is great!

      Thank you so much for the kind words about my blog–uplifting others is exactly my goal. I appreciate the HUGS so much! I love your blog too–wish I had more time to comment more often. Keep up the growing, and reading and self-awareness–you are on the right path! Love, Elaine

  2. I love this particular post so much. I can relate to the compulsive lists and working and used to be a compulsive shopper to make myself feel better. I love lists!
    This post is so true and comforting.
    We must not feel guilty for healing–GOD wanted us to be all that we can be and he is with us in all our healing. I have a hard time feeling guilt when healing because sometimes, especially when I am feeling healthy I feel like I should be accomplishing more to the point of feeling stressed. If I don’t feel that stress, then someting is wrong.
    I have been very confused this last year because I was under the impression that I had healed so much from my childhood, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to heal so much from my health problems and anxiety, but I guess I have not actually gone through the grieving process. I haven’t dealt with the actual memories of the past. I am numb about these memories. It makes me feel better to know that healing from this is a life-long process.
    Thank you. Tara

  3. Hi, Elaine.

    I had to struggle through being a little bit more perfect every day much as you guys have. And when I finally realized that “perfect” is actually subjective, I had to make a decision whether to go by what’s “perfect” for my Mom or “perfect” for me.

    Just the decision alone drove me nuts. I went from “love me” to “rage against the machine” as you can imagine. And here I start to become as you have very aptly descroned in your post, an HSP.

    For a long time, I found comfort in rebellious behavior. Oh, I just loved aggravating her. It was like me saying “I refuse to be perfect by your or my standards. We can both go to hell!” It was me taking an aggressive stand.

    My mom was a strict religious, so just to spite her, I’d quote spirituality articles, particularly ones that say religion is bad! I actually made a good point, but I was coming from a wrong place.

    Thinking back, I was actually kind of funny.

    After a few spirituality articles, which I thought were a little loony sometimes, I actually got curious. The anger somehow dissipated and I had started to love myself a little bit more each day.

    When I had started to see me as a better person, a little close to perfect I should say (*wink), for some reason, my Mom just started seeing me as a “well-adjusted” person.

    I was still taking a stand, but probably not as aggressively as I had before. It was like throwing the towel and saying, “I’m good, period.” What I think it did was it confused the other camp so much so that they had to lower their guard and squint from where I am just to try and see if I had gone crazy or what?!

    So, they kind of let me do and be whatever I want to do and be, but in reality, she was really looking over my shoulder whether there’s anything for her to worry about. And little by little, somehow, she went from, “I think she’s gonna be fine” to “She kind of looks great.”

    Don’t get me wrong, she still holds her own definition of perfection, of course, but I guess she somehow realized that I’m excempted from her comparisons.

    I could only hope it goes as well for all our fellow HSPs.

    Anyway, thought I’d share because your post certainly hit a very vital nerve in me. Thanks!

    Clarissa

    1. Hi Clarissa, Thank you so much for sharing your story and insights. It’s always so nice to hear about others successful recovery and coping with narcissistic parents–you have risen above all that was denied you in childhood–you have given it to yourself and DARED to be rebellious… and then you saw it wasn’t a healthy direction BUT you learned much the jaunt with spirituality (ha ha I found this wonderfully free spirited of you and so humorous and a good natured way to rebel from the painful religious abuse that many of us endured….) and then it turned into something quite unexpected for you and you began loving yourself. Amazing! Thanks for sharing your eloquent true voice on this painful subject of perfectionism and leaving us with humorous optimism–we can have fun while we heal… we begin to see how ridiculous all their rules are and just “break out and enjoy life!” Welcome to our community! I apologize for taking so long to respond–my husband and I were on vacation. I hope you continue to visit this blog and share more comments–would love to hear more from you–you are definitely a strong HSP who has overcome much! Thanks for letting me know my post resonated with you. Warm wishes to you, Elaine

      1. Hi, Elaine. I bet you know how a little appreciation goes a long way for HSPs like us, so thank you for reaffirming that I am a strong person. It helps me want to keep bringing out my dormant superhero powers. LOL!

        To our fellow HSPs:

        Other people (even if they’re our parents) can only sling little fledgling demons at us… we don’t have to nurture and raise them. Love to us all!

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