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Advice for The Sensitive

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From a very early age, I have been called anything from "emotional" to "too sensitive" to "you take things too hard". For a long time in my life, I thought these were things about me that needed to be fixed, that somehow my emotional sensitivity was a bad thing.

 

In fact as a child, I always felt internally isolated. I tried everything in my power to not be sensitive, to feel less, to dissociate from the emotions that would course through me in such a powerful way. It was especially challenging for me as an empathic sensitive child as I could feel everything going on around me but did not have the experience or cognitive skills to understand what I was experiencing. Empathic children are constantly picking up emotional information from their surroundings. Since they do not understand what is happening, and empaths feel emotion as if it were their own, they believe and are told that they are too emotional. They react quickly, and to the outside observer sometimes too strongly, to the felt sensations within them. Sometimes these strong reactions are externalized in crying fits or anger, sometimes internalized into guilt and shame. Often these children are told things like "you take things too personally", "don't let it bother you", "just ignore it". But this is not possible for the sensitive and especially the sensitive empathic child. Emotional energy flows too strongly for them to be able to push it away or easily let it go.

As a child, and teen, I used to escape into my room and watch TV to be alone just to get some relief, although I did not consciously realize it was for that reason. I never liked joining groups, or being overly social, because I knew instinctively that there were many situations in which I could not bear the emotional chaos that surrounded me. This chaos is not a bad thing, it's just when a lot of people are in one place there is a lot of conflicting emotional energy being transmitted. With age, training, and experience I have learned how to manage that energy in a much more healthy way. But as a child, I had no way of processing or understanding it. Being alone felt like a refuge, a way to feel peaceful and at ease. Over time, I have learned to balance my energy and my social and alone time. But, it took years, and it also took me understanding more about the nature of empathic gifts to learn that balance.

Plus I'm just an emotional person. I'm Sicilian for the love of God! Find me a non-emotional Sicilian and you won't have to do abs in my class for a month. Being emotional is not the problem; it's being emotional without awareness and or feeling shame about being emotional that is the issue. I have until recently always felt like my emotional sensitive nature was too much for people. I felt like I needed to hide it or suppress it so I could be like everyone else. Well, being like everyone else is somewhat overrated and I began to surround myself with people who understood me. I began to see how lovely it felt to well-up with tears, or to feel complete joy in my heart, or even to feel a cleansing waterfall of grief as it poured out of me. I have learned to surround myself with people who understand this emotion, who can tolerate being around it, enjoy it, and can hold space for it. I learned to love my nature rather than push against it.

You see, we cannot live in fear of being ourselves. We were all sent into this life with a specific nature and specific gifts. If you are sensitive, you have the opportunity to experience life in an unimaginably rich way. You can feel the highest highs, and the lowest lows. You can experience the whole spectrum of human feeling and live an amazing inner life. It's a beautiful way to experience the world.

Some advice for the sensitive:
1. Learn to use your gift rather than feel shameful about it.
2. Make room for you to feel what needs to be felt.
3. Learn a mindfulness meditation technique like Vipassana. Learn to observe your emotions with non-reactive space to allow them to pass. It will alleviate a lot of pressure and stress on your system.
4. Use big exhales to clear excess energy from your system. Often when working with kids, I will tell them to pretend they are blowing up a balloon to create a big and powerful exhale. Physiologically, this will help to turn down the nervous system and keep clearer perspective.
5. Surround yourself with people who can hold space for your emotional nature without feeding it or dismissing it.
6. Give yourself time alone, but don't allow yourself to become isolated. Find the right mix of social interaction and quiet alone time for you.
7. You're not crazy, you're sensitive. It sometimes makes other people uncomfortable. #theirproblem you be you.
8. Learn healthy ways of discharging emotional energy. Yoga, tai chi, breath work, even a good brisk walk really help.
9. Do something creative every day. Creative energy and emotional energy both flow from the second chakra and creativity helps to maintain healthy flow of regulated emotional energy. Write, play music, paint, whatever speaks to you.

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