In the last article, we talked at length about the first and second chakras – the most dense chakras in our energy system – and how, as a group, we hsps tend to struggle a bit meeting the needs of those chakras. The third chakra is a place we can look to for help.
The third chakra, which relates most closely with the fourth layer in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, is about self-esteem, personal power or will power, and being valued or respected by others. This is also the place from which we tend to view ourselves; our ideas about who we are are formed within this layer. Therefore, it is the layer most closely tied to our ego, or I-maker – the part of us that self identifies and creates stories about who we are.
Going back to the chakra system we talked about in part two, a healthy third chakra would receive a natural flow of information from both the second chakra below it and the fourth chakra above it. As we talked about in Part II, the second chakra relates to trust and how we identify with others, but it also houses a very vital part of ourselves – the part I like to call the essential self.
The essential self is the spark or essence of our personality. It is most easily witnessed when we are young infants and toddlers and haven’t yet learned we need to tone ourselves down or change ourselves in any way. This spark, when nourished, should inform our third chakra about who we are, molding an identity based in the truth of our essence, with information from our heart about love and belonging.
However, this rarely happens.
The third chakra, by its very nature of trying to figure out who we are, is constantly scanning the environment for rules, regulations and boundaries. When toddlers become willful creatures and start to push their parent’s boundaries, it’s the third chakra that’s being activated. The third chakra helps us understand what our limits are and what the rules are.
The third chakra, however, doesn’t have a fine level of discernment, and so it collects these rules and these “shoulds” and uses them to inform who we are. Often, the list of “who we should be” starts to shout louder than the pure voice of the essential self in the second chakra, eventually covering up this vital part of who we are in favor for who we think we need to be.
This is uncomfortable for all of us, but can be devastating for highly sensitive people.
This process is often further exacerbated by the fact that hsps, by the time we are teenagers and young adults, are already recognizing that we do things very, very differently than others and may have a history of being punished or scrutinized for our emotional reactions or coping mechanisms. Hsps are more likely than dense sensors to turn off the essential knowing in the second chakra in order to try and fit into a world that tells us how we “should” be.
Working in the layer of the third chakra to reclaim a sense of personal power and value based on the truth of the essential self can be vital in healing our sensitive systems.
Why do we so easily listen to the “shoulds” instead of our inner voice?
There are many reasons we do this, and most of them boil down to social, cultural and familial pressure. If we conform, the story goes, we are rewarded. If we fail to conform, we are punished.
Rewards might look like love, affection, attention (or not having excess attention), praise, connection and value. Punishment might be withdrawal of affection or praise, attention or isolation, criticism, embarrassment, or a feeling of exile from our primary group.
These punishments may be very real. They may also be inferred. Either way, they are felt. And no one feels more deeply than the highly sensitive person. When we feel criticism, our sensitive system may actually feel this like physical pain. Same with isolation or embarrassment. Further, if we have learned to associate love with praise, we might feel like the rug of comfort and stability is being torn out from under us if we make a wrong move.
These feelings are powerful motivators. Rather than be who we are, we decide on a subconscious level that it’s safer and more acceptable to be who the people around us expect and need us to be. We are so very, very good at understanding what other people need us to be (what their needs are), that this becomes automatic. We might not even recognize that we are also a person with needs, especially if our needs have been seen as flaws, weaknesses, personality defects or pathologies.
Pain is a powerful motivator. If we aren’t taught that uncomfortable sensations are okay to feel, then we will associate discomfort with pain, which is often taught as something to eradicate as quickly as possible. If instead, we can learn to use sensation as information, and something that is natural, normal and part of our human learning experience, we can start to make our own choices about how our sensations are guiding us and how we want to act (or rather, who we want to be or naturally are) in that situation.
Working to heal from the third layer
Although the hierarchy of needs and chakra system breaks things down in a very logical, easy-to-use way, it is only intellectually that we can separate these layers. They work as a team and a system, always, so as we work in one layer we will automatically be affecting the others. This is advantageous for healing, because we can really start anywhere.
You might think that working in the third chakra means developing a deeper sense of personal power or improving your self-esteem, and this is true. However, it’s not as simple as that (if it were, we wouldn’t have programs for developing self-esteem. We’d just have good self-esteem). In the most basic sense, developing a good sense of self-esteem and personal power is about believing in yourself. This is important, and we’ll talk about it, but before we dive in, I want to make it clear that you are not a flawed person if you don’t have an inner trust and a healthy sense of self-esteem.
In this day and age, our country’s sense of individualism makes it clear that believing in yourself is one of the best things you can do to forward your personal mission. For years, I never questioned this idea – that I, alone, needed to learn to believe in myself. This idea, however, doesn’t really make sense from holistic standpoint – where is the tribe that is supposed to be believing in you? Why is this your job alone? Why is there a lack of belief in the first place?
