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How Highly Sensitive People Who Are High Achieving and Intuitive Can Overcome Self-Defeating Behaviors

Hi everyone.  Today’s post is primarily for high achieving intuitive thinking types (for example, INTJs, and ENTJs) but also may apply to high achieving feeling types as well. Today I want to talk about the special complexity of being both a high achiever and Intuitive, and a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and how this combination of academic giftedness, and a deep thinking facility can lead to avoidance and a numbness in regard to emotions.

What I have come to learn about healing is that it is often so difficult to begin when, as highly intuitive (highly sensitive) children, we have spent most of our lives trying not to be so “sensitive”, and to fit into the rest of society, that, at least in the American Culture that exists today, being sensitive is not the “ideal”.  There exists a pressure to be extraverted, social, superficial, constantly busy, productive and able to produce and work hard no matter what is going on in our lives.  Also the word sensitive is often used synonomously with the word “insecure” and that is not at all what is meant here.  Sensitivity (Intuition) is a gift and it causes you to experience everything in life at a deeper, richer level.  Less sensitive others may outnumber us and put it down but they are just plain wrong!

Because of ridicule of our budding sensitive selves early in life, we have hidden away the part of us that “feels” and have become very good at being successful and “thinking” our way out of problems and “thinking” our way to finding a cure for the emptiness and loneliness we sometimes feel.  So we keep seeking out superficial relationships and experiences, looking for some “one” or  fun experiences that will be the answer to our discontent.

Also we try to fill our time with busy tasks that satisfy our immediate need for validation and often this is through technology, being constantly plugged in to our computers or phones, being news junkies, texting, video games, watching television etc.  All of these tasks seem to keep us going through another empty day of being out of touch with who we really are and help to keep us in a state of numbness that was a state of survival for us as highly sensitive children.

The problems that crop up in our lives are clues to the fact that this superficial state of existence is not really working for us and we need to make a change.  For example, it is often a shock to us when we have relationship problems with others because we, for the most part see nothing wrong with how we are functioning and relating to others. When you have spent your life avoiding painful feelings you begin to believe that you have no real problems at all and everything would just be fine if people would do things your way—the logical way.  It isn’t until others in our lives complain about our emotional unavailability that we even see that there is a problem at all.

Other problems that may crop up from not being in touch with our emotional side are that you may be out of touch or blocked from fully utilizing your creativity and this can lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction with the work that you are doing.  Also, when you are dissatisfied with your work because it is unfulfilling on a deeper emotional level, gradually it saps your energy.

You may also “over-work” to continue numbing out your feelings because you are out of touch with your feelings that tell you a natural time to stop and you are not listening to your body. When you over-work at an unfulfilling job you run on adrenaline a lot from stress.  This causes your body to produce too much cortisol which can mess up the balance of hormones and cause you to have less energy. motivation, and even feel semi-depressed (possible symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue or “burnout”). This can cause you to become overwhelmed with even simple tasks in your life that you just don’t have the motivation or energy to do anymore.

This is worsened when you are highly intuitive (sensitive) in that you are constantly taking in more stimuli than other people who are not intuitive.  You may be comparing yourself constantly to less intuitive (less sensitive) others and you get overwhelmed trying to do what everyone else seems to be able to do.  Intuitives are only 15 to 20% of the population and it will help you so much if you embrace that it is a gift that sets you apart and you are different for a reason. You must make allowances for your need for breaks and time alone to recharge–even extraverts who are highly intuitive (sensitive) need to cut back on their “list of shoulds” because they are taking in more stimuli than extraverted others.  Just realizing you “require” more rest and more time to recharge and regroup when you are in a stressful job can be quite a relief–especially for this group that tends to be harder on themselves anyway and want badly to succeed and be the best at their jobs which are often technology based.

Getting access to your emotional side and out of the left-brained thinking side which you exist in most of the time will help you to feel more satisfaction and joy in your life and at work and have more fulfilling connections with others.

