Healing Toxic Shame

When you make a mistake and someone is disappointed in you, do you feel like a dog with its tail tucked between its legs? When dogs experience shame, their bodies automatically respond with this behavior. 

People don’t have tails to tuck, but many of us highly sensitive introverts feel shame and humiliation when we make mistakes.

When you were young, did your caregivers correct your behavior with an aggravated tone such as: “Shame on you. You should have known better! I taught you better than that!” That might have been followed by more criticism, hitting you, or icy silence. Either way, you felt the pang of not feeling securely attached. That’s what we call “toxic shame.” It damages your sense of personal identity.

Children should be corrected, but the caregivers should convey unconditional love and remain emotionally connected in a health way. Many of us did not experience that.

I had an ah ha! moment when I realized that shame isn’t so bad in itself, but when we feel rejected, that’s when shame really hurts. 

Humans were created with a basic need to feel securely attached. Most animals are like that. When we don’t experience safe attachment, we feel despair because we are cut off from our loved ones. When we’re isolated, we are at more risk for physical harm, dis-ease and emotional anguish.

The sense of estrangement hurts so much that when we’re young children, we develop coping strategies to try to avoid distress.

If you are a highly sensitive person, you felt the pain of attachment breaches much more than non-highly sensitives. If you were raised in a dysfunctional family where you didn’t feel secure emotional attachment much of the time, you probably carried unresolved wounds into adulthood. You may not even realize it.

That’s what happened with my client, Donna (a pseudonym used to protect her confidentiality). Even though Donna was a competent team leader, she suffered from low self-esteem and anxiety. Our job was to get to the root of this and heal it.

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Donna (now in her 40’s) suffered her entire life with feeling scared of making mistakes. This led her to try to be perfect. She predicted the outcome of her choices so people wouldn’t be disappointed in her. Anxiety used up a lot of her energy and left her body tense and tight.

In the anecdote below, the painful memory of Donna’s mother’s repetitive shaming behavior was still impacting Donna. We both acknowledged that her mother had done the very best that she could at the time. Her mother had emotional problems of her own. 

We used Brainspotting and Internal Family dialogue in this session. I explain those processes in another article. Click here.

I love using these tools because they help the client access emotional wounds while staying in their window of tolerance. They don’t get overwhelmed. Also, clients often tap into spiritual wisdom that creates major breakthroughs. I could have imparted the same wisdom, but the client would not integrate it as deeply because it came from an outside source. 

If an untrained person were to watch a Brainspotting session that combines talking with different inner parts, they might not think that any major transformation took place. But I assure you, because the wisdom comes from deep within, it has long-term results. Sometimes in dramatic ways. Sometimes in subtle ways.

Here’s how the session with Donna began.  

Benita: Donna, what do you want to address in this session today? What’s your goal?

Donna: I want to develop self-acceptance, even if I make a mistake, especially when I feel I’m not meeting someone’s expectations. I tend to make them “right” and make myself “wrong.”

Donna’s baseline: The level of self-acceptance I feel right now is a 4 where 10 is high self-acceptance. My shoulders are tight and they are hunched over a bit. My solar plexus has a nervous fluttery feeling. I have picked two Brainspotting visual spots in my room to look at, one is my activation spot and one is my resource spot where I feel calm and grounded and I connect to my Wise Self. I’m listening to biolateral music engineered by David Grand called, “Forest Bathing.”

Donna: My Inner Critic and my people-pleasing Adapted Child (AC) are activated. I’m focusing on the activation spot first.

My Adapted Child (AC) doesn’t know how to sit with herself and let others be responsible for their issues. If they’re upset, she’s anxious, and she thinks she must have done something wrong. If she doesn’t take action to make another person feel better, she thinks she is being uncaring and not willing to help. She doesn’t want to be viewed that way by others. She wants to learn how to feel OK inside herself in situations where others are upset. 

Donna: I’m looking at the resource spot now and tuning into my Wise Self. I sense guidance about not taking responsibility for other people. 

Wise Self coaching the Adapted Child (AC): While it’s OK to want to help people, and it’s good to do so if they have asked for help, you don’t have to make “helping” your full-time job. Everyone is entitled to feel what they feel. Your old way of thinking is: “Only good feelings are good.” In truth, it is healthier for people to be honest about their emotions. That is information that can be helpful to manage interactions. 

When people get upset, you have a variety of emotions. You feel anxious, insecure, and afraid.

As a child, you couldn’t make sense of why your mom or anyone else was angry. Their anger was unpredictable. You accepted total responsibility for others’ feelings. You couldn’t tell the difference between when it was your fault and when it was not. Your mom blamed you for a lot of things. Even when you thought you were doing well, your mom or others got upset with you. That was confusing. 

The only time you felt OK and good enough was if others around you were happy, and then you could feel relief. You are learning that their behavior and your response to it were not healthy. It is not a sustainable way of being with others. 

I’ll help you learn a different way to cope. You can learn how to let other people experience the entire range of emotions, and you can determine when you need to protect yourself to stay safe.

It is OK to be around people when they feel their emotions. They need to feel what they feel. You can separate yourself from their emotions. At the same time, you can have your feelings independent of theirs. You’ve felt guilty when someone is upset, and you thought that you were not allowed to feel different than they felt. You thought you were not allowed to be a separate person.  

You can learn to observe, tune in and recognize what’s yours and not yours and still feel compassion for the other person. Don’t try to change what they are feeling. 

You can assess what’s happened when someone is upset with you. You might need to take action on that, but other times you can accept that they have a response and be OK with it. You don’t need to control so much.

Benita to Donna: What’s your level of self-acceptance now?

