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Techniques for Journaling and Over-riding Your Inner Critic–For The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

Hi everyone.  I’m happy to be back.   I  had a wonderful vacation and it is also great to  be back home.  I am feeling renewed and energetic now  (five  days after we returned)  but I was extremely exhausted when we first got back.  And my husband bounced  right back after like one day–and so, comparing myself to him, I was feeling very much lost and empty and discouraged…. and then started wondering how will I ever write another post and even…how did I ever write all that stuff I already wrote–I was spiraling negative thoughts again–my inner critic took over!  And it was so hard to decipher–I just felt bad and exhausted with no hope in sight.  So I wrote in my journal and it helped!–so I thought I would share with you my technique.

First of all, in journaling you must tell yourself that no one is going to read this ever! –and mean it and believe it.  Then you let loose with all your feelings.  I started out saying ” I feel horrible!   I can’t remember who I am or how to feel good.”  Within 2 sentences though I remembered, ” I used to feel this way all the time as a child.”  And then, “Oh yes this is childhood pain coming up to heal.  I just had a wonderful vacation!  My inner child is expecting to be punished.”  Then my own compassion kicks in with ” I need to be extra nice to myself.  I am being too hard on myself.  Do nice things for myself today.  I am a highly sensitive person.  No wonder I am tired–vacations are highly stimulating–just give myself extra time.  Everything is going to be okay.”   Before long I am cheering myself up.  I have over-ridden my inner critic–that negative voice inside my head.  This process always amazes me because I feel like I should be “fixed” by now and should never feel bad again.  But that is the negative voice in my head–the pressure from my mother to “be happy — just get over it, you are too sensitive blah, blah, blah.”   That is the opposite of what I needed as a highly sensitive child.  On vacations I would get overwhelmed, over-tired with all the new sights and activities.  I know I deserved kindness instead of impatience, rest instead of guilt for slowing them down, compassion for my ability to see the beauty in the small things like nature instead of annoyance about my questions and my disappointment in their lack of carefulness with my feelings.  There was nothing wrong with me.  There is nothing wrong with me now.  My only mistake was believing them when they blamed me.  I don’t believe them and choose to be around people who are safe and kind and who like me easily.  My husband is one of those people and was the first to remind me to not be so hard on myself and to take it easy.  He was right.

Do not be discouraged if this technique of journaling does not come so easily to you yet.  This takes a long time and lots of effort deciphering the truth of what you went through and what you truly deserved as a highly sensitive child.  The book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron is SO helpful in guiding people through the journaling process that helps unblock creativity (finding your voice and your true self!)

Many different techniques help me to find my voice and vitality again.  Sometimes it is playing my songs when I am feeling so lost I don’t remember being able to write songs.  Reading your own journal helps too especially if you are the kind of journaler who ends up feeling hopeful after you write.  (You have to make yourself do it–it doesn’t come natural to read your own stuff when you are feeling bad about yourself–you’ll be surprised how your own words lift your spirits.)  Other times I read books or blogs by people with a compassionate voice and I recover my own compassionate voice.  Elaine Aron wrote the book on “The Highly Sensitive Person” and was the catalyst that started the HSP support groups that have grown and spread in cities and online.  Online, I read her article on “the problem of bearing an unbearable emotion” that she wrote in her newsletter for Feb. 2006 and I immediately felt “found and validated” just by her compassionate words–my energy came back and I was excited about my life again.  I hope my blog does the same for you.

I was fortunate to have some time to find myself and work on myself and read self-help books and write in journals while my children were growing up because my husband was so grateful that I was home raising emotionally healthy kids–he is a “thinking” type although a highly sensitive guy (an INTJ), whereas I am a “feeling” type (an INFJ).  (See the book by Keirsey and Bates in my Recommended Books section for a test on temperament types.)   He had an even more difficult childhood than I did and is grateful for my compassionate ways.  When I think of how far I have come, it feels rather miraculous so I want so much to help others who are as lost and hiding as I was.  I believe that those of us who are the most sensitive and almost destroyed are an  important resource to this planet if we can join together and rise up as a voice of love, peace, and compassion.  The fact that you are feeling beaten down is the very indicator that your sensitive ways have been misunderstood and need to be put to better use.  All you need is a witness to validate the injustices you have suffered and then you can rise up and start speaking your mind and being a messenger of compassion that the world needs.  DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHER PEOPLE!  You are exactly the way you are supposed to be.  Be kind to yourself and learn to love yourself.

