Why Reframing is an Important Tool for Highly Sensitives
In this blog post we’re going to dive into the amazing tool available to HSPs, called “Reframing”.
- what it is,
- why it’s beneficial to use this tool, and
- how to use the tool of Reframing.
At the moment I’m leaving a jungle in Nicaragua where I’ve been taking wildlife photos (I’m a High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person) and am heading back to the mainland via a local ferry.
I’m surrounded by lake water, and it occurs to me what a mysterious thing water is, its unknown depths, its velvety essence, and a sense it beckons me while at the same time repels me – because it may be hiding threatening creatures that may end me.
In tales of myth water is frequently associated with emotions and emotions are fluid and move from one state to another, sometimes turbulent and chaotic, a tidal wave that threatens to overtake us, and sometimes the water is calm and peaceful. But there’s always a pattern, a tide – a rhythm.
This is where I’d like to draw your attention to your own emotions and the subject of your emotions.
Because like me, most HSPs in western culture weren’t taught how to identify, acknowledge, accept and process emotions. This became pretty clear to me when I began coordinating and facilitating HSP Meetup Discussion Groups where I noticed this in both myself and other HSPs.
I was both surprised and not surprised, because having the HSP Trait means we have a natural ability to pick up on others emotions and energy.
Now combine this with the fact that we haven’t been armed with understanding how to identify, acknowledge, accept and process our own emotions, and have been living our lives this way, and add to that the fact that we’re constantly picking up on the emotional states of those around us – well, you can see how easy it would be to become overwhelmed.
On top of that, since most people’s emotions have a lot to do with their fears, this is one of the emotions HSPs frequently pick up on. So the propensity for overwhelming negativity to affect an HSPs quality of life, and therefore how they can positively impact themselves and their environment, especially in western culture, can seem like a challenge.
Which is why we’re going to delve into this particularly amazing tool: Reframing.
These are the benefits of practicing Reframing;
- we begin seeing our sensitivity from a fresh, new perspective,
- we can heal our past,
- we can learn to identify, acknowledge, accept and process our own emotions on a moment-by-moment basis (instead of repressing them or negating them),
- we can use our emotions to help guide us in our daily life,
- we can free the energy of “stuck” emotions attached to what we perceive as negative events or memories,
- we can more easily identify what emotion(s) belong to us, and what emotions don’t,
- and, we can begin to foster feelings of forgiveness, gratitude, and compassion for not only ourselves, but for others.
Now before we get into this, I want to recognize and observe the norm of how we currently view negative emotions in western culture. As HSPs this is something we need to take into consideration and acknowledge, because we’ve been navigating these seas and continue to, so they can and do impact us to one extent or another.
To help explain, I’ve taken some screenshots from “Tales by Light” a Netflix series on exploration, photography and the natural world. These screenshots are from the episode, “Misunderstood Predators Part 2”.
What feeling does this picture bring up for you? Let me guess – fear?
Movies like “Jaws” depict sharks as;
- life-threatening, and
- to be avoided at all costs.
This is how most people view and deal with their own negative emotions. I know I did. I was taught to do this by both society and my family. No one’s fault, just the way it was. Negative emotions were to be avoided (put on that happy face) and if they absolutely must be dealt with, they were something to be controlled.
Which is why, a lot of the time, people are “projecting” (click here to jump to the blog post on Projection).
For an HSP the subject of emotions is even more highlighted because most of us have been told by others we’re “too sensitive”, and “too emotional”- meaning we don’t fit into an invisible societal standard. Of course, this makes us feel “not normal”, “weird”, “alone” and leads us to the conclusion that something is wrong with us.
But this is where the saying, “Know Thyself” comes in, but can also be confusing – how can you know what you don’t know? Even though you’ll be told you do know, that all information is available to you, it sure doesn’t feel that way sometimes right?
This is where the tool of Reframing can help us begin looking at our own negative emotions from a different perspective. Not as something scary, to be avoided, repressed or ignored but instead, from different perspectives, and simply as an energy, that once released, we can channel.
As HSPs, when we use the tool of Reframing it allows us to look at our emotions from different perspectives, perspectives that allow us to see a more whole, organic picture in order to gain a perspective we previously didn’t know we could access.
Much like in this picture – where the divers have taken the time to foster a kind and gentle relationship with these particular sharks, and over time and repeated non-violent visits with these sharks the divers have gained their trust, and the sharks now repeatedly approach the divers for strokes and petting.
This is how HSPs can take advantage of the tool of Reframing. To begin seeing that our emotions (even negative ones) are essential to our natural, organic state of well-being and something we can;
- make friends with,
- trust in,
- take care of,
- channel the energy towards an activity, goal or outcome we’d like to achieve,
- listen to and,
- learn from.