This is not easy but it is so worth the effort because the end result is the connection to the real you—the emotional side of yourself that is the connection to the source of all love and compassion which is a higher power/universal consciousness/or “God”!  Now I know I may have lost some of you just now because your scientific mind refuses to believe in something so intangible and illogical.  However, if you do some research you will find that some of the greatest minds including Albert Einstein believed in a spiritual creative universal consciousness that could be tapped into. This can be achieved by believing in your self and your dreams and requires a certain amount of “emotional self-discovery” and healing of those blocks which keep us from feeling things on a deep level.

When you work through the blocks that keep you from enjoying your life on a deep level you can overcome compulsive behaviors such as perfectionism, over-working, and procrastination as well.  These behaviors often result because you are trying to do too many things and have unrealistic expectations of your highly sensitive self–you may try to “overcome” your sensitivity if you look at it as a weakness or you may try to ignore it–but it is innate in you and it will always be there!

As I said before, it is better to embrace it and surrender to it and see it as the gift that it really is–a higher level of creativity and vision will be available to you at your work if you finally start taking care of your extra needs for sleep, time alone, and down time from the left side of your brain. You will be able to tap into your creative genius as a visionary at work if you do some things that help you tap into the right side of your brain–the creative, emotional, and spiritual side. Operating with access to both sides of your brain is so important for balance in your life and in your health and vitality.  Makes logical sense, right?

My recommendation is Journaling–writing out your feelings, whatever they are, negative or positive, daily in a journal for your eyes only–because it is a scientific fact that writing in order to express your “feelings” opens up neural pathways to the right side of your brain.  It is a channel to the creative side of your life which is the key to a fulfilling connection to your true self and to a source of love we are all capable of experiencing as humans on this planet.

You can do this yourself by following the journaling guidelines in the book, “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron.  It is a course in discovering and recovering your creative self and I highly recommend it–I did these “morning pages” myself as part of my own recovery.  I have written some other posts on how journaling has helped me and I have referred to it as my own inner grief work and the process of “growing a backbone”.  My husband (an INTJ) journals for healing and was amazed at it’s effect and referred to the process as “growing a new heart”.  The outcome of this kind of journaling is as unique for the person as the uniqueness of the person doing the writing.

The truth is you need to be able to love your self in order to give love to others and that is necessary in order to be happy and fulfilled in your life and in your work.  You may be saying, “I love myself already”, but it may be more of a sense of entitlement for things and success and a superficial love for self.  What I am talking about is loving all of you including the parts of yourself that you are cut off from and avoid–the feelings that make you uncomfortable–shame, sadness, despair, loneliness, and anger etc..  These are feelings that we all feel for a reason and the reason needs to be acknowledged along with the feelings so that you can express them and ultimately release them and heal them.  When you allow painful feelings to be expressed at the core of when they occurred and for the reason that they occurred then you are connecting to the truth that you blocked from your memory.  A block such as this is always going to keep you from being able to experience full joy and happiness in your life until you work through it.

Often these blocks were formed in childhood.  If you were a highly sensitive child in an environment where your parents were already overwhelmed with dealing with their own feelings, then you may have shut off your feelings and repressed them in order to “be good” and helpful to your parents.  Sometimes we were so gifted and so intuitive that we were able to shut down our feeling sides without the memory of any real trauma from childhood but just because we constantly told ourselves that our feelings didn’t matter.  We then have a “belief” that we are no more than this false self that we created to survive—when in actuality there is a whole other rich and emotional side to us that is begging for our attention!

Problems that come up in our lives are clues to this other side of our life that needs healing.  Gary Zukav, author of the Seat of the Soul, is a physicist who embraces the spiritual side of his life and believes that the way to feeling wholeness is by excavating our feelings as if we are an archeologist looking for clues and answers to “why”.  The answers are inside of us and often are because of events that occurred in our childhood that keep us stuck at the emotional level that we were at the time the event occurred.

Often, things that happened in childhood were unbearably painful and we had to repress them in order to survive them.  To “repress” is to completely deny them and remove them from our consciousness!  Journaling helps to bring them forth and allow us to discover things about us that are important clues to how to be happy in life!

