Sunday, December 29, 2013

Highly sensitive people are especially at risk when encountering a narcissist

People with fibromyalgia are frequently highly sensitive people or empaths.  Being an empath means that you have the ability to actually feel the emotions of others as if they are your own.  When others are celebrating and happy, the result for the empath is exuburance and euphoria; that feels so good.  But when others are grieving, sad, angry or experiencing a "hot" emotion, the result can be difficult for the empath if the empath has no way to protect themselves.  Being sensitive to the environment and energy fields of others requires a special skill set that other people don't have and don't really need.  One of the biggest difficulties in being an empath is that other people don't understand your sensitive and expanded perceptions of the world and the result is feeling isolated from others.

Tyler J. Hebert describes the empath in depth in his article "Empath (The Extra-Sensitive Being)" at  Hebert describes the empath as "a person that is hypersensitive to the emotions and energy of other people, as well as animals".  Hebert goes on to say that empaths have a sense of "knowing' and a very strong intuitive sense.  In other words, empaths have an extremely high EQ or emotional quotient.  I find it interesting that the way we have been easily identified is we have fibromyalgia.  Empaths are selfless people that often times put the needs of others before themselves.  Empaths are people that are loved in their social circles, because they relate to other people on a much deeper level than most.  The empath's energy is different and people automatically sense this energy and are drawn to the empath.  The empath's astuteness, which can leave the empath with feelings of isolation, can put the empath at higher risk of suicidal tendencies.  The empath absorbs the emotions of others and if the empath is unaware of this, the empath has the tendency to own those emotions.  That's why I frequently remind myself that what I receive from others is not about me.  Gaining an understanding of your empathic nature is critical in determining which emotions belong to yourself and which emotions belong to someone else.  Without that knowledge the empath may personalize everything around them and become defensive.  In addition, the empath may be labeled as co-dependant due to their sensitivity and identification with others' emotions, especially in relationship to their close partner.

The opposite of being an empath is narcissism.  A personal relationship with a narcissist takes a huge toll on the empath.  The hallmark features of a Narcissistic Personality Disorder is lack of empathy for others, verbal abusiveness, inability to relate to others on a deeper level, manipulative behaviors, controlling behaviors and explosive anger with exaggerated acting out behaviors that are not appropriate for the circumstances.  They frequently are pathological liars and they view other people in absolutes -- either all good or all bad.  Surprisingly, narcissists have a low self-esteem, which results in a need to be adored often.  They are also quite unaware of their own narcissism, which results in blaming their short-comings on others.

 Narcissists have no tolerance for disagreement and they never admit to being wrong.  There are different types of narcissists with numerous subtypes, making the identification of the narcissist difficult.  It can take a decade or more to identify the narcissist and if you are in a close relationship with a narcissist it can take absolute decades since their behavior can be confusing; you can't see the forest for the trees.  Narcissistic behaviors are also difficult to identify since they are masters of the facade.  Narcissists work diligently to mask their true selves, which results in their popularity in superficial circumstances.  When a narcissist is known on a deeper level their popularity fades and they have few if any long term relationships. 

I know the deep toll a narcissist has on an empath first-hand.  My mother, my identical twin sister, my daughter and my former husband are all narcissists.  In order to have relationships with these people I had to lose myself in the process.  I struggled for years to maintain these relationships, but in the end the effort it took and the toll on me was just too much, especially after I became chronically ill with fibromyalgia.  The continuous psychic bombardment required more energy than I could muster and in the end my health has suffered.  It is so critical for the fibromyalgia sufferer to gain an understanding of their gifts so there is an ability to set boundaries on the emotional energies of others that can suck the life out of you.  With every blessing resides a curse or downside.  If you are aware of which emotions belong to you and which ones belong to another you will be able to moderate your response to the heat of those emotions.  Anger has been a difficult emotion for me to moderate since I feel another's anger throughout my entire body.  Anger along with fear are two of the hottest emotions and your guard must be strong enough to avoid their devastating effects.  When interacting with someone I remain intellectually aware of how that person makes me feel so I am better able to moderate my reactions.  This has taken years of practice to develop the ability to keep my guard in place.  I purposely maintain some level of distance as a means of personal protection and when hot emotions begin to swirl around me I seek to give them back to their origin.

In the end, your ability to intellectually understand your gifts (along with their benefits and difficulties) will help you have more control over the environment that can seek to destroy you otherwise.  Blessings to you as you discover the essence that is you and the wonderful gifts that you have!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

We are only human and that's a good thing

Being human is quite a rollercoaster ride: we have lots of ups and lots of downs.  The difficulty with a chronic illness is it seems as though there are more downs than ups and that most likely is reality.  To face a difficult challenge every day requires a great deal of emotional and physical energy, which is probably in short supply.  When you think you are about as low as you can go, you discover that "pit" you're sinking into is bottomless.  Being highly sensitive sure doesn't help.  You are not only dealing with your own realities, but you are receiving signals from others which tend to zap your emotional energy.  So what is a "Fibromite" to do when that rollercoaster seems to be going in only one direction:  down?

