Proud to Be an HSP

"The quieter you become, the more you are able to hear." - Rumi

Do you consider yourself an extravert* or introvert? How about an HSP (highly sensitive person)?

After a lifetime of extraversion, I began drawing inward as I underwent extensive trauma recovery therapy. Having previously found energy in the company of others, I now sought solitude for safety and protection, renewal and replenishment. 

Had I become an introvert? I lightheartedly referred to myself as an inextrovert, unsure of and curious about just what I really was. It’s not that I needed a label. I just wanted to understand myself better.

Exploring this further found me participating in a brief study held by Jacquelyn Strickland, LPC, HSP, titled Myers Briggs – HSP Overlay. By filling out the assessment and participating in two in-depth interviews via conference call, I had my answer… as a guideline, not a rule book. Most importantly, the exercise helped me make sense of my character traits, which allowed me to more fully understand and embrace my growing authentic wholeness.

Turns out I am an ESFJ (Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judgment), with HSP overlay. Translated in a nutshell, I belong to a rare breed: the highly sensitive extrovert. With my own unique blend of strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths:

  • Strong Practical Skills – check!
  • Strong Sense of Duty – check!
  • Very Loyal – check!
  • Sensitive and Warm – check!
  • Good at Connecting with Others – check!

 

Weaknesses:

  • Worried about Their Social Status – I may have in the past. Not an issue for me now.
  • Inflexible – I used to be. Nothing like over six years of trauma recovery to loosen me up!
  • Reluctant to Innovate or Improvise – I used to hate change, then I came to embrace it.
  • Vulnerable to Criticism – I used to be, and it can still niggle. In his book The Four Agreements, author Don Miguel Ruiz instructs the reader to not take anything personally, that whatever anyone says is a reflection of their own reality. He goes on to note that this one agreement can be life changing. It was. And is.
  • Often Too Needy – Yep, I saw myself there, though I’d rather remove the word “Too” as I never saw myself as a nagger or stalker(!). Now, I know to ask for support when I need it.
  • Too Selfless – Definitely. This was all connected with my trauma. Praise God, with the help of therapy and the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud, I SO got over that.

 

HSP Overlay

Until this experience, I was what’s called a socialized HSP, meaning that I had adapted throughout  my childhood, adolescence and adulthood to survive and often excel in the dynamics in which I was surrounded. The thing is, I often felt different, like I somehow didn't quite fit. A round peg in a square hole. The little girl that is me didn't have an authentic voice. She had a survival voice.

Allowing myself to transform into an authentic HSP, I learned the value and importance of giving myself the space and time to refresh and renew in solitude so that I could enjoy being in the company of others. My strong startle reflex and sensitivity to my environment, especially to loud or competing sounds and harsh light made sense.

Understanding myself has helped me prepare for and frame my experiences in such a way as to fully support myself. With great love and compassion. 

For example, on choosing a restaurant, I consider the acoustics, steering away from loud places, opting for quieter venues. Finding myself in a loud crowded space, I chose to refrain from trying to talk/shout above the noise. On internet conference calls, when background noises distract me silly, I kindly ask others to mute themselves. I pace myself in my commitments, saying "no" much more readily than in the past. I pay attention to how I feel, both emotionally and physically, and I give myself extra time between tasks, errands, appointments, etc. I go slow. Slowly. Slow.

 go slow, acrylic on paper, 2012

go slow, acrylic on paper, 2012

When I find myself in overwhelm, I take action to reduce it instead of ignoring and pushing through it. That might mean clearing my schedule of commitments, and opting for what truly nourishes me. 

Most significantly, I work with a business coach who, being a successful HSP Entrepreneur, caters specifically to the HSP. Spending time with her and other HSPs via a “Mastermind” group brings a sense of belonging, of peace. The peace of self-love, of total acceptance of and support for the whole of me. I'm home in my heart. Which helps me grow in my business.

I'm so thankful for the strength and fortitude with which I’ve been blessed through my healing journey. For the courage, patience and perseverance to trust, even when things go awry. Owning my sensitivity is a beautiful way of owning my own power as well, which in turn allows me to shift my thinking from fear-based to love-based. 

And that, in turn, opens my heart and my life, creating space for more blessings, more abundance. It brings me into alignment with my soul's highest self. Something we're all meant to know and experience.

Who or what are you? Are you on a path to your truest highest self?