Remember, the opposite of depression is not happiness but “vitality” which is the ability to express and let flow the full spectrum of emotions—the negative uncomfortable ones as well as positive and easy ones. (Alice Miller–The Drama of the Gifted Child).  I hope this information has been helpful to you.

With love,

Roxanne

 

 

 

 

 

 

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25 responses

  1. Thanks, Roxanne. I’m an INTJ and was laid off a few weeks ago when my position was eliminated. I often feel like I’m watching other people live from behind a sound-proof glass wall. At age 48, I’m tired. Tired of trying to make my college degree work for me despite choosing it over 20 years ago when I chose it to please somebody else. Where to go from here? My “signature strengths” aren’t something a person uses to make a living—-appreciation for beauty/excellence; love of learning; courage; etc. Am I destined to live with barely enough to make ends meet? Is this what I am destined for by being true to myself? By not fitting into our current economic structure, it seems to be.

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    1. piecework, Thank you for your comment. I am so sorry about your job loss. Be extra nice to yourself right now, for this is a stressful time. Sounds to me like this happening to you could be an”opportunity” for you to make some well needed changes. You know you are an INTJ and that is a great start–the signature strengths you mention are just the characteristics needed for teachers at the college level (or any level really). Our young people so need mentors, role models, and professors with integrity and just the qualities you describe! I know teaching may sound extraverted, but teaching at the college level with smaller classrooms and students of more maturity really wanting to learn can be so rewarding for INTJs that it will give you energy. So consider going back to school and making a real change. Journaling would be great for you when you feel as if you are “watching other people live from behind a sound-proof glass wall”–many of us survivors can relate to that feeling. Starting to be true to your self is just the beginning, I get the feeling that an exciting future awaits you and the Universe has provided you with an opportunity to use some of that “courage” you mention as one of your signature strenths. You can do it, piecework! 48 is when I made a major change in my life too so I know just how you feel. It is scary but so worthwhile when you finally start doing what YOU want and expressing your true voice, amazing things can happen. I think you might enjoy John Gray’s book in my Recommended books section, “How to get what you want…” –seems to be helpful to INTJs who are HSPs. Good Luck!

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  2. Thank you for this website. It’s such a validating place for highly-sensitive persons. I just started writing my autobiography and I’d like to share it with you. I don’t talk much about being empathic, but I chronicle my journey from extreme ill health to wellness and what prompted me to want to help others.

    Keep up the excellent work!

    Love & light,

    Jaime

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    1. Jaime, Thank you for your comment and for your kind words about my website. I plan to read what you have written soon. Wishing you continued good health and continued success in helping others! Love and Light, Roxanne

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  3. Hi, I have been “working on myself” since i was about 13.. When I realized that I was too sensitive, starting to cry for silly reasons etc. First I made feelings my enemy. Distancing myself from everything, starting to take a “so what” attitude towards everything, making my heart into ice. After some highly independent and analytical years, I realized that I cant be this machine anymore, I have to be human to live my life well. I found love, someone who found a path to my heart, which I didn’t even know existed anymore.. That was some years ago. Now I’m struggling with relationships again.. Being sensitive again, hurting for a long time if I’m rejected.. Afraid of rejection. Afraid of being hurt and having to lick my wounds for a year. Recently I realized that I -am- sensitive, that I -can’t- ignore my feelings. But also that my feelings are exaggerated.. That they only tell how I feel, not what happened in “reality”. So googling this I’ve come across this HSP thing. Realizing it’s describing my feelings pretty well.. So it was very interesting to read your post here about turning off feelings, as it’s something I’ve become very “good” at, but still wondering where the real me is.. Trying to learn to navigate this emotional minefield of a life as myself.

