What is Heightened Sensitivity?
Heightened Sensitivity is a heightened physical and subtle awareness, and experience, of your environment, of people around you, your own body and inner life, and the vast energetic world we live in.
While all people are sensitive to different degrees, highly sensitive people are often acutely and deeply aware of what is happening in and around them. Sometimes this awareness is useful, meaningful and supportive. At other times, it is painful and overwhelming.
Highly sensitive people have very sensitive nervous systems and often highly developed intuition, acute gut instincts and subtle ways of knowing. As a result of this, they often observe information, mixed messages and subtle signals that most people unconsciously filter out of their awareness.
This can make them valuable members of families, teams and communities, as they are able to give voice to the emerging needs, difficulties and solutions which are being experienced by the whole. The capacity to perceive, and give voice, to such information can also lead to a sensitive person to being silenced or isolated, in order to keep the knowledge hidden or the status quo undisrupted.
With highly sensitive physical, nervous and energetic systems, sensitives are often easily overwhelmed and overstimulated and thus exhausted by intense situations, busy or stressful environments, and other people.
Therefore, sensitive individuals can benefit by learning how to care for themselves more uniquely as sensitive people. Each person’s sensitivity pattern is like a fingerprint, composed of different sources and depths of sensitivity, and thus unique.
Why am I so Sensitive?
Some people are simply born with highly sensitive nervous systems, and/or the capacity to be acutely sensitive through the subtle senses of instinct, intuition, knowing, empathy, feeling, clairvoyance and clairaudience.
This can continue to develop and evolve throughout life, either gradually or in sudden accelerated growth spurts where sensitivity can even be aggravated.
Other people become sensitive through spiritual practices such as mediation and yoga, through Kundalini awakening and spiritual development, or through specific events such as traumatic experiences and through illness, near-death experiences and spontaneous awakening. It can also happen through exposure to toxic substances, environments and radiation.
Physical sensitivities to environments, foods, sounds, light and other external triggers can develop in combination with intuitive and energetic sensitivity.
Why is this Sensitivity often so hidden and devalued?
Sensitivity is very often a marginalised experience in the western world. It is commonly seen as a problem, something to be overcome or even extinguished, in either ourselves and/or in others. This causes the highly sensitive members of our society to feel exhiled, strange and shameful, and creates deep pain and suffering.
Instead of holding a balanced view of the creative interplay of sensitivity and resilience, our western cultures heavily value the rational, logical, masculine qualities and material reality. This generates the phenomenon of cherishing the opposite of sensitivity, of celebrating toughness, material things, overt masculinity, and even, at times, the capacity to be apparently unmoved by the feelings or suffering of self or others.
Most highly sensitive people are acutely aware of their own and others’ inner lives, and find such pretences of not caring, or not knowing, impossible and painful. They are unable to live up to such imbalanced values and can thus feel marginalised, alienated, alone and insecure.
What happened to Sensitivity in Australia?
This bias is very prevalent in Australian culture, where the tough pioneering ethic of our collective origins had no time for sensitivity when facing survival in the harsh, unfamiliar and somewhat hostile environment of colonial Australia. This bias blends well with the colonial English view of the feeling inner self as unwanted, and needing to be repressed and contained. The outward expression of emotion, feeling and inner life was perceived as being unhealthy, hysterical and shameful.
This view still colours our cultural lenses. It can drive undercurrents of intimidation, and the silencing of those more sensitive people and their voices in our communities.
Ironically, this situation is vastly different to the very sensitive, intuitive and connected relationship Aboriginal people had with the harsh Australian continent, which allowed them to thrive and live in balance for millennia. They held (and continue to uphold) a high value for their sensitive and dreaming nature, and allowed it to weave them into a unified life with the Earth.
Their valuing of sensitivity offers us many intuitive keys and suggestions for possible healing pathways, and how to reconnect to our sensitive, subtle, dreaming selves. Indigenous cultures and shamanic ways of living from around the world all point us to pathways of returning to balance.
How can we balance Sensitivity and Resilience?
It is my hope that, as humanity evolves, we will come to value both our sensitive and tough natures, giving both equal and valid voices, in our inner lives and our collective, social development. I often wonder what could be created in our world, and in our Earth’s environment, if these two voices were able to weave, create and evolve our communities together.
The inner pain of being Sensitive
While sensitives can feel socially marginalised they often suffer from excruciating sensitivity to environments, stimulation, and an exaggerated and acute empathy to the emotions, moods and intentions of other people. Sometimes other people’s moods can feel like energetic waves, or objects that rock you and knock you around.
Such uncontained openness, or unpredictable uncontained empathy, can make life miserable, and generate a constant challenge to discern whether each feeling which arises is your own or belongs to another person. This can quite obviously make life confusing, frightening, exhausting and simply too much.
It is, thus, not a surprise that many sensitive people isolate or reduce their contact with the world in order to reduce their pain. However, in doing so, they often miss out on the very things which nourish, heal and inspire them.
