There is a lot of advice in the world for highly sensitive people that says something along the lines of:
“You’re fragile. Turn off the news, turn away from the upsetting parts of life, take a nap, take a bath, get a massage and spend more time to yourself.”
The intention behind this advice, I believe, is good.
The intention is to help us regulate our nervous systems by tuning out that which is too much for us. By turning away from things that are painful, we manage our system by controlling what we let in and what we don’t.
Sounds reasonable, right?
But there’s a problem with this kind of advice, and it’s not in the intention – it’s in the affect it has – not just in our systems – but in the larger world around us.
Besides that, managing our systems by tuning out the bad is like sticking our fingers in our ears, closing our eyes, and singing “la, la, la” at the big, scary thing in the world – it doesn’t make anything go away.
We are not being helpful, then. We aren’t even honoring the strength of our sensitivity. And we sure as hell aren’t doing anything to change the parts of the world we’re turning away from.
I heard this quote the other day. It said, “She was fragile, not like a snowflake. She was fragile like a bomb.”
At first, I though – YES! Until I thought more about snowflakes, and I realized that it’s a much more apt metaphor.
Yes, you are delicate. You are delicate like a snowflake in a cold, winter storm.
Snowflakes are intricate, and unique, and complicated, interesting on their own, but when in an environment that doesn’t suit them, can fall apart, melt down or disintegrate.
But when snowflakes pull together, when they find each other and hold hands, layer upon layer of holding hands, they have a power that can change the face of a hillside.
And do you know what allows snowflakes to hold hands? Two things:
1) The right environment.
2) A few of the delicate to hold their ground and say, “I’ll go first. I’ll hold first to this cold, hard ground; you can jump on my back.”
I’ve noticed this pattern in us hsps, where we’re afraid to face the world. We’re afraid to take a stand, because it’s too painful, and too scary, and too dark, and, and, and. So we hibernate, and we hope that someone else goes first.
And while we’re busy in our bathtubs with the warm water, and the essential oils, and the music, and our “la, la, las,” and our candles and our red wine, the rest of the world goes on without us. The darkness, the pain, the injustice that we so palpably feel, and see, and want to heal – it goes on without our influence.
Even more, the hsps who don’t have the privilege to take long soaks – usually the most disenfranchised among us – end up working harder in our absence.
We avoid taking on our load of the pain and, in effect, hand it off to someone who may already be carrying more of their share.
I understand the hibernation phase. I do. I’ve done it, I’ve coached others to do it – learning to say “no,” to take time for ourselves, to learn about what we need to function well and to advocate for those things – this is all so very important.
But we must remember it’s just one phase of healing as a highly sensitive person. And it’s a means, not an end.
Learning to take care of ourselves is a means to finding our resiliency – our ability to call on our inner resources to phase the challenges that life hands us.
We find our resiliency differently than others, because we are snowflakes, and it can take time.
But we have incredible resiliency, too, when we learn to find it.
(Tune into the next two podcasts to learn more about this idea of resiliency).
So I’ll go first, okay? I’ll attach myself to this cold rock in this storm called life. When you’re ready, you jump on board, okay?
Let’s do this scary thing – of changing our culture and our world for the better – together.
Yeah, we’re delicate fucking snowflakes, so the world should know –
Winter is coming.
Need resources? Here are some you might like:
The Refuge for Sacred Rebellion – a place where snowflakes band together.
Clarity Sessions – When you need that extra fortification
Compass Sessions – To know someone has got your back
The podcast – for your listening pleasure