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How Highly Sensitive People Navigate the World

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By Jona Genova, Reiki Master and Former Meditation Teacher at Newport Academy

Highly sensitive people are often called empaths. What does it mean to be an empath?

In elementary school, we were graded on “sensitivity.” Being a highly sensitive person = bad. I remember this because of my perfectionist nature. And I consistently scored poorly.

Part of me sought perfect grades. The other part of me knew they had it wrong. Hence, being less sensitive was a form of cruelty. And perhaps the very problem with our sometimes violent world. Further, the conflict broke my heart in ways I did not understand. But I knew I could not sacrifice kindness to please others.

Seen from the outside, empaths may seem to excel. But as a parent, you might notice confusing behavior. This is especially true in children with a hypersensitive personality. For us, the world is confusing—except when it is authentically aligned.

Highly Sensitive People and Energetic Incongruencies

An empath senses “energetic incongruencies.” Energetic incongruencies describe when someone says or does one thing—and feels another. In our current culture, hierarchy, competition, and violence dominate. Therefore energetic incongruencies are an accepted part of survival for most.

However, the empath value equality, dignity, and balance. And this is not because we choose to take the high road. This is because the imbalance is uncomfortable and often intolerable. Hence, our world only makes sense when energy is aligned or we are taught how to deal with energetic incongruencies.

I remember my mom waking me up in the gentlest way, singing my name from the bottom of the stairs. Ever patient, she’d try again to wake me every few minutes. Eventually, she’d be by my side, stroking my hair and singing. Even as a little person, I’d frown and say, “I don’t like this day,” almost begging her not to make me go to school. As an empath, energies impact me strongly. They always have.

Traits of Emotional Intelligence, Sensitivity, and Intuition

I have a loving, supportive family. And my report cards indicate that I was well liked by my peers. But the world was abrasive to me. Also, I didn’t understand why teachers did not nip bullying in the bud. I still feel pain and heartache emanating from a particular redheaded boy. Somehow, I knew his dad was mean and his belly was empty. Furthermore, I didn’t understand why the teacher didn’t encourage everyone to be inclusive. In addition, I wanted to sit next to him, but something told me this was unacceptable.

Highly sensitive people are born this way. Before we have verbal vocabulary, we fine-tune our felt sense of the world. Hence, this is the foundation of our empathic intuition. We hone preverbal and unconscious communication. Most of the empaths I meet do not get guidance. In addition, they don’t receive directions on how to recognize or manage this ability. As a result, they play with it to understand it. They enter dangerous situations to test their intuition. Therefore, they develop the intuition as they explore.

Consequently, empaths are surprised by the accuracy of their intuition. And they seek more evidence because society doesn’t validate intuitive knowing. Sometimes they explore and test. And sometimes the world is confusing and abrasive. Hence, they may seek to numb feelings. Many of us know this path. It can lead to mental health struggles or substance abuse. Therefore the empath needs emotional tools and intelligence to survive and thrive.

The Relationship Between Science and High Sensitivity

In my thirties that I trained with a well-known intuitive. She is highly regarded. Major hospitals bring her in to help with difficult diagnoses. Prior to this, I thought, as many do, that intellectual knowledge and science-based evidence are superior. In addition, more reliable than inner knowing. During early brain research at a top university, my plan was to be a neurosurgeon. But I skipped calculus and therefore couldn’t survive organic chemistry.

I thank God for this now. It pushed me towards something more valuable. In exploring what it is to be an empath and testing my intuition in safe ways—like predicting sports scores and the stock market—I developed my gifts. In addition, much of my success in business and science was charged by my sensitivity.

Yes, even science is informed by sensitivity: After all, where do ideas for what questions to ask and what to research come from? Aren’t they rooted in some intuitive hunch? Now I accept that science hasn’t caught up with everything. Hence, I allow room for what is preverbal to be accessed and of benefit.

Newport Academy well-being Resources: highly sensitive people

Helping Highly Sensitive People to Heal

In my healing and compassion-based meditation sessions at Newport Academy, we make room for the preverbal. I guide highly sensitive people in understanding perceptivity. In addition, I teach that what may seem to be kryptonite can turn into a superpower. Furthermore, this happens by developing healthy personal energy management. We embrace sensitivity and empathy as a means to sustainable compassion and emotional intelligence.

Thus, clients and staff get to practice feeling in ways that don’t hurt. Furthermore, they learn to find words for sensations that arise before an emotion. And this takes the stigma out of feeling. As kindred souls, we see the truth. Turning away from this sensitivity might seem to make things easier—but instead, it denies a part of ourselves. It is an unnecessary cruelty in what is at times a harsh world.

In conclusion, it’s a radical view, but perhaps high sensitivity is one of the most valuable assets of the future. As humans become more desensitized, those who retain a connection to their needs and the needs of others are uniquely equipped. Also, they know how to tap into creative solutions. Therefore, highly sensitive people may hold the key to making the world kinder, gentler, and more equitable.

Jona Genova is an energy healer and meditation teacher. She brings more than 20 years of devoted study and practice. In addition, she has a background in brain mapping research that she brings to her teaching and healing work. Jona created a well-respected Reiki certification program and a course combining energy healing and meditation, which has been featured by MSN, Good Morning America, and the Associated Press.