This post is a detour from some of the health topics I usually write about. But after all, I’m a mom to a super sweet empathic child who seemed born wide awake, and my Education degree landed me in classrooms, after school programs, nurseries, and working as a tutor and nanny many years ago. I have seen that there are tons of children out there who are highly empathic or highly sensitive but the adults in their lives have not recognized this because the emotional element (right brain) gets downplayed in the educational system and in society in general, in favor of intellectual intelligence (left brain). These kids may get ignored, learn to please people at their own expense, get quiet, suffer in silence, be unnecessarily medicated, or be treated as a problem or inconvenience.
I realized I wanted to share information about how to help these kids one night as I tucked my daughter into bed. She started crying and said she had watched her good girl friend get spanked and yelled at while at their house. This didn’t surprise me because I had sensed a lot of anger and frustration in this household and had seen the disconnect, impossible standards, and degrading myself firsthand before. This had happened a while back but it suddenly came rushing to the surface for my daughter. She didn’t understand why her friend was treated like this by her own mother and was sad for her. I gently explained that this happens to a lot of kids but I choose not to do that to her because I had experienced it as a kid and it made me sad too. Then she cried for my childhood.
Empathic children carry a secret burden that many adults are unaware of. These kids are already wise yet are often unable to communicate this natural wisdom and talk about what they have witnessed and experienced because they either haven’t been encouraged to, didn’t know to, or have flat out been discouraged from doing so. In order to help them individuate and become the happiest version of themselves, we have to support who they already are, not ask them to become something we want them to be. Who they are is already there. Imposing our own ego onto empathic children can cause a great deal of damage and some never get over it.
(By the way, this information applies to adults as well. Adults just become conditioned to deal with the lack of these things, which can lead to health problems, while children subconsciously internalize it all.)
How to help your empathic and highly sensitive children:
- Don’t lie to them. Empaths will see right through your lies and lose respect and trust. It will also generate a good deal of cognitive dissonance as they expect the best from the adults in their lives but will experience forms of existential crisis (yes, even kids) when their caregivers don’t meet their high standards. This gives way to frustration, anger, and resentment in the form of bad attitudes and behavioral problems.
- Allow them to make their own decisions. Granted, kids need their parents to guide and lead them, but empathic kids need the freedom and trust from adults to make decisions on their own. Give them the freedom to make choices for themselves, even in small ways, such as how they dress, what they want to eat at a given meal, which activities they will engage in, etc. They learn by doing. Preventing them from doing/learning will cause great frustration and boredom.
- Don’t use power plays. These kids don’t care how many letters you have after your name or your role as an authority figure. They will only trust you if you deserve it in their eyes — if you make truly healthy and righteous decisions. Possessing power means nothing if you don’t deserve the power to begin with. “Do what I say because I’m older/your parent” won’t work with these kids and they’ll resent you for it and become frustrated.
- Tell them the truth. Of course, I have already said don’t lie to them, but telling the truth is slightly different than just the inverse of not lying. Telling them the truth means finding gentle, age-appropriate ways to explain the reality of life to them so they can understand the nature of reality. These kids are old souls who naturally question everything, even if they don’t express it. They observe and judge based on what they see. Giving them a false version of reality will set off internal triggers which will have them questioning if they can truly trust you. If they decide they can’t, they can experience existential crisis which causes tantrums. This doesn’t mean you communicate harsh adult realities; it means you find a sensible, abbreviated way to help them see what life is.
- Come to their rescue. These kids have the expectation that their parents or close adults will have their back. If they have a need they cannot meet themselves, they will expect you to meet it. They may not express this (or know how to) but they do expect you to intuit it. We have to learn to read them well. Not meeting the need will break their trust and you could lose their respect which leads to emotional outbursts.
- Treat them as an equal. I’ve already said don’t use power plays with these kids, but you also want to come down to their level. While yes, you are an adult who has had many more life experiences and possesses more knowledge of the world, you can’t hold this over their head. They know they are young yet they are already wise, and their age often puts them at a disadvantage in society despite their natural wisdom which is frustrating to them. Reminding them of their age while overlooking their inherent wisdom is perceived as condescension and will cause anger or frustration. Most of these kids just want to be adults already so no one can use their age against them.