Donna: I’m a solid 5. I went up one point towards self-acceptance. My breathing is easier. My chest is more open. My shoulders are more open and relaxed. My solar plexus is still tense but there is no nervous energy. 

Debrief, Insights, and Summary

Donna: Part of me (my Adapted Child) didn’t want to allow others to experience their full range of emotions because I thought that upsetting situations were my fault. 

Sometimes, I don’t like what people say to me and I don’t have to. Others don’t have to like what I say or do. We can’t be expected to operate with only the positive side of the emotional spectrum. 

I need to discern when I need to do something to help a situation and when I don’t. Instead of seeing myself as less caring if I don’t jump in to help people, I need to allow others to feel how they feel. I am maturing to know when I have ownership of a problem and when I don’t. 

My inner wisdom arises outside of sessions with you these days. I have the visceral experience of the wisdom. I am integrating so much more deeply. 

Before I met you, I read many self-help books, but I never integrated the wisdom until my therapy with you. Brainspotting has been very helpful because I can feel myself changing at a deep level. I want people to have access to good mental health and to heal and grow as I have. That’s why I want to share this story with them. 

Contact Information

If you would like to help to transform limiting patterns in your life, please complete the questionnaire on the Contact Page.

Feel free to ask about how I facilitate life coaching, spiritual counseling, and retreats for Highly Sensitive Introverts.

Benita A. Esposito, MA is the author of the bestseller, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self available on Amazon.

As a highly sensitive person herself, Benita can easily understand you, your challenges and your beautiful gifts. Zoom videoconferences are available worldwide.

Click here to read Benita Esposito’s credentials and story.

Photo of Benita Esposito by Alysia Hargus/Alysia Hargus Photography

 

How to Reframe Our Fears So They Don’t Stop Us

Overview

I’m going to thread together methods you can use to (1) manage your fears so that you can (2) create your ideal life being your Authentic Self (3) with a spirit of self-compassion. You’ll be able to use these tools to create a high quality life if you study this carefully.

 

Where are you now?

If you’re like most Highly Sensitive People, you want to be the best version of yourself that you can be.

I’d like to invite you to take one minute to reflect on the following question. 

To what degree are you living your most authentic life?

Low 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10 High

I know that can be a big question, but think about it for a minute. 

Here are a few ways that you can tell if you are acting congruently with your Authentic Self.

1.    If someone asks you, “How are you doing?” do you reply, “I’m fine.” But, the truth is you are exhausted or hurt or irritated. 

2.    When someone makes a request of you, does your inner critic tell you that you are selfish if you say no? Is it more important to think about others than yourself?

3.    When your emotional needs are not met, do you feel comfortable making clear requests so you can feel more fulfilled?

4.    If you have a conflict, do you openly share your vulnerable feelings, or are you more likely to become reactive or analyze what the other person is doing wrong?

5.    If someone yells at you, do you feel intimidated and go quiet or yell back? 

6.    Do you long to live the life of your dreams, but you are so busy putting out fires that you don’t make time to proactively take the steps to cultivate the garden of your spirit?

 

Now go back and rate the degree to which you are living an authentic life. 

Low 1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10   High

There’s no right or wrong, or good or bad. Please ask your inner critic to step back. I am more interested in you learning how to take the next step toward living your authentic life … not beating yourself up.

OK?  Agreed?

The first step to creating a fulfilling life that is rooted in your Authentic Self is to tell the truth about where you are now. 

Credit: Nick Seagrave on Unsplash

Let’s say you were planning a trip to the Redwood National Park, and you wanted to take a map with you so you wouldn’t get lost if the GPS goes out. Highly Sensitive People like to be prepared for such possibilities.

 If you were going to use Google maps, you’d first enter your current location, then your destination.

It’s the same with creating your life. You have to know where you are now. This includes your thoughts, your feelings, what you’re feeling in your body, and your interpretations about yourself and the world. 

Why is it so important? Being in touch with all these things allows you to be grounded in the here and now… in your body.  If you are not grounded, you won’t be present … for yourself or anyone else.

When you examine your interpretations about yourself and the world, you can discern which are true and accurate and which are false. 

Credit: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Many times, our interpretations generate fear on an emotional and physical level.

They spin us around like a top careening around the floor. 

It’s normal to want to run from our fears and avoid them. 

But you know what? The truth is that often Highly Sensitive People ruminate about our fears. The inner dialogue goes something like this:

What if I show up and I tell the truth about my thoughts and feelings, and he ends the relationship? 

What if I make too many requests, and my boss finds a way to oust me?

What if I’m authentic and people say I’m selfish? I remember the time when one of my co-workers retorted, “There’s no ‘I’ in team.”  She didn’t want to understand me or my needs. She didn’t realize that she was the one who was being self-centered. I didn’t have enough insight to tell her that at the time. 

Most of us don’t like the part of ourselves that carries our fear so we develop strategies to ignore that part.

We avoid our fears by caring for others, by working too much, and by thinking that we need to be productive to have worth. It’s an unconscious unexamined habit.

We don’t take time to be quiet and still and get in touch with our inner selves and our spiritual guidance. 

Many clients in the early stage of therapy tell me that they don’t have time for quiet introspection or meditation. But the truth is, they don’t want to consciously connect with the part of them that carries the fear, but they don’t know that yet.

We can reframe our fears. They don’t have to stop us.

Consider the following acronyms for fear.

·      False Evidence Appearing Real

·      For Everything a Reason

·      Face Everything and Recover

·      Feeling Excited and Ready

 

Credit: Andrew Neel on Unsplash

Take a few minutes to journal your answers to the following questions. Write your answer before reading the next question. 

Make a list of the qualities of your ideal personal and professional relationships.

Do you have that kind of relationship with yourself? Are you being a good friend to all parts of yourself? Or are you trying to banish some parts … such as your fear?