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    1. Jonas, Thank you for your comment and for sharing your experience as you search for your true self. I understand about surviving as a child by hiding your feelings away–this is, for HSPs, the only way TO survive when you do not get the love and support you need as a child. Try to have compassion for yourself for having responded this way. It is wonderful that you recognized that not feeling is not the answer. Thank you for sharing about struggling with relationships. Sounds like you may be attracting relationships that bring up these unresolved wounds of rejection from childhood so that you can heal the inner child in you who is still seeking unconditional love from an emotionally unavailable parent from your past. When you say your feelings are exaggerated, I understand this. It is natural for the pain from childhood that has been repressed and hidden away to come up as an “over-reaction” when a wound is opened up by something happening in the present day (as you say “in reality”). However “in reality” you were so hurt as a child that it was unbearable then and so HAD to be hidden away–the feelings are coming up now because you are stronger and ready to look inward at the truth of what happened to you and have compassion for that child who suffered so much. Be kind to yourself when these painful feelings of rejection come up. With support you can learn to grieve and allow these painful feelings to be released and heal. When you learn to love yourself for the highly sensitive soul that you are, then you will start attracting relationships who love and respect you in return. You’ve done a wonderful job expressing your feelings in this comment–this will help many others who can relate but have not started finding their emotional voice as you are doing. You are on a healing journey, Jonas. Please don’t be afraid of your emotional “minefield”–as an HSP, feelings are your compass to navigate through life. So glad you discovered “this HSP thing” :). It is really helpful isn’t it! Thank you again for your comment. Warmest wishes, Roxanne

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  4. Thank you for your website and books. I recently took your HSP test and scored 22. I also took your HSS test and got 12. I am an ENTJ. I am a retired electrical engineer. I am also a freelance writer and author. I am a full time caregiver of my wife who has congestive heart failure and has to go to dialysis for three hours three times a week. I find that the dialysis centers to be very stimulating with the noise, lights, and the pain. I recently started taking Tai Chin lessons. While my wife is in dialysis I go to a nearby park that follows the Tualatin River. I find that when I do Tai Chi next to the river I feel like writing poetry and return to the dialysis center refreshed. I am also rewriting my memoir. While rewriting it I came up with an idea that I wondered if anyone has researched. That idea is to reverse engineer the senses that my intuition has unconsciously absorbed by writing about each one. Has anyone done research on the effectiveness of reverse engineering the feelings and senses absorbed by an HSP through their intution?
    Thanks,
    Barry W. Kennedy

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    1. Hi Barry, Thank you so much for your comment. I hope you do not have me confused with Elaine Aron because I have not written any books yet–but I am working on it. 🙂 I like your idea. It is wonderful to meet an NT that embraces feelings and sensitivity the way you have. John Gray is half NT and half NF and very much an HSP–I think you would like his book: How To Get What You Want and Want What You Have. It is not a good title for it’s contents–it is a guide for HSPs that shows techniques for writing to work through emotional blocks. You can find it in my Recommended Book/bookstore here on this blog. Perhaps you have come up with helpful approach for NTs–calling it reverse “engineering” would appeal to many NT’s I am sure. Warmest wishes to you, Roxanne

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  5. The term HSP just came to my attention just recently, but i’ve had this ability since when i can remember. It was even more apparent moving across the world from where i was, tiny developing country. Life there was less materialistic and happy. I learned much about this country through films, so I was much appalled that the soul i gather from most people were much less heroic. Many are scared and frustrated with their lives. Many people are desperate for wholesomeness lacking. As HSP, I am now tired to even step outside my house. It is so exhausting to see many angry souls. What saddens me the most is when i see children getting influenced to this new hype of negativity. I can’t save the world and it’s certainly exhausting to be in it. Here and there, I see hopeful individuals and it makes me happy. I am young. Staying home as a mom is the best escape, but eventually children will grow and i would have to find means to catch up with those years I didn’t make any income. As a foreign born citizen, i am prone to getting shunned and mistreated, so the mystery still unfold. What to do? What to do? I want to work someday. My counselor thinks that my mommy skills could be applied as well in elementary teaching. I am so deeply attached with my kids’ wellbeing (and extended family are distant from me). BTW, thanks for the encouraging post.