- Explain your reasoning. When you make a decision that they don’t like or when you have to tell them no, don’t give the old “because I said so” answer. They genuinely want to understand what led you to that decision so they can feel included and so they can understand what the decision making process looks like. This helps with synapse formation — connecting the dots, rather than getting stonewalled.
- Admit when you are wrong. They need to know that you are human too and sometimes make mistakes. Empathic children will understand if you genuinely apologize and explain that you sometimes mess up too. They will appreciate this much more than any facade of perfection.
- Give them time and space. These kids need time and freedom to process and feel what is happening to or around them. They need to feel to think, not just use intellectual predictions about what to do. Rushing them will lead to outbursts because they feel pressured.
- Affirm their experiences. They likely have their own unique perspective on life. They may already feel different inside and try to hide this. Allow them to share freely and when they do affirm what is right or guide them into further questioning and direction if their perception is off. They need to feel someone else gets it and understands without being flat out told they are wrong (which will make them feel ashamed).
- Show you trust them. When they make their own decisions, don’t overreact if you anticipate something will go wrong, or if it does. Of course, as parents we still have to look out for their safety and well being, but when it comes to the small things, allow them to learn the natural cause and effect of their actions without chastising them when something goes awry. Water spills, paint gets on clothes, the eyes are bigger than the stomach, etc etc. Unless it’s a deal breaker for you, help show them the cause and effect without punishment. Ask them questions to lead them to the truth: “What do you think will happen if you do it this way?”, “Do you remember what happened when you did that last time?”. Help them anticipate the best course of action to take in advance. This will also give them courage to learn their life lessons rather than avoid them in the future.
- Never publicly shame them. If they need correcting, do it in private ideally. Correcting or chastising them in front of adults or other kids will make them feel ashamed and alone. They need grace within their learning processes and publicly outing them as being “bad” or “wrong” will cause resentment and self-doubt.
- Protect them from difficult stimuli. Violence, fighting, abuse, and energetic tension are soul suckers for these children. They expect adults to right the wrongs and protect them. They expect you to do the right thing to remedy the situation. This could mean in the environment with other adults, or it could simply mean turning off the evening news when they walk in the door so they don’t have to be exposed to difficult scenarios.
- Create a peaceful environment. See above. This means actively working to create peace and harmony in their home life, school, and other communities. It means having the hard conversations, getting to the root of things, not overlooking the problems. If you love them, you will break the karma, so they subconsciously feel.
- Give them a say. Ask them their opinion and take it seriously. They feel if you love them, you will want to know what will make them happy. This doesn’t mean letting them eat candy for dinner. It means giving them a voice in big changes in their lives and seriously taking it into consideration because what is good for one is good for the whole. If you care, you will ask and take it seriously they feel.
- Don’t punish, remind and question. When and if they make a poor decision, don’t use punitive punishment with these kids. That is a major trust breaker. Remind them of the times they made good decisions, the outcome of those positive choices, and who they are when they are at their best. They know they are here to learn and punishing them while they are learning will prevent them from wanting to learn in the future. If you remind and question instead of punishing as they learn, they will likely take it seriously and change their behavior to avoid disappointing you or themselves.
- Treat them like they’re magical. Look them in the eye, listen intently, tell them they’re special, remind them how good they are at what they’re doing, etc. It doesn’t mean telling them they’re the most special, the best, the prettiest, the brightest. It means telling them they are great and wonderful as they are — and so are others. There is enough to go around and withholding this kind of affirmation because you don’t want to build up their ego “too much” or make them feel they are better than someone else will leave them seeking such validation the rest of their lives. They need their uniqueness recognized. They need it from you.
Raising these kids and learning new parenting behaviors from what was done to you is sometimes challenging. After a while, it becomes second nature. It sets them up for a healthy confidence, attachment level, and ability to go forward learning their life lessons and exploring the world with bravery instead of fear.
If you are empathic yourself, it is very likely you also have an empathic child. Use these tools as a guide to help create a harmonious, happy, healthy kid who thrives in your environment. You may find you begin to thrive as well.
When I decided to attend nutrition school to become a health coach, I did so to help others get out of the physical pain I had experienced myself. Hashimoto’s Disease and its secondary health problems had made me miserable but I saw there was a way out and into remission. I wanted to educate others on science-based natural remedies and dietary approaches so they too could stop the pain.