Barbara Keddy, a Women and Fibromyalgia blogger (see my blog list), recently wrote about self-acceptance and avoiding self-criticism.  Barbara's introspective blog encourages people with chronic illness to avoid negative self-talk that only serves to put one's self down.  The messages that we receive from people around us, including medical professionals, can be negative messages that we may be tempted to personalize, which may then lead to negative self-talk.  The messages we receive from others actually tell us who those people are and their messages are not about us at all.  That can be a difficult concept since as humans (extra sensitive humans!) we most likely will have an emotional response to the messages we receive.  That's just about being human.  But we are also intellectual beings too and that gives us the opportunity to decide how we will use that message and our emotional response to that message.  It is the decision you make about the message and your response that will determine whether you have closure or if you sink further into that "pit".  For example, if a health professional doesn't give you a supportive message you may feel anger, frustration, sadness and a myriad of other emotions.  That's just about being human.  If we seek out a more supportive health professional, that's a positive action.  Ultimately that's how we get what we need for ourselves and find closure at the same time
We have a tendency to label our human experience as either good or bad, but in reality there is no such thing.  Our human experience is what it is and it is a wonderful thing to go along for that ride.  Our human experience should be a full experience that includes the entire continuum without being censored.  Our emotional reaction to our experience should be embraced and our intellectual understanding of that experience is just that -- understanding.  Isn't that what we all seek?  Understanding.  Understanding must first come from ourselves, which requires complete self-acceptance.  I become frustrated with others that don't understand, but my chronic illness is my experience and not theirs.  Other people don't have the frame of reference to really understand.  So I seek my own understanding and the understanding from others that share my experience.  I also extend understanding to others that can't quite understand my experience.  How could they understand?  This is a difficult concept for highly sensitive people since you more readily have true empathy and compassion for others, but not everyone has this ability.  The other day a person very close to me stated that "I need to just get over it".  That initially made me feel angry, frustrated and sad.  What I realized is this person doesn't have the capacity to really understand my experience and I must let it go.

My experience belongs to me and my response to that experience belongs to me.  There is no right or no wrong; it's about being human.  It is unfair for us to compare our response to the response others have, because our experience is unique to us.  When my day appears bleak it's a signal that I need to care for myself and that my needs must be my first priority.  Grief and loss are to be expected so honor those feelings and take care of you.  Be kind and gentle to yourself first and then you will be able to extend that to others.  Your experience comes first.  Feelings of anxiety, emotional pain and other uncomfortable emotions are not a sign of weakness.  We are emotional beings because we are human.  The more we embrace these emotions the better understanding we have of ourselves, and our ability to resolve uncomfortable feelings comes more easily.

When you look to others for inspiration and hope, avoid putting yourself down in the process.  Those people have down days and tough days too; you are not alone.  It's just part of being human and that's a good thing.  Blessings to you as you courageously meet the challenges of every day!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The nuance of attitude

Ozzie Osbourne with his son Jack
When I first got sick with fibromyalgia and I was dealing with the pain of an injury and two back-to-back surgeries I knew that my attitude was going to play a big role in my ability to overcome the misery I was in.  I have always tried to have a positive attitude, but some days that's easier said than done.  Experience has taught me that a positive attitude makes my day go better.  But despite this knowledge there are times when my attitude is in the pits and I don't like it there.  It's at those times that I seek out the wisdom of others suffering with a chronic illness.  This morning I was watching the news and I learned that Ozzie Osbourne's son, Jack, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis a while back.  Jack appeared on today's morning news to briefly talk about how he deals with his diagnosis and he made a profound statement.  Jack said, "I don't live with MS; MS lives with me."  The nuance of his outlook really struck me; he doesn't want his chronic, progressive illness to rob him of his life.  He views his illness as only a single component that makes up the whole of his identity and his being.

It is easy to allow a chronic illness rob you of your life especially when suffering with a life altering illness like fibromyalgia.  Fibromyalgia seeks to demand our constant attention since we must manage metamorphasizing symptoms that change character, severity, and location every hour of each day.  Fibromyalgia's chronic symptoms seek to erode our attitude and our quality of life, but that's only if we allow that to happen.  We are in control of our destiny despite the unexpected roadblocks that appear during this journey.  When we feel discouraged and our attitude is down in the dumps it is beneficial to discover how others are dealing with their roadblocks.  We may not be able to do what others our own age do, but we cannot give up our life for this roadblock called fibromyalgia.  This challenge seeks to find out what we are really made of and how tough we really are:  we are warriors.

The strategies in my toolbox are to avoid negative thoughts and situations that breed negative thoughts, focus my time on the things I really love to do, surround myself with positive people, and seek out the wisdom of others that suffer with a chronic illness.  I am interested in knowing what strategies you keep in your toolbox . . . .    Blessings to all you warriors as you go through each day!