Last year I had the whole-body-on-edge experience of hearing my business-bestie, Sophie Jane Mortimer, interview an amazing woman called Elaine Wilkins. And I’m so glad that I did because the information Elaine shared woke something up inside me and now I get to share that information with you – and I just know that it’s going to resonate with you too.
Elaine Wilkins is the founder of the Crysalis Effect. She and her team help women with chronic illnesses and they are doing ground-breaking work in the field of healing.
Now, I don’t specifically work with women with chronic illness BUT a lot of my clients do have issues such as endometriosis, fibroids, thyroid disorders and many have danced with burn-out.
And I’m not surprised. (Read on to find out why!)
During the interview, Elaine read out the common characteristics of women who are more likely to develop chronic illnesses. Every single item on that list was something that I know many of my clients would recognise in themselves – and that I recognised in myself. That list was, in essence, a description of a highly sensitive person (HSP).
Here is a summary. It’s a combination of Elaine’s points and my own expansion/explanation
- They feel like they don’t really fit in; they have felt this since birth; a sense of being somehow different
- They have a tendency to over-give or over-do
- They are highly empathic to the point of being over-empathic, ie. they make other people’s emotions MORE important than their own (hello)
- With this comes a heightened sense of responsibility – as if they are RESPONSIBLE for how other people feel
- They are highly sensitive or reactive to foods, travel, the environment, chemicals and the energy of other people
- They have suffered adverse experiences in childhood
- They are over-alert; constantly ‘on’
Does any of that sound familiar to you?
Before I go on, a quick note on the question of ‘adverse experiences’ in childhood thing. My clients often say to me: ‘But I had a really lovely childhood, my parents are lovely’. And they’re right. But here’s the thing: if you’re highly sensitive, something that another child might shrug off as nothing, you will have experienced as a traumatic event. Because your nervous system is so alert, because you are processing more sensory input and information than other children, even something as simple as overly loud music or being unfairly told off, can register as traumatic. I know this to be true because I have experienced it myself.
To a sensitive child (or adult) even just not being understood or not having your opinion or feelings taken seriously, will feel traumatic. Of course, it’s not illegal to fail to understand someone. And I do understand that this is not Trauma with a capital T but what I’m saying is that for some of us, simply living in this fast-paced, noisy and impatient world can feel hard.
Most people don’t understand that we’re not ‘snowflakes’; that being ‘sensitive’ isn’t a choice or a character flaw. No wonder so many of us feel as though we don’t fit in – even within our families and friendship groups. One of my oldest friends is wonderful but the polar opposite of an HSP. We used to go on holiday together and she would always want to ‘make the most of it’… which for her meant seeing everything, doing everything, going everywhere. It was loud nightclubs and dancing until dawn; it was crazy parties with hundreds of strangers. For her it was fun. For me, it was completely overwhelming. I need down-time, space, quiet, and processing time, in order to be able to ‘make the most of it’.
When you feel as though you don’t belong; when society tells you that you’re somehow odd or weird or flakey, you develop coping strategies to suppress your feelings; to over-ride your experiences and to prove that you can cope. You become an over-achiever. You work twice as hard and try valiantly to ‘push on through’. You deny your sensitivity, even to yourself.
As I sat there listening to Elaine tell Sophie about the scientific discovery of a ‘sensitivity gene’, AND an ‘A-type’ gene, and how these two genes together heighten the chances of developing a chronic illness, all I could think was, ‘of course’.
About 20% of the population can be classified as highly sensitive – and we need MORE sleep, more rest, more down-time, more processing-time, more journalling-time, more space, more alone time, than the other 80% of the population. But our society does not value sleep, rest and play as much as it values work and productivity, so we make ourselves wrong for needing rest – surely I don’t need that much?! – and push ourselves to sickness.
During my Women on Fire interviews, one of the questions I asked all the guests was how they coped with being both sensitive AND ambitious. I see it in the amazing women I follow, I see it in myself, and I see it in my Clients. Is it true for you too?
If so, then yes, you do need that much rest. It’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with you.
And yes, you can function in this world – you don’t need to hide from it, you just need to work out what you need to be OK, give it to yourself, and explore your unique balance of how much ‘in’ time you need, and how much ‘out’ time.
Click here to tweet: “Yes, you can function in this world – you don’t need to hide from it, you just need to work out what you need to be OK, give it to yourself, and explore your unique balance of how much ‘in’ time you need, and how much ‘out’ time.” ~ @KateWolfTweets
And it means that you actually have inside you an ‘amazing satellite system of delicate messages’ (Elaine’s beautiful words) that are leading you not only to health, but to a Life on Purpose. Because those who are highly sensitive are also highly intuitive and highly creative – it’s a package deal. It means you have the power to heal yourself and it means you are a healer. When you learn to listen to those delicate messages: “Yes, eat that food” “No, don’t share your deepest secrets with that person” “Yes, get up and leave this noisy restaurant” “No, don’t get on that tube, walk along the river instead” – when you let your sensitive, highly attuned, intuitive body lead, you become SO healthy.
When you dare to let your highly refined internal GPS system lead your business – well, then you become wealthy, too. (Interestingly, ‘wealthy’ comes from the middle English ‘welthe’ or ‘wele’ meaning ‘well-being’)
Are you ready to reveal the real you and revel in your revenue?
I’ve created a 7 week online course that will guide you to embrace the gifts in your sensitivity, instead of over-ride them. If you’re ready to find a way of working that works for you, instead of over-working yourself in search of someone else’s version of success, you can find out more here:
Photo Credit: Mark Rabe on Unsplash
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