After a breakup, an ex-girlfriend asked if I would like to discuss why she unceremoniously and unexpectedly decided to pull the plug.
I did not.
I am a highly sensitive person and being such, I knew that what she was going to say was most likely going to be very hurtful. Besides that, I reasoned, what good would it do me? What chance would there be that I would be able to take this valuable information with me to my next relationship?
After we parted ways, we decided to stay friends—and that was a mistake.
In a seemingly benign conversation a couple of weeks later, she managed to sneak in the fact that everything changed for her the night I stared into her eyes and told her that I loved her. I believe she said she was overcome with feelings of “revulsion.”
I wasn’t sure what to think when I hung up the phone. First of all, I asked if she’d be kind enough to spare me her explanation. She didn’t just ignore my request; she hurt me deeper this time than when she rejected me initially.
I understood that I may have been too nice, too into her—perhaps just altogether “too much.” I could live with that. She was beautiful, and it was exciting for me when I learned that she shared my interest in pursuing a relationship. But, I felt like I never deserved to be made to feel that way. As far as I was concerned, there was no reason she could not have said that it just wasn’t working for her and end it with that.
In retrospect, there was some good to come out of that rude awakening. It gave me the strength to cut off all communication with her, and as you might expect, I have been feeling a lot happier since then.
Now, of course, no one would be thrilled about hearing something like this from someone who just spurned them. I think the difference between a highly sensitive person and the average person—when it comes to a situation like this—is that for the HSP, the conversation will play on repeat in their heads for days and days without a moment’s rest. All other tasks and responsibilities go on autopilot while the hurtful words play center stage.
Many highly sensitive people have been known to struggle with addiction issues for this very reason. The opportunity to numb out in lieu of feeling these uncomfortable and overwhelming feelings seems, at first, like a no-brainer. This solution is obviously not sustainable, so those of us who have made it into middle age with these characteristics generally need to find more effective ways of getting around the slings and arrows of outrageous people.
When this all went down for me, I had what one might call a “vested” interest in getting to a more stable place, emotionally, as quickly as I could.
I have two young daughters who I see on the weekends, and I am acutely aware of the fact that these times are precious. I absolutely refuse to waste a single minute immersed in my own crap. I just can’t see missing all of that innocence and cuteness in the name of frivolous and fruitless romantic entanglements.
I followed this four-step plan to return, once again, to my old joyful self:
1. Let go of resentments
My hatred of platitudes and clichés goes back to middle school, but as I age, it’s difficult to avoid the fact that there is truth in some of these crusty nuggets. Namely, the cliché about how holding resentment is similar to drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. It’s true. Keep in mind that people who are hurt tend to hurt others, and we have every reason to not only forgive the person but wish them well. They’re fighting their own battle.
2. Daily meditation
Many people drag their feet when it comes to sticking with this practice, but it is one of those investments that pays back 10 times what you put into it. After several days of consistent meditation, reality begins to take on a more realistic perspective. In other words, the quiet of meditation helps us to see that we may have been perceiving our experiences incorrectly. This, I think, goes double for highly sensitive people.
3. Take an honest inventory
In my case, after I spent a little time in quiet meditation, I knew in my heart that there was nothing about me that would cause a healthy person to feel revulsion. My children love me, my exes still care about me, and I have a lot of very beautiful people in my life. This sort of inventory helped me to stop beating myself up because one person had a less than flattering opinion of me.
4. Avoid the source
I was scared to death to let go of this person, at first. I had to get real clear on why that was. When I got quiet and honest with myself, I realized that I still had this childish hope that she might change her mind and give our relationship a second chance. That was never going to happen, and all I was doing was setting myself up for more hurt. As I said, I really began to return to normal after we stopped communicating.
Yesterday morning was a crisp day in New York, and as I stood outside in the cold sun, I felt almost swaddled in feelings of self-love.
It was such a rich and incredible feeling that I have needed for so long and—as strange as it sounds—I earned that feeling. It took work and it was worth all of the effort. These techniques work. If you find yourself injured by the insensitivity of the world, it might be worth trying them, as well.