Emotions and authenticity.

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Emotions are the first language we ever speak. Their expression is a pre-verbal language that is gradually replaced with words as we grow out of infancy. All emotions are really just energy moving through the body (though I think they originate in the soul). This movement is expressed through various physical reactions as the emotion moves out of us–laughter, crying, sighs, various non-verbal sounds, wiggling or jumping up and down with joy, trembling, and various expressions of anger (of course we need to be mindful of this one). This idea of emotions as a language isn’t my own; it’s been suggested by others, but I think I would have come to that conclusion on my own sooner or later.

Babies and animals (especially higher level mammals like dogs or monkeys) don’t have words, but they are very good at communicating their feelings and needs. In fact, they are better at this than adult humans, because there is no pretense and no words to mask or obliterate visceral emotion. With a baby or an animal, what you see is what you get.

We don’t begin to have problems with this until adolescence or sometimes later childhood, when spoken language has become fluent. You don’t see a toddler or a dog presenting a false self or hiding their real feelings. Unless abused early on, there is no shame in their emotional expression. An animal or an infant will not lie to you, manipulate you, or tell you they are happy when they’re anything but. That’s because they don’t have the language behind which it becomes possible to hide.

Babies cry to communicate. We may not like it when they do, but it’s the most important way they communicate. It’s really just a pre-verbal language that helps them get their needs met. Of course they could be crying because they’re uncomfortable or in pain, but they also cry when they need nurturing and just need to feel attached to Mom. Most of us are naturally drawn to comfort a crying baby, but really, they are just telling us about their physical and emotional needs that in a few years might be expressed by, “I’m hungry” or “I’m angry” or “I need a hug” or “I feel lonely.” It’s not always “bad” when a baby cries, although it seems so to us, and we want them to stop. Babies also use their whole bodies when they cry. As the emotion moves through them, their entire body responds. They kick their legs, punch the air, and howl. When an adult expresses strong emotion, such as crying (and sometimes laughing), they tend to hold themselves back to some extent, only letting part or none of their body respond to the emotion. Babies also wiggle when they’re happy. Do you know of any adult who wiggles or jumps up and down with joy? It’s something we outgrow as adult, but is that really necessary? What’s really wrong with wiggling or running around the room with happiness or sobbing with abandon?

When a dog sees its owner, it will bark excitedly and jump up and down with joy. If it has misbehaved, it will show its guilt (and I’m convinced that dogs DO feel guilt and shame). If it’s sad or afraid, it whimpers and its whole body trembles. It doesn’t need to say “I’m sad” or “I’m happy” or “I feel ashamed.” Its body and face says it better than any words ever could. That’s why I think people relate to dogs so well. Dogs represent our own emotional natures, that to a greater or lesser extent, almost all of us keep behind wraps most of the time.

I’ll never forget the time I was helping a friend pet-sit. The owners had a dog and a cat, and while we were there, the owners came home. When the dog heard the key in the lock, he began to bark excitedly and jump wildly at the door, intermittently spinning around in circles, wagging his tail crazily and practically tripping over his own oversized feet in his excitement. When the owners came in, he practically knocked them to the floor, licking both their faces happily. Even the cat went nuts with happiness, rolling around ecstatically on the floor in front of them. He also ran up to the owners, purring loudly and meowing. Do you know any people over the age of 6 or 7 who act like these animals did during a reunion?

Of course we don’t want to become babies or pet dogs and cats, but they have a lot to teach us about authenticity and the courage to be emotionally vulnerable.

I’m in no way trying to imply that language isn’t a good thing. We evolved it for a reason. Language makes it possible for us to use more of our minds and make new discoveries. It’s the reason we can write a symphony, a novel, or make new scientific discoveries. Good language skills are an indicator of high intellectual ability. Words can also be great tools for genuine emotional expression. But when we grow up and start to use language completely in place of bodily emotional reactions to communicate, we throw out the baby with the bathwater. I think schools are responsible for a lot of this. Schools–like work environments–discourage the honest expression of emotions. We begin to hide our true feelings.

