Highly sensitive souls, also known as empaths, can accidentally confuse, disconnect from, tune out, and distrust our intuitive knowing when we try to “fit in.”
Highly sensitive souls experience life like the volume is on 100, 300, maybe even 1000. We FEEL a lot. We EXPERIENCE a lot. More than those around us. And this can lead us to feeling isolated, lonely, and confused.
While a core inside of me knew that this sensitivity was my superpower, my social conditioning over time led me to doubt my own life experiences when others would say something like “you’re too sensitive” or “you care too much.” To “fit in more” I learned to tone it down, tune it out, or turn it all off.
Many of us as sensitive souls develop an aversive or disconnected relationship with our feelings. The problem is, as we disconnect from our highetened experience of life we accidentally tune out of our the intuitive messages that seek our attention through feeling.
What if, as highly sensitive, intuitive, and empathic people, we are not designed to turn off life. In fact, our volume is on higher because perhaps one of our core reasons for incarnating was in fact to...FEEL. Fully.
Did you know that there is scientific research emerging about empaths that suggests that an empath’s brain functioning and perhaps even the region size of the amygdalae, the fear center, is different than others? I find this fascinating because perhaps...being highly sensitive is not just experiential, but...biological.
Being a highly empathic person can be a lot.
Receiving feeling data of others streaming in throughout the day can be overwhelming and drown out our very own unique feelings and intuitive pulls.
Below are some of my favorite tips and strategies for reducing the overwhelm of feeling data to start hearing your own inner voice:
Reduce your information consumption. One of the most effective strategies in strengthening my own intuitive connection as well as the clients I work with is to significantly reduce the amount of information consumption on a daily basis. Books, news, articles, e-mail newsletters, tv shows, social media feeds. I find that many empaths are highly influenced by other people’s curiosity because they care so deeply. I’m not asking you to check out and be uninformed. But I am saying...consume less. While an insatiable draw for information can lead to heartfelt activism and big learning, this same quality moved forward without balance can lead to burnout, overwhelm, and an inability to know where your truth begins and another person’s truth ends.
STRATEGY - Bread crumb reading. I am a passionate lifelong learner. And I know my passion for learning supports my work in the world and personal growth greatly. However, I also know that reading a million books, or reading a book fast reduces the medicine it is here to give me. So, I created a strategy many years ago I call bread crumb reading. I take one book, read it slowly, a little bit each day. I write in the margins, underline, and soak in the sentences. And most importantly...this slow pace allows me to feel into when something I read rings true for me empowering me to hear my inner voice, and to integrate those truths into action. For example, my bread crumb book right now, Braiding Sweetgrass, recently inspired me to re-implement a mindful eating practice with new inspiration from the author. This is supporting me to feel very connected to my food in new ways as I thank the plants, the animals that gave their lives, and the Earth for supporting my body. Acknowledging the birth, death, rebirth cycle of life mirrored in the bowl of my homemade soup.
Give your feelings an audience. Despite what we are taught, I have found in my own journey and from my client work that strong, big, voluminous, take-up-space feelings show up because they want an audience. For many of us, we misread the nudges and give our feelings the audience of another person...for example, when we vent. Or, we deny our feelings an audience and stuff them down, denying that they came for a visit in the first place. However, when big feelings show up what they want the most is audience...with ourselves. This doesn’t mean to not share your feelings with others, after all, I hold space for people to do this every week and it is extremely healing. What I am saying is prioritize your personal audience first. Big waves of feelings are often connected to the unconscious and subconscious parts of ourselves like our inner child, teenager, past life wounds, and ancestral/intergenerational trauma. In other cases, the feelings we feel are someone else’s feelings we accidentally picked up along the way. Your system is alerting you and asking you to release/return them to their original creator (the other person). This often happens when someone is denying their feelings, out of touch with them, or feels unable to process them at that time. Empaths unconsciously often “pick up” what others have left behind or want to release. By giving our feelings a consistent audience, it becomes easier over time to notice when we have unconsciously “picked up” other’s feelings so we can “give them back.”
STRATEGY: Empty and sort your emotions into a container. I am a passionate advocate of regular journaling. And sometimes, writing may feel like a lot, or perhaps not feel like a match. In those cases, I recommend people “audio journal” and record their stream of consciousness thoughts on their phone or another recording device. These journal releases (written or audio) are entirely just for yourself and not to be shared so that you can be absolutely uninhibited to be absolutely blunt, open, and free. Approach your journaling with the intention of visiting a sacred container where you can empty your emotions and feelings out into fully. If it is helpful, you can set a timer to keep some boundaries around your emptying practice. Write or share fully (swear if you need to!). After you’ve completed, go back and reread or re-listen to your release and consider the questions: What is this really about? And...is this mine? Be curious and open to what you discover. You are likely to be surprised sometimes!
Assess your boundaries. Sensitive souls constantly struggle with creating healthy boundaries to support us to hear our intuition. Boundaries we want to be curious about include boundaries with family members, friends, co-workers, “our work,” our inner critic, and society...to name a few. Checking in with these different areas can help us notice how other people’s truths start to permeate our inner space in addition to where we are not honoring our core needs. Hint: Honoring our core needs is absolutely connected to strengthening our connection to our intuition.
STRATEGY: Boundary health check up. Get your favorite journal and pen. Create space for the following five core areas to assess your boundaries: family, friends, work, your inner critic, and society. Spend time reflecting on each area and document where you have health boundaries. A healthy boundary would be a boundary that supports you to thrive and grow. This type of boundary feels expansive, supportive, safe, loving, respectful, and honoring. Notice which areas of your life feels easier to create healthy boundaries in and which areas feel more challenging. This can give you a clue where you are having some energetic leaks that can contribute to fuzzier/confusing connections with intuition.