Unlocking Resilience: Psychotherapy Strategies for Highly Sensitive Individuals

Unlocking Resilience: Psychotherapy Strategies for Highly Sensitive Individuals

I remembered those days when the gentle rain patter against my window pane as I sit, listening intently to my patient Shyna sharing her incredible life-wrenching story. Through back-to-back tears, she describes how her sensitive nature, what some call HSP or Highly Sensitive Person, has caused her immense stress and anxiety over the past several years.

“I care so deeply for everyone, even more than myself,” she says. “But it’s like my nerves are constantly on edge, as I see the pain in others and I take it on as my own. I know it doesn’t make sense, but it does for HSP folks. The world just feels so overwhelming sometimes, and I can’t help it but regret it, haunting myself very often.”

I nod in understanding flashing back to my own memories of being consumed by anxiety, paralysis and self-doubt since I too am an HSP, and I know the challenges that come with our so-called precious gift. But precious godsend in disguise, there is hope, plus strategies we can use to unlock our resilience for good not kill.

I then tell Shyna my own upbringing story. When I was a child, I would get deeply upset over the unintentional suffering I saw around me plus with the world. It even offends me so often that I told myself “Enough is enough”.

My parents were also so strict and tried to shield me from taking action, but it only made things worse over time. Then one day, luckily, my grandmother sat me down and said “You have a beautiful, sensitive heart who has love for everyone.

“I want you to have that love for yourself even if there is a weakness that disrupts your everyday scenario.”

But you must learn to give people the gift of your empathy without taking on their heavy load. My grandmother wants me to focus on what/how you can control your caring response and let go of the rest.

Frankly acknowledged, those wise words sparked something in me, that I think still resides or clicked but barely I am aware of. I learned to set basic boundaries, practice self-caring, and find meaning in helping others with love and compassion, without losing myself in the long run.

I later see Shyna’s eyes quickly light up as she realizes this path is open for her too. As a psychotherapist, I then begin to craft strategies specific to her daily driving:

#1 Exercising daily to release excessive tension and cultivate self-discipline

#2 Journaling to process thoughts without rumination brooding

#3 Saying no to overstimulating environments and people who drain her energy

#4 Practising mindfulness to remain grounded and present even amidst the chaos

#5 Spending time in nature to feel connected to something larger than life

#6 Focusing on acts of kindness without judging their ultimate impact

#7 Nurturing hobbies that bring her joy to replenish her spirit

I didn’t force her but rather insisted!

I don’t know how miraculously things transpired week by week for her, I see the bright light returning to Shyna’s eyes right again that wasn’t there for a mile. I can witness from her facial expressions the weight on her shoulders lifts as she learns to give of herself without sacrificing anything.

Sooner she discovers resilience hidden within her core sensitivity that she isn’t aware of previously. This process of unlocking resilience, at its core, sparks a wonderful journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, which is actually a part of self-nurturing your soul yet the bodily emotions.

All it requires is gentle guidance, empathy and patience with oneself and with others. But for those like Shyna and myself, with hearts that feel so profound, there is joy to be found in this path. Remember, happiness and peace will not come to you if you are waiting or lingering, instead, you have to dig deeper, question and accept it.

In nurturing our resilience, we actually strengthen our innate gifts, which is itself not a curse. As we learn to live in harmony with our sensitive nature, we find our true purpose, which is to bring more empathy, care and compassion into the world without ignorance.

Shyna smiles at me as something just clicked, her resilience now fully awakened, I guess. All she can say is “Hats off”, thank you, for helping me see the beauty in my life-long struggle.”

Heart of the matter:

Now, the question stands “What does it mean to be resilient?” I ask myself this as I listen to my client’s stories of struggle and sorrow. So many of them are like me, highly sensitive souls who feel things deeply. For years I tried to numb my sensitivity, to build strong walls around my heart.

But it only leads to more discomfort over time, disconnecting me from the world and my own actuality and authenticity. Now I seek to unlock the resilience within my sensitivity, to find strength in my perceived weakness.

I just feel everything so intensely, and the world weighs on me in a way it doesn’t seem to for others. How does one build resilience from such fraught ground? The word “resilience” itself feels ill-fitting for the messiness of human emotion, the bursts of anger and sadness that mark our tender hearts.

We are not trees meant to bend and bounce back; we are people, imperfect and fragile in our complexity. Still, there is strength to be found in acknowledging this vulnerability, in finding community with other sensitive souls, and in learning to self-soothe instead of self-criticize.

There are grounding techniques and coping skills that can lessen the edge of anxiety, and create space for joy amidst sorrow.

But these are mere tools, not the transformational heart of the matter. To unlock resilience, we must first unlock our own tight grip on ourselves, releasing the expectations and stories that trap us.

We must reckon with our fear of feeling too much, too deeply, and instead make space within ourselves for every shade of human emotion.

There in lies the paradox: it is in allowing ourselves to feel completely that we discover fortitude. In embracing our imperfections without embarrassment, we unearth the resilience we never knew we had.

I wipe the tear from my eye; it’s like peeling back layers of armor, reconnecting with what’s real and raw beneath all the should and shouldn’t.

Now, for those who think God’s intention is not a blessing or telling yourself life is messy around you, feeling heavily burdened around life and others. I want you to feel those emotions and just smile, relive your own journey of self-discovery and keep peeling, you’ll eventually reach the core of who you truly are bursting with new hope.

Since those emotions will never be permanent and never ever will be; the permanent truth is your existence, your inner truth, your inner soul and the knowledge you are cultivating from this hectic world.

Sit in silence for a moment, as now your sensitive souls have resolved to meet the world on our own intricate terms, unlocking resilience one crack in the armour at a time.

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