14: Embracing Sensitivity 

When I was a teenager, I attributed my excessive and ever changing emotions on being a teenage girl, and believed that I’d eventually grow out of it. Oh, how I longed for the day when I would be an emotionally stable adult!

Of course I laugh now and want to tell teenage me, “Bless your heart…” Poor little Gracie, she thought it was just a phase. She had no idea that what she was experiencing would continue for the rest of her life!

When I was 20 years old and had been working as a secretary in a law office, it started to dawn on me that I was actually a very sensitive individual. The sad fact is that I mostly saw this as a weakness. The whole idea of sensitivity carried a negative connotation for me for many years. It was pretty much always seen as a liability and hindrance rather than a gift and asset. I often failed to realize that all my talents are a direct result of my sensitivity.

My mode of operation, as I’ve already written about, was to try and control myself. I tried to control my body and I tried to control my emotions. I thought somehow I should be able to toughen up and get my act together. I thought I was somehow deficient as a person because of my inability to do so. I was always looking for some type of cure to my sensitivity, something that would strengthen me and put the reins of my existence back in my hands.

In 2015 I finally stumbled upon “the highly sensitive person” description (HSP for short). I discovered that I actually belonged to a whole sect of humanity that was born naturally sensitive. It’s estimated that 15-20% of the population is highly-sensitive. I also discovered that our sensitivity is actually the foundation of our particular talents.

There was SO much validation in learning this. My life made a whole lot more sense and my self-judgments and self-condemnation began to fade a bit. I started reading the ground-breaking book “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aron, but I couldn’t finish it because I honestly thought it was dreadfully boring. However, I came across a website called The Happy Sensitive, and found so much helpful practical advice that I now routinely recommend this website to anyone who expresses troubles with being sensitive.

While browsing this website, I also learned about “empaths”. Being a highly sensitive person is not the same as being an empath, though many empaths are highly sensitive. Empaths are highly sensitive to energy. They pick up on the energy of people, places, and things. They can experience physical and emotional symptoms that actually belong to other people.

I realized this also described many of my experiences. It’s taken many years for me to finally determine and accept that I am indeed an empath. I feel waaaay more than just what’s going on internally or even just within my family. I’m constantly picking up on stuff that has little to do with me and it most likely explains many of my accumulating and ever-changing symptoms that have been impossible to pin down and treat from a physical and even psychological level. It’s been difficult to navigate through and I’m just now starting to actively address this area of my life (I’ll probably share more about this some other time).

Speaking of sensitivity and lots of feelings, here’s a song I wrote when I was 19:

I discovered my sensitivity was a legit trait when I was pregnant… and therefore, extra sensitive. I also felt for certain that the baby I was carrying was also a super-sensitive soul, which has turned out to be true. Because of the whole empath thing, I think I was extra extra sensitive because I was feeling the sensitivity of the little person inside me. On top of this, I was just starting to do some serious soul work, such as confronting the contents of my shadow personality. I was getting back in touch with a lot of buried feelings straight back to childhood, and so I was emotionally raw at that time.

While incredibly validating to learn about the merits of sensitivity, it was hard to change my habits of of self-criticism and shame. I wanted other people to recognize my sensitivity and respect my needs and my limits, but this projected desire simply revealed that I was not respecting myself. It’s taken years of practice and grace to allow myself to feel what I feel without shame and realize it doesn’t define my worth whatsoever. I still have far to go on that front, but I’ve made great progress.

Embracing my sensitivity was one of the first major steps I took toward healing myself. With a better understanding of my own nature, I was better able to handle the deeper transformation that was beginning to take place…

Next post: my first encounter with snake.

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