For over a decade, a certain group of people have come into my office for therapy. They have sat opposite me and shown me how our culture has ravaged the way they see themselves.
I see people constantly second-guessing their decisions, questioning their feelings and reactions. They didn't develop these habits in isolation; their upbringing contributed to these patterns of behavior, this way of being.
They doubt their right to ask for what they need in the workplace, home, and relationships because they worry they’re “too needy”, “too emotional”, or “irrational”.
I see smart, creative people immobilized by overwhelm.
People who would rather “play small” than be themselves and be shamed for it, again.
These people feel deeply and often carry the pain of others.
What saddens me most is their deeply-felt sense that something is wrong with them; something shameful, something defective.
I’ve come to understand the commonality that binds this group of people together: they are, as Dr. Elaine Aron identified, Highly Sensitive People (HSP). Dr. Aron's work describes a gene that causes 1 in 5 people to have a more sensitive nervous system than others. HSPs process everything deeply, experience emotional intensity and strong empathy, are sensitive to subtlety, and can be easily overwhelmed.
As an HSP, My Life Was Peppered With Pain
My compassion for HSPs transcends professional interest. I understand well these finely-tuned people, not only because of my training and experience but also because I, too, am an HSP.
As an HSP, my life was similarly peppered with self-doubt, shame, insecurity, anxiety, overwhelm, and self-criticism. I also grew up misunderstood and came to believe something was wrong with me; something shameful, something defective.
I, too, learned to numb, hide, control, and chastise myself to avoid the pain.
Learning about the highly sensitive nervous system, I’ve come to see myself and others like me so differently than I did before. Working hard on my own personal growth and development was key to this transformation.
We Need a New Name: Intuitive Warriors
I am equally aware of our strengths as our struggles. I believe that the best way to throw off our shackles is to speak, with each other, about our experiences and to question the toxic messages we’ve been fed by those who didn’t understand; those who, while well-intentioned, were quick to adopt the pejorative paint of "too sensitive" terminology.
We need a new name; a brighter paint, a softer brush. A name that evokes the passion and power we possess. We are warriors. From this deeper understanding, new, empowered terminology has emerged: Intuitive Warriors.
It takes grit and resilience, qualities we have in spades, to survive in this often harsh world.
Intuitive Warriors are emotionally robust with amazing processing abilities. Once we learn to trust our intuition, it can act as a guide in making positive choices. We can intuit information about our world through our finely-tuned nervous systems to stand strong in the face of complexity.
I have a message for you: you can trust yourself, honor and accept your emotions, learn ways to calm your worry, and live in the present surrounded by people who love all of who you are. You have unique gifts to share with the world and experiences that other Intuitive Warriors need to hear.
If you're unsure, here are the 6 reasons your sensitivity makes you an Intuitive Warrior:
If this is you, know you are a gift. You aren't alone. We need you here.
Brooke Nielsen, LMFT
Brooke Nielsen, LMFT has dedicated over 10,000 hours to supporting Highly Sensitive People as a psychotherapist and global HSP consultant. She practices psychotherapy in Boulder, CO and specializes in working with sensitivity and healing of trauma (EMDR). She's also the founder of Intuitive Warrior, an online platform offering resources and support to Highly Sensitive People worldwide. An HSP herself, Brooke went years feeling overwhelmed and anxious before learning how to support her nervous system. She considers it an honor to get to share that knowledge with fellow HSPs.
You are a gift to the world. You aren't alone. We need you here.