High sensitivity is not a gift; it is a functional disorder. Highly sensitive people are overwhelmed by a flood of stimuli that they cannot process. I support highly sensitive people by helping them to increase their inner strength and stability so that they can learn to process information appropriately.
Rico Brunner, is it a coincidence that you frequently encounter the topic of high sensitivity in your work?
No, I do not believe that this is a coincidence because so many people are affected by high sensitivity. There are various degrees of high sensitivity, and some people may not realize that they are always highly sensitive. They may only notice it every once in a while. A lot of people want to learn more about high sensitivity if it has a negative impact on their lives.
I sometimes feel overstimulated by loud noises or when my children are demanding my attention – does that mean that I am a highly sensitive person?
Not unless this is a permanent state for you. It depends on how you are feeling that day. You might not feel well because you have not slept much, are overstimulated or have too many things on your to-do list and your kids are being loud. It is only natural to feel irritated by the noise on such days. This has nothing to do with high sensitivity.
High sensitivity plays a role when the feeling of being overwhelmed is constant although you cannot find a reason why you are feeling this way.
Could you give me an example to help me understand this concept better?
Sure. You might feel overwhelmed with everything even if life is going well and you are not experiencing any particularly stressful situations. You might not be able to relax and re-energize because you cannot process the things you perceive or feel. This causes a persistent state of overstimulation.
I think this description sounds like burnout…
The description is probably similar. If a person feels burnt out, the primary issue does not involve the processing of stimuli. Instead, the person lacks strength, is exhausted and tired, and does not feel motivated. They feel overwhelmed because they have lost strength and energy, but their ability to process stimuli is usually not affected.
How does it look when a person cannot adequately process the multitude of stimuli they are exposed to? How do they feel? What has your work taught you?
I have noticed that highly sensitive people cannot process stimuli. Picture yourself standing in a room and someone tosses a thousand red balls at you, and you have to try to catch all of them. Of course, you would be unable to do so. Some would fall to the ground, and chaos would ensue. This scenario illustrates the experience of highly sensitive people.
How do you proceed after you determine that this is your client’s problem? How do you work on it?
Many years of experience have shown me that the experience of highly sensitive people is a symptom of an underlying issue. A highly sensitive person lacks the foundation and stability to process stimuli correctly. Imagine a tree with a large crown, lots of apples, and a fairly strong trunk. However, its roots are tiny. Such a tree could not resist winds or storms. This image illustrates the problem of high sensitivity and why it is necessary to strengthen a person’s foundation and roots. It will restore/regulate a person’s ability to process stimuli.
A lot of people think that they are just very sensitive, but you say that high sensitivity actually is a dysfunction…
I consider high sensitivity to be a functional disorder. I think it is important to mention this because high sensitivity is sometimes described as a special gift or talent. I believe that this view diminishes the struggles highly sensitive people face every day. It is not a gift.
High sensitivity results from a disruption of information processing, and it causes stress. Every person can develop high sensitivity if their foundation crumbles, and they become unable to process stimuli correctly. It is strange that people assume that it is a gift because high sensitivity is a functional disorder. The person does not have the ability or strength to properly sort and process incoming stimuli.
Your work consists of repairing energy fields. Is there a “high sensitivity energy field”?
No, there is no single energy field that is responsible for a person’s sensitivity or perceptiveness. A person can be highly sensitive for a variety of reasons, and it is important to pay attention to this. You cannot simply say that they are highly sensitive and then suggest that they follow a standardized regimen. It is important to determine why this sensitivity developed, examined areas that are weakened and where resistance needs to be restored so that information can be processed again.
What do these fields look like in a person who is somewhat highly sensitive? What do you see?
I see a person who cannot process stimuli adequately because the incoming information cannot be stored and filed away in the energy field. They circle in the energy field and cause stress and disruption. They are like a fly that is buzzing around your head and does not allow you to rest. You can detect high sensitivity in the energy field because stimuli cannot find their proper place and continue to circle around the person, and this causes a lot of stress.
How do you proceed? Do you use some sort of “fly swatter” to restore a sense of calm? How does this work?
I work on restoring a person’s stability and their overall sense of calm so that the information that is buzzing around them can be guided to the correct location. High sensitivity is caused by information that cannot find its way, and this creates stress. You need to work on increasing the energy field’s resilience. A tree needs strong roots to support its large crown.
Does the person you support notice what you are doing?
They typically do, but sometimes they do not. It depends on whether I work in a person’s perceptual field, i.e., in an area on which the person has directed their attention. If that is the case, they will immediately notice what I am working on. If I am working outside of their perceptual field, the person is basically looking in a different direction and will notice the effects a bit later.
It does not matter whether you are consciously aware of the work that is being done. Instead, it is crucial to work on the weakened areas, whether they are in the perceptual field or not. You will feel the effect once your strength is restored.
Can you tell us about a time when you worked with a person who struggled with high sensitivity? What was the initial situation, and how did the person feel afterwards?
I would like to talk about an older woman whom I supported. I met her a few years ago, and she was incredibly sensitive. She could not process information, struggled with relationships and was overwhelmed around other people. Her thoughts were very convoluted although she tried so hard to take control of her life. Although she was a very sociable person, she began to withdraw from other people to protect herself. However, she noticed that this did not help because nothing had changed.