This is what “Reframing” is. It’s a repeated act we can practice and create a kind and gentle relationship with ourselves, with our emotions. It requires us to honour, exercise patience and understanding for ourselves and in doing so begin practicing unconditional love for ourselves, by first learning how to Reframe our emotions tied to past negative events, and then to become adept and habitual at using the tool of Reframing so we can use it on an as-needed basis.
Reframing was one of the tools I was introduced to in one of my HSP Meetup meetings when we were going through the HSP Discussion Group exercises. (I’ll share a post about how to set up an HSP Meetup Group in a future post so stay tuned).
Now, as with anything, it’s best and also necessary to start at the beginning, both in terms of your past and in terms of practicing Reframing.
So let’s begin with an example, because we aren’t dealing with a supposedly scary shark here, it’s simply an emotion tied to an event. Our intention is to view the event from a different perspective, a perspective that serves us, with the intent of allowing us to create a trustworthy ally with our emotions.
First, remember a negative event that made you feel bad about your sensitivity. Here’s my example.
I was about four years old and having dinner with my parents and two siblings. The peas and carrots on my plate smelled like chemicals (these were the store bought frozen-in-a- bag kind), and I knew if I ate them I would throw up. I also knew that saying this would cause a problem. So I quietly ate everything else on my plate.
Then my Mom noticed I didn’t eat my peas and carrots and told me I couldn’t leave the table until I ate them. My Dad agreed with her. “There are starving children in Africa, don’t be ungrateful.” I told my parents the smell of the peas and carrots made me feel like if I ate them I would throw up. They pursed their lips and shook their heads. I sat at the table while everyone left. I sat for three more hours and then I ate the peas and carrots. Then my Mom came into the kitchen and said, “There, that wasn’t hard was it?” Then I threw up. And I felt bad for knowing I would throw up and for actually throwing up.
As an HSP you may find it difficult to get started because remembering a past event that made you feel bad about your sensitivity doesn’t seem like a fun thing to do. But in order to use the tool of Reframing, and benefit from it, it’s necessary. Because what comes next allows you to build and grow your “sensitivity” muscle so you can continue to embrace your sensitivity and use it to enhance your life.
So how I Reframe this past event is:
I realize now that I was overwhelmed by feelings of fear, mainly in the form of abandonment and isolation – and that I would be criticized, ridiculed and ostracized for saying I knew the peas and carrots would make me throw up. I couldn’t possibly help the fact that I knew this, and that I knew I’d throw up if I ate them. I wasn’t being ungrateful or disobedient. I was just behaving normally for a sensitive child. I wish my parents had known about this trait in me, had believed me and allowed me to avoid eating the peas and carrots. I can see now how my sensitivity was being kind, trying to protect me, showing me love, and trying to help me.
By Reframing this incident I’m able to demonstrate compassion for my sensitive “self”. By acknowledging and accepting each negative event that caused me to begin looking at my sensitivity as a “bad” thing, I’m able to begin identifying with my trait as my sensitivity showing me that it has, and always will be, there to help and guide me.
It also helps me heal the sensitive child I was and reconnect with the child-like state, the state of not-knowing, of wonder.
I’m also practicing forgiveness – because how were my parents to know? The HSP Trait hadn’t yet even been discovered and even if it had, my parents were simply reacting to the situation as they’d been taught to.
I’m also strengthening my sensitivity muscle by recognizing that my sensitivity was trying to help me avoid something I knew would affect me negatively, so I can embrace my sensitivity to a greater degree and realize I can use my sensitivities to benefit me in my everyday life going forward. Something to be grateful for and celebrate. I’m also releasing the emotion attached to the event, an emotion that’s “stuck”. When I release the “energy” of that emotion it allows me to convert that energy toward what’s beneficial to and for my “sensitive” self.
What I noticed when I was coordinating and facilitating HSP Discussion Groups is that most HSPs have difficulty with this exercise at first. So did I. They don’t have a problem remembering an event, what they struggle with is the second part, the “Reframing”. This is why it’s helpful to explore and practice this exercise initially in a group with other HSPs, who can assist by coming up with ideas to help Reframe the event.
Once learned, I recommend practicing Reframing once a week, by writing down one event and then fully Reframing it. Try to start at the beginning, to remember your earliest memories and then work your way up to the present.
You’ll know if you’ve Reframed it the best possible way for yourself if it brings you an undeniable sense of peace. Take your time with this so you can fully process both the event and the Reframing.
And when you have a pile of paper, I’d further suggest you make a ritual out of safely burning this pile. But before burning your pile, read only your Reframing events.
Your burning ritual can represent how you once viewed your sensitivity and when burning the papers you can feel into the energy of how what once was, is now gone, but you’re free to hold on to the wisdom, beauty, and strength of all the events which show you the repeated gifts your sensitivity has been providing for you – knowing you are empowering yourself.
Using Reframing means you can transform how you view and relate to your sensitivity and create space for a new perspective for yourself and of yourself.
Have you heard of Reframing? Have you tried to Reframe an event from your past? How did it make you feel afterwards?