 

*I always thought this word was spelled extrovert. As I was writing my book From Fear to Love How Creativity Saved My Life and Will Change Yours for the Better, I googled to determine the correct version. This result takes the cake: "Folklore has it that when Carl Jung was once asked which was the correct spelling—ExtrAvert or ExtrOvert—Jung's secretary wrote back something like, 'Dr. Jung says it's ExtrAverted, because ExtrOverted is just bad Latin.'"

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Real Me

As I work on my new book, From Fear to Love How Creativity Saved My Life and Will Change Yours for the Better, I'm intrigued by a memory from the summer of 2012, when I was living and working in Doha, Qatar in the Middle East. This is a memory I revisit everyday, one that fills me with hope and love and compassion. You'll see why and how in a moment. 

My painting "Real Me" started as a large (about 36"x48") venting bit of journaling and drawing, through which I expressed all of the feelings and thoughts I was experiencing at the time. Frustration at work, in my trauma recovery therapy, at the heat and relentless desert sun poured out onto the paper. 

Real Me Words, 2012. Want to read the words? You can zoom in by clicking on the image and using your device's feature to expand the image. Full disclosure - I use the f word... once.

After the catharsis of my writing, I gave some space and time to absorb and reflect. Then I set about painting over each section, the words taking on a new form, a visual expression. The colors, the manifestation of my real truth empowered me, delighted me. I could feel myself growing more connected to my truth, my essence. It was a most powerful experience.

To this day, “Real Me” remains perhaps my most authentic piece. Whenever I look at it, I know the story behind each aspect. It hangs in my bedroom, where I see it every morning on awakening and at night as I prepare to go to sleep. I have NEVER tired of it, and I continue to receive its truth,  nourishment, and healing. It, in turn, continues to save my life.

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To Everything There Is A Season

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.                          - Ecclesiastes 3:1

 

Most people of a certain middle-ish age are familiar with the song Turn, Turn, Turn (The Byrds, 1965) and how, taken from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8, it contrasts various aspects of life. In a nutshell, the chorus lyrics go something like this : a time to be born/die, to plant/reap, to kill/heal, to laugh/weep, to build up/break down, etc.

As winter turns into spring here in the Midwest USA, my attention turns from redesigning websites to writing a book. And just like that, my Turn Turn Turn earworm - you know, when a song keeps playing over and over in your head - manifests itself.

How timely, how relevant to entrepreneurship and owning a small business, because as I look back over the last few years - as artist, writer, and owner of Abundance Art LLC - I see seasons, all the seasons.

The Spring of ideas, a new website to be designed and created, paintings to be painted, mandalas to be drawn, photographs to be organized. The sighting of success shoots popping up in the form of a first exhibit and sales.

The Summer of watering and watching the website grow with the opening of an online store, of joining an artist's cooperative gallery, hanging my visual art. And waiting, watching for signs of growth. The Summer of drought and worry when sales dry up and aspirations fade.

The Autumn of discouragement and letting go, understanding that somehow rejection is really just redirection. Being willing to receive feedback, and make changes accordingly. Redesigning the design.

The Winter of darkness, loss of hope when, in spite of all the work of the preceding months and years, the bank account remains barren. Trusting that, invisible underground, life grows. Listening in the wintry silence for the wisdom within, and saying hello to truth. Redesigning the redesign in a way that FITS.  Under the snow, something is being made whole.

And here we are, surrounded by signs of Spring again: bright yellow daffodils and forsythia, trees budding pink and white against the blue sky.

The seasons are always overlapping in this entrepreneurial world. My book's framework, outline, introduction, and first two chapters written, I learn that it's not the right book.  Devastated, I lay low, the smallest effort seemingly monumental.

And outside it is snowing. Winter isn't done with me yet!

Slowing down, allowing the snow covered daffodils to rest under their burden, I too rest, allowing something new to form in the place vacated by my book's first works.

Spring is just around the corner here in the Midwest USA.

And it's ALREADY here inside me in an abundance of thoughts and possibilities about my new ideal reader, marketing and publication strategies. For I am now blending the bits I like best -  painting fine art, selling beautiful photographic prints, and helping others - into a book that tells the story of how creativity saved my life. And growing a variety of income streams around that.

I am right where I'm meant to be.

And, I'm looking forward to Summer. And Autumn. And Winter. And life.

