As highly sensitive and intense people, we can experience a richness and depth of feelings, and use them in positive ways, such as responding to the world, feeling empathy for other people, and being creative.
How do our brains create such strong feelings and how can we stay emotionally healthy and balanced?
“I am the kind of person that feels so much that if I didn’t have acting (and music), I would burst from all of the emotion inside!”
She has also said, “My sensitivity is my superpower.”
But it can be very challenging at times to embrace our strong emotions, especially “negative” ones like anxiety.
Being highly sensitive can increase our vulnerability to anxiety.
That has been the case for me, and I have had varying degrees of anxiety for most of my life.
Elaine Aron, PhD thinks “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.”
Julie Bjelland, LMFT is a psychotherapist specializing in highly sensitive people and notes, “My mission is to help HSPs thrive.”
Julie is author of the book Brain Training for the Highly Sensitive Person: Techniques To Reduce Anxiety And Overwhelming Emotions.
She is also author of the book The Empowered Highly Sensitive Person – How To Harness Sensitivity Into Strength In A Chaotic World.
Stress and the Highly Sensitive Person
In an article on her site, Julie explains some of the neuropsychology of emotions and sensitive people.
To put it simply, there are two parts in our brains: the emotional/ irrational brain (limbic system) and the thinking/rational brain (cognitive brain).
When our emotional brains are activated, our thinking brains basically go to sleep.
Research shows that most HSPs spend more time in the limbic system (emotional brain) than non-HSPs.
We usually experience the following symptoms when we are in our limbic systems:
- Feelings of anxiety
- Activated fight-or-flight response (wanting to run away, hide, or fight)
- An “icky” internal feeling
- Irrational emotional messages that feel real in the moment
- Adrenaline surges that cause a racing heart and shaky feeling
- Increased sensitivity and emotional reactions.
- Difficulty thinking clearly, focusing, and concentrating
- Inability to access memories or take in new information
- Increased agitation, irritation, or anger
- Feelings of panic
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Stomachaches, headaches, and sleeplessness
When we experience symptoms of anxiety, for example, our brains are responding to the fact that it believes we are in real danger.
People in our lives who witness us experiencing these symptoms might mean well by telling us that everything is fine, but it can be almost impossible to believe when we are stuck in our limbic system; our brains just won’t allow us to feel okay.
Instead, our brain responds to a stressor exactly the way it would if we were actually in danger, even though we aren’t.
While anxiety can be a normal experience for most people, it can be elevated for an HSP.
For example, our stress levels may go up a lot when we have to meet new people, go for a job interview, attend a social gathering, or go to a new school or event, etc.
Sometimes it even happens when we are unable to pinpoint the exact cause of our anxiety.
Over the years of specializing in the highly sensitive person I have developed particular techniques in my online course that can help us get out of the storm of the emotional brain so that we can get our cognitive (thinking) brain back online.
The wonderful thing about these brain training techniques is that once you develop them you get to use them for the rest of your life!
It’s really worth the investment in yourself and everyone around you benefits.
We need your HSP gifts in the world and you will be able to access them better when you can live aligned in your center and feel more in control of your emotional brain.
Article original title: “The Emotional Brain of the Highly Sensitive Person” – find it in the blog section of Julie Bjelland’s site, which includes other articles and her books and course.
Follow the image above or this link to Julie Bjelland’s site.
“HSPs often live in an overwhelming tornado storm, the brain overloaded by emotional and sensory input. Being an “untrained” HSP is really hard. I want to turn you into a “trained” HSP, one that knows how to navigate the emotional brain and who trusts the tools necessary to live the life you deserve.”