Grieving "Normal" and Embracing Sensitive
Have you recently discovered or suspect that you are a Highly Sensitive Person, but struggle to accept that your sensitivity is a permanent part of you? Being easily overstimulated, exhausted or intensely emotional can be difficult and perhaps you fear the sacrifices you might need to make to accommodate your sensitive nature. Fears may arise of a sequestered life at home, hiding from an outside world that is often stressful or harsh. I will not lie to you - you will need to make some lifestyle changes to manage your sensitivity such as finding space for downtime on a daily basis, maintaining consistent sleep habits, and cultivating a reasonable work-life balance, among others. You can still be engaged in the world, it will just need to be in a less stimulating way, something that is different for every Highly Sensitive Person.
Embracing Sensitive Strengths
Being sensitive may take a bit more effort on your part to manage, but you gain a plethora of wonderful strengths! You may be wondering, what is so strong about Sensitivity? Actually, a lot! HSPs make wonderful partners, friends, parents and employees. We are very insightful, perceptive, conscientious, and detail-oriented. Highly Sensitive People also have a high capacity for connection in relationships and a passionate appreciation for the arts. Essentially, we live, love and feel deeply!
As wonderful as it can be to discover and name your Sensitivity Strengths, there is often a natural process of grieving. You may still be worried about the sacrifices necessary to receive the gifts of Sensitivity. I understand, it is difficult changing the vision we have for ourselves or failing to meet the expectations of loved ones. However, as I have learned on my own journey of self-discovery, just because I CAN do something, does not mean that it is SUSTAINABLE. Sometimes the vision changes and that is okay. As you begin to explore your relationship to your Sensitivity more deeply, notice if you are beginning to grieve a vision of yourself as a non-HSP. You may notice yourself passing through the Five Stages of Grief that were first introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her book On Death and Dying. Below I look at the experience of being Highly Sensitive through the lens of the grieving process:
Five Stages of HSP Grief
Denial "I am not Sensitive. High Sensitivity is not actually real."
This stage helps protect us from the difficulty of our experience and reduce the discomfort. Although it can be relieving to find out about the innate quality of High Sensitivity, it can also feel too permanent.
Anger "I do not want to be this way. I hate being sensitive."
As we begin to accept the reality of our situation, the defense of denial slowly fades away and feelings begin to surface. Anger is a natural reaction.
Bargaining "Maybe I can compromise. It is okay if I stay out late tonight."
Bargaining helps us feel less helpless and more in control.
Depression "This is hopeless. I cannot live this way; it is too hard."
In this stage, we may be mourning lost potential or ideas we had for ourselves.
Acceptance "I appreciate my Sensitivity and its gifts."
Loving your Sensitivity and nurturing yourself with it in mind.
Just as with any personal process, there is no finite destination, but a natural tendency to move in and out of the different stages. Give yourself time to process and be with each stage, taking as much time as you need to be there. With time, you can increase acceptance of your Sensitivity, make any necessary lifestyle adjustments and learn to thrive.
How have you experienced these different stages during the discovery of your own Sensitivity? What messages do you tell yourself?