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    1. Hi Diane, I am so sorry for the lateness of my reply–I just came across your comment again and I want to thank you for sharing your story. What you describe tells me you are a gifted empath and you are feeling the energies and feelings of others– you can learn to become skilled at it in order to help others. Staying home to raise your children is a wonderful thing–there is no better use of your time in my opinion. 🙂 You are obviously highly intelligent and highly evolved (deep compassion for others is a sign of this) and would do well in college yes but you also might like to look into skill training for intuitives, and empaths. Read the INFJ and INFP portraits here on this blog to see if you are a match– hopefully they are supportive for you. There is a wonderful book called Making Work Work For Highly Sensitive People by Barrie Jaeger. It is helpful in helping HSPs see that we need to find work that satisfies our calling or passion rather than doing any job that requires drudgery in any way–you are meant for higher things! Good luck to you and let me know how it goes. 🙂 With love and light, Roxanne

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      1. diane.dales@gmail.com | Reply

        Thank you for your time. My counselor has given me an assessment to prove that yes I am one of the one percent INFJ’s. It sure is a hard combination with these innate sensitivity skills. Time is on my side, my son is nearing 2, so i have one to 3 years to asses a career. At times, I feel isolated, but with this apt for learning, I am starting understand and perhaps accept my present environment. Being me is a tricky thing to do, but it certainly puts me in a deeper calling in which i must abide in order to feel a sense of worth.

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  6. Thanks for providing this forum as I needed support today!

    I reluctantly went to my parents house today and sure enough as always, mother was critical of the way my eyes looked and she wanted me to do something with my face as it did not look good to her …..it hurt today because the harsh comment pierced the fortess around my heart. I will never be good enough is the message she has been unkindly delivering. I am so thankful that i was able to learn from her on what not to do as mom! My kids are so grounded as they are loved unconditionally and can love other in a heathy way. Time for me to heal from a toxic snipper mom. Peace!!!!!

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    1. Nina,

      Thank you for your comment. You see the truth in her inability to give you what you need and deserve now and as a child. Yes, doing the opposite is a great guide for us Mom’s–your kids are lucky to have you! Peace to you as well! 🙂 Warmly, Roxanne

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  7. At someone’s suggestion I took up Yoga and Qigong. While doing yoga this summer at the Ponzi vineyard near where I live in Oregon I discovered that the pinot grapes are thin skinned like me. I wrote the following poem that has helped me see my high sensitivity in a totally new light. It has also caused me to rewrite my memoir and my life with the theme “like pinot grapes I am thin skinned but like the wine I get better over time.”

    Vineyard Drishti Yoga
    By Barry W. Kennedy © (June 2012):
    ~
    The yoga teacher says…
    Take the tree stance…
    I fix on the vanishing point…
    Of the sensitive pinot grapes…
    Like them I have thin skin…
    I am distracted by the sound…
    Of the music that beats me around…
    I focus on the fountain flow…
    My mind calms down
    The instructor says breathe deep
    I smell the earth beneath my feet
    The tour guide says taste
    The tannic taste tingles my tongue
    Enjoy it now you’re not so young
    As I stretch my body to the sun
    Like the sensitive grapes I’m done
    Thanks,
    Barry
    Barry W. Kennedy
    http://www.barrykennedy.com

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    1. Hi Barry, Thank you so much for your comment and poem–I love your poem and your concept comparing HSPs to the “thin-skinned” grapes and like the wine getting better over time! Yes! So True! This is a wonderful analogy for all HSPs to use to see the beauty and treasures we possess that are not obvious to all others–you must look deeper–only those who are also deep can understand our deep riches within and the creative treasures to come when we believe in ourselves and our brilliant ideas and share them. Thank you for sharing your creative work! Sending my best wishes, Roxanne

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  8. Roxanne,
    Why do we need to go back in time and remember our bad memories and feel the pain in order to heal? Why, if we do not do this, will we continue to have behaviors that may be hurtful to ourselves and others even if we are good people?
    Tara

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    1. To acknowledge the painful feelings and see the injustices that caused them is the only way to heal and change the faulty core beliefs about ourselves that were formed in early childhood. Also when we block out our pain and try not to feel the feelings we also block out all the feelings of the right sides of our brain–joy, love, and spontaneous creativity, compassion for ourselves and others and all the feelings that make our lives richer as well as the ability to hear our inner guidance and connection to God (The Universe, The Source of Love). When we see the truth of what we deserved but never got we can then reframe our lives with the real truth about how our real selves were meant to shine–we can then, over time and with support, consciously reparent ourselves with extreme self care and learn to shine again.

