Remember the Incredible Hulk? The huge, raging green guy in the torn pants?
I’d never offer him up as a model for emotional self-regulation. But we highly sensitive people (HSPs) have a lot to learn from the Hulk’s utter disregard for his clothes. Why? Because for too many of us, shame is a wardrobe basic.
Watch yourself and notice how often you experience two layers of pain: the original pain, and shame about being in pain. If I’m feeling low or anxious or irritated, I’ll judge myself: “Why am I down today? There is no good excuse.” “I can’t believe I’m irritated at her. I should accept what I can’t change!” Do you hear the judgment in these comments? This is a form of self-shaming. It’s an extra layer of pain.
This is a common challenge for sensitive people. We are wired to feel things deeply. But many of us got the message early on that our feelings were somehow “too intense.”
Over time, you learned to feel bad about feeling bad. And I don’t have to tell you how low you can end up feeling once you start telling yourself you shouldn’t feel how you feel: I’m sure you already know. It’s utterly futile and puts you in an impossible bind.
Feeling bad can be good news
Weird as it sounds, it can be a big relief to notice you are feeling bad. There are two reasons for this:
- You have now accessed a key source of information about yourself. The places in your life that rub, pinch, or constrict are your body/mind calling to you: “Over here! To grow into our full potential, we need more room over here!”
- You have now shifted into a bigger “you.“Before, there was just the shame. Now there is the shame, and there is a bigger “you” there, noticing it.
When the Hulk goes into his amazing green rage-state, he gets bigger so fast that he bursts right out of his shirt. (His pants, miraculously, stay intact: this is a PG comic.) We HSPs would do well to adopt the Hulk’s zero-tolerance policy towards any restriction, because shame is like a shirt that is painfully tight.
Fortunately, though, you do not have to ruin a shirt to expand beyond your shame. Instead simply expand internally by moving into the bigger “you” called Presence, that can hold the awareness of feeling ashamed.
When you shift into Presence, you take the key first step towards shedding your shame.
See Presence in action
The shift into Presence is the first step of Focusing, an inner process for healing, self-awareness, emotional stability, and creativity that is particularly powerful for sensitive people. You can watch me access Presence it in this six-minute video, Being with Challenging Emotions:
To find out more about Focusing sessions with Emily, click here.