grief and highly sensitive people

I have been doing a lot of reflecting lately on the theories of “highly sensitive people” as well as the characteristics regarding thought patterns, emotions, interactions, and relationships that are often seen in the “borderline” personality. I find both descriptions apply to me, though there are some parts (especially of the “borderline” side) that don’t fit as well. I see the descriptors as two sides of the same coin: HSP is a positively framed image and BPD is highly stigmatized and negative.

My dad said to me on the phone this week, “You are one of the most sensitive people I know and I cannot imagine how much pain you are in right now.”

I am in pain. I am grieving. I am sad. I am overwhelmed. I am shutting down from being so overwhelmed. I am also reaching out to friends and family and I am taking care of myself. For the first time in my life, I feel like I am grieving “correctly”. This recent death brought up a very similar traumatic death from when I was 10 years old. I only recently feel like I have healed from it. My dad, this week, shared with me some ideas of how I could process this more recent death, and I could not help but wonder if he had suggested these same activities when I was 10, and if not, why not? Why has no one taught me how to grieve before? Denying emotions has been my MO for so long. I am trying so hard to be vulnerable to my pain, and to my friends and family… I know this is not my childhood again, though in many ways it feels similar.

Here is a list of attributes regarding “Highly Sensitive People” — the reason this resonates with me this evening is because of the item regarding childhood loss.

  • Emotionally, Highly Sensitive People (HSP) are mainly seen as shy, introverted and socially inhibited (or can be socially extroverted). They are often acutely aware of other’s emotions. Sensitive people learn early in life to mask their wonderful attributes of sensitivity, intuition and creativity.
  • Physically, HSPs may have low tolerance to noise, glaring lights, strong odors, clutter and/or chaos. They tend to have more body awareness of themselves and know instinctually when the environment they are in is not working for them.
  • Socially, introverted HSP may feel like misfits. They actually enjoy their own company and are totally comfortable being alone. Both introverted and socially extroverted HSP often find they need time alone to recover after social interactions.
  • Psychologically, HSPs compensate for their sensitivity by either protecting themselves by being alone too much, or, by trying to be ‘normal’ or sociable which then over-stimulates them into stress.
  • Work and career is particularly challenging for HSPs. They are often overlooked for promotions even though they are usually the most conscientious employees. They are excellent project oriented employees because they are responsible and thorough in their work.
  • Relationships can be difficult. In relationships they may be confronted with their unresolved personal issues. They can however, offer their partner the gifts of their intuitive insights.
  • Culturally, HSPs do not fit the tough, stoic and outgoing ideals of modern society and what is portrayed in the entertainment media.
  • Childhood wounds have a more devastating effect on HSPs. It is important for them to heal their past hurts because they cannot just forget them and go on in denial.
  • Spiritually, sensitive people have a greater capacity for inner searching. This is one of their greatest blessings.
  • Nutritionally, HSPs may need more simplicity in their diet. They may be vitally aware of the effects of food on the health of their body and their emotional stability.

(I got this list here.)

I wonder- I know I did not heal from several childhood wounds. I wonder if all my anxieties and neuroses come from simply having too many sensitivities- sometimes the anxiety feels so biological and physical. I wonder if the unhealthy ways I have coped with too-intense emotions and the related distorted thought patterns (the pieces that can seem “borderline”) I developed because I was unable to manage so much stimulation, so many emotions– and all the insecurities and low self-esteem I have (had) as well.

This is all rambling, and I just want an answer to everything.

There are not answers, but I am working on finding the right questions to ask.

Tonight’s main question is How do I need to heal?

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One Response to grief and highly sensitive people

  1. “HSP is a positively framed image and BPD is highly stigmatized and negative.” In my reading I have come to the same conclusions and therefore have began to appreciate the insights derived from both perspectives. As one writer put it, life is like a piano. You need both white keys and black ones to play.

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