HSP Emotional Wounding and Vulnerability
As highly sensitive people, we can be prone to emotional wounding. We feel everything so deeply, and for those of us on the higher scale of sensitivity, we may have experienced a lot of emotional wounding in our life and even all the way back from childhood. For many of us, we may have learned to protect ourselves by putting on a mask and hiding what we feel on the inside. Or maybe we have a wall up that feels like it protects us from any further wounding. If we don’t let anyone in, then they can’t hurt us. It might feel hard to feel so vulnerable.
Being vulnerable might be scary for HSPs for fear of being emotionally wounded by someone so it might be tough to imagine taking that mask off or putting that wall down. The problem with walls and masks are that they also prevent us from true connection. To truly connect with another we need to be vulnerable. I believe there are ways to put the wall down with people who we can trust and keep them up for those we can’t. I think we can have control over the wall. Building trust with even just one or two people in your life can make a big difference because it builds human connection and that is something we need.
For many HSPs, vulnerability feels too exposed and unprotected. Maybe we have been hurt in the past and have a hard time letting people into our internal world. I certainly understand that as a high-level sensitive person. I lived a large part of my life with a mask on feeling like it was easier to please people and pretend that I was ok even if I wasn’t. But doing that for years also meant I was lonely and felt disconnected. I had to learn how to let people in and although it wasn’t an easy process it was so necessary to feel fulfilled and connected in life. I often take a unique approach to the clients and students I work with now regarding these defense mechanisms we might have created back in our childhood. Walls and masks are defense mechanisms the brain produces to protect us. We need to thank the mask and the wall for allowing us to feel protected. Then we might also acknowledge that sometimes the wall or mask doesn’t serve us at this time in our lives and that maybe we want to make some changes to find ways of truly connecting. We might need to do some internal work to heal past wounds, and that's also going to benefit our future connections with others.
Acknowledging and honoring the ways the mask or wall protected us means we don’t waste precious brain energy on being hard on ourselves for having them in the first place. I’ve worked with HSPs all over the world, and most of us have developed these protective barriers in some form. I remember when I first started “practicing” being vulnerable I felt like I was physically shaking it was so scary. My brain was sending signals to release adrenaline because it felt like I wasn’t safe and my brain was preparing for the fight or flight response. It took time to change those brain signals. It can be done, and it is so beautiful to know we can change the way our brain responds and can even prevent the release of adrenaline that causes that common heart racing fear or panic or anxiousness.
I still feel so in awe of what the brain is capable of doing. There are centers in the brain that can intentionally be activated that can calm us! I know as an HSP you might often feel out of control emotionally, but the mind is trainable, and we can also train it to protect us when we want to practice being vulnerable with someone so we can feel more connected. Life feels so much more meaningful when we can feel a deep connection with others. I hope you know that you are not alone and there are so many tools to support you. It is my mission in life to get HSPs the tools they need to feel connected, healed and empowered. We can take control of our life, train our brain, and live in harmony in a way that feels full of connection and meaning. I want that for you. We need you thriving in the world.
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~Julie Bjelland is a psychotherapist, global HSP consultant, and leader in the field of high sensitivity and has helped thousands of highly sensitive people around the world. As an HSP herself, Julie understands what it is like to live with high sensitivity and strong emotions. Julie teaches an online course for HSPs and is the author of several books. www.juliebjelland.com.