Don’t Fear the Spark Within You

INFJs are no stranger to broken hearts. A personality with a strongly held sense of idealism and a thirst for justice and equality living in this world is a personality that will always be a little bit heartbroken.

Underlying our quiet exterior, empathy and agreeable nature is a dangerous passion. Passion is what drives our pursuit of a more perfect world. It gives us something to live for. It keeps us up at night. It is a calling toward self-sacrifice and, if we’re not careful, significant self-neglect. Continue reading

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Don’t Forget to Be Sensitive to Your Self, HSP

As a highly sensitive person, perhaps the greatest bane and boon in life is maintaining boundaries.

On one hand, the empathy of HSPs is one of their greatest strengths, permitting them to connect with and understand people. HSPs can often break past people’s walls. Many are capable of drawing out those who might normally be ignored or marginalized in ways that others cannot not.

On the other hand, to beA2E33C32B9 an HSP is to be constantly inundated with unwanted stimuli that it’s nearly impossible to shut out: coworkers, partners, strangers at Dunkin’ Donuts. Further, empathy often leads to compassion and can create considerable confusion for the HSP who may be hurt or offended by someone while simultaneously understanding the motivation or the misfortune that led the offender down such a path.

The stimulation can be endless and crippling, resulting in the draining of all of an HSP’s emotional resources.  If an HSP reaches a breaking point they may resort to creating physical boundaries to stand in for emotional ones. When that happens, the only option is to shut oneself up in a dark room and avoid the world until recovery.

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The Secret to Building Healthy Boundaries

Step #1: know yourself.

Step #2: embrace yourself.

These two steps don’t cure all ills, but they do give you the tools to create the space you need to survive and thrive. It is far too common for many HSPs to internalize the message that their sensitivity is some sort of defect or disability. They may feel that the best thing for them to do is to try to fix themselves, which involves permitting others to trample the boundaries that they need for health and wellbeing.

When HSPs know and embrace themselves, they can see when they need time away from the world and take it. They can turn their compassion and sensitivity inward to realize that those who don’t accept, respect or understand them — or worse who take advantage of them — don’t add to their lives and so seek to limit or eliminate the stimulus.

Knowing oneself can help an HSP understandphoto-1453127370373-a52c2f02c097 when connecting with others will actually help them.  Many HSPs feel both the good and the bad far more deeply. In light of this, an HSP who tunes their sensitivity in to their inner self can grow as a person by learning when and how to connect with others in meaningful ways.  They can learn when it is safe to open up.

The importance of erecting proper boundaries for anyone is quite great, but for the HSP, it simply cannot be overstated.  Although it would do no good for an HSP to completely isolate him- or herself from the world, the inner life of an HSP is an intricate and beautiful thing and so it is in their interest to create a gatekeeper to let in those things and people that add life, to guard against attacks and to usher out those things that have worn out their welcome.

Beautiful Darkness

It was dark. Lonely. Quiet. Beautiful…

I remember the days of my darkest depression in law school fondly.  It sounds strange, I know.

There was no pretense. I was free.  I was shrouded in complete darkness.  I didn’t need to hide as I was protected under the cover of night.  Nothing mattered to me at all. I couldn’t be bothered to get up and get dressed.  I was probably barely even eating, although I really don’t remember.  I just remember the feelings.

I remember the darkness. It tried to overtake me — beckoned me ever further into its depths. I felt the darkness throughout my body. That weird metallic taste in my mouth. The nausea always churning in my stomach.  The headache if I stayed awake too long. The backache if I laid down all day.

Even more clearly I remember that feeling of being past broken. My heart cracked open. The whites were running free. The yolk soon to follow. Anything could bring me to tears.  To swallow those tears would have been to ingest poison.  I needed to liberate them. Unleashing them somehow set me free.

To do well in college and escape familial dysfunction I had made myself rigid.  I had become ashamed of my internal struggles and what I deemed emotional imbalance (i.e., a spectrum of feelings). I threw away all of my journals. ALL OF THEM.  I wanted to bury the evidence if I could.  I needed everything to be perfect. I was inflexible and in ways insufferable.  But I was superwoman. I could have it all. My roommates commented that they’d never seen anyone vacuum so often.  Long before joining a law firm I was scheduling and recording my activities down to 15 minute increments.  If it could be done, I was going to do it.

“As long as I kept moving, my grief streamed out behind me… So I just didn’t stop.” (The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver)  I didn’t want to feel anything.  I didn’t want to be distracted.  I couldn’t risk my emotion bringing me to ruin.  My feelings couldn’t be trusted. So I buried them.

Funny thing about a burial though. The thing doesn’t cease to exist. Ghosts of emotions past start rising up from the places where they’ve been buried in secret and they haunt your life. They will not be ignored for always.

I’ve been told that depression is the absence of feeling. The absence of tears. Something darker still.  If that’s true, maybe what I experienced was not depression at all, but rather grief. So many denials of self over time.  So many funerals for the innumerable times I chose to please the other at the expense of my values, my self-respect and my dignity.

Under the cover of darkness, lit by the moonlight, everything seemed more beautiful.  Even the parts that hurt, just to be reminded that they were there was magnificent. While walking down the street I stopped, leaned over and pressed my nose to a flower and was in rapture.

The gift of my depression was to give the hidden, muted parts a voice and to remove from me all power to turn away.

The darkness lit up the path that brought me back to life.

The Thoughtful Lawyer

Thoughtful. adj. 1. Absorbed in or involving thought. 2. Showing consideration for the needs of other people. 3. Showing careful consideration or attention.

“You think too much!” “Gosh, you’re always on. Do you ever turn off?”  “Have you tried relaxing?” Or my personal favorite while working through my umpteenth existential crisis for the year “I really don’t think it’s a big deal.”

First of all, yes it is.  To me.  Second of all, if I had a dollar for every time I’d been told one of those things, I could have paid for at least one credit at my exhorbitantly priced law school up front.

I accepted these lighthearted (ha!) comments as part of my life.  Something was clearly wrong with me.  But I didn’t think there was anything wrong with that.  I was special and this was just part of the package — “Flaws and All“.  I was a tortured soul, but there was as much bliss as distress.  Teetering between darkness and light I was creating something that almost looked like balance.

In hindsight I definitely should have learned to relax earlier in life. My “thoughtfulness” turned into full blown anxiety.  When I started having anxiety attacks about how I would fail (at life!) if I didn’t have my anxiety to motivate me I should have known something was not right.

I forgot that I hadn’t been particularly anxious as a child — although kind of shy and very careful.  I had been motivated by a thirst for knowledge and a clear sense of my own potential.  Twenty-twenty.

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Impostor!

I have been haunted by my overly integrated superego for years, listening to it tell me that I am actually a failure.  Only in college did it start to become crippling. This is around the first time I experienced a major depressive episode.

I remember the first time it became a legitimate problem. I had failed to turn in an assignment on time in a journalism class — I don’t really remember the reason — and so I decided that I deserved to be found out for the lazy, loafing, good for nothing, failure that I truly was and that I should be punished. Since the paper was already late, I decided that I did not deserve the redemption of an extension of the deadline. I decided not to turn in the paper and to stop going to class. I decided that I deserved to fail.

And then I did.

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