The witness : thoughts on being a Highly Sensitive Person

===HSP

Sometimes it feels in life as if I am not a participant but a witness.  I stand at the centre of my own life and watch things revolve and evolve around me, waiting, watching and learning and making sense of.

Does this way of being reach back to my childhood where I was the youngest on the outside of events watching everything unfold?   Was it a result of that accident I had at 17 where I was confined to a hospital bed for three months or more and then of a later accident when at another critical point of transition I was stopped from moving forward into life and pulled back deep within?   In any case my life is as it is and I am as I am, these days and  I am not sure I can change it myself nor should want to, perhaps I need to accept who I am.

A few years ago I was introduced to the book The Highly Sensitive Person and in that book Elaine Aron speaks about people like me who are interior in their orientation, those who display high sensitivity and she makes the observation that such people have a precious function in society, because we are sensitive and have known pain we can relate to others who suffer, because we are attuned to nature and beauty and animals and the inner soul live we have a lot to give.

As HSP’s we are empathic and naturally pick up upon pain, sadness or vulnerabilities in others.  We have an antenna attuned to such things and because we have endured them we can offer some form of comfort, nurture and understanding, who  knows, perhaps many of us may actually be (as one of my close friends recently pointed out) ‘old souls’ who came to earth with a sensitive way of being and knowing that is most sorely needed in these times when we stand on the brink of major crisis.

However, as HSP’s in childhood we often were not understood or attuned to by our families, we may be carriers of the family shadow and we may suffer more due to our sensitivity and most especially if we don’t have help with understanding and nurturing our sensitivity, reactions and emotions we may even turn against ourselves in some way and develop a very nasty inner critic.

Its really interesting to me that this is a post I just refound in drafts which was incomplete and just before opening it to edit it I came across a post from Alexis Rose on Untangled about seeing and recognising the suffering in someone’s eyes.   Alexis’s writing and journey show how sensitive and open she is.  What she wrote confirms and began to flesh out this post as I became aware of how being a ‘witness’ could go along with feeling ourselves to be different or on the outside in a modern culture which can at times be deeply insensitive or emotionally violent, disconnecting, invalidating or minimising.

Being able to understand how awakening to the sensitive vulnerability of our inner child and trauma may go hand in hand, helps us to take the onus off the feeling that there is something wrong with us for having acted in the way we did or feeling the feelings we do.  A diagnosis of so called ‘mental illness’ may actually show that we didn’t get help with trauma and had our reactions misunderstood or dismissed.

It feels good when we can connect to other witnesses and sensitive people because we grow in understanding together and this helps the outsider to feel more like the insider we truly are.  As a sensitive persons we may have felt ourselves to be on the outside, we may have found it hard to find others to connect to or relate with others.  If early on we did not learn to accept and love ourselves as we are we may have tried to change,  If we didn’t learn how to understand and accept our at times intense feelings we may have been drawn to addictions.  If we never got to grow a loving inner parent our hurting inquiring child may search desperately outside to find this energy but subsequently feel ashamed for this need which really just needs to be understood and redirected within the self for us to grow, mature and find peace and understanding.

HSP2

It helps once we find the inner recognition to know that there is a way to grow a loving supportive inner parent who will help us through and won’t shame us inwardly for very real needs that could not find expression, validation or acceptance in the past. We often need a sensitive therapist to help us on this journey.

I am sure there are many sensitive persons out there who went down a different road. On some level they were able to affirm and validate themselves from within.   They did not develop as much toxic shame around sensitivity and then they were able to honour the gift of sensitivity and nurture it and express it in the outer world.

Whatever our unique path though those of us who are emotionally sensitive can learn to honour and value ourselves from within.  We can learn that we may have been more vulnerable to hurt that happened when younger if we were not supported to truly understand and develop ourselves. We CAN find that sort of support now, if we look hard enough and trust.  For in truth our sensitivity is a gift.  The world needs witnesses, those who see to the heart of the matter and have the courage to express what they see, to stay true to who they are and honour and nurture emotions and sensitivity in a world that so sorely needs the insight and rich gifts that sensitivity brings.

4 thoughts on “The witness : thoughts on being a Highly Sensitive Person

  1. “‘old souls’ who came to earth with a sensitive way of being and knowing that is most sorely needed.” This is lovely. I’m also an HSP, and it’s easy to feel lost in the world, and feel like there’s something fundamentally wrong with us. But there isn’t. We’re the healers of the world. It needs us.

    1. Yes, I know you are Rayne, I think that young child recognised you when he asked if you were an angel. I am feeling more and more lately I need to honour my sensitivity. I see how I was taught to be ashamed of it for so long.

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