I share stories about high-achieving Highly Sensitive People on the Hero’s Journey hoping they will inspire you to create a truly fulfilling life rooted in your Authentic Self. If you are not fulfilled, it may be because you conformed to what your family, your culture, or an outdated version of yourself thought was best for you. It’s time to live congruently with who you truly are, a valuable highly sensitive person. You deserve to enjoy a meaningful life.
If you are a highly sensitive mother raising teens or tweens, and you have experienced a difficult romance, Morgan’s challenges will sound familiar. You’ll see how I helped Morgan uncover the root causes of her stress and anxiety so she could change at depth. Come along with us on the journey.
I just wanted to say thank you so much for changing my life. I am so appreciative of our work and I am so happy to have tools that are bringing back my confidence. ~ Morgan K.
Morgan’s* Personal Profile
Morgan looked like the picture-perfect upwardly-mobile mom on the outside, but on the inside, she was full of anxiety. She was exhausted from too many work, community and family commitments.
Morgan saw herself as the responsible one who had to carry the burden of household chores as well as maintain a career. She didn’t realize how much stress she was under because it had become so normal for her.
She was a nurturing mother who gave her sons everything they wanted including expensive shoes, elite sports programs and the best schools. She intentionally created an emotionally close relationship with them because she didn’t want them to suffer the way she did as a child.
Morgan is an easy-to-like highly sensitive extravert in her early 40s. Attractive with long blond hair and sparkling blue eyes, she grosses $200,000 per year in her marketing and sales career. I’m telling you this to help you dismiss any myths you may have about abused women. They exist in all socio-economic brackets. Many kind, empathic HSPs unknowingly fall prey to abuse.
Morgan described herself like this when she entered counseling:
“I was in an 18-year marriage that was toxic as a result of narcissistic abuse and adultery as well as physical, financial and emotional abuse. My ex left in 2018 and we divorced in 2019.
When I have a flurry of memories of my ex’s verbal abuse, I think, ‘I’m awful. What’s wrong with me?’ I blame myself for the chaos in our marriage. During the years leading up to my divorce and then as a single parent, I isolated myself and didn’t trust who I was. I lost myself and didn’t know how to take care of myself.
By the grace of God, I found an amazing man who loves me and my children the way I always prayed for. We married two years after the divorce from my first husband.”
Morgan believed her ex-husband’s critical comments and unconsciously replayed them in her own mind like a brainwashed woman. Before, she felt confident and she won awards. Now, even though the divorce took place four years ago, she still felt insecure. She felt intimidated by her aggressive female boss’s intensity.
Morgan had gained 40 pounds since her divorce. Her blood pressure couldn’t be managed with medication. She couldn’t control her addiction to sugar, pastries, and simple carbohydrates at night. Her hair fell out and she broke out in hives when highly stressed. At the beginning of therapy, she drank alcohol to self-soothe. It was hard to fall asleep and she only slept six hours a night. Morgan confessed that she was spending too much money, saying that she never managed money in her prior marriage. Her retirement account had been depleted in the divorce. Her long-term and short-term memory were shot.
This is the picture of burnout.
THE UNDERLYING CAUSE OF MORGAN’S ANXIETY
Men and women are more vulnerable to abuse as adults when they grow up in families where high-achieving parents prioritize success over emotionally healthy relationships. Such was the case with Morgan.
Morgan unconsciously allowed her ex-husband to damage her self-esteem with his abuse. She lost herself in that relationship which happens with many HSPs. We had to heal that trauma.
We also had to address the first and most influential critical person in her life: her father who expected high performance at a young age. Morgan reported feeling attached to her dad like a “daddy’s girl” and complied with his demands for excellence. Even so, she never felt good enough.
Dr. Elaine Aron’s HSP research found that highly sensitive people are more impacted by criticism than non-highly sensitive people.
Morgan didn’t experience emotional depth with her father or her mother who traveled for her career. Morgan and her sister were left alone for long periods of time while her parents worked. When Morgan was punished, she spent many hours in her room playing alone. She grew accustomed to taking care of her own needs and depending on herself.
Morgan didn’t initially realize that her parents’ socialization was controlling her like a computer program: “Be smart, get good grades, be a high-achiever. Push, push, push, do, do, do.” Her father’s introjected commands cracked the whipped incessantly in her mind even as an adult.
A frenetic lifestyle became the norm which excluded any focus on what she needed in order to be healthy.
THE LIFE COACHING and COUNSELING PROCESS
I coached Morgan to craft goals for a fulfilling life.
She said, “I want to …
- learn who I am and express my Authentic Self assertively instead of bottling up my emotions.
- feel empowered and heal the pain and anger from the abusive marriage. I still feel “haunted.”
- be happy and confident again with my friendships and decrease the stress in my career.
- be a strong wise nurturing parent for my boys (age 14 and 11).
- be assertive in co-parenting with my ex who continues to harangue me.
- clarify my values and what is most important to me.
- be fully conscious when I spend money and make sure that it funds my core values.
- create physical, emotional and mental health. I want work-life balance.
- exercise 4 days a week for an hour: yoga, walk, and play tennis.
- eat healthy and lose 40 pounds.
- get 8 hours of good quality sleep.
- strengthen my current healthy marriage through the work I do on myself.
