I’ve never been an ambitious gardener. But that changed four years ago when my friend Ruhi gave me a dahlia plant.It was an unassuming-looking plant at first, a single stem with four or five green leaves. Then it grew up and exploded.
We discovered that with dahlias, the more blooms you cut, the more you get. That summer our house was graced by a succession of over four dozen dessert-plate-sized blooms–all from that one plant.
Then fall came, and I learned why you don’t see dahlias in everyone’s garden. You have to dig up the tubers, divide them, cure them for a week, store them a temperate place, keep them moist (but not too moist), replant them, and stake them–more effort by far than I’d ever put into a plant.
But how could you turn your back on a plant that gives back so lavishly? I committed the effort without a moment’s hesitation.
Why highly sensitive people (HSP’s) are like dahlias
Being a highly sensitive person can be very challenging, as you know if you are one. You find criticism crushing, you easily get overstimulated and exhausted, and you may suffer from a chronic feeling of being different or weird or “too intense”.
The fact is, sensitive people do need special care to flourish. But the effort is lavishly repaid by the greater well-being we feel as a result, and by the gifts we can then give back to the world.
Think of yourself as a dahlia. And don’t hesitate to commit to the self-care you need.
Be an attentive gardener to your highly sensitive self
Make and keep these four commitments so you can flourish:
- Educate yourself about high sensitivity so you understand how it affects you. This will have a big effect on your well being. There’s lots of information online, and look out for regular features here about specific aspects of life as a highly sensitive person.
- Own and celebrate the unique strengths the trait gives you. I’ll explore this more in the coming weeks in the series called Emily’s top ten perks of being an HSP. When you appreciate yourself this way, it’s much easier to let it roll off you when others judge you for “taking things too personally” or for being “too emotional.”
- Make a point of including other highly sensitive persons among your friends and practitioners. Not everyone can or should understand how different life is for an HSP than for the non-HSP extroverted majority. But it is an incredible relief to have someone in your life who completely gets and effortlessly accepts this central aspect of you.
- Learn how to Focus. Focusing is the HSP’s emotional and creative Swiss army knife. It’s a practical, elegant, versatile, and portable–a way of being with yourself and your inner world uniquely suited to your deep-thinking, deep-feeling nature. Ongoing Focusing partnership is an HSP playground: deep connection without overwhelm or overstimulation. Watch here for announcements of upcoming Focusing classes.
References on high sensitivity:
Aron, Elaine (2010). Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person. New York: Routledge.
Aron, Elaine (1996). The Highly Sensitive Person. New York: Broadway Books.
Hi Emily, I’m thinking about your statement that HSP folk need special care to flourish. And that we shouldn’t hesitate to give ourselves the care we need. I suspect all of us have received criticism over the years for trying to take care of ourselves. We get accused of being selfish, or whiny, or god forbid — high maintenance! Instead we can be like the dahlia and say without apology, yeah, I’m high maintenance and I’m wonderful and creative as a result!
Katherine, yes, that is so true that many of us may have been misunderstood or criticized when we tried to take the time and space for self care…though for me, I think I just overrode that need. It has taken me a long, long time to really accept it. Thank you for mentioning those dirty words, “high maintenance”?!–you helped me realize that in the past, those would have been the most wounding words you could throw at me…but that I really am more in a dahlia mentality now:) I truly love the dahlia as the metaphor for this, as it is truly astounding what a single tuber can produce if cared for properly.
I have always thought that being sensitive was something “bad” about me that had to be fixed – or at least hidden – so that others would accept me. When I fail to fix it, that’s when I see myself as shameful, lazy, antisocial, selfish, a princess or hopelessly irredeemable. The dahlia metaphore gives me another way of seeing things! It is just a tiny possibility right now, but a seed, or should I say a tuber, has been planted 🙂 Thank you. Really looking forward to more on highly sensitive people.
Hi Kim, I’m really happy to hear this. My nickname in my family was “The princess and the pea!”–argh! Keep watering your tuber:)…more articles coming on that!