Recently, I was lucky enough to interview a pretty incredible person. Her name is Lisa and she is my mentor. I’m not sure if she knows I call her this, but I suspect I’m not the only one who does. I first met Lisa when I took her Reiki course approximately 8 years ago. She had a warm loving energy, the kind of energy that puts everyone at ease right away. She first reminded me of my grandmother (though Lisa is much younger) because I got the feeling that no matter what I said or did around her, she would welcome me in regardless. Much like the unconditional love that I got from my Grandmother. I did not know when I first met Lisa just how important of a role she would play in my years to come. Lisa ended up being an unbelievable support system for me during my darkest hours. More than anyone, her influence has helped me to accept and love myself…exactly as I am. She has shared her vast experiences, infinite wisdom and unconditional love with me in such a way that I am inspired to go out there and do the same with others. Lisa is a highly sensitive person, though she does not call herself sensitive. However, she is the perfect person to share her thoughts on living in this world as a highly sensitive person. Read on to find out why she does not consider herself sensitive, how she lives life through an “energetic” lens, what her biggest challenge has been and how the motto “it is what it is” keeps her in the flow.
When did you first discover you were a sensitive person? Have you always been this way?
At this point in the journey, there is no identification with that label. And when I was younger, it held a pejorative connotation for me from years of being told to “stop being so sensitive.” Energy aware is a phrase that seems more appropriate for me now. When describing sensitivity, I am referring to energy sensitivity. Some of us are very aware of and can be affected by the unseen, invisible energy exchanges that are taking place all around us, all the time. What is not always visible to the seeing eye, can have a significant impact on our physical, mental and emotional states.
Just to observe an infant is to become aware that children are purely sensory beings with wide open fields. They are completely defenceless until ego formation is established, which psychology says is around three years of age. Sensitivity isn’t something special. It’s innate and instinctive. This awareness is often not appreciated or nurtured in our society. Often children get the message from parents and teachers that it isn’t acceptable. There is a necessary toughening or numbing in order to survive and cope in the world. We learn how to doubt our senses and to deny our feelings ( “don’t be sad,” “don’t be angry,” “you’re ok, stop crying now,” “she/he didn’t mean that”) We never learn how to feel and process our emotional energy. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t still there in our energy fields and all around us.
Some people need to be very energy savvy for self-protection. They learn to read body language, facial expression and interpret the subtleties of energy exchange of which most people are unaware. They learn to sense what is not apparent, what is beneath the surface, what is coming. It’s a survival instinct that often gets conditioned out of us by culture for appearance sake, and in order to fit in.
Barbara Brennan in Hands of Light offers a thorough and detailed description of the various kinds of energy blocks and defence systems, like “armour,” hooks and tentacles, which personalities use. Lots of my discomfort in various relationships made sense after reading that information. It validated for me the experiences and feelings I was having as a child, that others denied.
It can feel crazy to intuitively know what others are thinking and feeling and then have it be invalidated, to be told you are imagining things. I began to doubt myself. I would get that feeling when going into a home/office space and sensing things aren’t quite right or as they appear to be. But nobody is saying anything, either oblivious to it or pretending it isn’t there. But it works both ways, I intuitively know when I am safe in a new environment or with new people. That sense of inner calm prevails.
How do you feel you benefit the most from this sensitivity?
When I learned to trust the sensitivity rather than to doubt it, it can be quite helpful in navigating this world, relationships and places. It’s that sixth sense that informs me and feels absolutely natural, like a built-in radar. I call it “spidey senses.” I’ve landed myself in plenty of uncomfortable situations because I ignored what my gut and heart were telling me in order to please others, or not make waves. As a mother, I want my kids to trust the information they are getting at a subtle level. I grew up in a culture where hugging and kissing relatives and friends was the norm, the expected social grace, whether that felt okay or not. I never expected that from my own kids. And it has been interesting to observe who they naturally warm up to and who they stay arms length from.
Energy awareness also allows for empathy. Again, surface appearances are not always the whole story. A person’s facade does not always match the underlying emotional energy. We are less quick to judge a person’s actions or behaviours when we sense what is underneath.
How do you feel you are challenged the most from this sensitivity?
I learned to mistrust it, which meant incredible self-doubt. That felt crazy. We have the intuitive gut response for a reason. But if it is continually denied by the authority figures in our lives, confusion can set in.