Focus on the part of you who carries your fear and bring compassion to that part. Instead of pushing it away, invite that part to sit down and have tea with you. Get to know that part just as if it were one of your good friends.

Use your imagination to write an inner dialogue between the fearful part and your Wise Self and/or your spiritual connection. 

How does the fearful part feel? Why does it feel that way? How old does it seem to be? Write about all of the fearful part’s qualities and characteristics.

What would help the fearful part feel safe and comforted? You want to build a strong emotional attachment with this part so it can feel safe.

What action on your part would help that part feel safe and meet its underlying needs?

What risks are you willing to take to help this part?

Are you willing to take conscious action in a healthy non-reactive way?

Do grounding exercises.  Sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take several deep breaths. Imagine you are a large tree with roots that reach into the center of the Earth. Call on your spiritual connection for supernatural strength. Imagine a protective barrier surrounding you that keeps your energy intact and keeps others energy out.

Think about what it would be like to express your Authentic Self … but … then you stop yourself because the fear arises.

What are you are no longer willing to live with because it requires you NOT to express your Authentic Self? 

What is the price you are paying?

What does your body experience when you are not being authentic?

How does it affect your productivity?

Your mood?

Your mental functioning?

How does it feel to NOT proactively move in the direction of your fondest dreams because you are too scared?

Keep checking in with your fearful part. Stay close and compassionate. Keep asking what it needs to feel safe. Figure out one little actionable step that will help. Then take the next step, and the next. Continue dialoguing with your Wise Self and your spiritual connection.

 

How important is it to you to upgrade your skill level so you can manage your fears AND move forward in your life with the greatest integrity?

Who and what do you want to ideally align with?

How committed are you to moving forward?

What will happen in your life if you don’t do high quality inner work?  Do you think it will change or stay the same?

 

Credit: Caleb Jones on Unsplash

The Invitation

If you would like support to work with your fears and figure out how to take your next steps to feel fully empowered, consider working with me individually or ….

join us for an intensive Highly Sensitive Person Retreat. You’ll get to work on your own issues, and you’ll also learn vicariously from the other group members. You’ll learn things you didn’t even know you needed to learn. The whole group will move from the shallow waters to the deep end of the pool. You’ll feel safer because you are buoyed up by like-minded friends. 

You’ll learn a new mindset … one that leads to the pure joy of being your Authentic Self nestled in the relationship with your spiritual connection … following your divine guidance every step of the way. 

If you would like individual life coaching and spiritual counseling, please complete the questionnaire on the Contact Page.

 

Benita Esposito. Credit: Alysia Hargus Photography

About Your Facilitator

Benita A. Esposito, MA is the author of the bestseller, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self available on Amazon. The kindle, paperback, and audiobook (narrated by the author) have sold over 8,400 copies as of April 2022.

As a highly sensitive person herself, Benita can easily understand you, your challenges and your beautiful gifts.

Zoom videoconferences are available worldwide.

Click here to read Benita Esposito’s credentials and story.

Click here to contact Benita Esposito to inquire about life coaching, spiritual counseling and retreats for Highly Sensitive People.

My Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self

As a highly sensitive introvert, you were born with an innate desire to fulfill your potential. Although life is not always easy, you want to learn and grow from your struggles.

Your spirit beckons you to live congruently as your Authentic Self. Nothing less will be fulfilling.

You may not know exactly how to get there, but something …

a divine something … pulls you forward.

I’d like to share an overview of a story from my book that illustrates the deep emotional healing I experienced during my Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self. 

 

Staying conscious through the Dark Night of the Soul enabled me to excavate my Authentic Self.

Why did I embark on such a grueling Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self?

I realized that I had been trying to gain emotional security from all the wrong places … mostly from people and work.

My Inner Critic insisted that I needed to excel at everything in order to be acceptable and lovable. No wonder my Inner Child felt like she was thrown under the bus all the time.

 

I needed to connect with an enduring source of love and wisdom. I wanted to become my own best friend instead of wishing that someone or something outside of myself would make me feel whole.

 

I intended to develop a rich intimate relationship with my Sacred Inner Beloved, aka, the Holy Spirit within me.

 

Eventually, after a long while …

unconditional self-acceptance sprang up from the ground of my being …

like a flower blooming in the springtime.

This enabled me to love others with more purity instead of manipulating them or myself.

 

This spiritual relationship provided a brand new foundation of emotional security. 

After my roots grew deep, I took a giant risk. 

I placed my faith in God, stepped out of my comfort zone, and created one of my most cherished dreams.

 

What is your dream?

·      What is most meaningful in your life?

·      Do you yearn for emotional security instead of anxiety?

·      Are you absolutely true to your Authentic Self?

·      Do you experience a rich relationship with the Holy Spirit?

 

I hope my story inspires you to stop settling for less.

There IS more possible for you … 

if you would just take the risk to step outside of your comfort zone 

and reach for the stars

the stars that are engraved with your name.

 

I’ll show you how in individual life coaching and spiritual counseling or in a Highly Sensitive Person Retreat.

 

If you’d like to reach Benita Esposito, please complete the Contact Form.

Benita A. Esposito, MA is the author of the bestseller, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self available on Amazon.

The kindle, paperback and audiobook were bestsellers on Amazon for 18 months and have sold over 8,400 copies as of April 2022. As a highly sensitive person herself, Benita can easily understand you, your challenges and your beautiful gifts. Zoom videoconferences are available worldwide.

Copyright 2022. All rights reserved. The Esposito Institute, Inc. You may print a copy of this article for your own personal use. You may share it for non-commercial purposes as long as you list the author’s name and website: Benita A. Esposito.  www.SensitiveIntrovert.com. For commercial reprint, contact Benita A. Esposito.