Louise Hay’s book You Can Heal Your Life is a book I have been reading on and off for 15 years.  The positive affirmations in her book I use daily now but felt so foreign to me when I first got the book.  One of my favorites is “I give myself permission to be the best that I can be”.  Growing up I was not allowed to express my authentic self (or be my best) because it threatened my narcissistic mother and she would withdraw her love and approval.  My mother was jealous of my many gifts.  I didn’t know I had any gifts at all because she was determined to control me and keep me close and, in her view,  if I knew I was gifted I might leave her.  That whole concept was hard for me to grasp because it would never occur to me to be that way or be jealous of a child of mine–it is my responsibility to help my child see all his/her gifts and how special he/she is.  So this explains why I couldn’t have compassion for myself–I trusted so completely in my mother.  And also then came the question “why would God give me a mother who was so manipulative and unloving?”  That was another chapter in my life that I now have completely resolved.  God did not arrange for me to have this emotional pain and hardship but has given me the inner strength and compassion to overcome it and become strong.  Had I not had a mother like that I would not be reaching out to help others who also experienced a mother like that right now in this moment.

In this moment, I am happy and complete and grateful for all the pain I went through to make me this strong.  But while I was in the pain and lost and alone and not knowing how to let God’s love in, I was not grateful–no way!  But there was a pivotal moment when I was crying in despair that I became aware that no one but me was going to rescue me–of the two of us, my husband and I, I was the stronger one emotionally.  Something  Eckhart Tolle said in his book A New Earth helped a lot.  He said something to the effect of… I am not all that happens to me–I am ” the presence” that observes all that happens to me….  It made me realize I am not this abused child who is forever a victim.  I am all the wisdom from what I have learned from it and can comfort my inner abused child through it.  I still keep learning it over and over and each time it gets easier to find myself again.  So do not give up.  You who are hiding and afraid to speak up–it’s okay and you have every right to be afraid.  But that it is not all of you.  You have a gift, a wisdom, a compassion, that is sorely needed in the world.  Don’t let the bullies and controllers and competitors win.  They are not like you and so cannot understand you.  But you can understand you!  You are on this planet for a reason exactly as you are.  Change only the people you are around.  Elaine Aron says that HSPs have an easier time overcoming depression just by changing our environment to being around people who love us and accept us as we are. She says “get out of competitive environments where you have to fear that you will be judged, rejected, or seen as a failure,  and stay around those who like you.”   (see her newsletter the Comfort Zone , and the article called “A Few Happy Things Regarding Depression”).  I am adding her website to my blogroll.  It is hsperson dot com.  I hope I have helped you to feel more hopeful and happy.  You deserve it.  You are a highly sensitive person and that my friend is a gift.  Thank you to my readers.

With love,

Roxanne

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12 responses

  1. freelyfloating | Reply

    Hey there,

    I just wanted to comment about how refreshing it is to read your blog. I just found it so I’ve only read through a few posts, but some of the things you write seem like they are things I have internalized and can’t access, let alone express. It’s so interesting to me how one personality type can have similar effects on so many different people, too.

    Take care!

