I often get into conversations with parents of sensitive kids who don’t know how to help. They were never given the tools to manage their own sensitivity or they don’t have the same sort of sensitivity. I was a sensitive kid.
Some people are simply born with more sensitivity to the energies around them. They have natural empathy, feeling what others feel. And frequently get drained, overstimulated or emotional in response to their surroundings. They don’t yet know how to recognize when what they are feeling is not their feelings, or how to create healthy boundaries. Sensitivity has two main roots:
Trauma based sensitivity is a result of conditioning. Many highly sensitive people had childhood trauma. Their sense of safety required heightened alertness, “reading” people in order to minimize abuse or manage stress. A survival skill to navigate home life or societal traumas such as war.
I’ve recently identified a new branch on the trauma root that previous generations did not experience. Sensitive children conditioned by the stress of over stimulation. Constant stimulation has particularly deep impact on developing minds.
What we experience in childhood sets the baseline for normal throughout life. Trauma that heightens sensitivity doesn’t have to be first hand. Frequent exposure to unpredictable violence through the media can traumatize a child. Make them feel unsafe at school or other environments where a sense of safety was previously the norm. How a child learns to manage it shapes their life forever.
My parents were sensitive too. Like most of us they were taught or found ways to suppress their sensitivity when it got too uncomfortable. There are a lot of ways we suppress sensitivity:
- Substances that alter our state of sensitivity, from coffee to alcohol or pharmaceuticals
- Checking-out, habits that detach us from feeling, TV, internet, video games
- Staying busy, not allowing enough time to process experiences
- Eating for comfort
- Using the mind to deny what one senses
Now that you understand a bit more about the roots of sensitivity and how it is typically suppressed, what can you do to help yourself or your sensitive child?
The first step is to shift from thinking sensitivity is bad. Sensitivity is heightened awareness. It is a skill. Even a gift when we get comfortable with it. Getting comfortable with it is the tricky part.
Second, you learn to notice when it’s happening and identify it as something you are experiencing in response to your environment rather than your own emotions or thoughts. To do this ask yourself or ask your child to ask themselves a few questions:
What do I feel? Is it “my” feeling? Is it something I feel around me? What or who around me is feeling like this?
This begins the process of getting clear on what you sense that is your energy and what isn’t your energy that you feel in your environment.
Once you know that something you feel is not yours, you are free to consciously give your Self space from it. You can do this by visualizing the emotion, thought or physical sensation moving into a rose or a pretty rock. Somewhere separate from your body. As you are practicing you might want to have a clean-out rock or crystal that you use for this and periodically soak it in water with Epsom salts to clear the energy.
Over time your awareness of the sources of your sensitivity becomes clearer and your ability to separate from the energy that isn’t yours is a habit. Then you will experience your sensitivity as a tool or a gift to help you navigate life.
The magic of sensitivity is revealed when you are not suppressing it, turning it off or denying it but can see it as valuable information. Then you are free to apply the understanding to your choices in a given situation.