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tools for sensitive people #1

A friend posed this question (or a version of it!): how do you live with freedom and confidence, when those around you seem harsh, or out of touch?

You may be sensitive, artistic, or philosophical. There is a thin veil between you and your world, between you and other people. It makes you naturally open to other people, but that also makes you extra vulnerable. Put you in our culture– full of pioneer-made, boot-strap loving, and sometimes cut-throat individuals– and whooa! You may wake up some mornings and feel like you live at the wrong time, or in the wrong culture, or on the wrong planet!

So how do you relate to people, given your sensitivity? As a sensitive person myself, I learned the hard way. I used to think that I could let everyone and everything “in” to my world—and that it was entirely safe to do so. I didn’t know I was even doing this until in my early twenties, a dear childhood friend pointed out that I had somehow surrounded myself with people who didn’t treat me very well.

Not so much anymore! A big lesson I learned over time (and truthfully continue to learn) was to create strict boundaries around myself, allowing “in” only those with whom I felt a deeper connection with and allowing myself to energetically close out those whom I sensed were harmful. At the same time, though, I learned a broader view of human nature and what was happening in the relationships I found myself with.

As life is so often a mirror, as a spiritual life coach, I find myself working with sensitive people who grapple with this same thing. So in the next blog posts, I want to share tools that I have gathered to help you thrive as a sensitive being.

The first rule that I teach is that you must know that what happens around you is not personal. The majority of people around you are not aware of how their actions affect you. They are caught up in their own world, living out their own tendencies and habits. Most people often aren’t even aware of what they are doing or how they are coming across.

If you have a thin boundary between yourself and other people, you might pick up on another’s bad mood or poor relational habit and think you’ve done something wrong to make a gully between you and them. Or you may think that they don’t love or like you because of how they are being. You might even feel like you now have to fix it. These are all misconceptions.

We all develop, over time, certain tendencies in our personality. These tendencies are developed through first-hand experience, or are handed down generation after generation. Many are good; some can be harmful. One such harmful tendency may be to always cut off another person before they are able to finish their sentence. Another may be to think your way is best and never think that someone ever might have something to teach you. Another might be that you often think others are better than you and you have nothing to offer. Tendencies are habitual ways of being that have deep roots. It is important not to take someone else’s tendency as personal.

So how do you relate to someone whose tendency seems to disregard you? The answer will differ, depending on the circumstance. BUT one general rule of thumb is to meet that person where they are, with as much honesty and integrity as you can muster. Do not let their tendency control the situation. If you can broaden your view, to see that they are merely acting from a tendency and not their better self, you can look for that better self and call it out.

How do you call out someone’s better self? Acknowledgement goes a long way–not empty words, but real heart-felt acknowledgment of someone. Imagine we are talking about a sister, with whom you have a strained relationship. Look for the thing that makes you grateful for her. Maybe she stood up for you when you were a child. Go back to that and thank her for it. You can be honest and tell her that you feel like you have lost that connection. And see where the conversation goes.

We all want to feel love, to be loved, to know that we are held in love. But how we relate to others can push love away. When you give someone your full attention, with an intention to connect despite the tendencies, knotted up relational patterns can clear. That might sound too good to be true. But try it! You may be surprised by the results.

That said, there are times when the relationship is so toxic, that you do not want to open yourself in that way. Stay tuned…that will be my next post.