Did you have a role in your family growing up?
In many families, each family member takes on a certain way of operating. Instead of responding authentically to each situation that arises, the role we take on causes us to respond in habitual and narrow ways.
One of my roles in my family was Holder of the Emotions. When one of my parents was upset, I knew it, felt it in my body, and “held” their feelings as though they were my own.
I’ve been learning about, and supporting, Highly Sensitive People for 15 years. Until recently, there was always an intangible element, a universal piece of the struggle, that I couldn’t put my finger on.
When I became overwhelmed and drained by someone’s mood, I felt powerless to do anything about it. In fact, a part of me had resigned myself to the fact that this was “just how it’s going to be for me and others like me.”
Now, as I've learned about energetic boundaries and how to heal them, I know that feeling powerless and overwhelmed is not a given!
Let's talk about the different types of energetic boundary damage which cause our struggles with carrying others' emotions, feeling exhausted all the time, and losing touch with ourselves (to name a few).
First, let's recap what we've covered so far:
Cyndi Dale, author of Energetic Bounaries, says that when compromised, our energetic boundaries can become rigid, permeable, or poked full of holes.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “boundaries” before; it's an important topic!
Here's the thing though: after years of my own therapy and getting pretty darn good at setting boundaries, I still felt exhausted at the end of the day, like I was carrying around a 50 lb. backpack of the world's emotional junk.
What was going on? If I was decent at setting boundaries, why did I feel this way?
Can you guess THE most common challenge of being an HSP?
Here are some clues (quotes from our HSP community)...
All of these struggles come from energetic boundary issues.
If there's a gap between what you want to do and what you can do, that's okay.
Everyone's grappling with something extra right now:
Each one of these takes up mental and emotional bandwidth, and bandwidth is finite; at some point, we reach our max.
Does this sound familiar?
You’re going about your day when something catches you completely off guard. In a flash, your body comes alive with energy, your head is foggy, your thoughts spin, and your hands feel clammy. Your emotions are huge, overwhelming. Shame, anger, and/or fear overtake you and you want to lash out/hide/run away. You might feel frozen.
A little while ago, The Sensitivity Summit took place. Did you get to see it? It was an amazing experience to speak amongst a group of experts in the field of high sensitivity. I received an enthusiastic response to my talk, so I'm very excited to get to share the recording of my talk with you. The recordings are being kept private, so this is the only place to access it!
I went into this talk planning to focus on the resilience of Highly Sensitive People (which we did), but we also ended up delving quite a bit into HSPs and trauma. I also shared about my own childhood hardship and the ways it affected me as an adult.
Do you ever feel at as loss as to what to do with your emotions? They can get so big and intense sometimes, you may not know what to do with them.
You might fear that if you fully surrendered to them, you'd become totally overwhelmed, never stop crying, or become non-functional.
I used to think that there were only a couple options when it came to emotions: let them control and overtake me or keep them suppressed and locked away. So most of the time I'd choose to compartmentalize them, stuffing them down by disconnecting from myself or distracting myself with social media or comfort food.
We’re solidly in Summer now, and here in Colorado, we've gone from having a snowstorm in May to temperatures in the 90’s in June! The above photo is a gorgeous view of the mountains from where I am.
Not only has the weather been in a state of flux; It's also been a time of massive transition personally:
5 weeks ago, I moved homes.
A week later, we wrapped up Intuitive Warrior’s Flourish Program.
In the midst of all that, I'm engaged and planning a wedding.
We all know that grounding and restorative activity like Hatha yoga or swimming can help calm our sensitive nervous systems. But what about when you want something high-impact? What about when you want to push yourself?
I remember walking into the “Cardio Sculpt” class at my gym. I was in the mood for something challenging and intense. I had energy to burn and was ready to channel it. I was feeling motivated and confident…until the instructor turned on the music.
If you’re like me, you want to feel proud of who you are and confident in being you. Sometimes, you do: you love your intuitiveness and appreciate the powerful and profound way in which you see the world.
But you still question yourself and everything around you, constantly turning over every stone in your mind. It seems like you're bombarded with so many more feelings than others, and that you feel them more deeply.
Sometimes we wonder if something is wrong with us.
Perfectionism is the pursuit of an ideal way of being: how we act and look or what we achieve, for example. These ideals are often culture-created but can also come from within.
Purpose-driven Highly Sensitive People are at risk of falling into the trap of perfectionism. You may think there’s an “ideal you” out there that, once attained, will make life smooth sailing.
Dear HSP, I know how painful that is. And I know I could tell you how loveable you are right now, in this moment, exactly as you are. But I know it's not as easy as that.
Does any of this sound familiar?
Your stomach clenches as you watch the news, and you feel the suffering of people you’re hearing about.
Your friend or family member is struggling and you don’t just feel sad for them; you feel their pain in your body, almost like it’s happening to you.
Your child is crying, and their distress is excruciating to witness. It’s hard to detach and let them “just cry it out.” Or, if you’re not a parent, just hearing a baby scream can upset you and quicken your pulse.
As a highly sensitive person (HSP), other people’s feelings affect you. A lot.
People don’t even have to tell you how they’re feeling for you to know that they’re frustrated or stressed. You pick up on their mood through their facial expressions, tone and energy.
As Highly Sensitive People, we process everything so deeply- the things we hear, see and feel (to name a few). And we take our responsibilities seriously- sometimes to a degree that overwhelms us.
If you're not sure whether you're maxed out, here are some of the symptoms of burnout (graphic courtesy of journey_to_wellness on IG):
Signs of Burnout:
Brooke Nielsen, LMFT
Brooke Nielsen is a trauma-informed psychotherapist specializing in catapulting HSPs out of overwhelm and into a powerful calm. She founded Intuitive Warrior and the Therapeutic Center for Highly Sensitive People in Boulder, CO and has over a decade of expertise in trauma healing. Her Intuitive Warrior programs helps women and men discover the gifts that lie hidden in what they thought were the worst parts of themselves.
You are a gift to the world. You aren't alone. We need you here.