A few words about sensitivity

 

Since childhood, I have been quite sensitive to a range of stimuli, especially sounds (noise, eating sounds, paper rustling), certain foods (sugar, dairy), chemicals, heat, physical exertion, and more.

I notice that my sensitivity is related to how well I feel in general. When I feel stronger and/or feel good about my life, I tend to be less sensitive. When I feel more fatigued or vulnerable, and I am less happy about my life, I become more sensitive.

Also, I assume these sensitivities are a type of “allergic” reaction. It’s my system reacting strongly to stimuli that in themselves are relatively harmless. My system seems to respond as if it’s a life and death situation, when it really isn’t.

That’s why retraining my system’s response seems important. How do I retrain or reprogram the stimuli-response reaction? How do I help my system respond with calmness to the stimuli that previously have triggered a strong reaction? One way is to feel the response in my body, and rest with it. As I rest with it, I am signaling to my system that it’s OK. There is no life-and-death situation here. It’s OK to relax. It’s OK to be OK with it.

Joey Lott writes about this, and it’s also an inherent part of Natural Rest and the Living Inquiries. In Natural Rest, I notice what’s here and allow it as is. I may even say “I love you, stay as long as you like”. In the Living Inquiries, I look at images and words, and feel sensations, which invites the “velcro” to release. (Sensations that seems “stuck on” images and words, lending them charge, and a sense of reality and solidity.) Both signal to my system that it’s OK. The stimuli is OK, whether it’s a sound, image, or sensation. It’s not life threatening. It’s OK for my system to respond in a relaxed way. It’s even OK to find love for it.

Said another way, when there is velcro (or a belief, or identification, or a psychological knot), the stimuli may trigger a strong and unpleasant reaction. It’s an over reaction, in a conventional sense, although the reaction is appropriate to the underlying belief, identification, velcro, or trauma. And this looks like sensitivity.

There is a sound. The sound itself is harmless. My system responds strongly, with a fight or flight or freeze response. It’s alarmed. It reacts that way due to a belief (or identification, velcro, trauma). And that stimuli-response pathway can be changed. My system can learn to respond in a more relaxed way, through inquiry, or Natural Rest, or just feeling the sensations of the reactions and resting with these sensations. In each case, I am showing my system that it’s OK. It’s OK to respond in a relaxed way. There is no life-and-death situation here.

Another way to work with this is Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE), allowing the body to release tension and trauma through it’s natural and inherent trembling mechanism. (Spontaneous trembling, shaking, rocking, stretching.)

A couple of notes:

I included physical exertion above. I suspect that chronic fatigue fits into this pattern of stimuli followed by an exaggerated response. The stimuli is physical exertion, and the response is fatigue. It may be a type of freeze response. This is not the whole picture of CFS, but it may be a part of it for many. (I suspect there is a great deal of individual variation here, and another part of the picture is physical problems such as mineral and vitamin deficiencies, viruses, auto-immune illnesses and more.)

Similarly, fatigue itself may be the stimuli, and the system responds with increased fatigue. This can also be retrained, in the way described above. It’s at least worth a try. And inquiry can be invaluable in this process.

Is X a threat? The physical exertion? The fatigue? The brain fog? These sensations I label in that way?

Can I find X? Fatigue? Exertion? Brain fog? Someone who has these?

Is there a command to X? To escape a situation? For the fatigue to go away? For the brain fog to go away?

I am intentionally avoided using the term “nervous system” above. It’s obviously important in this context, but there is clearly a lot more going on than just the nervous system. Our whole body-mind is included.

One way the nervous system plays a role, is what happens when the sympathetic nervous system (flight/fight/freeze) is chronically activated. This leads to the parasympathetic part of the nervous system being less active. And this, in turn, leads to diminished immune function, digestion, and more, which in turn can lead to a range of health problems.  Teaching the nervous system to relax – in general and when faced with certain stimuli – helps our overall health. It makes the body better able to heal itself.

Inquiry on sensitivity

 

Sensitivity can also be a topic of inquiry, as anything else.

From the descriptions I see, I probably qualify as a highly sensitive person (at the far end of that spectrum). It means I am sensitive to noise, chemicals, food, aesthetics (feeling off and sick in a place that’s not clean or cared for), what’s going on in nearby people, the qualities of a place, the energies of a geographical region, and more. I was much more sensitive to this during the first phase of the awakening process, and less so now although it’s still there.

I can do what I often do: Resting with it (notice + allow). Finding kindness for it. Even dialog with it.

And I can take it to inquiry.

Can I find a threat? (In the images, words, sensations.)

What’s the worst that can happen if I am exposed to X? (Noise, chemicals etc.)

Can I find sensitivity? Can I find someone who is sensitive?

When do I first remember being sensitive to X? (Look for the threat.)

What’s the best that can happen if I am not exposed to X? (Inquire into that too.)

After this, I may experience more ease around it. And I may still prefer to avoid noise, chemicals etc. if it seems to make sense, or not. It’s open. I don’t know what will happen. (Can I find a threat in not knowing?)

Highly sensitive

 

As part of a spiritual emergency, it’s common for people to be highly sensitive – to the energies of other people, places, the land, food and more.

I have certainly experienced my share of it.

There is a gift in this sensitivity, since it provides us guidance (what to do, what not to do), it can give us insights and inspiration (for writing, art), and it can help us help others.

It can also be very challenging – and even painful – at times.

Here are some things I have found helpful:

 Recognizing the difference between the sensitivity, and my reaction to or relationship with it. The sensitivity itself is OK. It’s my reaction to it that sometimes is stressful and painful (and it comes from my own wounding and unexamined assumptions).

Inquiring into my stories about what’s going on, including the trigger and what’s triggered. Help myself see more clearly what’s really going on.

Finding in myself what I see as “out there”. Owning it. Embracing it. Healing and finding my own wholeness as a human being.

Taking care of myself. Allowing myself to leave situations that feel uncomfortable, if that seems the most kind choice. (And owning that I am doing so at least partly because I am not quite healed and whole yet.) For instance, if I sit next to someone on the train whose energy triggers something in me, I give myself permission to stand up and go somewhere else.

Spending time in nature. Healing physically and emotionally. Finding nurturing environments, people, activities etc. Find grounding psychologically (healing, wholeness) and energetically (nature, gardening, tai chi etc.). Allowing the soul level to work on me – through prayer and meditation – infusing my human self and inviting it to heal and find its own wholeness.

Hypersensitivity and thoughts

 

I read about hypersensitivity in connection with kundalini awakening (El Collie), and it was an inspiration for me to explore it a bit further for myself.

When I have heightened sensitivity to, for instance, noise and people struggling with themselves (and trying to put a lid on it), what’s really going on? Is it just physiology combined with triggers in the wider world?

What I find is that my thoughts create this heightened sensitivity (and any sensitivity or responses).

For instance, I experienced anger directed towards me as a knife in my chest or stomach. By inquiring into the thought “she is angry at me” I find – among other things – that what’s more true for me is that she is scared. With one story, I feel hurt and defensive. I feel highly sensitive to the anger. With the other, there is compassion for her and myself. There is space to contain what’s happening.

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