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  9. Hi, I enjoyed reading this post/blog. I have only recently found about about the term HSP and believe I am one. I feel like I go through the motions, not fully experiencing life. I enjoy life and try my best to get everything I can out of it but I feel like I am never fully in the moment. I’m there but not. I believe I have been this way from a young age and cannot remember when it all began and when I possibly started to put up blocks so have no idea of where to start. Where and what I need to address if I was going to try and reconnect with myself.
    One point you made about shutting off feelings and repressing them to be good and helpful really resonated with me. And I believe that is why I put others first, always have since I can remember.
    Tiredness, motivation and passion are all things I seem to constantly battle with.
    I just don’t know where to start, where it all began.
    Thanks for listening.
    Jamie

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    1. Thank you Jamie, for sharing your comment. Sending you warmest wishes as you heal and find your true voice and shine your special and rare light. 😀 Welcome to our community of HSP survivors! With love and light, Roxanne

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      1. Barry W. Kennedy | Reply

        As a high achieving HSP, I’m starting a collage painting of all eleven of my paintings I painted separately over a three to four year period before and after my wife’s death on February 6, 2014. Amazingly, they all fit together into what I call “Barry’s New Normal Energy Landscape.” I’m including them in my painting, poetry, and prose book entitled “She Empowers Me: My Healing and Grieving Journey Through the Oregon Wine Country.” In it, as an electric power engineer with 40 years of experience and a Masters Degree from Purdue, I treat myself as a power system and my grief as a wind as described in the following poem:
        “Grief’s a Wind”
        By Barry W. Kennedy (© January 2016)

        When I lost my wife
        It made a vacuum in my life
        Not long after she was gone
        I heard something that felt wrong
        It was a loud whoosh sound
        It almost knocked me down
        For awhile it blew me around
        At the beginning it was steady
        Later it blew when I wasn’t ready
        I tried to run away
        But it blew anyway
        Until I changed my attitude
        To one of gratitude
        That’s when my grief wind
        Started blowing my way
        Instead of hiding from my grief
        I built a wind generator of relief
        Now when grief blows my way
        I turn it to on and say
        Grief wind energy connect to me
        Convert your energy to electricity
        Empower the movement and music in me
        So I can sing and dance energetically

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        1. Beautiful Poem, Barry!! …and I’ll bet your paintings and book are beautiful too! What a wonderful way to describe your grieving process as wind and how it affected you–you painted a physical picture of energy with words helping us all to see the grief process leads to healing and hope towards an even richer joyous life! Thank you for sharing this. 😀 Best of luck with your book and collage. Your wife loves it I’m sure and is with you everyday in spirit!! I’m on my new blog now: http://www.HigherGroundHaven.com. Wishing you continued inner strength, creativity, and joy, Roxanne

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  10. Just wow. You just changed my life. This is me!! Incredibly accurate. Time to start a journal. Was thinking about it lately! Amazing serendipity! Thank you so much, you’re an angel 🙂

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    1. Wow, Mart! Thank you for your kind words of gratitude and excitement! Amazing isn’t it how sometimes we are drawn to find just the right information when we need it. So glad to be helpful! 😀 Happy Journaling!!

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  11. I’m a highly sensitive ENTJ who had a super difficult childhood and difficulties up to my 30s. 35 now and ready to take life by the horns. Journal time!!!!! Meditation helped me tremendously but much work still needs to be done. I am about to provide kids with soccer training. Hope it helps me with feelings etc.

    Thank you!!

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    1. Hi Mart, Thank you for sharing your story. People can think and think about things but in my experience something magical happens when you go inward to your heart and write out your feelings instead–guidance and clarity that is of a higher wisdom comes through. You are very welcome–welcome to my blog and our community! Best of luck with your soccer coaching. 😀 With love and light, Roxanne

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