What I didn’t expect was that the clients I kept attracting were largely highly sensitive people (HSPs) who weren’t just in physical pain, they were also in deep emotional pain and had life problems they wanted to work through but didn’t know how to. They needed someone to connect the dots, to remind them of who they were and how capable they were of handling these situations. Time and time again in appointments, though we started off talking about nutrition, our conversations always went back to stress.
In time, I learned the stress was also a root cause of illness and that these highly sensitive people carried a much greater burden than the rest of the population. They took on others’ pain as their own, carried the burden of maintaining relationships with little to no reciprocation, often got the short end of the stick, learned to acquiesce when it came to their own needs, worked extremely hard in life and business, and they wanted to right the wrongs but worried no one else did.
By and large, the most significant theme that kept presenting itself was that these HSPs or empaths had learned to settle. Settling for less than they deserved, settling for less than they wanted, getting crucified while others succeeded, and dimming so that others could shine. By and large, they were settling for crumbs when they deserved the whole damn cake.
You see, many of these clients were surrounded by narcissistic personalities that had talked them into believing they deserved less than the best, less than what they truly desired. They were being strung along with a trail of crumbs, hoping one day it would lead to what they desired, but realistically it never did. This also happens sometimes with people in our lives who are not necessarily narcissistic but who are also not emotionally in touch and quite amnesic. (Empathy and narcissism exist on a spectrum, with empathic people being towards the far left, narcissist being on the far right, and nice people whom we love but lack any emotional depth or awareness being somewhere in the middle).
I challenged these clients in the same way I want to challenge you today: how long will you accept their love crumbs? How long can you subdue your true desires in life, business, family, circles of friends, and romance before your realize the trail was never going to lead back to the cake; that the trail was all you were ever going to get?
You deserve true reciprocation and interest in all relationships that are meaningful to you. Yes, all. Anything less should be considered an acquaintance relationship rather than a genuine friendship, family bond, or true love. If you’re an empath, you already have given this to others — why do you feel you don’t deserve it in return? Those who consider this a too-high standard are still stringing you along.
Start examining the balance of power, reciprocation, and interest in all of your relationships. Cheap displays of affection that lack depth are exactly what they seem like. Going at life alone is probably not what you desire, deep down, but have you? Admit this to yourself and the relationship dynamic you have put up with for so long suddenly become much more clear.
There are likely subconscious blockages keeping you small and put in relationships — “I’m not good enough”, “I’m somehow lacking”, “This problem of mine is what makes me less worthy”, etc. etc. None of it is true. Contrast your real needs with what they have given thus far. If a conversation needs to happen, have it. After that, does anything change? If the answer is yes and the changes are long term and sustainable, great. If the answer is no, well that gives you the direction you seek.
Remember this: why settle for their crumbs when you deserve the whole cake and the bakery is down the street?
Being talked out of ourselves is nothing new. In fact, it is as old as time itself. Throughout history, systems have been set in place to purposefully or unwittingly keep people from processing and digesting what is truly happening to them and around them, in order for others to maintain control; you intuitively understand the truth but are talked out of it — or talk yourself out of it.
Monarchs, politicians, masters, employers, teachers, government, parents, spouses, and religious figures have told us what is real even when the reality of life is something so much more vast, sometimes derelict, hidden, magical or incredulous. Often only years or decades later, do we learn the truth behind the false story lines we have been fed and then we question why no one told us the truth (or saw it for themselves) in the first place. Often we are gripped with the regret that we did not trust ourselves or fight hard enough for what we “knew” was right all along but were talked out of.
Finding the truth is important to me, likely as it is to you, and I feel driven to help people understand how to not only uncover the truths that have remained hidden and suppressed for generations, but also to learn to instinctively trust yourself based on your gut reactions to situations you find yourself in. In other words, I want to help you become intuitive and tap into your true gut instincts because it is your best guide in life.
In doing so, you liberate yourself from false realities that are keeping you stressed and sick and unable to be the authentic expression of yourself that you were born to be. In trusting the truth and learning to tune into your intuition, you are able to rid yourself of old stories and attitudes that no longer serve you, and you are able to recognize the ills of the world and take action to remedy them instead of quietly waiting for someone else to do it. When we recognize the truth, we all become better people. When you recognize your truth, you become the person you were born to be. There is no greater gift.