Anthony’s Retreat “Worth It”

When discussing the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Retreats with Benita, she often mentioned that a retreat is more healing than several weeks of individual therapy. I heard this a few times over years before I ever attended a retreat. I always thought it was a sales pitch. I’ll be the first to admit, this is not a sales pitch. This is real.

When I planned to attend the first retreat, I told myself how important it was to get my money’s worth out of the experience. Any act of not “showing up” would only be a detriment to myself, and I did not want that. 

On the first day of the retreat, I found it a little awkward to be so vulnerable with a group of strangers. My introverted side likes to shy away from new people and situations until I observe them so know how I ought to respond. It’s either this or I force myself to be extroverted in such moments which is not sustainable for me. 

This time, I refused to do either. I chose to show up as fully as I could. While I didn’t speak first all the time (no sense in standing in that spotlight always), I did my best to speak confidently and transparently. I allowed myself to cry. I expressed my creativity through artwork. I had unexpected moments of revealing my Authentic Self.

The pivotal moment came when Benita led us through a Breathwork session.

I heard God tell me that “I am worth it.”

This wasn’t positive thinking or a rote affirmation that impacted me just on a mental level. This message, “worth it,” nestled itself deeply in my spirit and into my bones. 

Before this, I didn’t feel like I had much self-worth, although I knew I was smart and creative. I always held myself back from living the best version of myself. I grew up with a father, grandfather and brothers who belittled me, and I adopted their perception of who I was.  

Now I know – I mean really KNOW – that I am “worth it.” 

First, I am worth the effort of loving myself and facing things I think are difficult. 

Second, I am able to RECEIVE God’s love at a much deeper level. 

Third, the spiritual growth process is worth the birthing pain. 

Fourth, attending the HSP Retreat was worth the sacrifice of my smaller self so I could show up as fully as I was able.

This retreat was a turning point for me. In the months that followed, these things happened:

  1. God guided me to move from Atlanta to the mountains. He brought me to a beautiful home that has become my sanctuary. I feel peaceful almost every day of my life.
  2. I received a generous raise and promotion to a job I love.
  3. My body feels healthier than ever.
  4. God united me with my Beloved in Benita’s Conscious Dating Group. This woman is beyond my wildest dreams.

I highly recommend the HSP Retreat to all those who yearn to throw off the chains that bind you. It IS possible to live a vibrant life, full of love and creativity, and fully showing up as your Authentic Self. 

~ Anthony, Principal Software Engineer

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A Note from Benita

I am supporting you to unleash your full potential and share your gifts with a world that desperately needs the wisdom and creativity that you carry.

If you would like help to heal the inner wounds that stop you from being your Authentic Self, contact me for a complimentary 10-minute Discovery Call to see if we are a good fit.

But first, please read this webpage about my services.

 

Wishing you all the best that life has to offer.

Benita A. Esposito, MA, “Chief Trail Guide,” for Highly Sensitive Introverts on the Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self. Click here for credentials.

Bestselling author of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self – available on Amazon.

Click here to watch my book video.

Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor. Sessions are available worldwide via Zoom.

Highly Sensitive Person Retreat Details

Deep Emotional Healing Breathwork Retreat: October 8-9, 2022

 

Breathwork Retreat: April 22-23, 2023

HSP Retreat: June 17, 2023

Breathwork Retreat: October 7-8, 2023

In person, Young Harris, GA, USA 

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.Attend more than one retreat. They’re always different.

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Healing from an Abusive Marriage: Devon’s Story

Self-Care Learned the Hard Way

 

Devon, a highly sensitive man, called me for counseling at the prompting of his mother who was concerned about him. His dearest friends told him that he no longer seemed like himself. He was depressed. He was not eating properly, he had severe insomnia and he had trouble focusing on his work. Normally, Devon was an exemplary worker.

(The identity of this client was changed to preserve confidentiality. This story was posted with his permission.)

What started this downward spiral?

Devon had married a woman after a short courtship, and the marriage quickly went awry. She wanted them to marry quickly, and he agreed. Highly sensitive people want to please the people they love.

In the months following the wedding, his wife tried to take advantage of him financially. She emotionally and verbally abused him, and she deceived him. When he confronted her with her unkind behavior, she threatened to hurt him and have him killed. She threw tantrums when she didn’t get her way. When Devon suggested counseling, she refused.

Devon read books about gaslighting, emotional abuse and manipulation. He realized, “Wow, these feelings of fear, dread and pain are explained perfectly. I’m in an abusive relationship, and I am stuck. I need to break through a wall of blame, guilt, blackmail and threats to my life to find safety.”

Devon was obsessed with a woman who had badly hurt him.

He wanted counseling to resolve this internal dilemma: Part of him knew that she wasn’t good for him. Another part of him believed that marriage was a sacred commitment. He felt guilty for wanting to end the marriage.

Over time, Devon saw that his wife had no intentions of changing. He finally initiated a divorce, still feeling guilty. He believed me when I said, “God does not require us to stay in abusive relationships.” The divorce was final within a year of the wedding. Fortunately, his ex-wife broke off all contact with him.

Devon replayed the awful memories in his mind for months. He had no clue about how to resolve the emotional wounds.

Counseling Activities and Discussions

Devon read the books, Boundaries and Attached. He came to understand his own attachment style and hers. In the beginning of the marriage, he let her walk all over him because he thought that love required that of him.

Before counseling Devon thought, “I should be able to do something to fix her problems. I’m failing as a husband.”

Later in counseling he reported, “If I had read these books before, I would have never married her.”