Marketing and business coach Tad Hargrave wrote this article about the idea of believing in the self. It’s long, and incredibly well documented, and I’ll leave it here in case you want to check it out. To summarize for our purposes, he asked the same questions I did, above, and then researched this idea around belief.
What he found, in a nutshell, was that in more close-knit, tribal cultures, belief is something that the tribe holds for you. It is not your job to believe in yourself, it is the tribe’s job to hold that belief for you.
What this creates is a bed of belief from which you sprout. Imagine for a moment coming forth into the world within a family and a culture that believed that you were here for a specific purpose (one that they didn’t get to define, only you). Your job was only to explore the world, find and live your purpose, while the tribe’s job was to believe in your ability to do this.
No guilt trips about choosing to travel before you go to college. No late night persuasion around the type of education you choose. No questions about when you do this or that thing that’s important to someone else. Just a cushion of belief and the freedom to support you to find it.
That’s not how I grew up. While I was told I could be anything I wanted to be, it was also very clear that there was one distinct way to figure it out – make it through high school with straight A’s, get a scholarship to a school that’s not too far away but far away enough, get a job or a scholarship to pay your way through graduate school (which was not optional, but parental funding would be cut off at this point), find someone smart to marry, have a career and kids because “you’re capable of doing it all.”
Yes, but what if I just don’t fucking want to?
I bring all of this up in this section to point out this: if you don’t believe in yourself, you are not at fault. Believing in yourself is a big job, and it’s something that you shouldn’t have to hold on your own. If you weren’t taught that belief is part of your birthright, something that others help you hold, then you’ve been given a big, big burden, especially if you’re highly sensitive.
That being said, I’m now going to tell you to start to hold this for yourself.
Yes, I believe the conditions for belief could be much, much more ideal. But that’s not where we’re at right now. What is is that we probably came from a space where belief was something we need to develop, especially if we’ve not been given the freedom to be who we really are and connect with our essential self. Especially if we learned that conforming and pleasing others was more important than figuring out who we are and living from that.
The business of believing
Believing in ourselves is really the business of creating permission to see our inherent value and choosing to validate our value. The permission part of this is important. If we’ve come from a place of tight control and perfectionism, then what we’ve actually created is a life without permission because permission equals freedom.
As children, we need freedom to explore – explore the world, our bodies and our preferences. We are born little adventurers who need the support and stability in order to explore safely. If instead we were kept wrapped up tight in a life-raft of restriction and conformity (even if it was for safety’s sake), we might feel very uncomfortable with permission, feeling like at any time the roof could come crashing down.
I grew up in a very clean, orderly household. When I was an adolescent, I learned how to clean bathrooms, fold laundry, and otherwise keep spaces clean and tidy. My mother would inspect my performance afterwards, giving me feedback on whether or not my performance matched her standards. My allowance depended on my ability to meet her expectations. But more than that, I felt like I might be failing if I did it wrong.
In my early teens, I started babysitting in the neighborhood to earn extra money. I babysat for two little girls who lived in a very different household than mine. They had a huge playroom that was always a mess – it was meant as a creative play space, and there were no regulations within the room. They had a pet rat, Sally, who was allowed to roam the house and who I’d find scrambling up my leg while I was searching the pantry for fixings for lunch.
Being at this house pushed all of my buttons. It made me feel uncomfortable, and like I should be “helping” by cleaning up, putting things away, or trying to create more order. In my house, order meant that everything was as it should be and and then we could relax. I could not relax in this house. What I didn’t realize at the time was that I couldn’t relax as a person, either.
These girls grew up to be brilliant, creative self-starters, making names for themselves in science, art and political science. They never learned to waste their time fitting into rigid structures to make someone else feel better – rather, they learned that freedom and permission were important.
Whenever we create changes, it can be easier and less threatening to start with things that are relatively small – permission to order what you really want at the restaurant, permission to day dream for an extra half hour, permission to make that call to that friend even though you’re not sure you should (permission hack – wherever you notice a “should” in your thought patterns indicates a good place to apply permission. It challenges the old patterns of shoulds that keep you in restriction).
Once you’ve practiced granting yourself permission on small, daily things, you can start to apply that to bigger things – permission to take the day off from work when you’re overwhelmed, permission to publish that blog post that feels so raw and scary, permission to try launching a business that feels right to you but doesn’t make sense to most people.
Basically – permission is action required to start valuing yourself, your needs and your desires over the “rules.”
Some of you might be reading this and think, But won’t I just totally lose control? Permission to do anything I want? That’s just not safe!
Well, maybe. But I have yet to see a highly sensitive person take permission to such an extreme that they would be harming themselves or others around them. It’s generally not part of our nature. We’re so tuned into what others need and want that this practice of permission is unlikely to turn us into narcissists – rather, it’s much more likely that all it will do is start to let your essential essence out to play.