Anything that keeps you in a state of stress, chaos, confusion, distraction, or trying to please others will prevent you from truly feeling what is going on with your life and will therefore block your intuition. Think of this as the “housekeeping” that must be done before you can move onto greater spiritual lessons. We have to address the common annoyances in life and find a way to work around them but not become consumed by them. We have to maintain our spiritual integrity and purpose despite the ways the million ways the “real world” calls to us.
Here’s what keeping your from tapping into your intuition:
Everyone is in denial about something because denial is what protects us from feeling pain or having to admit we were wrong and change. It is normal to have some level of denial because it is a defense mechanism while we are alive on a planet full of harsh realities. However, denial will be a deterrent to becoming intuitive because it keeps us from seeing the truth — we purposefully avoid the truth in order to avoid unpleasant feelings. It may be impossible for any one human to be completely free of denial but so long as you genuinely want to get out of any denial you experience, you can begin tapping into your gut instincts.
The difference between someone who can become intuitive and someone who may not is the level of desire to truly see the truth which is separate from our own projections and ego. The truth doesn’t care about our preexisting belief systems or comfort. If it is in you to pursue the truth no matter which unpleasantries rise of the surface, you can be assured you will continue to be guided in your process. Those who do not wish to get out of their own denial may never be able to see things for what they really are. It is really just a matter of saying “yes” to the universe/God/holy spirit/source even if you really want to say “no” because you know that peeling back the layers of denial is good for you. It is truly about mindset, attitude, and desire. You want to emphatically say “yes” to whatever life has for you and begin to examine every situation in your life through a lens of “what is this meant to teach me?”.
2. Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance is another form of denial but this is often imposed on us by others. We feel we know what is true, but are talked out of it. Or, narcissistic personalities are controlling the groupthink so that the truth is suppressed for their own benefit. It’s where your subconscious feelings and experiences are downplayed or you are flat out told you are wrong.
Keeping record of your experiences and feelings about those situations can be very helpful to show you the truth even when others are imposing cognitive dissonance on you. Remember that what is true for one is not necessarily true for another so friends and family may have good intentions in directing you or giving you advice but keep in mind that their perceptions have no bearing on your reality.
Anything that acts as a distraction will keep you from seeing the truth. First, distraction keeps us in a constant state of fight or flight nervous system response. This is where your blood pressure and heart rate elevate, you can start to feel fearful, anxious, excited, or nervous, you become hyper-vigilant and get stuck in negative or cyclical thinking feedback cycles. Ultimately it takes you out of yourself and your real feelings. Your true feelings become afterthoughts and get swept under the rug day in and day out: the things in your relationships that are begging to be resolved, the personal growth that should be occurring, the gut feeling that you need to pursue your real interests and talents, etc.
Distraction becomes a threat that takes center stage and occupies our time and thoughts: who will win the reality show, what terrible things are happening in the world today, who said what on social media, how old your profile picture makes you look, how much weight you need to lose to look like her, how much money you need to not be in debt anymore, which outfit you need to get a date, and on and on. And your physical body responds accordingly. You get hooked on the feel good peptides (a group of two or more amino acids) released at the anticipatory excitement about “one day”, versus feeling all of the authentic emotions that come up in the day to day, begging to be resolved.
Social media, television, unnecessary tasks, events, holiday planning, and obligations, and superficial goals keep us from living in the moment and are forms of distraction that keep us from understanding the truth.
Imagine driving down an idyllic country road one weekend. You don’t have to work, you have no real responsibilities, and you are enjoying the scenery. To your left is an old wooden fence with a patina to match. To your right is a field of tall grass and wildflowers. You are listening to music you like on the radio and forget the stress and responsibilities. You tap into your subconscious mind and feel. You start thinking back to circumstances in your life and how those situations can be resolved or improved — or just how thankful you are for this moment. The music, drive, and nature have put your back into your self and it feels good. Suddenly, an advertisement for fast food or a car dealership comes on the radio. You are jolted back into consumer fight-or-flight mode — what you need to buy to be satisfied or happy. A disc jockey screams through the radio with false humor and bravado about how wonderful these products are. You suddenly stop feeling. You suddenly forget how beautiful this moment is and how you can improve your life. You begin to get stressed again.
