May 26, 2022

How to Cope with Relationship Distress when you’re Highly Sensitive.

If you think a lot and feel deeply, the world can often feel like a prickly place.

For the majority of my adolescence, I avoided deep relationships, feeling like no one understood me.

Friendships always felt surface-level and like a drain, and dating, well, dating was out of the question.

What I’ve learned since then is that part of what was going through my mind at that younger age was completely valid. Like so many in the Elephant Journal community, my interests do not fit in with the mainstream. I don’t care about reality TV or any other facet of pop culture. I don’t care about TikTok trends, the hottest new restaurant, having a big Instagrammable birthday bash, or anything of the like.

Because of that, I am less likely than others to walk into a room and find someone whose interests match mine. That means connecting is harder. It requires greater consciousness. And sometimes, when you’re moving through life, you simply don’t have the energy to put into finding your precious needle in the haystack kindred spirit of a friend. Or partner.

All of this also means that when us ancient, sensitive souls do connect with another, there’s a feeling of unbelievable gratitude that wells up inside of us. We are finally seen. We are finally in communion with someone who we want to share our deep insights, our deep love with. A powerful bond is formed.

This is the magic we are rewarded when we do not settle for subpar relationships.

On the flip side of this beauty is the possibility for exquisite pain when the relationship goes through a rough patch, or ends altogether.

To be completely transparent, it’s been my experience that I am more prone to codependency than others, due to the fact that, again, I don’t bond with a ton of people—in a personal non-work sense—on a deep level. And so I feel that overwhelming gratitude for all of those close relationships in my life, sometimes to the point where I feel horrible at the thought of losing them.

I’ve felt in the past that this was a point of shame, that I should really “work on this” and learn to be unattached. But every time I’ve gone to do that work, it’s felt disingenuous. At the end of the day, I value love, and I believe that when a deep bond is severed, it’s entirely natural to feel pain, and that this is okay.

That said, there is a difference between feeling pain and feeling like your world is going to end. Which is how I used to feel at the end of every relationship. The latter isn’t healthy. We all deserve to have the deep-seeded faith in ourselves that reminds us when things end, or things are rough, that we will be okay—because we’ve got ourselves. This self-confidence is both what allows us to exit relationships that do not serve us and work on those that need a little love to continue to work.

Presently, I’m moving through a difficult patch in my relationship. And yet, where this would have gutted me in the past, I am happy to say that I have maintained true peace within. That’s to say, my nervous system is calm in spite of what is going on. This has been so profound for me that I knew I had to share it.

Because, of course, there is so much benefit to this. First, that feeling of I am going to be okay allows for me to continue to find joy throughout my day, versus ruminate. Second, I am able to address the difficulties that have cropped up in my relationship with my partner and, with a steady mind, come up with creative solutions to move through this—solutions that I wouldn’t have had access to were my nervous system out of whack. Third, I am able to witness my self-confidence growing throughout this time, which is beautiful for my relationship to myself, particularly when, in the past, this would have been a prime time for self-flagellation.

This ability to remain calm is undoubtedly due to years of inner work, but, as we all have to begin somewhere, I am going to share with you a few tools that you can implement in your own life, should you be moving through a challenging time—tools that will be of service to you regardless of your history of inner work.

Four tools that may be of service to you:

1. Binaural Beats.

These are an auditory illusion created in our minds when we listen to two tones with different frequencies at the same time. Incredibly powerful, they reduce anxiety and stress, while increasing relaxation, creativity, and focus. There are different frequencies for different goals, so if you pull up Spotify or YouTube and type in “binaural beats + [goal here]” you’ll find the best frequency for you. I listen to them all day, particularly those targeted toward anxiety.

2. Vata-pacifying diet.

We’re all different, so take this suggestion only if it resonates with you. Essentially, what I noticed in the past was that when I was going through a hard time I felt incredibly anxious. Anxiety, in Ayurveda, is the result of a Vata imbalance. And so by eating grounding foods (sweet potatoes, bananas, rice) regularly, we can calm the body, calm the mind. This is expressly the opposite way of eating than I would naturally do during a hard time—stress shuts down my appetite. And yet, it is the medicine that has served me.

Again, we’re all different. You may be more prone to anger or sluggishness, in which case you’d want to opt for a pitta-pacifying or kapha-pacifying diet. The point is: look into Ayurvedic approaches of eating during this time. You want to support your body as much as possible because, as we know, our bodies and minds are connected. Nourish well.

3. Meditation and prayer.

While not necessarily the same, I’ve noticed that what feels really intuitive and good for me in the mornings is to blend the two. I turn on peaceful music and sit for about 20 minutes. I place my palms skyward on my lap, and I invite in Higher Wisdom from the God of my own understanding. I share my intention, my desires, what I’d like to manifest, and then I give it over to Divine Will, affirming my trust that if things don’t play out as I in this moment would desire that something even better will come through. This prayer is interwoven with meditative moments—i.e. when I am thinking of what which I am manifesting and feeling into the energy that I am calling in.

In the evening, I have found peace in Joe Dispenza’s Future Self meditation.

Book-ending the day in this way breeds clarity, calm, and a sense of empowerment.

4. Conversations with kindred spirits.

A lot of us share the desire to close when we’re in pain, to stay bubbled up in our rooms, to live as I mentioned living earlier in life—alone. If you’re like this, please hear me when I say that the medicine is in opening when you want to close. Opening to life. Opening to breezy chats as you move through your day. And, most of all, opening to kindred spirits whom you can share with. I promise, you’ll gain invaluable insight as you do this. As well, you’ll be reminded of your worth, and, likely, your purpose, too. Your kindred spirits see you. They know in their heart of hearts that you will be okay. That you are meant for so much and that this is a moment in time in which you may feel like you are stumbling, but really you are growing, and that is sacred.

Incorporating these tools has been immensely supportive to me during this period of my life. And I hope they will support you, too. Whatever is going on for you right now, please pause. Right now. Pause. Take a deep breath. Affirm, “All is working out. I am safe. I am supported.”

You will be more than okay. You are in a chrysalis, and when you come out of it, you will be an even deeper, truer, wiser version of self.

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