She blamed him for being too sensitive, so he tried to be less sensitive and more understanding. He gave an inch. She took a mile. Her next fit of anger was always worse than the last. He told her that he didn’t want to live with constant anger.

Devon shared, “The more I tried to repair things, the more she pushed back. I tried everything to make her happy. Nothing worked.

“I felt like I was losing myself.

“My friends and family tried to tell me that I was being abused, but I didn’t see it. All of my focus was on making her happy. I neglected my own self-care. I wasn’t sleeping well or eating well, and couldn’t find enjoyment in anything. I can now see that these were warning signs … red flags.”

Devon also used a therapy called Brainspotting which helped heal the emotional wounds and return him to his Authentic Self. He also learned to meditate to soothe his nervous system and wrote internal dialogues to resolve his dilemma.

I asked Devon about the lessons that he learned from his year of counseling.

Devon shared these thoughts:

“When I think about creating my next relationship, I don’t feel desperate. I’m not rushing. I won’t let my boundaries be violated again. I have a high bar for a relationship. I will forgive when needed.

“I would say to the next woman in my life: I was in a bad relationship so I’m cautious. She was angry a lot, and I don’t want that. I want a healthy relationship. If a woman said ‘no’ to this request, I would see that as a yellow or orange flag.

“If someone told me the same thing today … if they had a history of bad relationships … I would be respectful. I wouldn’t demean a person for wanting safety. Most people have plenty of baggage, but it’s how they handle it that makes or breaks them. I’d be looking for answers to these questions: Did her relationship wounds make her smarter and wiser instead of avoiding her problems? Did she learn lessons? Who has she become because of it?

“If there is trouble in the relationship, if both people tried to fix the arguments, I would stay. We would allow time to cool down and discuss the conflict. Both of us would compromise and create win-win solutions. One person wouldn’t be right all the time. There would be a willingness from both sides to make things work. I remember this quote from Benita’s book:

‘You should not have to set yourself on fire to keep another person warm.’

“I think it is a good idea to require my future mate to learn relationship skills along with me. Her agreement would be a supreme green flag. I would be so proud of her.”

 

Conclusion

Devon shared the following:

“I have learned about myself and how I brought trauma into my life. I am glad for the lessons learned. I have become a better person vs. ruining my life. I have learned how to become resilient … like trees that get damaged, but the roots grow stronger around a damaged part.

“My supervisor gave me a hefty promotion and salary increase. I’ve started on my bachelor’s degree, and I have a group of friends who truly support me. My sleep has returned to normal, and I have discovered the joy of cooking healthy food.

“I owe a lot to Benita. She pointed me in the right directions. She helped me learn to meditate. She taught me about boundaries and self-worth. She taught me about attachment styles. She taught me that loving someone doesn’t mean that I should accept abuse.

“I’ll remember these lessons the rest of my life.”

~ end of story ~

Contact Benita Esposito if you would like help healing wounds from a dysfunctional relationship or if you want to improve a relationship. Complete the contact page and ask for a complimentary 10-minute get-acquainted session.

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Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, “Chief Trail Guide,” for Highly Sensitive Introverts on the Hero’s Journey to the Authentic Self.

Bestselling author of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self – available on Amazon.

Life Coach and Spiritual Counselor

“Your Authentic Life. Anything Else is a Compromise.”

Spiritual Healing for the Inner Child: The Power of Inner Dialogue

The following extraordinary story was written by one of my highly sensitive introvert clients. She had an amazing spiritual healing and she wants you to know that transformation can come quickly. My desire is to be an instrument of God’s healing.

Read more

Highly Sensitive Introvert Survey 2020

Dear Highly Sensitive Introvert,

Since you’ve discovered the research on Highly Sensitive People (HSP), doesn’t it feel great to know that you are not alone … that you’re not weird … that you are a valuable part of society … even when your loved ones and your co-workers don’t understand you? Read more

Healing for Lonely Abandoned Hearts

This short story was written by a 30-something highly sensitive man at one of our Deep Emotional Healing Retreats.

 

I discovered that I was highly sensitive in early 2019. It was a great relief to learn that my tendency for deep thinking and being highly emotional were both quite normal.

In July 2019 I felt an increasing sense of separation and isolation from people, even at my church. I felt like no one really understood what it was like to want to be deep and emotional.

I had often felt isolated when I was younger, and I thought that I had finally accepted it, but the loneliness came back.

At the same time, I wanted very much to be vulnerable with my emotions, but I was very insecure about doing that. I thought doing so would make me stand out, and standing out was often very stressful for me.

I craved deep relationships, but I didn’t know how to find them.

I searched for resources about how to live as a highly sensitive Christian and found Benita Esposito’s book, The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert, in August 2019.

Two of Benita’s stories particularly resonated with me in a way no other book has. 
 
The first was about how her father punished her when she was a young child. I also had a similar experience with my mother when I was young, which I’ll talk about below.

The second was about a time when Benita was on a retreat and didn’t feel like socializing but just wanted to let herself be sad and cry. I felt like that so often, but I usually didn’t dare to show it.

I wanted so much to feel free to be my emotional self.
 
A couple of the exercises in her book seemed strange to me, and I was skeptical they would do anything for me. One was the “Sacred Inner Beloved” dialogs where I was supposed to write a dialog between God and myself. The other was the reparenting exercise where I was to write a reconciliation dialog between my mother and myself.

Mysteriously, within a few days of reading about each of those exercises, I found my mind was doing the exercise as I awoke in the morning. I jumped out of bed and started writing and the words just flowed.

The Sacred Inner Beloved speaks.

In my Sacred Inner Beloved exercise, Jesus told me how precious I was to Him, and how He longed to spend time with me in nature. He urged me to accept His love. I had an image of embracing Him and crying on His shoulder. I cried as I was writing, too. I felt Him say, “Don’t be afraid to cry. Your tears are an anointing to me. I am honored to receive this from you, like I received the tears from the woman who washed My feet with her tears.”