Or, perhaps while you are working your desk job, you daydream about the next big event you can look forward to: your birthday in two months, the plans you will make for this party, who you will invite, where you will go, what you will wear, what color to dye your hair, which decorations you will buy, and on and on. The party comes and goes and while it was fun, it wasn’t quite as great as your anticipation of the actual event and now you look for the next holiday or social gathering to look forward to. So you start making plans for Christmas — presents you will buy, food you will cook, place settings you will create, pictures you will post to social media. Again, you are not being present for the day in and day out of life because the distraction has told you that only “big” life events are what you should think about and focus on.
Remember, the truth exists within your experiences, feelings, and perceptions. If you are constantly being distracted by external forces, you will not be able to feel who you are, who you are meant to be, and what is going on in your life. If we’re relying on external distractions to tell us what is true, pertinent, or relevant, we will not feel confident accessing our own perceptions about what is happening in our lives and we will not have a chance to work through our soul problems. We will just continue to sweep intuitive insights under the rug.
We all have to make the choice between listening to the loud noises of everything around us or tuning into the whisper of our souls. We need quiet and solitude to truly feel and trust our intuition. Also, if we are sweeping reality under the rug just to get “high” on the nostalgia of the next holiday or birthday party, we’ll be living in a constant cycle of ignorance, hoping the temporary sensations those times bring up will make the bad things go away. They can’t and they won’t unless we stop distracting ourselves and trust our intuition to purposefully work through the problems. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be excited for holidays and look forward to events. It just means we can’t make those what we are living for.
Clutter can allude to mental stimuli that is unresolved (unpaid bills, appointments not written on the calendar, a never-ending to-do list, energetic strings others are holding over your head) and it can also be physical objects that get in our way. The first thing you’ll need to do to become better at tapping into your intuition is to start compiling your to-do list and checking those things off. Maybe it means buying a date book or utilizing your phone’s calendar for greater organization in your home life or office. Maybe it means putting bills on autopay so you don’t have to remember when each of them are due. Perhaps it means paying off bills in advance so you don’t constantly stress about money. The goal here is to make life easier for yourself and get systems in place that aide you in remaining calm, rather than reacting. If you are constantly reacting instead of being proactive you will find yourself drained and emotionally unable to tap into your greater truths.
We have to think about the reasons why things are cluttered. Often times, the clutter is signaling deeper issues that we would rather not deal with. It can be a way to prevent the subconsciousness from surfacing, to keep the pain at bay, to keep people away, or to signal to others that we need more help or we’re sick of working so hard. So as you work to literally declutter and organize your home, workplace, car, or other environment, you open yourself up to the meaningfulness that has remained hidden and repressed beneath the junk. When we acknowledge and admit to the things of value in our lives, we can access our intuition instead of being constantly overwhelmed and caught up in the mire. Once you have decluttered, put your home or office back together how you would like it to feel most like you.
5. The need for approval
As I have said before, planet Earth is a place of extreme groupthink (don’t think so? Try self-actualizing and see what ensues). It feels very scary for an individual to venture into uncharted territories — following their heart, mind, and soul rather than the crowd. It’s because we have learned that when we do things on our own, for ourselves, we risk losing the approval we have been conditioned to seek. “What if I trust myself and they reject me?”, “What if I follow my heart and it goes wrong?”, “What if they tell me I am wrong even though they haven’t felt the momentum behind my life experiences and decisions?”, “What if I am too different to be loved?” you may subconsciously think.
The need for approval from others runs very deep. If we look to ancient religious texts, we can see it transcends time, people, and places, and is ingrained into our every decision (remember my thoughts on The “Eve” wound?). “I have to get their opinion so I know what to do with my life”, “I have to do what is ‘normal’”, “I will be totally alone if I trust myself”, “They will punish me if I don’t do what they want”. This feels scary because humans are mammals that crave commune and connection with others for survival. If we make choices others don’t approve of, we risk losing the community support we need to thrive. It’s the proverbial fork in the road on the path to self-actualization — will you keep playing the part or will you realize their approval is but another control tactic and that you do not need it? You cannot both please others and trust your intuition because they will always always always be at odds.
Get these things sorted out first. Stay tuned for the next part in this series where I’ll discuss how to develop your intuition.