In a previous post, I talked about the fact that many introverts are highly sensitive. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) tend to notice more subtleties in their environment and in themselves. They are overwhelmed by strong stimuli, such as loud noises, assaulting smells and chaotic environments. Most HSPs have a deep appreciation for introspection, spirituality and philosophical endeavors.
If you are an introvert who is highly sensitive, you have probably been chastised for your sensitivity at some point. People might have told you to “toughen up” or “loosen up”. You might have found that your sensitivity to other people’s emotions, as well as your own, was seen as a weakness.
Consequently, you tapped into society’s collective fear of being vulnerable and began trying to hide, “cure” or numb out your sensitivity. You lost sight of the fact that being highly sensitive is not a liability. It is a strength. Here’s why:
The seat of intuition
Being sensitive to subtleties within our environment and our own body/mind/spirit is the key to activating our intuition. There are all sorts of scientific and spiritual explanations as to what exactly intuition is, but for our purposes it’s enough to know that intuition is the act of knowing without rational processes. Many people think of it as a feeling, rather than a thought. No matter what form it takes, our intuition is usually subtle.
When we choose to ignore our sensitivities by steeping ourselves in overwhelming environments, ignoring our desire for introspection and numbing our emotions, we loose the ability to access our intuition. We no longer notice the quiet inner voice, or the nagging feeling in our gut. Thus, we become slaves to logic and reason. Albert Einstein expressed this unfortunate phenomenon very well:
“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
A source of connection
Being aware of the subtleties that surround us in all aspects of our lives helps connect us to our environment, other people and ourselves. When we decide that our sensitivities are unacceptable, we essentially build a wall against all those potential connections.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in our emotional connections with others. Many of us learned from an early age that very few emotions are “appropriate” for expression. Ironically, sensitive people are more susceptible to this cultural message because we pick up on it quickly. We notice the implicit ways that our society condemns certain emotions. We begin to think there is something wrong with our feelings, something wrong with us.
As a result, we not only hide our emotions, we lose connection with them completely. We can’t express our feelings because we can’t even identify them. How can we have deep and meaningful relationships when we are out of touch with our emotions? We can’t.
One thing that really helped me to reconnect with my own emotions was learning not to label them as “good” or “bad”. All emotions are beautiful and worthy of expression. If I sincerely express my emotions (a.k.a become vulnerable) in front of another person and they run for the hills – great – that is one less unneeded superficial relationship in my life.
By now, you’ve probably already noticed that I’m a fierce advocate for authenticity. Being who we are is infinitely more powerful than trying to be someone else. Or trying to simply fit in. If you are a highly sensitive person, embrace it. After years of hiding your true nature, this might be easier said than done. Simply becoming aware of your sensitivity is a great first step towards unlocking the power that comes with it.