Jesus continued to speak loving, affirming words to me about how precious I was to Him. He promised to heal me.

One surprising promise was that I would be a healer of hearts. That’s something I wanted, but I wasn’t sure if I was hearing Him clearly.

Trauma and Re-parenting Myself

While I was meditating a couple of months ago, I recalled a traumatic memory. Here is the historical version as best as I can remember.

When I was about 5 years old, we were having a party at our house, and my mother asked me to open a bottle of soda for the guests. When I put the bottle on the table and twisted the cap, the foam overflowed onto the table. My mom saw what happened and scolded me in an angry voice, “You must have shaken the bottle.”

I was very hurt. I ran to my room, lay down on my bed facing the wall and sobbed. My mom came in later and tried to comfort me by saying, “If I scold you, all you need to do is scold back at me.” But it felt disrespectful to do that. I hurt too much to even say anything.

During my meditation, the following altered vision of the event came to my mind.

After the soda overflowed, my mom saw what happened, and instead of scolding, she grabbed two rags and ran over to the table. She put the soda cap back on, handed me one of the rags, and said, “Quick, let’s get this cleaned up together.” I didn’t feel shunned and ashamed any more. Then I said (still as a child in my mind), “Are you ok, Mom? Are you stressed or sad? Is something bothering you?” It’s as though I could see past my pain, and could show compassion instead.

Then my thoughts were taken to a scene that might happen soon in my present-day reality. I saw myself saying to my mom, “Were you stressed or sad when I was young?” (I think the answer would be yes.) I said, “I think I can forgive you now,” and hugged her with tears moistening my eyes.

But that was only a vision. Afterward, I felt like it would take a long time to be able to forgive my mom in reality.

Private Breathwork Practice

Benita explained the breathwork procedure so I could practice by myself before I attended her Deep Emotional Healing Retreat.

During a couple of these sessions, I became very sad and felt like God was abandoning me. Once the feeling became so intense that I said aloud, “Don’t leave me!” I felt like I was in a dark place even though the sun was shining brightly outside. Later, I felt God saying that He was with me. I felt that I would start coming out of the darkness soon by going to Benita’s retreat.

Traveling to the Retreat (October 4, 2019)

I didn’t know what I would gain from the retreat, but I felt a very strong sense that this is what I had to do for myself. As I was driving to the retreat, I saw the mountains in the distance and started to weep. I remember saying to myself with a deep yearning, “I’m going to get help.” I really felt God calling me to this beautiful place for healing and that He would meet me in a special way.

Trust-building at the Retreat (October 5-6, 2019)

I found myself quickly trusting the other retreat members. I think it was because I knew we were all there to find healing and that many (if not all) were highly sensitive like myself. I was very ready to remove my mask because I felt that if anyone could understand me, it would be these people.

During those two days, I wept more than I ever had in the presence of other people. It was incredibly freeing to finally express my emotional self and not feel like people were staring at me for being strange or different.

Retreat first day: Breathwork (October 5, 2019)

We did a group breathwork session for more than an hour on the first day. For me, breathwork is similar to a waking dream where my emotional self is freer to explore deep emotions, desires, and unresolved wounds from my past. I also connect with God. Some of the thoughts and images made sense, and others were more mysterious and symbolic.

Early in the session, I felt like I was lost in a dark unfamiliar place. I remember being afraid and wondering, “Where am I?” Then I felt like I was being rescued from drowning and was coughing up water.

After some time, I felt the presence of Jesus. A sense of peace came over me. The music changed to something that sounded like a choir, and I had a vision of angels standing with Jesus. I felt so loved and sensed Him saying to me, “I will move heaven and earth for you. My legions of angels will be with you and help you.”

Almost immediately I sensed the pain among the other members, and I thought, “I’ll take that pain upon myself.” But an inner voice told me, “You need to ask Jesus to take their pain.” I imagined bringing each member to the embrace of Jesus so He could bear their pain. I embraced them from behind so I could be an added comfort to them. It felt good to comfort a hurting person.

Some time passed, and I had an image of myself as a baby in the hospital. (When I was younger, my parents had told me that when I was a baby, I had a bad fever and had to stay in the hospital.) I felt really alone and abandoned. I also had an image of my parents watching me with concern, but not being able to come near me. I believe that this experience was the true source of my feelings of abandonment that I experienced during my private breathwork sessions.

Later, I felt my stomach tensing up. I don’t let people touch my stomach. If they do, I wince and get tense in that area. Benita came over and placed her hand on my stomach and also on my chest, and I relaxed a little. Her touch felt safe, and I didn’t feel any need to tense up defensively. I felt a healing power through her hands. As I kept on breathing deeply, I felt the urge to exhale violently as though I needed to expel something really dark and evil. At one point I even wiped my mouth in disgust and told the evil to leave me. After I felt like the evil was sufficiently gone, I relaxed.

Retreat second day: Reparenting (October 6, 2019) 

During the group reparenting exercise, one member took the role of the stern version of my mom and another member took the role of the compassionate version.

I was able to express to my stern mother how hurt and crushed and shamed I felt by her scolding during the soda incident. I was shouting, “How could you do that to me? I’m your son!”

When the compassionate mother was comforting me, I recalled all the reparenting work I had already done. I said to the stern mother, “I know that I didn’t come with instructions. I know you had your own problems at the time.”

Then I had the chance to play the role of the compassionate father for another retreat member. I placed my hands on her shoulders as she expressed her pain about being neglected by her father. I felt a deep sadness. When she started to cry, I was overcome with emotion and I wept, too. Then I knelt down face-to-face with her. I held her hands and talked to her as her compassionate father. I was still crying, and I couldn’t speak very loudly.