Of course, bad parenting that fails to mirror a child’s true feelings does the same thing and is even more damaging because it happens when the child is still pre-verbal.  A child whose emotional needs have not been met and who isn’t mirrored when very young becomes ashamed of their emotions and tries to hide their vulnerability.  In some cases the damage is so great the person develops complex PTSD or a personality disorder.  We need to find ways to be emotionally honest without reverting to a preverbal, infantile state. I think we’d also be not only more emotionally healthy, but also more physically healthy if there weren’t so much shame attached to emotional expression.  Numerous studies have shown that chronic illness later in life is linked to repressed emotions.  I think what happens is when they’re not allowed to move through the body naturally, they get trapped in the body and can make you sick.

To help us get there, I recommend watching anything by Brene Brown, an author and public speaker who thinks that vulnerability and authenticity are things we modern humans need a lot more of. Her most popular video is “The Power of Vulnerability.” Many people have said it has completely turned their lives around.

Portrait of a non-disordered HSP.

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It’s a sad fact that many HSPs (highly sensitive persons) develop personality disorders and elaborate defense mechanisms like NPD or BPD just to cope with the world because they feel like they have no normal defenses against being hurt or abused. The double whammy is that so many HSPs have disordered parents who scapegoated or abused them, just because they can see the truth about their parents’ malignancy through their mask of sanity. Of course, this makes it even more likely for an HSP to develop a disorder where they successfully or unsucessfully attempt to hide their high sensitivity (true self). High sensitivity/vulnerability is a wonderful quality and is needed in this unfeeling world, but is not well understood or accepted in a narcissistic, materialistic society. HSPs who have developed NPD or BPD or some other personality disorder are not happy people.

Having the gift of high sensitivity is especially hard on children, who tend to be easily bullied at school, even if their parents are accepting and loving, because these qualities are seen as “weak” or uncool by other kids and sometimes teachers too. Also, since children are naturally narcissistic, HSP qualities in a child tend to manifest as being easily offended or hurt. A child hasn’t yet learned to use their gift of sensitivity for good purposes or to help others. So an HSP child can easily develop a personality disorder, even if it’s less severe than a child who has been abused from early childhood.

But there are rare people who are highly sensitive who seem to come through childhood and adolescence unscathed. I’d like to talk about one such person. It was a young woman I knew at one of my old jobs. Her name was Meghann. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person so attuned to life, so in touch with her emotions, so accepting of others, and so joyful.

Meghann was physically beautiful but never seemed that conscious of her appearance. She dressed casually and wore very little make-up, but she didn’t need it. While not classically beautiful or what most would call sexy, Meghann’s beauty came from within. Enhancing her natural beauty with cosmetics or baubles would be like gilding the lily (although I did see her dressed up on occasion and thought she was equally stunning).

I trained Meghann when she was a new employee at a call center I used to work for. I liked her immediately; so did everyone else. She learned quickly and was quick to laugh but never AT anyone. She just laughed because she found humor in just about anything it was possible to find humor in, and that included herself.

Meghann had a way of attracting people to her. Both men and women loved being in her presence, because it was so loving and positive. Not obnoxious-positive, in the sense of fake-perky “positivity nazis” that pervade our society, but she had a subdued optimism and there was a kind of glow that seemed to emanate from her whenever she walked into a room.

Meghann was one of those rare nice people who rises quickly through the corporate ranks. I’ve found in most places I’ve worked, the most narcissistic and cold people seem to get ahead, but Meghann was so smart, likeable and good at her job that she was promoted to a supervisory position within 6 months of my training her.

As a covert narcissist, I was envious at first. What was this? I had trained her! As it always seems to be for me, I was still stuck in my low level job; no one would promote me there, and this–girl–who was young enough to be my daughter had moved way ahead of me and in such a short time. In fact, she was to be my new supervisor!

But it was strange too–I really didn’t mind. Somehow I was able to forget about my envy because she was just such a genuinely sweet person and I loved her too. You just couldn’t stay angry or envious of someone like that for long. And, I had to admit, she had done everything to deserve her promotion. I realized I was actually happy to be working under her and I told her so. I was rewarded with a dose of supply because she told me that if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have been where she was,because I had been such a great and patient trainer.

