You are a sensitive soul. Most likely you have been told to grow up and stop being so sensitive. The pain of feeling misunderstood and broken can come as a result, clinging to shame for how you can’t stop feeling the way you are feeling at the core of who you are. Perhaps the deepest level of your soul essence is in deep deep pain.
I know how painful it can be.
I remember a pivotal day in my life. I must have been about eight or nine, home alone with the woman who was to become my step mother. We were in the kitchen, before the renevation, so the tile was yellowed and ugly. She had just moved in, or perhaps she had just recently become comfortable enough with her place in my father’s love life that she felt she could begin to discipline me.
I don’t know what I did wrong, if anything, but before I knew it she was making a point on my head— stabbing her finger hard into the joining of my scalp at the top of my head, speaking in a harsh tone. It hurt and I started crying, totally shocked. No one had ever done something like that to me before, let alone her, someone I thought might be safe. Someone left to watch, in charge of me.
And as I sniffled, she said the words that would forever change my life:
“Oh, don’t be such a baby.”
Until recently, I had no idea how those words had driven me, affected me. Yes I had known they were harsh and would cause any little eight year old pain. I knew logically they were unreasonable and misguided, even cruel. At that moment I had recognized they were evidence that this was not someone to be trusted as a child and later teen, but what I had not realized consciously is how had it worked to shut me down, knot me up and drive my life as a hungry ghost, forever seeking validation.
The truth is that it meant a whole lot more than shame around crying in public and being emotional. You have to understand I had a gap in my life where a mother should be and I had hopes. A part of me was hoping that one day that job opening would be filled. And there had never been a more likely candidate. This was the woman my father was in love with, this was the first woman he had invited to live with him instead of our typical roommates. In fact we probably kicked out old our roommates to accommodate her— either my dad’s best friend with the loud rock and roll music who lined his room with tubs of records or the French woman with the sheer red curtains who was good with kids like me because she used to be an au pair.
But my step mom was something else— she was mean. The secret kind of mean that’s hard to prove to anyone without sounding like a dramatic cry baby.
Now she probably thought her crude methods like yelling or later threatening to smack me were what I needed. She had to teach important lessons like how I shouldn’t leave my shoes in the middle of the living room floor, or to be more careful and clean up my messes. It must have been a big deal to her for her to think was just so dang important she had to mishandle my tiny body. Maybe she had OCD.
But I’m going to honor my feelings and say that she was a total bitch to me, to be honest. She seemed to chase me around the house through my teens with criticisms about this or that, until I didn’t even want to be home anymore. But I didn’t think I could say anything about it— how could I? That would mean I was being a baby.
Being a baby came to encompass more than just tears, although it would take until I was 28 to realize it and feel free enough to shamelessly cry rolling tears in a crowd again. It took until I was 28 to realize what I really turned off that day, what I really blamed myself for— my deepest desires and hopes. I wanted a mother, I wanted to be nurtured. And she made me think that was wrong. That I should know better, as a nine year old who never knew her mother, she made me feel wrong to feel sad and cry the moment I realized that my greatest hope for a mom was an abusive bitch. I wanted to crawl into a woman’s lap and be hers— her daughter. Supremely and unconditionally loved.
But after that moment it became all cognitively twisted: how could my inner child be loved and nurtured like I always deserved, when it was wrong to be or act a baby?
I would never be fulfilled with that belief. And I would never have my emotional needs met if it wasn’t safe to feel. So instead I ran from my feelings, dismissed or numbed them and sought validation outside of myself.
It was like cutting off a limb, and that limb was called childhood. I wasn’t the same after that. I wasn’t as happy, wasn’t as free. I was guarded—not just around her, but everyone.
Because if it was wrong to BE, then it was wrong for people to SEE me. I couldn’t show my feelings, I couldn’t show my instincts, and that means I couldn’t show who I really was.
So I understand the pain of being “too” sensitive and it can run deep, very very deep.
The thing is that ever since that day I started trying to escape my own nature, running away from being or acting like a baby, I tried so hard to grow up without ever really doing it. I redoubled my efforts to be responsible. And yet nothing I was doing really seemed to give me what I really needed. I also wasn’t happy despite how much I tried, worked or exerted effort and discipline.
One day I realized the connection. I realized that to fix my problems I had to just sit down and feel and let the rest of growing up go for a little while.
As I write, I am still in that “little while” of figuring out all the answers. But know that within days of deciding to feel every feeling and sensation in my body consciously as if it were my job, I’ve experienced rapid transformation around this memory. I’ve felt the power and strength building because I can hold so much all along. I’ve been able to speak up and make huge leaps in my life AND big projects going on in my business. And it hasn’t even been a week.
Feel your feelings. It might just be the answer to your prayers, even if it is uncomfortable, it’s a powerful, grown up, strong, courageous, and responsible thing to do.
~By Sofia Wren, excerpt from my forthcoming book FREEDOM: From Doormat to Dominance and Beyond
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FREEDOM: From Doormat to Dominance and Beyond
by Sofia Wren