Benita guided me in what to say, such as, “I do love you, my daughter.”

I wanted so much to make the client feel loved, and I had so many affirming words in my heart that I wanted to express. I said, “I’m so sorry,” and went on to say all the different ways she was precious and the activities we would do together.

After a few minutes, the stern father also approached, facing her and standing behind me. He began to speak affirming words. I felt like I needed to allow them to reconcile more fully, so I moved to the side so I was no longer between them. Then I took her (the client’s) hands and joined them with the stern father’s, and I put my hands on top of both their hands, while the stern father continued to affirm her. We stayed that way until he was finished with his healing words.

That experience was one of the most fulfilling that I ever remember. Jesus said comforting words to me in my Sacred Inner Beloved dialogs, and now His love and affirmation were flowing through me to help others.

Post Retreat Debrief (October 7, 2019)

Benita and I had a private session after the retreat. I told her that I didn’t think I was ready to tell my mom that I forgave her. Benita encouraged me to be more intentional about writing reparenting dialogs, and I agreed to do that a few times before our next meeting.

An Unexpected Conversation with my Mother (October 8, 2019)

When I got home after the retreat, I felt a strong desire to ask my mom about the details of the time I was sick as a baby. I told her that at the retreat I recalled a feeling of being abandoned in that incident, even though I have no conscious memory of the event because I was a baby.

She told me that I had a serious infection which required me to stay in the hospital for several days. The doctors had to try two kinds of antibiotics to stop the infection. My mom went back and forth between home and hospital to keep checking on me. The nurses didn’t allow her to hold me because that might disturb the IVs I was hooked up to, so she could only caress me with her hand. But she was so adamant about holding me that she did it anyway when the nurses weren’t looking. She knew I needed that comfort.

For several days after I was released from the hospital, I cried and fussed whenever my mom wasn’t carrying me. Apparently, I was so traumatized that I needed to feel safe in her arms. My mom barely slept for a week because she walked around with me in a sling or I wouldn’t fall asleep.

After hearing this, I realized it was getting late, so I went back to my apartment to sleep. (I live in the same building as my parents.) My soul was so moved with admiration by what my mom did for me that I felt I needed to tell her. I remembered a story that I read in Benita’s book when she saw a beautiful ski jacket. She said, “My inner voice told me to share my joy because expressing my joy as well as my pain was part of being true to my Authentic Self.”

I went back to my parents’ apartment. I didn’t have words, so I just opened my arms to hug my mom and started to cry. She thought it was because I was still feeling the abandonment as a baby. But I said it was more than that, and that we could about it talk later. She wanted to hear the rest of what I had to say right then.

I told her about the soda incident and my “revised version” where we cleaned up the mess together, and where I asked if she was stressed.

She said that was very mature of me to think that way, and remarked how much the retreat must have done for me. She told me that she was stressed when I was young because of family tensions and mistreatment. I knew about some of this mistreatment, and now she was confirming what my intuition had told me. The mistreatment was likely the cause of her outburst at me when the soda overflowed.

After a few moments, I felt a strong desire to reconnect with her, and I reached out for her hand. She gave me her hand but also hugged me, and I cried again, and she cried a little, too. Then I told her that I was ready to forgive her. I now understood that her harshness was due to her own problems at the time.

We talked about some of our recent conflicts. One was where she made a comment that I was neglectful for not putting away the leftovers. (I couldn’t do it right away because I was occupied with something.) Her comment had really triggered me and after stewing on it, I had told her it wasn’t ok to attack me for being irresponsible.

When recounting this incident, my mom said that she often says things in an off-handed way just to make conversation because she feels like silence is “stuffy.” She suggested that I just “argue back” in a friendly way when she says offensive things because she feels better when doing that. But I told her that I feel worse when I need to confront people and that my feelings are easily hurt. I told her I prefer nonverbal communication, so instead of filling the silence with banter, how about just a hug?

The amazing thing is that I realized this “nonverbal” preference of mine during a private session with Benita, and now I had the knowledge to express that to my mom.

We hugged one last time before I went off to bed. I didn’t cry this time but felt very much at peace. When getting ready for bed, I had a song playing in the background. Before the retreat, this song would bring up a sad yearning feeling, as in “I don’t like where I am now, but I know somehow it’s going to get better.” But listening to the song now felt very different, as in “I’m in a good place. I feel ready to spread my wings and soar!”

This was an absolutely miraculous outcome … one I didn’t expect to happen so soon.

So many different things that I experienced while working with Benita came together at once: reading her book, the private reparenting, the group reparenting, the breathwork visions, the one-on-one sessions, being with kindred spirits at the retreat, remembering Benita’s jacket story.

I feel that God brought everything together. Each piece was necessary for this transformation.

Now my mom and I have made a habit of embracing almost every day.

Final Closure (October 10, 2019)

I woke up feeling very loved by God. He said to me, “Though you are lost, I will go to the ends of the earth to find you and bring you to Myself.”

God had one more thing to teach me about my past trauma.

Up to this point, I had two versions of the soda incident when I was five years old: the historical one that originally traumatized me and the one where my mom was perfectly reasonable and we cleaned up the spill together.

A third version came to mind.

Mom scolds me, and I start to cry, but then she immediately says, “I’m sorry for saying that. Come here.” She embraces me until I feel accepted again. She says again, “I’m so sorry I said those hurtful things. You’ll always be my precious baby.” I hold her tight and feel her warmth until I feel entirely comforted. When she feels that and notices that I loosen my embrace, she looks into my eyes and says, “Ok now? I’ll hold you as long as you want.” I say, “I’m OK now.” Then she grabs two cloths, hands me one and says, “Let’s clean this up together.”

