We Sensitives are Only Upside Down, in a Good Way
“It only felt safe to feel it all alone. I’d get sideswiped by inexplicable emotion at inconvenient times. So, I just tried to keep it all under wraps, keep it all under conscious control.” — Ane Axeford
Anyone who has high sensitivity will understand Ane Axeford’s perfect insight into our daily lives – which run deep emotionally. It takes a lot of mental effort, emotional restraint, and a damn-near superhuman strength to stay in control of sensitivity.
It’s consuming and we don’t want anyone else to suffer our emotional firestorms raging within us so we separate off from others in order to feel our feelings and discharge them without hurting anyone, or god forbid, bothering them.
Sometimes We Just Want To Go Off The Rails
Axeford theorizes that the Highly Sensitive Person actually lives in a reversed order paradigm of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The ubiquitous pyramid used in all Developmental Psychology classes outlines Abraham Maslow’s order of needs from physical security and safety to self-actualization. She describes her insights.
“As a highly sensitive person, I am starting out with all this raw sensation at the transcendent level. It is up to me to self-actualize it and bring it into my body to feel it there, then bring it to thought and belief, and on down the levels to get a physiological manifestation.
And, it is so easy to just stay at the top, to stay in my head with it.
What a revelation to realize that there is nothing “wrong” with me, and all my thinking. It’s just the way I am built. And, I just hadn’t gone far enough with what I was sensing. I don’t start out at the physiological level, and I am not meant to!”
Axeford recommends these tools for learning how to cope with extreme sensitivity.
Understand the difference between a sensation and an emotion.
A sensation is neutral sensory information in your body (butterflies in stomach, tension in shoulders, pit in stomach). An emotion is a personal response to a sensation (I personally feel scared about this).
Allow yourself to feel your sensations neutrally and engage with them.
For example, “I feel my body shaking right now, and that is okay. I can shake.” Rather than judging it by saying, “Why am I shaky right now? What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t be nervous now!”
Remind your self that you are a participant in life, not just an observer.
I liken this to being on the chessboard of life rather than just looking at it from above. Allow yourself to notice what you feel in response to the position you are in. There are actual energetic dynamics that you will feel based on where you are physically in your life. Ask yourself “What would feel better right now?” and then just let that come to you.
I love Ms. Axeford’s way of relating to her high level of sensitivity and the strategies she’s learned to manage it.
A great way to learn more and develop a slightly detached insight into your sensitivity is to try to observe your thoughts. By using beginners’ mind, watch and don’t judge your feelings, thoughts, and deep emotional reactions to your environment. This is an excellent way to understand how your sensitivity helps or hinders your daily interactions.