“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” -Aristotle
Do you find yourself highly sensitive to the physical circumstances and/or the people around you?
A few days ago, a small bird smacked into the glass panel of the sliding door in my bedroom. This happened at another residence about eight months ago. The first time, I was probably more traumatized than the bird. The suffering of others has affected me so strongly all my life; it seemed to penetrate far into my being. In both cases, the bird look stunned and paralyzed, not moving a micro-millimeter, but clearly still alive.
The first time, my husband assured me that the best approach would be to leave the bird alone and let it reorient itself. It was an hour of pure torment for me. The bird did indeed recalibrate itself in about an hour’s time and flew off into the wild blue yonder. Happily, the second bird did the same. Animals intuitively know how best to cope with trauma. This is explained exceptionally well in the book, Waking the Tiger, Healing Trauma, The Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences, which elucidates how these same principles apply to the human experience of trauma.
Suffering and overcaring
The second time around, I was naturally concerned about the bird’s suffering, but, interestingly, I didn’t let it get under my skin in the same way. This is due, in part, simply to knowing from experience that the bird would likely recover and fly off as before. At the same time, I feel this is also due to a gradual process of inner change that is taking place as I more firmly secure myself through Amygdala Retraining and other means of self exploration and personal development. Let me be clear that this doesn’t mean becoming indifferent, uncaring, or cold-hearted. I still feel emphatic to the suffering of others, but I understand more fully than ever before how allowing it to jar me so strongly is neither necessary or useful.
Indeed, overcaring may actually be harmful.
“Is your care producing or reducing stress?” This is a key question in the Heartmath approach, which also says: “Excessive care, or overcare related to an issue or situation can create stress and negative emotions, so it is important for your care to be balanced.”
If you are stuck in the habit of perpetual giving, this might be a crucial question to ask: “Is your care producing or reducing stress?”
Suffering is an inevitable part of life for all of us. When you know and accept the reality that suffering will occur, it’s not such a shock when it actually does. With this understanding, you can have more acceptance and clarity when suffering arises. I’ve been fortunate to meet many great spiritual masters in my lifetime. All of them have been deeply compassionate. Indeed, their love and compassion have no limit: the whole purpose of their existence is to relieve the suffering of this world. But they are not bowled over by suffering. They don’t go into a state of personal angst if a bird flies into a pane of glass. They are compassionate warriors—courageous, confident, determined, yet also relaxed, open, and spacious.
Are you a highly sensitive person?
I’ve been super sensitive as far back as I can recall. According to Elaine Aron, 15-20% of the population is highly sensitive, possessing an uncommonly sensitive nervous system. She says that being a highly sensitive person means:
“…you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted.”
Aron defines this not as a flaw but as an asset that you can learn to use. She says, “If we try to live by the same operating instructions that others use, we develop all kinds of chronic illnesses, as so many of you have learned the hard way. Yet if we overprotect ourselves, our assets go unexpressed, and that can also lead to stress and illness.”
1 in 5 people are highly sensitive – an eye opening statistic!
Sensitized Nervous System
The evidence is mounting that a sensitized nervous system is involved in a wide range of disorders. Wikipedia explains:
“A third type is central sensitization, where nociceptive neurons in the dorsal horns of the spinal cord become sensitized by peripheral tissue damage or inflammation. This type of sensitization has been suggested as a possible causal mechanism for chronic pain conditions.”
“Sensitization has been implied as a causal or maintaining mechanism in a wide range of apparently unrelated pathologies including substance abuse and dependence, allergies, asthma, and some medically unexplained syndromes such as fibromyalgia and multiple chemical sensitivity. Sensitization has also been suggested in relation to psychological disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder, panic anxiety and mood disorders.”
In another view of sensitization, Ashok Gupta and Annie Hopper believe that a small structure in the brain thought to be responsible for triggering the adrenalin response, the amygdala, becomes sensitized in cases of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, Chronic Pain Syndromes, and related disorders. They respectively offer their own innovative brain retraining programs to assist people in recovering from these disorders based on the science of neuroplasticity.
Reducing overstimulation and retraining the brain
The first step foreword is recognizing that you are indeed a highly sensitive person. If this is the case, it’s important to take on board that trying to live a highly stimulated, stress filled lifestyle may very well have negative ramifications for you. From there, you can explore options for reducing over-stimulation. Elaine Aron’s books are one resource for this purpose.
It’s far better to do this early on so you can lead a sane, healthy, and happy life instead of developing chronic illness down the road. However, if you do develop certain chronic illnesses, Dynamic Neural Retraining and Amygdala Retraining are wonderful programs to help you feel better. There are no magic pills. You must faithfully apply the techniques offered in these programs on a regular basis to effectively retrain the brain and improve. You need to change your fundamental way of being. Loving yourself enough to make the commitment is part of the equation. This is a huge step, but there’s tremendous support for accomplishing this. Be heartened! Breakthroughs are happening in the realm of these previously unexplained illnesses.
Are you a highly sensitive person? What steps do you take to reduce stimulation in your life?
You might also like this related articles: Retraining the brain for CFS, FMS, MCS, PTSD, & GWS
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