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    1. Hi Kristen, Thank you so much for your comment. It’s refreshing to me to hear my blog described as refreshing. I understand what you mean about it being internalized, and unable to access or express it–I have had that same experience with things I read that I am highly drawn to. Then I read it again at a later time and I find I can process it. You sound like a deep and insightful person. Please tell me more about what you mean by one personality type similarly affecting many different people. I’m not sure what you mean but I am very interested in that subject as well. Are you an INFJ too? Or are you sure you are not an INFJ and are affected by what I’m saying? Or are you talking about other people’s comments? I’m sorry…please tell me more because I think I agree with you…:)

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      1. freelyfloating | Reply

        Haha – the more that I find and read about narcissism and, specifically, narcissistic parents, it’s interesting to read about the effects that these parents have had on their children, all of whom come from very different demographics and such, but they mostly end up with similar negatives effects like many of the ones you describe on your blog. It’s amazing how we all compensate and accommodate our N parents both in a physical and in an emotional/psychological sense. And I understand about being able to go back and read things later to process it better. Even just within a small period of time, too; the past week, I’ve written a few journal entries on the computer, but I like to handwrite them, and by the time I got around to transcribing them, I was already starting to understand a couple things a little better. It’s kind of a surprising process sometimes.

        I am also an INFJ, and once I looked up more about HSPs, I’m definitely an HSP, too. It’s funny about loud noises and HSPs…that’s always been an odd quirk of mine that I’ve never understood!

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        1. Oooooh! haha now I see. That brings up an interesting question. Are narcissistic parents of similar temperament type? I haven’t talked about temperament types very much on any of my posts yet but, since you bring it up, my Mom is an ESFP. I know one other ESFP and it seems she may also be a narcissist–both having had childhood trauma being the similar link. I read about one N mother who was an ENFP. Any one else out there know what temperament type their narcissistic parent is? It would be interesting to find out. Please leave it in a comment if you know. And Kristen, you have observed through many veins that all different types of children end up with similar effects from a narcissistic parent. This is interesting also in that, I may be wrong, but I was thinking maybe only people of the NF (intuitive feeling) type children (of N parents) would be very interested in reading my blog–but you are right, many types are writing about it. And since you mentioned HSPs, it is my opinion, (but I might be wrong) that HSPs are predominantly the NFs, those being ENFP, ENFJ, INFP, and INFJ. I am biased in that every one of my toxic family is an S (Sensing as opposed to N Intuitive) and I used to be attracted to the wrong kind of Ss as friends so I would love to be proven wrong and meet some Ss that are HSPs. HSPs are 15 -20% of the population while INFJs are 1%. Any thoughts?

          And Kristen, I like your idea to write your journals long hand and then type them up later because it causes you to go back and read what you wrote which is so beneficial and most journalers don’t go back and read their own stuff enough–the wise self that comes out when we write can teach our insecure self so much–that’s why journaling works. You got it! You are wise for your age Kristen. Are you sure you are only 20? 🙂 Thanks so much for your comments! (And for those of you who don’t understand what the heck all the Ss and Js and Ps and Ns mean–I’ll explain all about it in a future post about temperament types and the test you can take to find out which of the 16 types you are. It’s fun and for self-awareness–no type is better than any other, focusing on the positives in each of the types.) 🙂

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  2. Freely Floating | Reply

    My Dad (the N in my family) is an ESTP, and he had a childhood trauma as well, being abandoned by his father in quite a dramatic fashion. I suppose the childhood trauma is the cause of the insecurity at the heart of every narcissist? I can also see how it would make sense that people of NF would read your blog. Maybe that has to do with the whole “future-focused” aspect of NF people..

    I’m only just starting to realize how I have surrounded myself with the “wrong kind” of Ss as well. And thank you for the compliment, but it was really only by accident that I hand wrote my journals after actually writing them. I normally just write straight into my journal! Nonetheless, I can see how valuable it is to reflect back, though I can’t say I enjoy doing it, so I have only done so about twice. It temporarily snaps me out of my emotional numbness when I’m focusing more on what I actually wrote, rather than the act of getting the words onto paper. The things I end up feeling aren’t emotions I want to bask in, so I kind of have to be in a masochistic mood to re-read my journals.

