Being sensitive means you feel things deeply. Yet many sensitive people are reluctant to express strong emotions in front of others. We’ve learned it isn’t safe to expose ourselves this way, lest others respond by trying to fix us or by minimizing or dismissing our feelings.
If you’re lucky, you might find a paid therapist or counselor who is able to simply sit with you and let you “be how you be.” But even that is relatively rare…and it’s expensive. Your free options are even more limited: it’s really rare to find a friend or family member who can be with you in that nonjudgmental, accepting way—particularly if you are really upset.
So do we have to choose between paying for support or basically doing without it? Fortunately, no. There is another source of support, one uniquely valuable and powerful for HSPs, and that is Focusing partnership. As we discussed last week, Focusing builds confidence in your ability to stay with intense emotions. In Focusing partnership, you and your Focusing companion create a safe container in which each of you supports the other in being with all sorts of feelings and responses, from the very subtle to the very intense. And once you’ve learned how to Focus with a partner, you can keep Focusing for the rest of your life—for free.
Here are three powerful ways Focusing partnership can help you manage your emotional intensity:
In a Focusing partnership, you don’t have to worry about overwhelming your companion
In my family, I was nicknamed “the princess and the pea.” I was too sensitive. I wasn’t sure exactly what that meant, but I was sure of two things: it wasn’t a compliment. And I couldn’t change it.
Only much later did I understand what “You are too sensitive [or too intense, or too serious]” really meant. It meant, “I’m perplexed or scared or annoyed by the intensity of your reaction. I don’t understand it, I feel guilty that I might have caused it, I have no idea how to fix it, and I wish you’d stop being this way so I can feel better!”
Focusing partnership was a new world for me. I could hardly believe it, but it was true: I didn’t have to worry my Focusing partner would say, “You are too….” Instead, they’d reflect back my words in a way that helped me stay inside myself and go deeper. What an incredible relief to be authentic and be accepted.
Focusing empowers you as a sensitive person by helping you accept, value, and act on your needs
As sensitive people, we tend to put our needs aside in the face of other’s pain. Why? Because we keenly feel their distress. We know how much we’d want support if we felt that way. And we are already inclined to discount our own feelings as “too much.”
Eventually, though, your emotional self-repression backfires. Your pent up intensity comes bursting out all at once. This is bewildering and overwhelming to your friends and family. And their reaction reinforces your belief you are “too much.”
In Focusing partnership, by contrast you get your chance to express yourself, AND you learn how to set your own “stuff” aside in a positive way. You plan your meetings.You honor clear boundaries in each session. You divide your time in half, and take responsibility for ending on time.
This structured freedom fosters safety and trust in both your partner and yourself. You feel liberated, knowing you can have strong emotions, honor them, AND choose to set them aside to be present with your partner.
When you lose touch with your own feelings because you are trying to sense other people’s moods and needs, Focusing brings you back to your body
When we are under stress, we cope by playing to our strengths. If you were stressed as a sensitive child, you likely relied on your emotional awareness and your exceptional attunement to subtlety to “read” the moods of people around you and assess how to make the best of it.
This can be a problem in your adult relationships. In the presence of another person, you experience a powerful “pull” outwards. You monitor the other person instead of paying attention to your own feelings and needs: it’s as if the kids are “home alone” inside you, and you end up saying and doing things that aren’t in integrity with yourself.
When I first started Focusing, I struggled to keep my awareness inside my own body in the company of another person. In fact, I could only sense inside myself if I was alone. It took me many patient hours to retrain myself to keep some awareness inside myself in the safe, accepting presence of a Focusing partner. But it was worth it: as my integrity increased, my relationships have gotten better and better—with myself and with others.
Next week, stay tuned for the third article in this series of six about why sensitive people love Focusing. We’ll talk about HSP “decision agony” and the over-arousal/boredom rollercoaster; why these two challenges are closely related; and how Focusing can help.
Thanks to Kaitlyn Wyenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org) for this stunning photo.