How can we heal and recover our Sensitivity?
The question of how can we heal, include and celebrate sensitivity constantly challenges and extends me in my own journey, and in my work of supporting sensitive people. Over the years I have seen the healing and empowerment of sensitivity fall into patterns which often remind me of mythic tales.
Most mystic paths and mythic tales set the initiate (or the beloved prince or princess) a series of tasks on the path to healing or victory. The path to healing our sensitivity, both individually and collectively, is similar. So here I will outline a healing myth for the sensitive soul.
The mythic tasks of becoming an Empowered Sensitive:
The first task is reclaiming value of sensitivity.
To begin to accept your sensitivity as valuable is critical to your healing. Often, this simply means allowing some openness to the possibility that your heightened sensitivity may be a gift, a resource and part of the unique life path you are on. You and your sensitivity may be exactly what we, your brothers and sisters, are waiting for.
This first task can also involve discovering and sorting the value and power that sensitivity can bring to your life, and to others. This is the beginning of reconfiguring what sensitivity is in your life.
The second task is the knowing of the nature of your unique sensitivity.
It means being able to pay attention, and observe how your sensitivity functions in your life. Here, you learn what channels it uses and how it shows up. This can mean discerning whether your sensitivity shows up as a strong empathy, deep knowingness, acute body sensations, sensitivity to inaudible or subtle sounds or spirit voices, visions, gut instincts and flashes of future possibilities.
It also means listening to what your sensitivity is asking of you, and this often includes adopting some self-care tasks or strategies. It can mean simply loving and caring for yourself better.
Self-care can include changes to diet, becoming more grounded and contained, holding your centre, strengthening your aura and boundaries, and taking supportive remedies such as flower essences.
Often, your sensitive self has been trying to get some valuable messages to you about you, your wellbeing, your life journey or mythic path. Hearing these messages can be inspiring, reassuring and transformative.
The third task usually arises during the first or second task, and involves confronting the archetypal identity pattern – the wicked witch, the mean step sister, the dragon, troll, monster or big bad wolf within yourself which opposes your sensitivity.
Usually this is, at first, a nasty inner critic who wants you to stay as far away from your sensitive nature as possible, and can be merciless and degrading about who you are as a sensitive person. It marginalises you from within.
This negative inner critic can be stood up against and reduced. It can be then transformed and sometimes reformed into a supportive inner guide. Sometimes such inner critics are so nasty there is no choice but to symbolically slay them.
After gaining some ground within, you can then have the increased inner strength to confront or hold your own, internally or externally, against the collective cultural critic of sensitivity. This may show up in the members of your workplace, in your family or friends, your sports team or your neighbourhood.
This may not mean directly discussing your sensitivity or taking a stand, though for some this may be the call. Essentially, it means being able to validate yourself, including your sensitivity, amidst the world. In doing so, you may find yourself a source of transformation for yourself and others.
Ultimately, as you grow, you will be able to find friends and communities with whom you can share yourself and your sensitivity transparently, and be cherished, honoured and loved in return.
The fourth task is the joyous and beautiful coming into the power of being sensitive. This is the initiates homecoming, returning whole, more wise, and empowered to life.
Sensitivity is a source of power. If you’ve had a lifetime of feeling weird, bad, tormented or unacceptable because of it, this may be a surprising concept, but it is deeply true.
In the fourth task you cultivate a loving alignment with your sensitivity, a weaving in and out of a beautiful fabric, composed of repeated empowering patterns of the first three tasks. When you come to know, honour and reclaim your sensitivity you are able to put it to good use in your life, and in your life path.
As you heal the battle with your own sensitive nature, you and your gifts can blossom, and your sensitivity can become the white horse you ride on along your mythic life path.
Your sensitivity can become the heart of any life path; the core of a healer’s journey, the intuitive knowing a manager uses to carefully support staff, an artist’s inspiration, or a parent’s skill at listening to and guiding their child in life.
Sensitivity is a life skill, the essence of being human, which is lived in the moment, through every moment of life.
Healing the pain of being Sensitive
In undertaking this journey with your own sensitive nature, you can find ways to heal and reduce the pain of being overwhelmed by stimulation, environments, other people and your own inner experiences. Gradually your system can come into balance.
As a person with acute sensitivity, who has suffered both shame and marginalisation, I deeply appreciate the value of recovering and empowering your sensitivity. It is a great delight to share this healing path with others, and to see them blossom.
Empowering others in their sensitivity is one of the deepest calls of my own essence and mythic path.
Myree is a natural healer. Her words and her voice are like gentle healing hands penetrating just below the surface of a wound , whether it be mental, physical or emotional. You can only feel safe in her loving, nuturing vibration. In the time that I did group coaching with Myree, I was inspired by her deep understanding of healing from a sense of self-worth and compassion. Healing in today’s world needs equal parts of both!
Sharon Brook, Brantford, Ontario, Canada.