Years ago, when my mom attempted to give me the book The Highly Sensitive Person, I distinctly remember the feeling. I felt insulted, slighted and not in the least bit grateful. “I am not highly sensitive!” I declared with fervour and perhaps, although I seem to have repressed this particular memory, a small temper tantrum. This type of passion, I now realize, is generally only reserved for things that really sting because we know in our heart of hearts that they are true. Which was precisely the case in this situation. At the time I viewed being highly sensitive as something to be avoided at all costs. It was like admitting I was weak, emotionally immature, out of control even. And after spending a good chunk of my existence as a tomboy, over-achiever, control freak, goodie two shoes and not necessarily in that order, that pill seemed nearly impossible to swallow. It took me years after this passion-charged moment to understand/admit that this quality embraced is actually my superpower, amplifying my intuition, enhancing my ability to communicate non-verbally with animals, powering up my empathy and allowing me to walk into a room and read an entire crowd merely through feel.
I don’t have to tell you that life is a very “interesting” adventure. By interesting I mean everything from weird to painful to are-you-kidding-me to downright cruel. And sometimes all we want to do is make it all stop – to cut ourselves off from all of this “interesting”, stick our head in the sand, eat lots of chocolate and watch Netflix for the rest of our days. The general feeling is along the lines of “please stop this train I would like to get off now” and then the terrifying reality that actually, you can’t.
For years, shutting down was my main coping strategy. Can you relate? And it worked like a hot damn. Someone would say something mean, off I’d go into my dissociative fantasy land in the sky. Get a bad mark? Off switch activated. Death? Checking out now. Anything uncomfortable at all? Yep, gone. Well, you get the picture. It seemed like a great idea at the time and it was only when I started working with horses as an Equine Sport Therapist that I realized that it was actually a really dangerous coping mechanism.