Tuesday, August 28, 2012

High Sensitivity in the Family

God designed us to carry our spouse’s excess when overwhelmed. If we do not know where we stop and someone else begins we will have difficulty recognizing when the extra load is excessive. Guest blogger Carol Brown continues her series on high sensitivity.

Then the Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him. ~Genesis 2:18

How High Sensitivity Works with Spouses

The family forms the template for all relationships. It is in the family that we learn how to relate, what things mean and what to expect from others and life. The relationships of husband and wife and parent and child are the most formative relationships in life. Therefore it is important to know how burden bearing works in these pivotal relationships.

When two people exchange vows (solemn and strong promises) “before God and these witnesses,” they enter into a covenant with God, not just each other, and agree to live according to the terms of the vows they take. These serious or solemn promises spell out the particulars of the covenant. Vows do not disappear in the wind like a vapor trail if you forget them or choose to disregard them—and God never forgets them. He obligates Himself to be part of the relationship.

The Lord hard-wires the two spirits when you say, “I do.” And you forfeit the on/off switch. Current flows back and forth between husband and wife and you cannot turn it off! Unless the Lord intervenes, when the spiritual or emotional state of one fluctuates, even if hidden, the other feels it. Important to note is that you can absorb a feeling of numbness when your spouse is totally blocked and disconnected from feelings. If one spouse is unfaithful, the other feels it at some level. If one is knowingly sinning, it registers in the other’s spirit.  God designed us to have the gates of our spirits open wide to our partners and to Him. Whenever a spouse withholds, (whether for noble reasons or otherwise) it causes a constriction. Constricted our spirits do not flow at capacity, the Holy Spirit is not available to capacity, and since the spirit gives life, we have less life available! Our immune system can be affected.

What to watch for: 

·         Troubles can bounce back and forth between you like a ping pong ball, gaining intensity with each bounce until one of you breaks off contact and goes to his/her corner.

·         Pain or trouble in your spouse may match your own. In that case it sits on top of your own hurt and grinds. It compounds, intensifies and exaggerates your own hurt and makes you kind of crazy—your emotions go over the top.

·         Whatever you do with your own stress and tension you will do with other people’s trouble. If you carry tension in your shoulders, other’s trouble will settle there as well. If you tend toward ulcers or headaches from your own stress, problems you soak up will help you with that.

Our brain doesn’t seem to have many categories to put all the information that our central nervous system brings it. Whatever draws energy: physical activity, mental, emotional or spiritual activity, the brain reads as “stress,” be it good stress or otherwise. This is why highly sensitive people need recovery time after having fun with a group of people. Processing a spike in sensory information uses up buckets of energy! Our connectedness and the pain and trouble we soak up and carry for our spouses will also draw down our energy resources.

We share emotion, including job stress. We will share energy. If one goes into a workaholic mode, the other may become exhausted—we share the natural consequences. When there is a tragedy in the family, we can carry excess so that our spouse is functional. That is a god-given use of our sensitivity. But, it should never become “normal.” God wants us to bring the excess to the Him, for Him to be responsible for it.

The benefits of burden bearing in marriage are that you are better able to understand and appreciate your spouse’s struggles when you feel them as if they were your own feelings. You can be practical help and protection for each other when you sense what they experience. The biggest benefit is that it makes it easier to develop trust and intimacy with your partner. Developing intimacy is the only way you can ever feel met in the deep places of your being where so many are so desperately lonely.

Another benefit is that when you spend time with the Lord together as a couple, a flow of purity comes from the Lord’s presence that cleanses and refreshes, restores and renews. Prayer together is not an option if you want to maintain a healthy marriage. You must go to the Lord together and regularly pour the clean water of the Holy Spirit into your relationship. This time in prayer not only develops intimacy from the closeness of doing something together, but intimacy with the Lord. And it develops unity with your spouse and the Lord which is the deepest and most profound intimacy you can experience.

