Are you too sensitive?  (or just right)

There was a week recently when from Monday to Friday (a whole “work week”) I felt pretty good emotionally every day.
 
This may not seem like significant news to you, but an entire week is a really long time for me to have that experience – it was amazing!  By some amazing grace – or as the result of years of therapy, new patterns of exercise, prayer, and good sleep – or all of the above, I experienced FIVE WHOLE DAYS when I didn’t have to work to convince myself that waking to a new day is a good thing.  I didn’t have to coach myself to see the good in my admittedly privileged life.  
 
You see, most days I have to work pretty hard to avoid negativity, criticism, anxiety and despair and choose gratitude, love and hope instead.  
 
This is why I am a life coach.
 
Because we cheer people on and encourage others to choose positive thoughts, create new habits, and take risks in pursuit of their dreams etc. most people think that life coaches are naturally energized, optimistic people.  But most of those I know are like me.  We’ve developed skills that help other people because we desperately need them for ourselves.  Every. Single. Day.
 
A lot of us regularly feel depression, anxiety, and negativity right there under the surface. Crouching like a lion at the door, ready to pounce, as Winston Churchill reportedly said about his experience of depression.  When I started practicing a form of meditation called Centering Prayer, one of the first observations I had in the silence was that I felt sadness and heaviness seemingly at my core all the time.
 
Often I have judged myself pretty harshly for this tendency – what with my two-parent-had-a-stay-at-home-mom-middle-class-white-good-health privileged childhood and married-with-kids-and-a-good-job current life.  What right do I have to feel heavy? 

None, I suppose, but I do anyway.  I’ve often felt broken; definitely overly needy.  Ridiculously needy.  
 
Therapy has helped – it allowed me to start to recognize and feel what I was feeling whether I thought it was “justified” or not, and to start choosing to honor my needs and desires sometimes. 

A changing view of God and a waking up to the ways that my childhood understanding of my religion and of myself as a woman in a patriarchal culture hadn’t helped me much.  Those shifts have helped too.

Lately it’s a new metaphor that’s helping me to accept the me that I am in this world at the moment.  Here's the gist of it:  I’m not broken, I’m just a super-fancy-super-powerful-sports-car version of human. 

I got this new metaphor from life coach and author Martha Beck who recently told a story of a time when she got to take a ride in a super fancy, super powerful sports car and the man who was driving her mentioned how physically exhausting it was for him to drive it.  She was surprised.  She said that she would have thought a super-fancy, expensive sports car would be super easy to drive, but he explained that it has so much power and so much precision that it actually took a lot of physical strength to drive it well.  I’m sure it also needed just the right kind of fuel.  And probably some special tools to keep it tuned up just right.
 
Martha compared those of us with super-sensitive nervous systems to that car.  She posed the possibility that our seemingly excessive needs (and corresponding tendency towards depression and anxiety) don’t mean that we’re broken.  They’re just part of the package.  They come with the special powers we have.
 
Like that fancy sports car, the emotional management of life for those of us with sensitive nervous systems takes constant focus and adjustment.  As a result, our needs compel us to practice working with tough emotions over and over and over again.  This has not been one of my favorite parts of myself.  But like anything a person practices regularly, I’m getting better at it.  To go back to the car analogy – I’m finding the right tools.  I’m buying the right fuel.  I’m developing the strength I need to control the power. 
 
And I’m collecting a series of ah-ha moments that open me up more and more to the possibility that this aspect of me is less a “thorn in the flesh” —something to be tolerated, or overcome—and more like a voice saying “this is the way, walk in it.”  Or perhaps more often, “This is not your way, get back to your path.”
 
And the even more exciting realization for me lately is that needy, demanding part of myself is directly connected to what I now have to offer others. 
 
Not everyone has to work at emotion management every day.  But everyone hits moments when anger, or sadness, or fear, or depression, or anxiety hit.  And I have about 15,000 possible tools to offer them that might help.  Because I’ve needed them all. 
 
So, what’s my point?  It is that if you struggle with these kinds of challenges I can help?  If my story resonates with you, I probably can help, and I’d love to talk with you about how.  You can shoot me a message at debshine@thriving4equity.com and we’ll see if I’m the right person to help you find your way forward. God knows about a million people have helped me find mine – and I continue to collect more of them!  There’s no reason to go it alone.
 
But that isn’t my main point.
 
My main point is that if you tell yourself regularly that your needs are excessive, ridiculous, frivolous, whatever – in some way not really needs, not justified, too selfish, not to be attended to — I’d like you to consider the possibility that these are genuine needs for you.  And finding ways to meet them is very likely the best step you can take towards meeting the needs of others as well.
 
I’d like you to consider that it’s very, very possible that the needs you have that seem ridiculous.  The needs that seem excessive…
 
The need you have to connect with animals. 
Your deep love of beautiful clothes. 
Your inability to function on less than 9 hours of sleep
Your need for quiet in the morning
Or your love for silly TV shows. 
Whatever it is that you need that you’re not “supposed” to need.
 
I’d like you to consider that it’s possible that they are just your version of the special fuel that sports car needs, and what you need to do to meet those needs is like the special handling required to manage its immense potential for amazingness.
 
After all, it’s not a problem that fancy sports cars require strong, skilled drivers or special fuel. Right? It’s just part of the deal – precise controls and massive power come with particular requirements.
 
Perhaps, just perhaps, your needs/flaws are morally neutral.  Neither good, nor bad, they just are. 
 
Perhaps, just perhaps, they are giving you hints that your identity isn’t what you thought.
 
Maybe you aren’t an old Chevy Nova that can take any old kind of gas and tolerate all kinds of drivers.  Maybe you are super-fancy, super-powerful sports car (can you tell I’m not really a “car” person – I don’t know what one to name here.)  
 
Or maybe you are the Chevy Nova – and you would just love to be relieved of all the fancy stuff you’re supposed to want so you could putter around welcoming in anyone who needs a little comfort and some help getting from here to there.
 
Perhaps, just perhaps, your needs/flaws are compelling you to collect tools and develop strengths that are exactly what your neighbor or your co-worker or U.S. politics needs right now, or will need next year. 
 
Perhaps you’ll be ready to meet that need because your own needs will lead you to just the right answers.
 
And then you can share.

Here's to thriving - and changing the world.

Deb