Permission leads to validation
We won’t know if our inherent gifts or offerings to the world have value if we don’t give ourselves the permission needed in order to release them. In order to try. When we do give ourselves permission, magic happens.
Well, magic, and also quite a bit of trial and error. And facing some disappointment from others.
Let’s talk about magic first. When we start to grant ourselves permission to be who we are, acting on our needs because we realize they are important, what naturally starts to happen is that we receive validation from the outside world that yes, indeed what you have to offer is important.
When I moved to Seattle nearly four years ago, I had no idea how I would make a living. I moved here with the promise of teaching one yoga class a week at $40 per class, a 15-hour a week virtual assistant job, and bit of settlement money. I planned to open a business as an Ayurvedic Practitioner.
Turns out that Ayurveda is more heavily regulated in Washington than it is in California. So while California’s laws protected me and allowed me to practice this ancient medicine, Washington required that obtain several other (expensive and time consuming) licenses in order to be legitimate.
So my plan, to follow the rules (both the legal rules and the rules of “go to school and then get a job”) were foiled.
Instead, I took another part time job (this would be job number three) in retail and worked my tail off while I figured out what to do. I had gone through clairvoyant training and had always wanted to be a medical intuitive. Right then, I get an email from my teacher who was running a year-long medical intuitive training.
It was expensive, but it felt right. My teacher worked with me to create a payment plan. I trusted that this was something I could do. A few weeks later, I got offered a job as a rehabilitation director at a chiropractic office. It was still part time, and the pay was pretty dismal, but it was more than I’d been making and it was steady.
Fast forward a year – while the rehab job proved to be a nice middle point, the hours were incredibly challenging on my body. I started developing health problems that seemed eerily related to the conflict of moral values and the competition I felt with organization. Yet again, a regular job wasn’t working for me.
I cut down my hours and started giving more intuitive readings. I was at the end of my medical intuitive training and started taking money for healings. I started an experiment to see if and how I could combine my medical intuitive training with my Ayurveda and somehow make yoga fit in there, too.
I started dreaming about how these things would fit together. I realized that it might not make sense to others, but the way these three practices intersected made perfect sense to me. All I had to do was figure out how to explain it.
Through this process of divorcing, moving and creating something new was a theme of permission – permission to do things my way, permission to be a beginner, permission to fail. And so when it came to launching a business based on intuitive readings, Ayurveda and yoga aimed at helping highly sensitive people, I gave myself permission to do it. Even though there was skepticism (and yes, there was skepticism).
The biggest thing I did for myself during this formative time was to give myself permission to do things my way for a year – one year – at which point I would reassess and figure out exactly where I needed help. This first year was invaluable, because not only was I going out and making my offerings in the world, I was learning how to trust my instincts and voice around decision making (which turned out to be good guidance about 75% of the time – enough to create success).
It showed me how capable I was, and how much value I had to offer.
There were those people who weren’t impressed, and those who were downright fearful of what I was doing. My family looked at me like I was attending Hogwarts, or starting a cult, or otherwise doing something behind a dark curtain that they couldn’t see through. They were worried. Their worry came through as passive aggressive attempts to undermine my intelligence or the decisions I’d made. And while this kind of attention felt terrible, I had new evidence from personal experience that I was on the right track. I just wasn’t on their track anymore.
Anytime we start to meet our own needs when we’ve been chronically putting other people’s needs first, those other people will become disappointed.
It’s natural – if we’ve done everything in our power to please or appease someone else, and all the sudden we choose to go our own way (even if that way is not threatening the livelihood of the others), they will become disappointed.
This is good.
This means that you are choosing you, and that they now have the fuel (in the form of discomfort) to learn about meeting their own needs.
But yes, it might feel pretty crappy for a while. It’s okay for it to feel crappy.
And as you enter into this place of permission to do things your own way so that you can see that you have value in the world, and that value is reflected back to you, there will be times when you try things that don’t work. There will be times in this time of trial and error that error occurs. But if you can stick with the concept of permission, then you can allow those errors to be learned from, rather than avoided. You can turn your failures into learning experiences rather than catalysts for self-punishment.
Just because something you tried didn’t work doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have done it or that you shouldn’t try again. It just means that it didn’t work.
Permission gives you the freedom to try again, to not be perfect, to be human.
Through permission, we figure out our own way. When we recognize the value in doing things our own way, we build self-esteem and personal power. This is a process, and it continues to evolve. It is not some point we get to and then it’s all done. We continue to build it.
And finally, when we work through permission to find value in ourselves and in the world, we start to heal the scars of the first and second chakra. By using our personal power to forge our own way in the world, we start to see that we can do things our way and still have them work. We start to trust that there’s not just one right way, not one right story, and we become empowered to walk into the realm of the denser chakras, armed with our personal power and ready to take on the physical world.