The Power of Being Highly Sensitive

Man Highly Sensitive Brain

And the Truth Shall Set You Free !

I’ve had this phrase, with a Jim Carey voiceover going around in my head. I was a little nonplused when I first looked for a pic of Carey to go with my post today to discover that some people relate “the truth” to a being outside of yourself ie. the church or a god figure that is required to come and set you free. Whereas if you say “the truth will make you free” is to acknowledge that seeing “the truth” will allow you to free yourself. This is the meaning of “Carey’s” words for me.

What is the background story to this train of thought?

I was writing a story, journalling to myself, to put into context my discovery that there is actually nothing wrong with me. The story which involves a dysfunctional family of origin, lots of hate, very little love, beyond basics for societal acceptance and survival. It included extreme fear, abuse in all its forms, sibling rivalry, adulatory, a bishop and the downfall of a Governor General. The story was just getting too long, convoluted and tedious. So I’m starting again here.

I discovered yesterday that I am a “Highly Sensitive” person. Well I guess I’ve always been aware of this having been told it enough times. But I always thought it was a bad thing, a character deficiency.

So I was pretty excited to discover that it affects around 20% of people of which about a 1/3 are extroverts. In a clinical setting it is described as “Sensory Processing Sensitivity”.

Woman Sensory Processing Sensitivity - Highly Sensitive Brain

MRI’s have shown that the area of the brain involving empathy, emotional memories and emotion processing is larger and more active in people classed as Highly Sensitive.

Highly Sensitive children are particularly in danger of being overwhelmed with not only their own emotions but those of their parents as they try to process feelings they don’t realise actually belong to others around them.

My parents style of parenting (well I’m not sure what parenting my father did, he was mainly the “wait until your father gets home” back up. A role he seemed to have no trouble fulfilling) What goes on in the mind of a man who can come home from work and take to his children with a leather belt on the instructions of his wife? What goes on in the head of a women who believes it’s ok to belt her children with the cord of the electric jug?

My mother controlled everything we did, even down to the children we could be friends with. There was a lot of deprivation of things that were normal in our schoolmates lives (admittedly some I can see the sense of as an adult) but there was no attempt at compensation.

The family home was a frightening, threatening environment. I was sick off and on for a large part of my childhood. I was highly sensitive and not allowed to make decisions for my self. I had no control over my own person as everything was controlled to “stop me from getting sick” – again. Add to this, the message that “being sensitive” made me weak. I had a lack of control and autonomy and grew up in virtual social isolation. No children were deemed suitable by my parents for me to be friends with.

Child Trapped in Box - Child Abuse - Isolation

All of this made my childhood a very frightening place. I grew up not trusting my own feelings and lacking the ability to distinguish my feeings from others or any ability to process anything emotionally complex.

As a 7 year old I topped the state in piano exams before taking up the violin. I topped my grades at school. I was one of only 2 students from my primary school that were streamed into the advanced class in high school. As a result I was like a hot house flower. By grade 9 I had all but dropped out. I managed to get through the whole year without acquiring any books and the next 3 years in a similar style.

I didn’t think I was smart. I didn’t think I was deserving of love. I felt actually, that I was hugely defective because I felt everything “too” intensely. This feeling was clearly reinforced with every confusing social interaction.

Anyway getting to the point. For what ever reason I am the only 1 of my surviving siblings that my mother wants to have a relationship with. I have a lot of trouble spending any time with her as she is too needy and threatening. A psychiatrist suggested that the reason I don’t like to be near my mother is because of disrupted bonding as a baby. Perhaps that is true, but after learning yesterday that to be highly sensitive is not a character flaw I have had a blinding insight into why I feel so bad spending time with my mother. It’s not my own emotions that I shut down to avoid, it’s my mothers.

Feeling unable to make decisions, because how would I know what was right or know what I feel or want has paralysed me my whole life. When I have to make a decision my head just fills up with stuff and I can’t think at all. It’s seems a bit extreme to say at my age that I have overnight discovered who I am, how the need to resist and defend myself against my mother will no longer be necessary, but I seriously feel that I have nothing to be afraid of, I feel I can deal with her neediness without shutting down (ok maybe that is going to take a bit of practice)

I feel that from today on my interaction with others is going to be completely different. I think my new understanding that my feelings are valid will prevent me from going into a state of panic, with my head stuffed with my actual feelings, my feeling that my feelings aren’t ok as well as the feelings of everything around me and my feelings about others feelings – good grief no wonder I haven’t been a decision maker.

I’ve had a growing sensation over the last month that 2020 is an exciting new beginning for me.

Our transition out of the city to the countryside, a growing feeling that my musical ability is an actual skill I can nurture and that it’s not a fluke every time I compose something I’m happy with.

To now make the discovery that “highly sensitive” is not a handicap to beat myself up over just makes me so excited and feel so positive about the future.

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38 responses to “The Power of Being Highly Sensitive”

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