So you finally figured out that you are Sensitive! Congratulations! (We've been waiting for you!)
I am sure after your first reaction of “Wow, this explains SO MUCH!” you may also be wondering, “OK that’s great...Now What?”
Luckily, some of us have been traveling this “Sensitive Journey” for a while now and have a few helpful tools to share.
In this blog I will elaborate on Dr. Elaine Aron’s “5 to Thrive” for HSPs as well as introduce my own advice on embodying the “Big Shoes” of Sensitive Archetypes. You are sure to feel right at home in your Sensitivity after embracing these!
"5 to Thrive"
Dr. Elaine Aron is not only the pioneer of Highly Sensitive People research, but has provided a wealth of information for us all on how to thrive in a world that is built for the other 80%.
She is known for her suggestions of “5 ways to Thrive” for Sensitive people, which I will summarize (and re-name with all “R”s so you can easily Remember them!). I highly recommend picking up any of her books if you are just coming to grips with the new name of "Highly Sensitive Person".
Your trait is not only very real, but it is well researched, documented, and even validated with modern technology (gotta love the fMRI machines!). Indulge in a research rabbit hole (HSPs love depth!) and learn as much as you are comfortable about your trait.
Learn how to communicate about it to others, and learn how it shows up in your life… some aspects will be more apparent than others, and you will resonate immediately with which are more yours.
Now you are armed with the knowledge of what your trait is, and you will have an ability to reflect and reframe your past through the lens of Sensitivity. Perhaps the story of you crying after giving an emotional speech in high school will make more sense, or your tendency to get sick in every new city you travel to will be better explained through this Sensitive perspective.
Allow yourself plenty of time and self-compassion to go through difficult (and comical) situations of your past and match them to the fact that you were Sensitive then and may not have known it. This alone may feel therapeutic, but you may also uncover past hurts that are in need of even more healing.
You will have uncovered many hurts through your reflection and reframing of your past and some will be more ready to heal than others. Restoring and healing your past hurts and trauma is very important to thriving as a Sensitive person.
Some hurts will be “easy” enough to heal through self-compassion and introspection, but others will require the help of a professional coach, therapist or even energy healer. It is important to note than many Sensitives are “wounded Healers”-- meaning they are able to heal others simply because they have healed themselves first.
Now that you know how your trait has influenced your past, you can begin to redesign your life and reap the benefits of your Sensitivity. There are ways you can make simple changes in your life (the easiest are: avoid overstimulation and add in more rest!) that will profoundly change your outlook, energy and disposition.
Some find this is the most "fun" part of learning to thrive because you no longer have to make excuses, but can embrace new things because of your sensitivities. (I find I have included many more pleasurable sensations in my life that balance out the overpowering ones!) If small changes are not enough, continue to reinvent yourself by embodying the archetypal energies of the Sensitive (see below).
Many HSPs feel lonely in their lives because they feel surrounded by non-sensitive friends and family -- or worse, they have other Sensitives in their life, but do not know how to connect to them. Reconnecting with others who are similar to you ("finding your tribe") of both other HSPs as well as non-sensitives who can empathize with your sensitivities is vital to thrive.
As you add in new friends, you may also have to cut others out of your life (who are too much for your nervous system to handle), and this is a difficult, but necessary step in the journey. Trust your instincts on who these people are and know that it may not be easy, but you may be better off for it.
Embodying Big Shoes
Dr. Aron's work is the best, but in my own work, I have noticed that the clients who are the happiest and feel most connected to their sensitivity, the meaning of life, and their own life's purpose are embodying a form of a bigger, more powerful archetype.
These archetypes are the names Sensitives have been called historically and you may not fit each EXACT description, but rather you will notice when you tend to embody aspects of these archetypal energies.
When you do, you are more likely to feel aligned, purposeful and empowered. Personally, I weave in and out of these archetypes daily as a parent to a Sensitive toddler. Here are a few you may recognize too:
Those who are able to feel and respond to the physical and emotional pain/needs of a person or a non-speaking being (baby, elder, pet, plant, etc.) are "Healers". These people may work as a professional healer, like a doctor, veterinarian or physical therapist, or they may use healing modalities as a hobby: like reiki, chakra clearing, or yoga. Others may be their family healer: taking care of bumps, bruises, and stuffy noses. Either way, the healer archetype is a powerful role that many Sensitives tend to embody without even being asked.
Storytellers and Story-keepers are vital in human history. Not only do we keep our family and culture’s heritage intact, but we entertain, teach, and provoke with our stories. If at first you don’t think you value stories, notice your daily habits: scrolling people’s stories online, listening to podcasts of stories, watching film and TV series for stories, reading stories in books, etc. When we create multi-dimensional stories using any media of our choice, we are transitioning from only consuming content, to creating it -- and there are powerful energies that accompany creating our reality.
We glorify visionaries as those who push the boundaries and bring us all into a better place. Visionaries exist in every sector of culture: science, technology, spirituality, arts, and more. They are the brave and bold members of society who dare to think outside of the box and try something new -- for newness sake. After the benefits of their new idea emerge, they tend to invite others along and suddenly we find ourselves further than we could ever imagine. You don’t have to have a leadership title to be a visionary -- no matter who you are you can embody the brave energy of bringing new, beneficial ideas to more people to move us all forward.
Every era and community has had a “priest culture”: those who are comfortable enough in their spiritual wisdom that they’re able to advise others. They tend to study spiritual matters and are aware of practices that positively affect lives. This wisdom becomes very important during times of struggle because they are able to share what works with those who may not have considered spiritual matters before. Historically, Priests have advised the “ruling class” who need to understand the moral and ethical implications of the decisions they make. Many HSPs are naturally attracted to spiritual matters, but tend to keep their practices private because they do not want the potential criticism. Embodying the Priest allows you to be more open about your spiritual practices and not necessarily feeling obliged to teach, but instead to live through example.
Because HSPs feel their world so deeply, they are able to pick up on the layers of complexity that make for wonderful art. Artists are able to capture the emotions, meanings, humor and beauty hidden in life in ways that non-artists cannot. Artists can often feel frustrated by the disconnect between what they experience and what they can express, but usually this frustration fuels the creation. Again, you don’t need to be a professional artist to create something that represents how you experience the world, but when you do, you will feel much more empowered and connected to the creation of your reality.
What about you? How do you thrive? Share in the comments or reach out about what makes you feel great about being Highly Sensitive!
Want to hear more? I have a podcast on this exact topic found here!