How it Works With Kids and Parents

Someone said that children are God’s little spies. They put their pudgy little fingers on every flaw in our character. Highly sensitive children seem to have uncanny, unerring accuracy! But shutting down a child’s expression of sensitivity because it feels like a challenge to your authority will teach him the wrong thing.

How we respond to a child’s sensitivity will teach them either to trust or not to trust themselves, or us, and by inference, God. Then when they risk going beyond the family, with the template of trust established, they will either trust others or not.

The dynamics of emotional baggage between a parent and a child is the same as between husband and wife. The troubles can ping pong and they can sit on other hurt and exaggerate it, driving emotion over the top, make the child tired, tense, and can lead to physical problems.

·         We are to listen to the child and to the Lord and reveal to the child the path the Lord designed for him to walk. It is the parent’s task to educate him and to equip him to live consistent with the design the Lord built into him, to learn to be himself by means of modeling and instruction. If we cannot do some part of the job, it is our responsibility to find someone who can.

·         We are to help him sort through his feelings to help him learn how to know when a feeling is his or someone else’s

·         We are to provide banks and boundaries for the river of emotion he has to deal with

Being highly sensitive yourself can help your parenting because you can sense your child’s need when he doesn’t have words for it. It can also create a problem when you are filled up with someone else’s stuff and you parent from the perspective of the trouble you carry rather than the relationship you regularly have with your child. Your own soaking up others confusions and troubles can interfere and make your parenting somewhat erratic. This is to be guarded against. Honestly ask your child’s forgiveness if you catch yourself in this one. As a parent, we must never make our child responsible for our emotion. You can be God’s gift of grace to your child as you help him/her learn how to drive this high powered, finely tuned engine that is constantly receiving data input from his central nervous system.

Within the protection of a safe, healthy marriage, (not necessarily perfect) a child learns how to trust, and take risks in ways that build self-confidence, strength of character, and self-esteem. These qualities will make it less likely that he will “lose himself” when filled up with someone else’s trouble. You can find much more detail in chapter 7 & 8 of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity, p. 155-234, Destiny Image, available at Amazon.com. http://www.ittybittyurl.com/epy

Whether relating to a mate or a child, gaining the “know how” to have a healthy response to emotional information that you take in through your various senses will benefit the relationships and reduce negative emotional and physical effects.

If you have a question about the “know how,” most likely someone else has the same question, so ask away or comment in the box below! God gives good gifts and I love to share what He has given me!

By Carol Brown, B.A., MA (Guest Blogger)
Educator, administrator, foreign student advisor, mom, pastor’s wife and author of The Mysteryof Spiritual Sensitivity and HighlySensitive

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Grace - From Spice to Eternity

Today we have a special treat! I had the pleasure of reviewing Yvonne Pat Wright's book From Spice to Eternity and was impressed at how she creatively merged her love for scripture with her culinary knowledge and talents! Each devotional is based on a spice and at the end has a recipe (or craft idea) using the featured spice. Below is an exclusive excerpt from her book on the topic of grace and the spice rue.
**TODAY ONLY: Yvonne has a special offer for those who purchase From Spice to Eternity on 8/21/12 including many free gifts and drawing for a new Kindle! Click here to visit her website.

Chapter 35: That Thing Called Grace

Rue: Shakespeare called rue “the herb of grace on  Sundays”. Sprigs of rue were used in the Catholic Church to sprinkle holy water. The herb is said to have medicinal qualities and has been associated with loss, regret and bitter lessons. Once a popular garden herb, it has lost its popularity in favour of other plants, which are more useful in cooking.  Although there are recipes that use rue, caution is advised in using it, as it is very strong and can easily ruin the dish. Pregnant women should not consume it. Cats and dogs do not like the smell of rue, so they will stay away from gardens where it is grown.
The excitement had reached fever pitch. I found it hard to get my two daughters to concentrate on everyday things, like going to school and doing their extra curricular activities. They had been present when my friend, Chester, asked me if I would be willing to be house mother for the Jackson Five who would be visiting Jamaica for a concert tour. Of course I said yes, and my daughters immediately elevated me to ‘Saint’ status.