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Meghann laughed a lot but it was always a musical, natural laugh, never forced or fake, and she never laughed at people in pain or at tragedies. She laughed at herself as well as at all the absurdities the world has to offer if you just look for them. When Meghann laughed, people gathered around her to feel her joyful presence and be touched by it.

But Meghann was also very emotional. She was often in tears, not because she was sad or depressed, but because she felt everything so deeply. It wasn’t unusual for her eyes to become damp when she listened to you talk about some sad thing that happened to you, or even tear up when she was happy. I remember when she had her 26th birthday, and the department had all gone out on gifts and a cake (and we really meant it), she was smiling radiantly and wiping away tears at the same time. Even I felt myself responding and wanted to run up and hug her (I didn’t). She just had that effect on people. I don’t know one person who disliked her. She could tame even the nastiest, most envious people because of her joyful and accepting presence.

Meghann had many artistic talents where she freely expressed who she was. She could sing, paint, and take beautiful pictures. She made a lot of her own clothing which was original and beautiful. She was a person who knew exactly who she was and wasn’t ashamed to show it. You could tell she had enormous self confidence, but it never came off as arrogance, entitlement or grandiosity. In fact, most of the time Meghann was very humble. Not self-flagellating or fake-humble–she just never acted like she was somehow better than you or more deserving. She even blushed adorably whenever she was the center of attention (which was a lot) because she couldn’t hide her true feelings and didn’t try to either.

Meghann wasn’t happy every day. As a sensitive person, she felt everything, and sometimes the things she felt made her cry. When she was sad, everyone knew because she was quieter than usual and stayed in her office. But she was still approachable and never took out her depressed moods on other employees. You knew she’d been crying because her eyes and nose were pink, but she was never over the top about it and never sank into self pity or whining. She just felt her emotions and moved on.

I was in awe of Meghann. I couldn’t stay envious of her, although I had every reason to be (especially because she had been raised in a happy, normal family by loving parents–and I tend to be envious of people who had that). When she finally quit to move to another state, I almost cried along with everyone else. I couldn’t hate Meghann because in her, I saw the kind of person I think I could have been had my high sensitivity not been used against me as a young child and forced me to turn against it and try to be someone I never was.
My memory of Meghann still inspires me, because I want to be like that. I think I’m already halfway there.

Take a course in “The Power of Vulnerability” taught by Brene Brown

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Watch a video, find out more, and sign up here:
https://www.udemy.com/the-power-of-vulnerability/?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=udemyads&utm_content=POV-Card-1&utm_campaign=Power-Of-Vulnerability-Handles&couponCode=2fc6e527-4a36-4f67-a79f-7f82aecbaa6b
The online course is $29.00

Course Description

Show Up and Let Yourself be Seen

Is vulnerability the same as weakness? “In our culture,” teaches Dr. Brené Brown, “we associate vulnerability with emotions we want to avoid such as fear, shame, and uncertainty. Yet we too often lose sight of the fact that vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, belonging, creativity, authenticity, and love.” The Power of Vulnerability with Brené Brown offers an invitation and a promise—that when we dare to drop the armor that protects us from feeling vulnerable, we open ourselves to the experiences that bring purpose and meaning to our lives. In this video learning course, Dr. Brown dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and reveals that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

“The Power of Vulnerability with Brené Brown is a very personal project for me,” Brené explains. “This is the first place that all of my work comes together. This online course draws from all three of my books—it’s the culmination of everything I’ve learned over the past twelve years. I’m very excited to weave it all into a truly comprehensive form that shows what these findings and insights can mean in our lives.”

Over the past twelve years, Dr. Brené Brown has interviewed hundreds of people as part of an ongoing study of vulnerability. “The research shows that we try to ward disappointment with a shield of cynicism, disarm shame by numbing ourselves against joy, and circumvent grief by shutting off our willingness to love,” explains Dr. Brown. When we become aware of these patterns, she teaches, we begin to become conscious of how much we sacrifice in the name of self-defense—and how much richer our lives become when we open ourselves to vulnerability.