    By the way, thanks for the thoughtful replies. They are very much appreciated! Take care :]

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    1. Thanks for your reply. Everything you say is very insightful and clear. Wonderful that you are realizing about the wrong kind of people around you–I wish I’d figured that out at your age. You have much emotional intelligence as evidenced by your awareness of your “emotional numbness” and your ability to express your true voice in your writing. It seems to me you have a successful career in psycholgy ahead of you–I read some of your blog :)–as you continue to journal and discover and voice your “self” and your repressed emotions, you will realize you have much capacity for helping others as you grow in inner strength and wisdom.

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  3. I just found this blog and it is LOVELY and amazing. I truly wish we could develop a SUPPORT community of HSPs online so that we can talk to each other and support the journey. I love this BLOG. i am an HSP and in the middle of menopause. I am going through a VERy challenging time and doing iNNER CHILD WORK which is just a label. i have been in therapy for years but have never done the inner child work until now. Both of my parents were Narcissists and I am a survivor. my problem is this: i write in my journal and I pray, meditate and do yoga and I have opened up SOOO much to the wounded little girl that I feel anxious and depressed almost all day long – a few hours of ok feelings. I have a young son who is 9 and I am also married. My husband is kind and supportive but he is worried about me. I cannot really “be there” for my son right now because the work is so deep. He has friends and seems ok but I seem to only be able to connect to him at night time. We have been very close and perhaps this is a good time at 9 for him to separate a bit.
    I have a therapist and I also do energy work, acupuncture and yoga to help the healing process (rememberMenopause is very hard on HSPs too!). I want so much to have FREEDOM from the anxiety and loneliness and isolation that I experienced as a child. I have never CONSCIOUSLY experienced this and it is excruciating. My therapist says that i WILL GET THROUGH THis but it feels endless. This is where I need the support of others on this journey of healing. She says that I will become WHOLE if i allow myself to re-experince the little girls pain and validate it. It has been going on for about 3 months and I am praying for some relief. I journal and pray but I feel scared. Is anyone else going through this? If someone is truly on this healing path and wants to correspond please let me know. Thank you! Sarah

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    1. Sarah, Thank you for your lovely comment and for sharing your story. Your sharing helps others know they are not alone. Wishing you comfort on your healing journey, Roxanne

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  4. “You should be fixed by now…” I felt this way last year. My confusing behavior last year was the last straw for me. I felt like I will always be this way, ruin things when they are going good, scared to be content and happy for any length of time as well as be around the right people that make you feel validated as a wonderful human being and not having to be strong for everyone around you all the time and waiting for that someone who is going to want to love you and be strong for you too when you need. My guilt came from me undoing all the work I did on myself and everything God blessed me with. I felt like I was showing a stubborn lack of appreciation for what good things I did have, by focusing on all the negative around me and hurting myself and wanting someone to notice. I want to be loved too!

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    1. Tara, Thank you for your comment and for sharing your feelings. Be very kind to yourself with extreme self care whenever you feel bad. Learning compassion for your self will change your life. Sending warm wishes, Roxanne

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  5. Hi Roxanne,
    I can’t tell you what discovering your website has done for me. I have suffered terribly at the hands of my narcissistic mother in so many ways. I am 45 years old and as a child I had a sneaking suspicion that something was wrong- it was just unbearable for me to face the pain of who she really was and still is. I feel so grateful and relieved that you have described my exact experience dealing with her. I have spent so much of my life in painful confusion. She would vacillate between being utterly nasty then apologize and “be nice”. She berated me for being a sensitive and highly artistic person. I was also highly inquisitive growing up and would ask a lot of questions which she had no patience for. I never knew it was ok to be a HSP. How can I be anything else? It is definitely who I am. I would love to tell you the whole story if you could stomach it- it’s UGLY. When I talk about it to other people, they cringe. I don’t even like to think about it but I want to heal from it so desperately. I know I have to feel the feelings. I do feel a lot of hope and it gets better one day at a time. Thank-you, thank-you, thank-you

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    1. Michelle, Thank you for your kind words of gratefulness and for sharing your story. Knowing we are not alone helps so much! Welcome to our community! 😀

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