On Martin Luther King Day, January 18th, I recorded a webinar in my Are You Highly Sensitive LIVE membership called Parenting Sensitive Youth: Breath as a Tool for Parents and Kids. Since then, I have found myself breathing more easily at times, yet holding my breath at others. The determining factor seems to be how much news exposure I have, and inauguration week in the US really tempted me–I watched and read way too much! 

Again, I remembered that we don’t have to read/watch/hear the news. We can ask a friend or family member to tell us what is important for us to know. Going on a news fast, or at the least, seriously restricted news exposure can have the dual effect of reducing worry and anxiety and increasing worry and anxiety. Without the news exposure, we have more potential for quiet in our mind, creating distance from the crises of the world. Yet, without news exposure, some highly sensitive people will experience increased anxiety from “not knowing” and FOMO (fear of missing out.) Which one are you? (*note to parents below)

What is the solution? I have a couple of suggestions, but we are more or less who we are. I am not going to surprise you when I suggest that more meditation, breathwork, yoga, and exercise will help a lot. The key to news fast will be a trusted reporter–someone from the 80% who flourishes watching the news and will genuinely commit to telling you the level of detail that will serve you best. It takes some experimenting and loving kindness toward your reporter, yourself, and the world to find that balance.

This week I met a young HSP who lives near me. She attended an online weekend workshop led by Elaine Aron and me last fall. There were times during the workshop when we had the chat open on Zoom, and we saw that some participants could be extremely critical. This young woman was shocked and disappointed by the criticism people “vocalized” (toward presenters, the Zoom admin managers, and even the content.) I told her that we HSPs can be severely critical, sometimes of ourselves and at times of others. Why is that?

At the core, we are inclined to have empathy toward others, but usually more toward those perceived to be vulnerable. I wonder if we struggle to have empathy toward those we perceive to have a “higher rank”. I’ve often heard HSPs tell me they struggle with their managers at work… why? The HSP sees exactly, with great detail, what would make things work better. Our finely tuned noticing and deep processing help us to really know how to improve an environment, including a workshop. All those great ideas and suggestions can come across as criticism.

That criticism can be hurtful and harsh, particularly in certain environments where we might feel safer expressing it. Examples include, first, with family members, those people who will love us no matter what. They sometimes (often?) get us at our most tired, overwhelmed, or vulnerable, aka critical. This might happen when your trusted news reporter tells you too little or too much information, so please be gentle with them and allow for mistakes,  gently letting them know how it might work better for you. That also goes for your spouse who loads the dishwasher differently than you every time even though their way is far way less efficient than your way. 🙂 FYI, HSPs, the dishwasher doesn’t care how it is loaded–and if you want to argue about this, feel free to reach out to me! 

Secondly, we might turn our criticism toward ourselves. This example is especially painful for me to see in the HSPs I support. Just because we see every detail of how we could do better does not mean we have done anything wrong, it just feels that way. We might end up feeling desperately inadequate. We rarely remember that with our D.O.E.S., we are doing so much more than the 80% on many fronts, but especially thinking. (The 80% means those who don’t have our trait.) This shows up again and again in the research on HSPs at work, in marriage, in parenting, and in relationships in general.

Finally, a third place I have been particularly affected by the critical tendencies of other HSPs is when they have the opportunity to give feedback that they think is anonymous. This happens at large workshops when we offer an anonymous suggestion box, or on large Zoom events when people can have their video off and just first name or initials, as happened in our workshop last fall and shocked my young friend. I always doubt myself and usually shed some tears when I’m criticized, but I try to practice what I preach, love myself, and “don’t take anything personally” as advised by Don Miguel Ruiz in The Four Agreements. I’ll cry first, though, because, Hey! That’s emotional leadership, and one of the big gifts highly sensitive people offer the world.

*PARENTS – Please note that there are very few situations in which news is a good thing for highly sensitive children. Even HSTeens may find the news challenging and overstimulating, especially the way it is delivered in the media and online. 

When highly sensitive teenagers are ready to start consuming some news it is ideal to find an appropriate news source, often in print with detail and research backing the report. Some news magazines might be a good source as well as scholarly publications. HSTeens might also enjoy learning to research topics on Google Scholar even though most youths don’t even learn of Google Scholar or scholarly research until University level. I also recommend that any sensitive teens who are exposed to news events have a trusted adult outlet for discussing the information they have absorbed (sometimes not the parent.)  

At any age, a child or teenager should be told the truth concerning events they hear about. This truth should be in age appropriate language and with just enough information to quell some of the worry and questions, but no more than that. You might be surprised at how little information will take care of an apparently complicated issue or question. So begin with a small, conservative amount of information and then pause or even begin a chore or activity to remove yourself slightly from the interaction. Your HSC or HSTeen will process the information and will almost always ask for more info if they need it. Offer morsels and experiment. 

In horse training, we like to say, “Do as little as possible and as much as necessary.” It is a great adage for parenting as well. If you have questions about managing this issue with your highly sensitive children or teens, I invite you to register for one of my parenting sensitivity coaching circles. We address these kinds of questions and scenarios as well as others that parents bring to the circle. Find out more or register here.

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