“In my research,” Dr. Brown says, “the word I use to describe people who can live from a place of vulnerability is wholehearted.” Being wholehearted is a practice—one that we can choose to cultivate through empathy, gratitude, and awareness of our vulnerability triggers. Join this engaging teacher as she offers profound insights on leaning into the full spectrum of emotions—so we can show up, let ourselves be seen, and truly be all in.

What You Will Receive:

More than Seven Hours of Video Learning – Dr. Brené Brown offers six 60-minute video sections (broken down into shorter lectures) of insights and practices for overcoming our fear of vulnerability and living a wholehearted life, plus two sessions of Q&A with Dr. Brown recorded with participants of the live course.
Written Instruction – Dr. Brown brings you key questions for deeper reflection to help you uncover your own vulnerability triggers and areas of growth.
Complete Downloads of All Course Materials – The entire program of The Power of Vulnerability with Brené Brown is yours to keep and enjoy.

What are the requirements?

No prerequisite knowledge needed.
Just the Udemy platform; no additional materials needed.
You may download the workbook of questions in the supplementary materials.

What am I going to get from this course?

Over 37 lectures and 9.5 hours of content!
In this course, you will participate in six hours of stories, warm humor, and transformative insights, and two live video lectures with Dr. Brené Brown for living a life of courage, authenticity, and compassion.
By the end of the course, you will be able to 1) Explain how to cultivate shame resilience—the key to developing a sense of worth and belonging, 2) Discuss vulnerability as the origin point for innovation, adaptability, accountability, and visionary leadership, 3) Discuss emotional armory—how to avoid feeling vulnerable; myths of vulnerability—common misconceptions about weakness, trust, and self-sufficiency; and vulnerability triggers—recognizing what makes us shut down, and how we can change, 4) Summarize the 10 guideposts of wholehearted living—essential skills for becoming fully engaged in life.

What is the target audience?

Anyone interested in learning more about vulnerability and how to live wholeheartedly.

Brené Brown, PhD, LMSW is a research professor at the University of Houston’s Graduate College of Social Work who has spent the past 10 years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. She is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the college’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBS, NPR, and CNN. Her 2010 TEDxHouston talk on the power of vulnerability is one of most watched talks on TED.com. Her most recent TED talk, “Listening to Shame,” was released in March 2012.

To everything there is a season…

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There seem to be three different kinds of people in the world. Those who are fake-positive, always wearing a plastered on smile and never admitting to failure or to their true emotions; those who walk around wearing their misery like a badge of honor; and everyone else.

Before I became active in the narcissistic abuse community, I really only met the first type of person and the third. I’m all too well acquainted with “positive thinking nazis” — you know, fake and shallow people who don’t want to acknowledge your pain and tell you to “get over it” or “you bring your misery on yourself with your negativity.” These people are often–but not always–narcissists (but even when they aren’t, they are all neurotypicals.) They are good at social skills and making a good impression at all times, and that means they are always smiling. They cannot and will not understand how introverted Aspies like me work–or really, how anyone who has deep emotions and isn’t always happy works. Positive-thinking nazis drive me insane. They lack compassion and understanding. They don’t think or feel deeply–about anything. It seems epidemic these days–people who don’t want to hear your problems because they don’t want to acknowledge that you may be in pain. For them, I don’t think it’s really about “positive thinking” at all. I think it’s about not wanting to be accountable or have to give time to anyone but themselves. They would rather brush your pain under the rug and act as if it’s not there, rather than let it ruin their day.

However, recently I’ve been seeing the opposite too, especially within the narcissistic abuse community. These are the people–usually raised by extremely abusive parents–who seem to wear their victimhood like a badge that proves how deep, emotional or even holy they are. The problem I see with this way of thinking is that they cannot move forward or ever find happiness or peace with themselves. Their Debbie Downer attitudes keep them stuck where they are and they can’t really heal from the abuse that was inflicted on them because they’re trapped in the quicksands of their own misery. A few have even implied that to be a happy person means you aren’t a godly person. They say that being optimistic or believing that God allows suffering or toxic people to come into our lives to strengthen us is a demonic way of thinking, and in fact, that the whole positive thinking movement is a “gift of Satan” in order to fool us.