Are you?

You can find my original paintings and prints (paintings and photographs), mandala exhibit "go slow: woman on a journey" as well as artisanal notecards for sale at Abundance Art.

You can find my stunning collection of Russian Chandelier photographic metal prints for sale at ShopAbstractPhotography.

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From Fear to Love

Do you have any New Year's resolutions? What do you think of the idea that it doesn't have to be something you start on day one and stick to every day? What if it could be a sure and steady and sustained resolution that results in you (and perhaps your part of the world?) being in a better place at the end of the year than at the beginning.

That's my kind of resolution. Besides, being the go slow girl (and proud of it), it's what works for me.

And that takes patience.

The kind of patience I have with myself as I radically redesign my website. I recently blogged about this pruning, which you can read about here.

And now I get to share the other part. Which just happens to tie into one of my New Year's resolutions.  

First, as a quick reminder, this year I finished six and a half years of trauma recovery therapy with Candy, my at-the-time therapist, who has been certified in Somatic Experiencing for well over twenty years. The basic premise with this modality is that the body holds energy trapped during trauma (emotional overwhelm). The body (Somatic) and the central nervous system are able to very slowly (repeat very slowly) release that trapped energy (Experiencing) during therapy. That's it in a nano-nutshell. This short video that Candy and I created in summer of 2016 does a great job of introducing Trauma and Somatic Experiencing. FYI, gswoj stands for go slow woman on a journey.

The stuff I took off the website - poetry, memoir, mandalas, journal excerpts and illustrations - was created during my trauma recovery, and it's still very much around as an expression of my healing. Much of it will find its way into a book that Candy, now my life coach and collaborator, are co-authoring.

A book! One of my New Year's Resolutions!

Candy and I actually started on the book back in late 2014, when we agreed the overall structure, milestones, and story telling approach. We both felt a passion (I had a fire in my belly!) to get the word out about Somatic Experiencing as a very effective treatment modality for trauma recovery.

Do you ever feel like you're ready for something and you find out that life has different plans? This reminds me of the old joke: Want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.

Sidetracked for almost two years with mysterious, repeated and prolonged medical and surgical circumstances, I kept trusting that what was going on with my body was part of a much larger healing path. Somatic, after all, basically means related to the body, and removal of 7 organs over that period of time was certainly a sort of releasing.

Thankfully, the fire in my belly was not removed.

Candy and I were able to resume our efforts recently. Today the framework, Introduction, and Chapter One are in the hands of my editor for review. Our working title is From Fear to Love: One Woman's Courageous Journey Through Trauma Recovery.

I am now patting myself on the back for meeting an important end of 2016 goal. Well done us!

When you undertake a project about which you are really pumped, how do you describe that to someone else?

Let me try: I'm thrilled and energized about how we're manifesting this book and who it will serve.

First, the framework includes three major sections I intuitively understood and named way back in 2008:

  • Discovery - learning what needs healing
  • Uncovery - getting to the bottom of my wounding
  • Recovery- integrating healing and new truths into my life

Within each section, each chapter has its own framework:

  • I tell my portion of the story in first person, present tense.
  • Candy tells her portion related to my story in first person past tense.
  • We include photos of my journal entries and illustrations and paintings as relevant.
  • We wrap up with a summary and resources (as well as at the end of the book).

Next, the answer to a very important question. Because we can talk and write all we want and if it isn't relevant and doesn't serve, what’s the point?

I believe with all my heart that this book will inspire, heal, empower and help these people and more:

  • Therapists who want to learn more about trauma and Somatic Experiencing in particular
  • Therapists who are already certified in Somatic Experiencing
  • MDs, PhDs and researchers who focus on neurobiophysiology and psychosomatic neurology
  • Behavioral science students, social workers, psych nurses, doctors, practitioners and other clinicians
  • Motivational and metaphysical speakers and writers
  • People who know they are trauma survivors and want some point of reference and/or direction
  • People who struggle with life and don't understand why
  • People who live with PTSD, anxiety and/or depression, who are or are not in therapy
  • People who are in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) and/or EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) who aren't getting better.
  • The families and loved ones of the people above

Anyone wondering why we are doing this?

The answer is simple. My heart and the fire in my belly keeps telling me to get the word out about Somatic Experiencing.

And it's ok if we work on it all year long.

Go slow and prosper!

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