I realize now that it’s important not to completely cover over a traumatic memory with an idealized version, or to hold the traumatic one and the ideal one as separate versions.

Loved ones will hurt us sometimes. That’s the reality of this fallen world. But God provides means of reconciliation and understanding and healing. When that happens, in God’s time, we become free to merge the hurt and the love into the beautiful tapestry where both darkness and light play their part. The light appears so much brighter when seen against the backdrop of darkness.

~ The End. ~   Lovingly shared by “KL”

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Did you find this story compelling?

If you are interested in attending a Highly Sensitive Person Retreat or a Deep Emotional Healing Retreat, please click here for the retreat schedule in Georgia, USA. You may also receive private individual spiritual counseling and life coaching.

Click here for a complimentary 10-minute Discovery Call to see if we are a good match. Make your plans well ahead of time because you will need to fulfill prerequisites for a retreat.

Complete the contact page and Benita Esposito will do her best to reach out to you within 48 hours.

Credentials: Retreat Facilitator, Benita A. Esposito, MA

Bestseller Banner awarded to Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert

Drum roll, please!

I’m excited to announce the debut of the paperback version of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert: Wisdom for Emotional Healing and Expressing Your Radiant Authentic Self.

It is my memoir and teaching stories to guide highly sensitive introverts on the journey to the Authentic Self.

The eBook version launched 10/16/2018. Amazon awarded it the Bestseller banner in 9 categories during the first week.

Amazon began posting the #1 New Release banner for the paperback version in 8 categories on 12/3/2018.

If you ever wanted to achieve a cherished goal, but you doubted you could do it, you’ll be inspired by my story.

Most of the time my book sells more copies than When Bad Things Happen to Good People, The Dalai Lama’s Book of Wisdom, and the Whole-Brain Child which was written by one of my teachers.

I thought that if my book received the Bestseller banner, tons of other books must, too. But that’s not the case. Brian Berni, who manages my Amazon ads, explained that it’s rare for a book to become a bestseller.

There are 4 million eBooks on Amazon.

My eBook ranked #3,305 during the first week.

That means that only 3,304 books sold more copies.

Brian says that he’s happy if a new book ranks 20,000. It’s excellent if a book ranks 6,000.

But it’s absolutely amazing for a book to rank 3,000-4,000. Especially for a first-time author who doesn’t use much social media or have a big platform.

How did this success happen?

For years I had hoped that I could write a bestseller, but it seemed like a pipe dream.

It took me two years to write this book. I didn’t feel confident while writing and publishing my book. I changed the title a thousand times. I fretted over learning the technology required to publish and advertise a book on Amazon. There were hundreds of things to study and memorize. But week after week I learned.

I didn’t study writing in school. I’m not an English major. I enrolled in an adult education course on writing once, but I quit the first time the teacher criticized my work. Highly Sensitive Introverts feel stung by criticism. I have dyslexia so I read slowly and I don’t like to read much. Most writers are readers. Not me.

I consulted the guidance of the Holy Spirit every step of the way:

• what topics to include in this book and which to save for another book
• what writing style to use, and how to edit it.
• which self-publishing school to choose. I found several schools that cost $20,000. I refused to spend that kind of money.
• which sub-contractors to hire for editing, proofreading, cover design, formatting, copywriting the book description and ad management.
• I asked for prayer support. One of the women on the prayer team at my church crocheted a white loose-weave scarf with a tiny cross embedded in it. That scarf hung around my neck 24 hours each weekend while I wrote for 20 months.
• The Holy Spirit sent angels who lifted me up. I acknowledge them all in my book.

I did my best to follow instructions from the Self-Publishing School (SPS) founded by Chandler Bolt. He and his staff have the highest integrity. My book coach, Marcy Pusey, was perfect for me because she is a highly sensitive person, too. She deeply understood me and she was so warm-hearted that I was moved to tears. I had tons of questions and I didn’t hesitate to ask every one of them. The SPS online community is warm and friendly. They provided the support that I needed to keep putting one foot in front of the other, especially when I felt discouraged.

*** If you would like to join the Self-Publishing School so you can learn how to write and publish your book, shoot me an email. I’ll arrange for you to receive a sizable discount.

I knew I could write my book. But, I also knew that if I didn’t learn how to market it well, few people would find it. My goal was to reach masses of people to help improve the quality of life on the planet.

The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert eBook sold 849 copies in the first month. Some books don’t sell that much in their lifetime. I hope that the release of the paperback will catapult sales.

I had no idea that my book would become a bestseller. None.

But now, my confidence is growing. I can look back and understand what I did to create a bestseller even though I was a first-time author, a babe in the woods.

I hope you feel encouraged by my story. If I did it, you can do it. My book coach told me that 80% of people want to write a book, but only 2% actually do.

Always remember this:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” ―Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Here’s to your success in achieving your most cherished dreams.

Hop on over to Amazon, and buy your copy of The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert.  Buy a copy for your sensitive friends and for the family members that you want to understand you.

I’d appreciate it if you would write an Amazon review because great reviews boost the rank of the book. Then more sensitive introverts will find the help they need.

Please share this notice on your social media sites.

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UPDATE April 8, 2022

To date, 8400 copies of my book have been sold across all formats: Kindle, paperback and the audiobook, which I narrated.

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Author: Benita A. Esposito, MA, is a life coach and spiritual counselor. Contact her for a complimentary 10-minute get-acquainted phone chat to schedule a coaching session to catapult your success as a sensitive introvert.

Click here to visit the Book Page for The Gifted Highly Sensitive Introvert.