When I first joined the narcissistic abuse community, I felt like I had finally found like-minded people. I felt like a victim most of the time and my early posts were mostly rants against my narcissists and how much life sucked in general. I couldn’t believe my luck in finding people who thought exactly the way I did–other people whose lives seemed ruined beyond repair due to the damage done to them at the hands of abusive or narcissistic people (usually parents), and that, well…life really sucks. Wow, I thought. There really are others like me! I could relate, and I felt like I was no longer all alone in thinking this way. And at the time, it was exactly the sort of validation I needed. But it wasn’t meant to be permanent!

Recently I’ve been changing and I’m finding myself getting irritated and depressed around people who cling to victimhood like a trophy and refuse to–or can’t–heal from abuse. Don’t get me wrong–I’m not “blaming the victim”–at all–but I have noticed with a great deal of sadness how people who cling to such views don’t seem to be able to heal. Sometimes I think they believe if they let go of their victimhood and allow themselves to pursue and embrace joy, that they are “letting the narcs win.” But in fact, they are letting the narcs win by embracing victimhood because their being happy wasn’t in their abusers’ plans. By stubbornly clinging to their no-hope thinking patterns, they can’t heal and and their abusers get what they want. Because our being happy wasn’t part of the narc’s agenda.

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I have heard some say that happy people who are doing well in life aren’t authentic or “real.” I don’t think this is true, at least not all the time. Yes, I think there is far too much emphasis put on always APPEARING happy and yes, showing human emotions such as sadness, fear or depression seems to have become taboo in our narcissistic society. I don’t agree with that. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with sharing our true feelings, even when they’re not positive. But there is a huge difference between an authentically happy person and one who is faking it. A person who has true joy and feels it in their heart is a person other people want to be around, even people like me who get easily annoyed by “goody goodies” who smile too much.

A genuinely happy person is positive about life, but they don’t force their positivity on others, or make others feel guilty for showing real feelings. They don’t victim-blame or tell you it’s your fault you feel the way you do or have the circumstances you are faced with. They know how to listen–without judgment. The few people I have known who are like this are among the most empathetic people I ever met, and it’s because they’re not so caught up in their own issues that they have nothing left to give to others. I knew a girl like this a few years ago. Even though she laughed and smiled a lot, she was never annoying or obnoxious. I used to see her cry a lot too–often for others, because she was so compassionate and she CARED about other people. You could tell she was a person who was able to love deeply. People went to her with their problems because they knew she cared and wanted to help, and would never judge you for feeling down.

I don’t believe this world is our final destination. I believe our fallen nature and sin makes suffering inevitable. But on the other hand, I don’t think God wants us to be miserable either. I don’t buy the phony Joel Osteen brand of fake happiness or the ugly philosophy of the “Prosperity Gospel.” I can’t stand so-called “Christians” who don’t believe in helping the less fortunate because they believe that “poverty is the result of moral failure” or some such BS and is therefore deserved.

But I do think God does want us to be happy while we’re in this world. This planet, as imperfect as it is, is filled with small and not-so-small gifts and they are there for us to enjoy every day–but we won’t be able to appreciate these gifts if we’re too caught up in feeling like we were born only for suffering. It’s okay to smile when you feel like smiling, to be successful at something, to even be prosperous. I certainly am not what anyone would call “successful,” but I won’t condemn anyone else if they’ve found success and happiness–as long as the happiness is authentic and the success was earned honestly. I don’t think anyone needs to consign themselves to always being impoverished or depressed. No one was born to be a victim. I used to believe I was, but now I know I wasn’t–I just needed to open my eyes. Adversity can even be a teacher if you frame it differently. I have learned from my narcs. No, they aren’t good people, but perhaps God placed them in my life to teach me some hard lessons and to lead me to where I am right now as a writer about narcissism and mental health.

Psalm 16 v 11 path of life bible verses on happiness

The obstacles and obstacle-creating people we meet in life aren’t put there by the devil. They may not have been put there by God, but God allows us to find our own way through the obstacles and become stronger through our pain, perhaps so we can “pay it forward” and help someone else in pain.