This privilege allowed my girls to meet with the famous children in the quiet of their hotel, away from the crowds and the media. They played and chatted with them, took photographs and became friends.  As friends, they were invited to be a part of the group going on a trip to a beautiful white sand beach in Negril on the western coast of Jamaica.

For the Jacksons, who had private tutors, this was fine. If my girls were to go, it would mean missing at least one day of school – perhaps two. My services were not needed for the trip and in any case I could not take two days off work. The reality was that I had conjured up scenes of wild, unbecoming behavior by the youngsters, and did not wish my girls to be part of it – especially in my absence.  I made a fateful decision. I told Helen and Heather that they could not accompany the Jackson Five on their beach trip.

As can be expected, I quickly lost my sainthood and was deemed to have committed an unpardonable sin. Heather was sure she had lost her chance of becoming Mrs Michael Jackson, and Helen shared the same sentiment concerning Marlon Jackson.  I am so grateful for grace. To my daughters, I was totally undeserving. There is no way they could forgive me for what they thought at the time was equivalent to ruining their lives.

Even so, grace stepped in through little voices that  said,  “We still love you Mommy and forgive you, even though you don’t deserve it.”  I have often wondered what difference the alternative decision would have made to all our lives. Though I suspect it would not have been much really. But in the light of the events that have happened over the years, I have had rueful moments and wished I could go back to that ‘once in a lifetime’ event in 1975 and said yes instead of no!

In my relationship with Jesus, I’ve also regretted some decisions that I’ve made that caused me pain, and caused Jesus to suffer a cruel death. But I am so thankful for grace – His grace that forgave me even as I was making poor decisions.

‘But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.’ Romans 5:20b, KJV.  

Nothing that I have done or could ever do, can earn the undeserved and unmerited favour that Jesus so abundantly dispenses.

Dried Rue and Herbs Floral Wreath 

4 bunches of dried rue
1 bundle dried baby eucalyptus twigs
1 bundle of cinnamon leaves on sticks
½ lb bay leaf twigs (with leaves on)
2 strings of garlic (approx. 6 to a string)
12 dried red chilli peppers
6 rose hips
6 stems of bear grass
1 large bunch of dried rosemary herb
1 small bundle of natural raffia
Approx 12 pieces of a medium gauge florist wire

Bend eucalyptus and bay leaf twigs gently so as not to break the twigs, to make a circle about 25 inches in circumference. Then add the bunches of rue stems around the other two twigs. Tie and secure this round with the natural raffia. Separate the bundle of cinnamon sticks into about 3 pieces of 3 bundles, tied around with raffia, making a bow on each. Using the bear grass, string the rose hips at the ends of each bundle. To affix the peppers, either wire them in or use a hot glue gun.

~Excerpt From Spice to Eternity by Yvonne Pat Wright

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bearing Anothers Burdens - The Right Way

There is a healthy way to bear anothers burdens and there is a way that leads to personal emotional destruction.  Galatians 6:2 says, "Carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ." Part of our Christian walk is a call to help lighten the load of others, not to assume the load! Today Carol Brown continues her series on High Sensitivity with  keys to having a healthy burden bearing response.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-5  

How Do You Drive This Thing?

It’s as if your highly sensitive body was a Ferrari type. If you would like to look under the hood, the explanation of the physical mechanism for how your brain synchronizes or adjusts the inner state of your being to match the inner state of another it is explained in appendix B of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity, p. 335. If we are to be joy filled Christians, we have to learn how to drive this thing rather than being run over by it. I have learned that Jesus needs to be the one in charge of the sensitivity of my spirit.  One thing I know about Jesus is that He is a good driver. He is a safe driver, but still, you’d best buckle up. He doesn’t slow down on the learning curve!

The problem is, how can I be highly sensitive and not be crushed by it? By knowing where and when it occurs and having a healthy response!

Where:  We will find ourselves soaking up another’s pain so they can carry on most often for those with whom we are the closest, family, friends, extended family, church family, school/work, tribe, state/province, nation. It sort of goes in concentric circles.