We began with Morgan’s goal of eight hours of good-quality sleep. I always start here when insomnia is an issue because sleep is the most essential ingredient for our health.
Morgan used the daily meditation practices I recommended to reduce anxiety all day long, not just at night. She learned how to relax her nervous system to return to her “zone of resilience.” She found that meditation renewed her energy so she didn’t have to use caffeine, which also helped her sleep better.
Highly sensitive people are often more impacted by caffeine and drugs.
Morgan agreed to unplug from electronics at 9:00pm. She replaced crime stories with hot baths, fragrance, music and candles. Breathing exercises and bedtime yoga along with writing in her gratitude journal helped soothe her mind and emotions. She increased massages and prayed daily.
Brainspotting and Internal Family Systems dialogues helped heal Morgan’s underlying fear of abandonment, which at least in part motivated her to stay in an abusive marriage. We discussed how fear of abandonment began in childhood when she didn’t experience a secure emotional attachment with her parents.
We transformed the sense of loss from the emotional distance with her father and mother that fueled her workaholic over-commitment. Morgan learned how to nurture her inner child with healthy loving affirmations and developed a secure attachment with her inner family.
Her Authentic Self diffused her inner critic’s “not good enough” shaming messages that she introjected from her father.
With a solid self-care practice in place, Morgan took the next step to decrease her anxiety.
Morgan chose to free up her time and energy by off-loading responsibilities to her 11 and 14-year-old sons.
She no longer chose to see herself as the responsible one who had to do everything for everyone.
How was Morgan able to change this life-long core belief?
I helped Morgan heal the underlying childhood pain that arose from being expected to do a multitude of chores all alone while her parents were physically and emotionally absent. She no longer had to protect her sons from feeling the emotional pain that she imagined they would feel if she asked them to assume more responsibility.
Next, Morgan asked for my help to create a structure for her sons’ chores and allowances. Creating structure was difficult for her because of her ADD. I was amazed at how much this activity relieved her anxiety. Morgan was so excited to lift some of the burden of responsibility from her shoulders.
My coaching began with: “Be honest about what you want and say so.”
I constructed a table in a WORD document and guided the conversation as Morgan filled in the chores for the boys and the frequency. They had to clean up their rooms daily, feed the dogs, take out the trash, do their laundry, make their lunches, and read 20 pages a day for their summer reading program.
Next, she taught her sons how to make their lunches and do their laundry.
Morgan downloaded the Greenlight app for the boys and tied the chore checklist to their allowance. They had to complete all the tasks each week or they would get $0 allowance.
The boys didn’t get their allowance for one week because they didn’t finish their chores. Since that time, they are eager to check off all the boxes. Morgan says, “They don’t keep saying, ‘Mom, I need this. Mom, I need that. Mom, what’s for lunch?’”
Morgan told the boys which basic expenses she would pay for, and specified the items that the boys had to pay for out of their allowance, e.g., video games, expensive shoes, fishing equipment, worms for the lizard, and spending money with friends at Friday night football games. They had to save 60% of their allowance, which was automatically transferred to savings by the Greenlight app.
Next, Morgan focused on preventing the anxiety that always occurred when the new school year started.
She created a checklist for morning and afternoon activities for the boys’ routines when school starts. She shared it with them last week even though the beginning of school is several weeks away.
They are all getting accustomed to the new routines. The most amazing thing is that the boys are not resisting it at all. They need help learning the new skills and Morgan is happy to teach them.
Morgan was so encouraged by this success that she created more structure for her personal life. She bought a NokBox fireproof box that comes filled with labeled file folders for their wills, mortgage, email logins and everything someone would need if she were hospitalized or if she died.
Morgan feels so much more empowered and free. She has learned about her needs as a highly sensitive person and how to take good care of herself, not just everyone else.
She regularly asks herself what is most valuable so she can create work-life balance. She prioritizes her self-care and the needs of her family.
Instead of spending time with superficial acquaintances who drain her energy, she invests time with meaningful friends. She’s more conscientious about managing her budget, and she gets plenty of high-quality sleep thanks to meditation, exercise and reduced caffeine.
She tactfully asserts herself while co-parenting with her ex. To her amazement, he has become respectful. Her current marriage is stronger than ever. She’s begun making changes in her career that decrease stress. She’s still working on losing weight.
Morgan is looking forward to our Deep Emotional Healing Breathwork Retreat where a nurturing group of highly sensitive people will heal unconscious material and access enlightened states of consciousness. We all take guidance from God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
I am so excited that Morgan is committed to this high level of excellence. Her story shows how every person can transform their life to not only be high-achieving but also healthy and fulfilled in the process.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, author of Man’s Search for Meaning
If you would like individual life coaching, counseling, or couples counseling, or if you would like to join us for a Deep Emotional Healing Retreat for Highly Sensitive People, please complete the application on the Contact Page. You will receive a response Monday-Thursday to get the ball rolling.
Benita A. Esposito is the author of the bestselling book, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self, available on Amazon. She is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Georgia, Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor in North Carolina, and a life coach and spiritual counselor for Highly Sensitive Introverts worldwide.
*Morgan gave me permission to write her story and disguise her identity to preserve confidentiality.
Photo credits: Benita A Esposito