The idea of there being a purpose for everything in life–the bad along with the good–is Biblical. One of my favorite Bible passages is Ecclesiastes Chapter 3 (KJV):

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;

3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

9 What profit hath he that worketh in that wherein he laboureth?

10 I have seen the travail, which God hath given to the sons of men to be exercised in it.

11 He hath made every thing beautiful in his time: also he hath set the world in their heart, so that no man can find out the work that God maketh from the beginning to the end.

12 I know that there is no good in them, but for a man to rejoice, and to do good in his life.

13 And also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all his labour, it is the gift of God.

14 I know that, whatsoever God doeth, it shall be for ever: nothing can be put to it, nor any thing taken from it: and God doeth it, that men should fear before him.

15 That which hath been is now; and that which is to be hath already been; and God requireth that which is past.

16 And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there.

17 I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work.

18 I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity.

20 All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again.

21 Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth?

22 Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better, than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?

I can’t tell you how many times I have read this and been inspired and comforted by it.
If you feel happy, don’t feel guilty about it! If you don’t, that’s okay too. There’s a time and reason for everything.

“The Power of Vulnerability” with Brene Brown

A friend of mine sent me this video, and it’s exactly what I needed to hear today. I found myself tearing up as I listened to Dr. Brown speak, because she speaks the truth.

“At the core of vulnerability is shame, but vulnerability is also the birthplace of joy, peace and creativity.” (paraphrased).

If everyone did what this video says we should do, the whole world would change.

I am not your dream.

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From the Facebook page Narcissistic and Emotional Abuse.

The real reason highly sensitive people get bullied.

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I had an “Aha” moment today.

The reason highly sensitive people get bullied so often isn’t because of our sensitivity. It’s because of the dismally low self esteem that tends to go along with being that sensitive, especially if we were victimized by malignant narcissists and bullies when young.

Narcissists envy and fear high sensitivity.

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Narcissists hate high sensitivity in others for two reasons: 1. They envy it because it’s something they can’t have or may have lost as children and it’s a sign of an authentic person, which is something they aren’t but wish they were; and 2. they fear it, because they know this quality makes it possible for to zero in on the emptiness hiding under the narcissist’s guise.

Their hatred and fear is expressed through love bombing followed by bullying and other forms of abuse meant to weaken the HSP. An HSP’s fragile ego can be destroyed or greatly diminished after years of bullying and abuse.

Sharon: an HSP who carried a can of Narc Repellent.

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I was thinking about a woman I used to know named Sharon.  She was an empathic young woman who felt everything so deeply–but mostly joy and love.  She’s exquisitely sensitive but is also self confident (she was raised by very loving parents). She is comfortable enough with herself to show her vulnerability openly, allowing herself the liberty to feel all her emotions as well as share the emotions of her friends.

You might think Sharon is a magnet for bullies, but she’s not.  She makes friends easily because she has such a loving and positive presence and and people feel like she cares about them, and she likes herself too (without being at all narcissistic). They are right.

Narcissists avoid Sharon like the plague. Why? They would probably love to get their hooks into her if they could, but Sharon’s confidence in herself and easygoing comfort around all kinds of people scares them right off. While still being emotionally vulnerable, Sharon is invulnerable to narcissists because they sense her strength. She’s indestructible and they know it. As a result Sharon is never victimized and tends to attract other loving people as her friends, people who just want to be around her because she’s a lot of fun but can also cry with you if that’s what you need.

If you’re a highly sensitive adult whose self esteem has been destroyed by narcissistic abuse or a sensitive kid who has become insecure and fearful because of bullying, your high sensitivity will be expressed very differently than someone like Sharon.

Sensitive children do get tested by school bullies, and it’s harder to not let that damage your self image when you’re so young, especially if your parents are also bullies and have already done a number on your self esteem. But for an adult, most people will admire emotional openness and vulnerability or at least respect it–as long as they also know you respect and love yourself. People can sense when you’re comfortable in your own skin and narcs will stay far away, because they’re only attracted to codependent types who are unsure of themselves or their place in the world.

Being highly sensitive: a curse or a blessing?