When do we absorb others problems?  We are designed to do this when the circumstances of life disable a person and…

·         They do not know they need to call out for help (i.e. they are overwhelmed and not aware)
·         They do not know they have the right to ask for help
·         They forget what they know about themselves, God, other, and life in times of trouble, confusion and distress
·         The enemy of their souls comes to rob, steal and kill
·         They are so loaded down with pain that they are unable to acknowledge it or face it and go into denial
·         The pain is so great they are sinking beneath the weight of it and cannot carry it to the Cross on their own

A Healthy Response:  High sensitivity makes it easy to transfer a portion of someone’s emotional baggage in exchange for some of your joy and vitality. The healthy response is a relational response that is simultaneously vertical to God and horizontal with your fellowman. Wonderful things flow from this connection: relief, healing, a sense of companionship, normal developmental things, and more.
To help your wrap your mind around a “global” experience that may take only seconds, here is a how it happens. (It is global in that it impacts all your senses simultaneously and at every level of being.)

  1.  You sense a person’s emotional state—empathy draws you to them.
  2.  You ask God if this is a burden you are supposed to deal with.
  3.  If not, then immediately ask the Lord to lift it off of you, up and out.
  4.   If this is a burden you are supposed to deal with, turn to God in prayer. Use what you sense and feel to tell Him what you and the person you are praying for need. The Holy Spirit draws the burden of others through and out of you.
  5. The Lord responds with loving comfort and healing for the person you are praying for and in the process you experience those blessings as well.

Because you are before God in prayer, as He releases His healing love toward the hurting person, it washes 
over you too!

What high sensitivity (empathetic burden bearing) does. Empathy appears to siphon off a bit of the load so people can begin to pray their own prayers, think their own thoughts, see options and function for themselves. It draws down their pain level to below the “overwhelmed” mark. If the process stops at this point, you wear the burden rather than let the Holy Spirit draw it on through you to the Cross where Jesus takes responsibility for it—you will bear the trouble/problem/confusion, but wrongly. You can, on your own, soak up a person’s pain without the power and aid of God’s Holy Spirit, but that is doing the work of the spirit with the strength of the soul. It might help the other person in the short run, but in time it wears you out and tempts you to bitterness and cynicism. It is like running on batteries rather than having a direct power source.

Turning to God in a conscious prayerful connection establishes a vertical relationship to go along with the horizontal one you already have going. The Holy Spirit in you gathers up the burden from all levels of your being and pulls the stress, trouble, and grief through you like thread through a needle to the Cross—the stopping place for all sin, pain and grief—where Jesus takes responsibility for it. When the Holy Spirit is in charge of your empathy you experience only enough of the other person’s trouble to pray intelligently and effectively so that the Lord can restore their ability to pray their own prayers, see options and make wise choices and godly decisions. Release from the burden comes to you, not from empathy, but when the Holy Spirit in you draws the burden through you to the Cross and exchanges the pain, trouble, turmoil or oppression in the one with whom you empathize for the Lord’s healing touch. He restores you as His life flows on, over and through you on its way to the troubled person.

By coming alongside someone who is overwhelmed and helping with the overwhelmed portion results in a deep sense of companionship. When you are overwhelmed, there is a strong sense of loneliness; companionship means the world! But it is very important that Jesus be in charge of your sensitivity, your compassion so that you do not have to experience “compassion fatigue.”

When you experience emotion that you think did not originate in to experiment. Turn to God and tell Him what you feel and what you would like Him to do about it. Ask Him who the feelings belong to. Does someone come to mind? Then ask Him to do what you asked for the person these feelings belong to. Notice what happens—what you feel and do not feel. In conversations casually ask people how things have been going. Expect God to do something…and look for what He did!

Put Jesus in Charge: You do not want to carry stuff you should not be carrying, and you do not want to be stuck with you can get rid of, so ask Jesus to be in charge of your sensitivity.

