Hi everyone. My new website is here! It is called Highly Sensitive Survivors and it is at hspsurvivors[dot]com. 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.