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A sensitive person who hates herself will tend to act in ways that attract mean people and bullies to them. They are unsure of themselves, fearful, easily depressed or discouraged, easily hurt, easily frustrated, paranoid, hypervigilant, and insecure. They are afraid of everything, and like ravenous wolves, narcissists can smell their fear. They see this–not the underlying sensitivity–as weakness, and they will horn in on such a person for narcissistic supply or bullying because they’re an easy mark who will be too afraid to call them out on their abuse.

Things are very different for a sensitive person with high self esteem. Such a person will be appreciative, insightful, observant, compassionate, forgiving (but not stupidly forgiving), affectionate, creative, a good listener, empathetic, and with a well developed (but never mean or sarcastic) sense of humor. They are not fearful and they know their place in the world. They have a clear sense of their own boundaries (and those of others) and know how to enforce them if they think they’re being violated. They attract people like themselves as friends and lovers and these relationships tend to be self-reinforcing for both parties.

Narcissists know a strong HSP is powerful and dangerous to them.

scare_narcs

Malignant narcissists stay away from self-confident HSPs, because they know they’re much stronger than they are. They know they’re dealing with an authentic person who is happy with themselves and with life, while they are anything but. They know a confident HSP (not the same thing as narcissism) has a laser-like ability to see through their mask without fear and won’t hesitate to call them out when it’s necessary. To a malignant narcissist, a self-confident HSP is a very dangerous and powerful person. That’s why they work so hard to destroy our self confidence and make us hate and doubt ourselves. If we’re crippled by abuse, they can still get what they need from us (supply), without running the risk of having any damage done to them.

As my confidence has grown over these past two years, I’m noticing a transformation of my lifelong high sensitivity from something that made me feel weak and helpless for most of my life into something that makes me feel strong and authentic. I know now that this “curse” and “weakness” I was born with is really a blessing and a strength. I just needed to develop enough confidence to be able to use it effectively.

Learning to love your high sensitivity.

dancing

Here’ a few things I have learned.

1. If you have a talent or skill in one of the arts, use it to express what you’re really feeling. Painting, singing, dancing, writing, poetry–can all be ways we can release our deepest emotions in a “safe” way that’s socially acceptable. Don’t hold anything back when creating art, performing or writing. Allow yourself to be vulnerable even if it feels weird and awkward at first.

2. If you don’t have an artistic talent, take up a hobby that speaks to you or get involved in a sport such as running or take a martial arts class, which can build confidence. Activities that center you and build both inner and outer strength, such as yoga, can be helpful too.

3. Always be 100% honest about your emotions. If you’re very shy or fearful, write down your thoughts and feelings in a private journal. Don’t worry about the quality of writing–that’s all just gravy. The main point is to get your feelings down on paper. Seeing your thoughts on paper (or a computer screen) will give you clarity. If you choose to blog publicly instead, you will gain confidence from expressing your most private feelings to the whole world and from the feedback from others you will get. It can be very scary to publicly post something you wouldn’t tell your next door neighbor (as I have now twice this week!), but believe me, it’s worth it. You’ll be amazed at how much doing such a thing will increase your confidence and sense of inner strength. At first you’ll feel like you’re running around naked in public, but you’ll be amazed by the sense of freedom and liberation running around naked can give you! 🙂

4. Every day, try to do one nice thing for someone other than yourself. If you’re really ambitious, you can try volunteer work to help the poor, homeless, children, animals, or anyone more vulnerable or less fortunate than yourself. In doing so, you will feel like you have a purpose, and that you can help others. Knowing you have made someone happier will raise your self esteem.

5. Listen to music whenever you can.  It’s second only to writing and blogging in my healing journey.

6. Surround yourself with positive people (not the same thing as positive-thinking nazis, who are often narcissists themselves) but authentic, happy people who accept you for who you are and don’t judge you.

7. Get narcissists away from you. No Contact is best, but is not always possible. If you can’t separate from your narcissist, read as much about their disorder as you can, and read about PTSD and complex PTSD and the devastating effects these character disordered people can have on the rest of us. Read books about highly sensitive people. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person is probably the best known (and an excellent book) but there are other books about HSPs too. Write down your feelings in a journal your narcissist cannot access.

8. Try prayer. It does work.