You can pray something like this: Lord Jesus Christ, I lay all my gifts on the altar—all my natural gifting, all ability to sense and feel things, all ability to know things. I place it all on the altar along with all other kinds of gifts: music, leadership, common sense, teaching, whatever abilities I have, I put on the altar. I choose to be dead to them—put me to death in relation to them. I know that You will give them back resurrected, refined, and directed by the Holy Spirit. I ask specifically that You would be in charge of the sensitivity of my spirit. I ask that You increase or decrease my sensitivity as You see is needed. I know and have confidence that You know me better than I know myself and You will do what is best for me. I thank You Lord Jesus. Amen

Please feel free to ask questions. I know I have not explained as fully as you may need, so ask away. This should get you started. You can put your questions in the comments box. Otherwise, you might find your question answered in The Mystery ofSpiritual Sensitivity, available at Amazon.com. in print or ebook form. Click here for link to book

I look forward to answering your questions and celebrating your “aha!”

Carol Brown, B.A., MA, Educator, administrator, foreign student adviser, mom, pastor’s wife and author of The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive

Monday, August 13, 2012

Could Your Diagnosis be a Misdiagnosis?

Many were so intrigued by Carol Brown's guest post on high sensitivity last week that I have asked her to do a mini-series during August. Every Monday she will discuss how being highly sensitive affects our health, emotions, and happiness.

You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you: 
because he trusts in you.~Isaiah 26:3

What does high sensitivity look and feel like?

Did you go to Elaine Aron’s website (http://www.hsperson.com/pages/test.htm) to give yourself the “self-test” for high sensitivity? And did you come up “positive?” You may be wondering what high sensitivity looks like in real life, what it feels like and how it can affect your health. Whenever we make a big shift in thinking it often takes more than one line of evidence to convince us, so here are some real life examples of high sensitivity at work. It is a huge shift to go from thinking that “all feelings I feel originate with me” to asking the Lord if this feeling belongs to me or someone else.  

To people around you high sensitivity can look spooky when you “know” something that no one told you. It can also be comforting. An elderly woman came into the hotel lobby and sat down. The front desk manager watched her and after a moment went to the beverage counter, made a cup of tea and took to the woman. With that little bit of sensitive concern for her, the lady melted and shared her sad tale. The manager was able to make a few well placed calls and the situation was resolved. The lady felt seen and heard and cared about—what comfort when you are fearful. Without the calm the manager brought, her body would have continued to pump out excess stomach acid.

To observers high sensitivity can look like a psyco mood swing. After spending an hour on the phone with a bitter, lonely woman who was not only depressed, but oppressed—toxic to herself and anyone around, I was filled up with her depression and toxicity. I began to rehearse all of my husband’s deficiencies the same way she had been rehearsing the deficiencies of the Christian community around her…his neglect of me…how could he be so late and still say he loves me! My anger grew and grew; when he finally did arrive home, I blew. I tore strips off of him. My behavior was totally out of character for me! He stood back and watched me spew. When I finally wore down he quietly asked, “Who have you been talking to?” My turn to melt; for a bit all I could say was, “I am sorry, I am so, so sorry!” And then I shared my afternoon. We prayed and I was completely restored to myself. The danger with this one is that you may be called crazy. Another danger is that you feel crazy so you may agree with them! Some know in their “knower” that they are not crazy but it is difficult to substantiate, especially when you don’t know that you are capable of absorbing/soaking up other people’s feelings. If David had not understood what was happening it could have done serious damage to our emotional health and possibly our physical health as toxicity that I had downloaded released into our bodies and our marriage!

When feelings can come out of nowhere you can begin to believe you are crazy, as some say. A wife happily busy about her day suddenly becomes tense, anxious and fearful. She struggles to keep her responses grace filled. She eats Tums, fumbles with her work—she is “off” for the rest of the day. Over supper her husband shares that he had the worst day at work that he can remember. He feared for his job and worried about the ramifications for the family. The wife had become filled up with the excess of her husband’s emotion. She carried his overload so that he could function. Our God-given design is that we can carry the overload when it is essential that the other person function. The anxiety and tension she carried for her husband would exaggerate her normal body response to worry. It would attach itself to her favorite worry and make it worse and activate muscle tension, stomach acid and spend quantities of physical and emotional energy!

