Over the years of working closely with highly sensitive people and raising our two beautifully sensitive sons, I’ve noticed three primary areas where the sensitivity shows up that are rarely talked about. What is not discussed tends to get tamped down into the dark vault of shame, where it festers and grows, entangled with the belief, “There’s something wrong with me. Nobody else does/feels/thinks these things.”
So here’s a normalizer and a shame reducer. Read the photo first, then the additional text. I’d love to hear where it lands with you in the comments!
Three Ways that High Sensitivity Shows Up:
1. With the Non-Human World:
My grandmother knitted a blanket for me before I was born. I attached to it immediately and fiercely – I can only assume that some wise part of my infant me knew that it was from her and that she would become one of the most important and beloved relationships in my life – and named it Bebes (pronounced Bee-Bes).
I never went anywhere without Bebes. He (yes, he’s male) came with me to friends’ houses, to the grocery story, and eventually to my first day of kindergarten. If I couldn’t find Bebes before bedtime I couldn’t sleep, and the entire house had to be turned upside down until he was found (often in a closet or laundry basket where I had been playing hide-and-seek earlier in the day).
I still have Bebes. He lives in my closet and once in a while I take him down, show my kids, and bring him to my face so that I can inhale deeply. As a child, I would take one of Bebes’ corners and sniff it endlessly for comfort. When I breathe him in now, it’s like my entire childhood comes flooding back, and most especially my grandmother.
When we sold our car a few years ago, I grieved like I had parted with a dear friend. I wrote this blog post about it and it was one of my most popular posts because my community of highly sensitive people understands that cars aren’t just cars, that blankets aren’t just blankets, that when we wave and say hello to daffodils and all flowers, they wave and say hello back. Not in a human way, but in a way that we understand.
Mainstream, left-brain driven culture judges our relationship to the non-human world. And yet the more I read books like Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Rooted by the Lyanda Lynn Haupt, I know more than ever that our heightened sensitivity that allows us to feel into the animacy of the entire universe is precisely what our world needs to right itself.
2. With Houses:
I still miss my childhood house, the place that held both the pain and the joy of the first 18 years of my life. Our houses carry memories, yes, but also the walls listen to our tears, to our laughter, to our stories, to our secrets.
I also miss my grandparents’ house where my brothers and I spent every weekend. I miss the garden in the backyard that my grandfather tended to every day. I miss the playroom where we made origami and did SpinArt. I miss the blackberry brambles along the back fence and the old, decrepit white shed that my brother and I turned into a fantasy land. When we sold that house after my grandparents passed away, it felt wrong. It’s still feels wrong and I wish we could buy it back one day.
My husband recently read an article that talked about how a house in the UK has been in the family since 1050 A.D. This never happens anymore, at least not in this country. We have become a society based on a disposable mindset and this bleeds over into our houses.
It’s nobody’s fault, but for highly sensitive people when you have to say goodbye to a house that has been meaningful to you it is a death of sorts. And it brings a grief that sends many people onto their knees.
I told my sons on the way to school one morning that I hope my husband and I can leave this house to them and they can leave it to their children and grandchildren and so on. Perhaps it will be so…
3. In Nature:
I was walking across our yard this morning and I saw a bee inside a dandelion flower. I was relieved I saw it in time and avoided stepping on it, both for my sake and the bees’.
I then flashed on how when my kids have been stung by a bee their first response, even amidst their own pain, was to grieve for the bee. In other words, the sanctity of the bee’s life is more important than their momentary physical pain. (Luckily neither of them are allergic to bees.)
How vastly different our world would be if this mindset informed our human actions – if we knew the immeasurable value of putting more-than-human life above our temporary pain or pleasure…
This knowing is wired in for highly sensitive people. I’m telling you: HSP’s are going to save this planet. And that means YOU and likely the beautiful children that you’ve birthed.
You are a gift. Your sensitivity is medicine. Value it. Honor it. Celebrate it. And allow it to guide you to keep bringing your gifts into our aching world.
Sending love, as always… ❤️