Originally posted on Jamieschmidtlpc.com/blog February 19, 2019. Ah, I don’t know how I missed this one on my V-day series this year!!! So here it is a week late. Still totally valid 😊
As an empath and emotionally sensitive individual, I thought I would share some reflections on love 💗 and romantic relationships in honor of Valentine’s Day.
For most highly sensitive people (HSP) love is an absolute paradox. It can be the most amazing and wonderful feeling in the world. But many HSP would also tell you that the path to healthy love has been bumpy and scattered with plenty of craptastic relationships along the way.
Why is that? There are a couple of things about us that make us particularly vulnerable to unhealthy relationships. A lot of this has to do with how we experience emotions🧠. To better understand this, a little background info on HSP. When we talk about emotional sensitivity we are referring to a cluster of 3 traits:
A) More data = higher baseline. HSP process more sensory data than the average person. They often report higher levels of sensitivity to visual, sound & touch stimuli. They can feel change in nuances in conversations. Because they are processing all of this additional data, their bodies & brains begin each day at higher levels of activation than those who are not emotionally sensitive.
B) Larger variations in emotional expression. Emotionally sensitive individuals experience a greater breadth of emotions. Think of the difference between a person who feels only sad or happy (non HSP) vs. a person who feels despair, disappointed, depressed, content, joyous or exuberant (HSP)
C) Slower return to baseline. Once an emotion is activated more time must pass for an HSP to return to their original chemical/hormonal levels than a non HSP. Thus emotions tend to stack up because the HSP requires more time to self-regulate between life events.
What does all this mean when it comes to LOVE?
1) We love big! When we love, we do it whole-heartedly. A defining aspect of emotional sensitivity is the capacity to feel larger variations in emotions, and this is true for both positive and negative emotions. Thus when we are actively experiencing love we are feeling it at higher levels than the average population.
2) Love makes us let down our guards. Many of us have been wounded by life. So when we find that person that we actually feel comfortable to let our guard down with, we may do so too fast or too fully. While loving relationships are a place for the sharing of intimate details, this should be a reciprocal process that happens over time. Sometimes we do not realize we are sharing way more than is being shared with us in return.
3) Empathy. Emotional sensitivity also comes with the ability to experience other people’s emotions. Sometimes this may even be to the extent that you understand what they are feeling more completely than they do themselves (because emotional sensitivity has required you to seek out knowledge about the function and interaction of emotions). Being in a position of understanding and being capable of validating other’s emotions can lead to lopsided relationships if your partner is not capable of providing this for you in return.
3b) Unhealthy partners. Because our paths have led us to examine our own wounds, we are often more accepting of the darkness in others. This can lead us to a willingness to tolerate unacceptable behaviors in others, as we can understand them to be symptoms of trauma. The HSP / Narcissistic relationship is a documented phenomena. While it is admirable to be able to see the pain beyond inappropriate behaviors in others, as HSP we must be careful not to allow ourselves to be manipulated into meeting the needs of others at our own demise.
If these descriptions feel all too familiar or you find yourself stuck in a pattern of unhealthy relationships, I encourage you to take a few moments now for reflection. What allows this dynamic to continue to occur? Are you contributing to self-defeating patterns? Awareness is always the first step to change. Even if you have engaged in similar relationships your entire life, you do have the power to break the patterns. You can move forward and create new, fulfilling relationships.
Emotionally sensitive individuals need very clear limits within relationships so that they do not lose themselves over time. The traits of emotional sensitivity mandate that HSP practice self-care and dedicate time to mindfulness and introspection if they hope to function at their optimal level. Love can be an exhilarating and fulfilling experience, but as with all things there must be balance in life.
The sharing of life stories and intimate details should always be reciprocal between partners. It is also imperative that HSP put effort into maintaining other important relationships in their life and not become isolated by focusing only on their romantic relationship.
The key is to take time and not jump head over heals into relationships. I know this can be really hard, as it means going against how you are wired as an HSP. In the long run, moving slow will protect you from getting caught up in the wrong relationship and falling for the wrong love.
Are you a HSP? I would love to hear some of your experiences navigating the waters of love. Share your story in the comment section below 🌻
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