Alternately, being “too” sensitive can become a mindset in itself. We have to live in the world, so we need to learn to adapt and allow. Our sensitivity can have us limiting our interactions with others and out in the world. It can have us constantly moving from place to place in search of a space where we will not be bothered. We become avoidant rather than learning how to integrate and include certain energies, allowing them to flow through us. We can defend or hide in order to cope. Not taking on other people’s energies is a necessary skill to learn.
Our sensitivity can become our master if it impedes our developing maturity. It is possible to learn to stop resisting and move freely in the world. There are practices that help us learn how to do this, like Reiki, Tai chi, Qi Gong and FasterEFT. We don’t have to always be taking on other people’s energy. When we understand how the thoughts and feelings we are experiencing are the result of another’s energy field, we can learn how to quickly release and let go. Everyone has had the experience of feeling just fine and going about their day, when they bump into someone who is wearing a smile, but seething with anger. Or you are feeling neutral and listen to a friend talk about the sadness of a personal experience. During these exchanges, unprocessed emotional energy in our own field gets triggered and suddenly we are feeling angry or depressed. These are perfect opportunities to learn to release and let go, to come back to our centre.
How do you feel society in general deals with sensitivity or sensitive people?
In very simple ways, I appreciate that some public spaces are posting signs like scent free zone or “wifi” free zone. Going in to some restaurants can be overwhelming with the general noises of an eating establishment, all the conversation, and then on top of that the loud music piped in. It can be sensory overload on the physical level alone and ruin a good meal.
It is also interesting to observe the myriad of responses and reactions in society, from all out denial to juicing. Also, to note the rise of diagnoses of autism, anxiety disorder, ADD/ADHD and to see how the education system is not responding. The number of students requiring accommodation is increasing, even at the university level.
Today’s children are exposed to many environmental stimulants, EMFs for example, at a very early age. The toys we give newborns and toddlers to play with make loud noises and use bright lights and colours to stimulate them. There generally isn’t an awareness of just how open and vulnerable these little fields really are.
It is great to hear that lots of teachers are learning to bring techniques like tapping, yoga, meditation and mindfulness into the classroom. Learning how to process our emotional energy and then offering that possibility to children enriches our experiences. For me, it’s important that we teach children about emotions. For example; not just showing children an image of what anger looks like (it’s always a nasty looking picture, which implies negative). We need to teach “this is what anger feels like, it is an appropriate and acceptable emotion to feel. Here are constructive ways to process out this very powerful energy so that you are able to experience it without harming yourself or another.”
Have you ever felt doubt/insecurity/low self esteem from being highly sensitive?
Yes, for the first 30 years of my life, it felt crazy and uncomfortable. It’s no coincidence that I was called to Reiki, which opened up a whole new, safe world for me. Being able to feel others people’s anger or sadness or shame, being able to feel with my own body other people’s physical pain or nausea or tension, being able to see images that weren’t my own memories, finally made sense. And the practice of Reiki gave me a milieu to feel comfortable about how I experience the world. Again, there isn’t anything “special” about these things. The clearer our own energy fields become, the more normal these experiences are.
Have your family and friends accepted your traits?
Most of my friends are Reiki practitioners, so are having similar experiences to varying degrees. Perhaps curiosity is the word my family would use to describe me. That’s my word. “Out there” may be another way they’d describe me. But I’m generally the one they come to when they need help sifting through their own feelings and experiences in the world.
Do your sensitivities ever cause tension in your personal or professional life?
Yes, it has been challenging to get my bearings in relationships. I would often feel something and assume I was the problem because the other person denied its existence-out of safety, lack of awareness, insensitivity. I can easily align with what another is feeling and that can create confusion. It did create lots of confusion for me as a kid.
As you have grown and evolved, how have your sensitivities changed?
It is like a fine wine. Life gets richer and more textured as one matures. There are very few boundaries anymore, and again, no identification as a sensitive person. It’s more like “it is what it is” and carry on.
Has how you deal with your sensitivities changed?
Definitely. I trust my “spidey” sense now. I feel confident that I’m reading a situation correctly. I’ve learned to “get myself out of the way” and to trust what I’m experiencing. It’s been a continuous practice of letting go of fear, judgment and resistance. A practice in opening, allowing and welcoming in. When everything is accepted as it is, sensitivity takes on new meaning. Empathy naturally evolves into compassion for myself and others.
What is one thing you would tell someone who is struggling to accept themselves as highly sensitive?
Accept yourself. Trust your input. Love yourself. Learn the skills necessary to navigate through the world. Make use of a way of being in the world, in a constructive and life-affirming way.
Thank you Lisa!