Healing roadmap for the emotionally intense individuals
People who identify with being emotionally intense and sensitive tend to experience their day-to-day life more vividly and deeply. New research in the field of neuroscience have recognised the differences in the way emotionally intense people perceive and process information. They tend to react more strongly to physical and emotional pain in themselves and others and can easily become stressed or fatigued.
Across the lifespan, emotionally intense people face unique struggles on their journey to living fully and authentically. Apart from the struggle with emotional regulation, many are misunderstood and stigmatised for years before they come to learn about and accept their unique qualities.
The following ‘healing roadmap’ illustrate some of the milestones or markers of the process. However, the journey of healing and discovery is different for everyone. The following map simply offers one perspective. These are not steps to be achieved in a linear sequence because the process is cyclical and completely unique to you.
1. Breaking away from the old wounds.
- Becoming aware of and breaking away from some of the old ‘life scripts’ that no longer serve you. These may include sensations and deep feelings around certain beliefs: "People will always leave me in the end", "I can never trust anyone", "I do not fit in anywhere".
- Having an expanded ‘window of tolerance’ so you are not triggered into states of hyper-arousal (acute stress, rage, tension and panic) or under-arousal (dissociating, disconnecting or feeling empty and depressed).
- Finding ways to cope when feeling overwhelmed, without resorting to avoidance or compensatory behaviours (over-eating, over spending, and other impulsive habits).
- Integrating the more vulnerable, ‘younger’ parts of yourself rather than rejecting them.
- Minding the undisciplined, rageful and destructive part of yourself.
- Lessening the impact of your internalised shame or the voice of the inner critic.
- Healthily mourning the lack or loss of the ‘what might have been’. Letting go of the resentment over not having the perfect childhood or the ideal parents in order to embrace the life that is ahead of you.
Healing tools at this phase: Dialectical behavioural therapy, Schema therapy, mentalisation-based treatment, EMDR, trauma-focused work, emotional freedom technique (EFT) or tapping, neuro-sculpting, ego-state therapy and cognitive and behavioural therapy.
2. Cultivating courageous open-heartedness.
- Being able to recognise, name and work with different emotions that arise without becoming overwhelmed or ruled by them.
- Allowing yourself to be emotionally moved and impacted, rather than being cut off and disconnected.
- Having the courage to feel and to love without getting caught in emotional storms or excessive fear of loss.
- Knowing that pain is inevitable in life and that it is human to be thrown off course sometimes. When that happens, rest in the faith that you will be able to bounce back.
- Coming to terms with the unavoidable ‘givens’ of human existence; that things are constantly changing, life is not always fair, losses and death are part of life and we cannot control everything.
Healing tools at this phase: Emotional literacy, mindfulness practise, Gestalt therapy, existential therapy and reading certain spiritual and philosophical texts.
3. Feeling alive and living with authenticity.
- Healing from the wounds of being told that you were ‘too much’, ‘too dramatic’, ‘too intense’, ‘too sensitive’ and being able to express and assert your needs and wants.
- Trusting the natural expression of your ‘unedited self’, preserving your natural playfulness and spontaneity.
- Being ‘skilfully authentic’ in groups and relationships: allowing your real self to be seen and accepted, without pre-maturely exposing yourself when it is not safe/appropriate to do so.
- Finding and going where you are celebrated, not tolerated.
- Letting go of who you think you should be and embracing who you actually are.
Healing tools at this phase: Bibliotherapy, art psychotherapy, ‘non-violent communication’, relational corrective experience, systemic psychotherapy and transactional analysis.
4. Aligning with something bigger than yourself and fulfilling your full potential.
- Living in congruence: building a life around your values and what you believe is important.
- Channeling your existential angst into a sense of mission and purpose.
- Having a sense of trust in something bigger than yourself.
- Relinquishing the need to have life pan out exactly the way you wish it to be and harnessing a sense of trust that your life is unfolding in the perfect order.
- Being able to express yourself creatively in your chosen vocation, aligning with your calling.
- Developing a spiritual sense that the work is being done not ‘by you’ but ‘through you’.
Healing tools at this phase: Transpersonal psychology, psychosynthesis, Jungian Symbol work, enneagram, personalitiy inventories such as MBTI and integrative coaching.
There is no need to feel deflated if some of these themes seem unreachable to you right now. Emotional healing and spiritual maturity are lifelong paths that each of us can achieve through commitment and continuous practises. People’s lives change as they progress in their own stages of self realisation. You may wish to reflect on:
- Where are you at in your own healing journey?
- Which aspect of your life calls for the most attention right now?
- What are the parts that you have previously disowned and are ‘acting out’ ?
- What would be the next smallest step you can take towards your own psycho-spiritual growth?
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About Imi Pui Yin Lo
Imi is an award-winning mental health professional, accredited clinical psychotherapist (UKCP), art therapist (HCPC, BAAT), supervisor and trainer. She specialises in emotional intensity, sensitivity, borderline personality traits, and unblocking creative potential in people. She is the founder of Eggshell Therapy Practise, based in London, UK.