I’m the type of person who can walk into a room and feel the energy of the room right away. If there has just been a fight, I’ll feel it before I have any knowledge of
what’s going on. When there is tension between two people, I’ll pick up on it before I’ve been let in on the story. If a friend is struggling, I’ll experience a sense of heaviness myself. I will feel it.
I have been feeling these things all my life.
As long as I can remember, I’ve been navigating a lot of very real felt sensations. These feelings show up in my body and psyche as if they’re my own, when in fact they may not be mine at all. I perceive a great deal around me and then experience it as my own. My own process of growth has been to develop an ability to discern what feelings are mine and what ones are not.
I understand why I’ve developed an ability to feel in this way. My nervous system is designed to pick up and perceive information around me. I am biologically wired to do this for my survival. Additionally, my life circumstances have attuned me to have a heightened awareness to keep my safe. Scientific study even suggests that as a highly sensitive person my brain is actually wired differently.
Understanding all of this has not made it any easier to navigate the continuous barrage of ‘feels.’ Sometimes I want them all to just go away.
I don’t want to feel so much. What should be be a great gift in my life has often felt like a curse – something I am bound by or ashamed of. I wish I were different. I wish I didn’t need so much extra care and awareness to navigate these feelings. I look around and see other people navigating life ‘normally’ (without feeling it so much) and I long for the resiliency they have.
A friend, who has seen both the beauty and burden of my sensitivity, offered me insight that opened my eyes and heart to have greater self-acceptance for this part of me. Looking at my sensitive and somewhat delicate nature, he pointed out how much my constitution is like a violin or an orchid.
A violin, for example, is capable of making breathtakingly beautiful music. But it is sensitive. In order to make this music, it must be tuned perfectly.
An orchid is a unique and beautiful flower. It’s known for its exotic and elegant nature. Yet, it is delicate. The violin and orchid are striking in beauty and in the gift of their offering. And they are particular, finicky even… they must be cared for very specifically.
Should we curse the violin because it can’t be beat on like a drum? What about the orchid? Is it any less striking because it isn’t heartier like a fern? Absolutely not!
We appreciate the violin and the orchid for what they offer and we accept their sensitive and delicate nature in order to appreciate their beauty.
Likewise, I choose to honor the beauty that exists within my delicate, deeply feeling, sensitive nature. It is this nature that allows me to feel into the depth of the human experience. It is these qualities that provide me the ability to connect with an authenticity that heals. With these traits I bear witness to the deeper things of life in a way that brings meaning to the mundane.
The violin and the orchid have lessons for me. They teach me to appreciate the beauty that exists within the delicate and sensitive. They show me that some things need extra care and attention to support their offering. This care, extra attention, and sensitivity does not detract from the role they play in sparking beauty and vitality in life.
As I consider the violin and the orchid my appreciation for them deepens - and my appreciation for myself deepens. The feeling of heaviness that surrounds my deep sensitivity lightens and I’m also able to embrace the beauty that comes with it. It is this deep sensitivity that provides me some of my most rich life experiences.
The weariness or occasional sense of burden over my sensitivity didn’t magically disappear with this realization. There are still moments when feeling so much feels like a curse. However, the violin and the orchid remind me to also embrace the gift that exists there as well. They ground me in remembrance that with this sensitivity comes some of my greatest strengths. They allow me to open my heart to it all - both the beauty and the burden - and let it be part of my experience.
In opening to it all I learn to embrace these parts of me with more kindness. In doing so, I embrace myself with more kindness. I hold my sensitivity with a gentler awareness and allow the violin and the orchid to teach me.
Author: Erica McLaughlin is a yoga teacher with Grand Rapids Healing Yoga and creator of Yoga for Self-Acceptance. She strongly believes in the healing power that comes when we provide ourselves a quiet space to connect the body and mind. In this space our true essence has a chance to emerge, offering the greatest gift of healing: self-acceptance.