Picking up physical symptoms can be very confusing. I taught a woman who was a nurse about burden bearing—this phenomena of soaking up someone else’s “stuff.” I did not know that arthritis was in her family medical history. The next morning she awoke to hands on fire. With her family history she thought, “Oh, no! It’s my turn!” She spent about ½ hour searching for relief for her hands. Suddenly the thought occurred to her, “What if this is not my pain? What if it is someone else’s? She held her hands up toward heaven and prayed, “Lord, whose hands are these?” The face of a friend came to mind. She knew the lady had a raging case of arthritis. She now knew how to pray and pray she did—intelligently, specifically and passionately! Shortly the pain was gone from her hands. She was just fine! The Lord’s heart was to help with the arthritis but He waited to be invited. He tapped my friend on the shoulder and connected her with the pain so she could pray the prayer of invitation that the woman experiencing the condition did not or could not pray for some reason.

Later that day the woman called my friend who casually asked about her hands. “Oh, the funniest thing happened. I awoke to hands on fire but then suddenly the pain was gone!” My friend inquired “What time was that?” It was the exact time that my friend had prayed and her own pain was also gone! Talk about a faith builder! I have no way to prove it, but I believe that if she had not prayed, but accepted the arthritis as her own, it would have been hers from that day on.

When we do not know that we are highly sensitive or empathetic (burden bearers—Galatians 6:2 “bear one another’s burdens”) and that we can actually feel and soak up how another person experiences life, we will likely respond by acting out or acting on the emotions as if they were our own, for example¼

·         I absorb anger, but do not pass it on to Jesus, so I “rip strips” off the people around me. 
·         I absorb depression, so I become morose, curl up, and eat chocolates. 
·         I absorb and feel the adoration of someone I have helped.  Assuming the feelings are my own, I respond as if the intense adoration I feel is mine for the other.  (This is trouble if it becomes romantic!)
·         I absorb stress and distress and isolate myself, often blaming others for my feelings.
·         Absorbed emotional freight overwhelms me and I numb myself to make the pain go away.  Or, I behave in self-destructive ways to make the numbness go away— with alcohol, drugs, sex, cutting, or engage in high-risk sport to distract myself.
·         I absorb too much pain or too much shock and become so numb that I behave in self-destructive ways to feel high, to feel something, anything.
·         I try to “fix” the problem in my own strength and wisdom.
·         I pray, but because I think it is my own problem, I only ask the Lord to make it better, to “take this off me!” (List is an excerpt from The Mystery Of Spiritual Sensitivity p. 135, Destiny Image, 2008 ISBN:-13: 978-0-7684-2592-5.)

Acting without understanding is not yet the fullness of relationship the Lord wants for you. When emotions yank you hither and yon you may begin to agree with those who say you are crazy or neurotic. When you have vague pains that come and go that cannot be diagnosed, you can believe that you may be a hypochondriac. And when you pick up psychological symptoms of depression and spiritual oppression and are unable to explain what you feel and why you feel that way; you can begin to feel there is something drastically wrong with you. Many are the voices who will agree with you. Believing such things can have effects upon your self-image, your sense of self esteem and your sense of worth and belonging as well as your health. Actually, the truth is that there is something wonderfully right with you! You are specially designed to come alongside and lighten someone’s load and we will talk about that in the next blog.
I want to be clear—I am not anti-doctors. You should visit the good doctor and rule out physical causes. But when you have done that and still have unexplainable symptoms…that is when to consider that you may be carrying someone else’s pain. What relief to know you can turn to Jesus and give it to Him to deal with! In our next post I will offer you an optional response to “the crazies!”
Please drop a comment in the box below if something in this post rang true for you.

By Carol Brown, B.A., MA
Educator, administrator, foreign student advisor, mom, pastor’s wife and author of  The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity and Highly Sensitive
Website: http://www.fromgodsheart.com