Updated: Apr 17, 2022
Have you ever had the thought that maybe something is wrong with you? After all, no one else seems to be bothered by this, certainly not as much as you are. It can be so confusing and frightening to have such intense emotions. It’s hard to make sense of it. It’s worse when others around you just don’t get it, or even send you the message that something must be wrong with you. I’m sure they mean well, they just don’t experience life the way you do.
I’ve been there. In fact I’ve been there more times than I would like to count or admit. I still go there, pretty regularly actually. The intense emotions, the not understanding, the invalidation from others... this is all painful. The most painful, though... turning on myself. It’s that moment when I start second-guessing myself, when I start comparing myself to others, when I ask myself “what’s wrong with me?”, when I add to the already painful experience by degrading and invalidating my personal experience.
I can sometimes prevent this all together, and can definitely recognize it sooner and try to alter the behavior better than I could in the past. It’s taken a lot of work and is still in progress, as most things are. There are many things that have helped this process, too many to list and plenty I’m sure I haven’t even recognized. What I know is true and what I know has helped is learning about emotions, learning about myself and my temperament, and practicing deep radical acceptance for who I am.
I’ve spent the last few years learning about introverts, the Highly Sensitive Person, and the personality type INFJ. In many ways these three things can describe my personality pretty well. It’s been validating to know that others experience life and their emotions in similar ways as me. It’s just part of my inherent nature to need more down time away from others, to be sensitive to my environment, to experience strong emotions, to be critical and overthink, and to be more passive in my communication, to name a few.
I’ve learned a few things about emotions, too. I now know that they aren’t bad or scary. Every emotion has a purpose and strength. We learn so much about ourselves by tapping into our emotions. And, everyone has the same set of emotions. We all experience them in similar ways, just more or less intense. Now, depending on our history, we do respond to these emotions in different ways.
Through knowing myself and understanding emotions better, I can say for sure... there’s nothing wrong with me! My experience is unique, but not wrong or bad. I am who I am because of everything that came before me. In this moment I cannot be anything else. How peaceful to know that I am exactly who I am suppose to be. We are all unique for a reason.
I am beginning to see the benefits of strong emotions. It tells me I’m really connected to my soul and I am truthful to myself. It tells me I am deeply connected to those around me. It tells me that I care about others, myself, and the world in general. It helps to understand others and forces me to understand myself. I have learned so much about who I am and have had healing beyond belief by connecting to my emotions and listening to what they tell me.
What I’ve found helpful for this listening part is giving myself time and space. There is no time limit on pain. Pausing and allowing whatever is there to arise, rather than pushing it down or ignoring it. I write about what I’m feeling, sometimes coming back to something for days, weeks, or months. You will know when you’re finished with it. I use meditation to quiet, to get still, to listen, and to just be with the raw expression of an emotion. I will talk with someone close and safe, someone who can hold gentle and compassionate space for me. Through using these tools I decide what action to take. I try not to jump into action, but rather to experience the emotion, understand the emotions, and make an intuitive and wise decision for me.
This may seem out of reach for some. It may not be your cup of tea. You may not agree or see the point. To break this down into its simplest form:
Write about it
Meditate on it
Talk to someone about it
Here are a few RESOURCES you may find helpful for knowing yourself, knowing your emotions, and radically accepting your experience.
Self-Test: The Highly Sensitive Person Self Tests
Self-Test: Free Personality Test
Rayne Satterfield, LCSW