I began to support this woman, and I focused on two things. First, I wanted to calm her energy field to reduce the stress and restore a sense of peace. At the same time, I began to work on her foundation to increase her resilience. We determined that several injuries she had sustained during childhood still affected her, especially her self-confidence and self-esteem. These underlying issues greatly contributed to the development of her high sensitivity.
She also had a very delicate energy and could not cope with these injuries easily. This resulted in a high sensitivity that persisted for most of her life.
The longer I worked with her, the more her entire system calmed down. She was able to process things better, and her behavior changed accordingly.
Is it correct that external influences can cause high sensitivity in people who are not predisposed to developing it?
Yes. It also has a lot to do with the fact that people are different – we even see this in small children. You can usually tell whether a child has a strong will, is calm or sensitive at an early age. We all are born with a certain temperament, and some people are more likely to become highly sensitive than others. High sensitivity has nothing to do with being “weak”. Highly sensitive people have a certain level of sensitivity. Similarly, ignorant people tend to become dissatisfied as they get older because they are overwhelmed and do not want to confront life. Every “personality type” has to address its own challenges.
A lot of people consider sensitivity to be a very positive trait. It allows us to empathize with others. It certainly is not completely negative…
This is the case with everything. There are many important and positive traits and abilities, and sensitivity is one of them. However, the balance between sensitivity and other abilities is crucial. If sensitivity is predominant and overshadows other traits, it can cause problems.
It’s like the salt in your soup. Salt is important, and our bodies need it. Salt is tasty, too. But if I dump a pound of salt into the soup, it will be inedible. The same is true for sensitivity; if the energy field has an appropriate level of sensitivity, we can use it to our advantage. If it is excessive, it leads to high sensitivity because the foundation is insufficient or missing, and incoming stimuli cannot be processed.
We all strive to achieve balance and would prefer a soup that is not too salty. How can a person who believes that they may struggle with high sensitivity, work on themselves in order to better cope in their everyday life?
This is a basic rule of thumb: do not focus on aspects or traits are dominant and obvious. If you already know that you are extremely sensitive, very perceptive and frequently feel overwhelmed, you should not focus on this issue. Instead, focus on things that make you feel more stable. Do not think about your sensitivity and try to increase your stability instead. It may seem strange, but the sensitivity will seem to diminish. Balance is restored and your sensitivity will be utilized subconsciously in a more beneficial way.
Let’s look at the following situation: you might know what to do, but some circumstances can simply overwhelm us. Do you have any tips on how to handle such situations?
It is important to differentiate how severe the high sensitivity is. If a person is extremely sensitive, advice and tips will not help them because they cannot compensate for the sensitivity.
People who are only moderately sensitive or whose high sensitivity only occurs periodically may benefit from consciously removing themselves from the situation while working on staying centered, slowing down and reducing their stress level.
There are various options to address high sensitivity. People can look into talk therapy or schedule a support session with you. What can I expect if I choose to become your client?
I think it is most important to work on increasing stability. High sensitivity is something that has developed over several years, and it requires a lot of patience to resolve this issue. The foundation has to grow gradually and naturally, it needs to be strong and functional so that information can be processed properly. The only thing you can do – although it is incredibly difficult when you are constantly overwhelmed – is to give your feelings and sensitivity less weight. If you continue to listen to these emotions, they become larger until you eventually can no longer cope with them.
Let’s return to the example of the tree: if the roots are too small, I should not focus on the crown and the apples. Instead, I need to promote growth of the roots. If I focus on the crown and apples, they will continue to grow and the underlying problem will only get worse.
Is it similar to the idea that your mind will direct energy to whatever pay attention to? Should I try to worry less if I suffer from this functional disorder?
Exactly, our energy will flow wherever we direct our focus. This area will continue to develop. You can observe this in a small child that has fallen down. If you pay too much attention to them and are overly concerned about whether they are alright, the child will feel the fall was very scary even if they were not hurt. If you distract them after ensuring they are not hurt, the child will quickly forget about the incident and move on.
Of course, high sensitivity is more complex and you cannot change it by simply not paying attention to it anymore. It is a long process, but it is incredibly important to increase a person’s stability and strength before addressing their high sensitivity. Otherwise, the issue may just get worse.
I want to mention an interesting phenomenon. My work relies on my perception and intuition, and I know a lot of people who would like to learn how to do this as well. I noticed that you do not really have to strengthen a person’s intuition. Instead, you have to increase their stability, and their intuition will grow as well.
It is important to foster a sense of equanimity towards a distressing topic and to try to remain unaffected by it.
Yes, you should strive to remain centered and strong and to not let the issue distract you or affect your inner balance. Use your own strength and resilience to cope with the problem. I notice in my daily work with clients that the problem never really affects in their ability to notice things, but it usually involves a lack of strength to process the perceived information.
This reminds me of a story. People often tell me that they would like to see energy fields like I do. I always tell them that seeing the energy fields is not a problem, but processing what you have seen and felt is incredibly challenging. It is very exciting to focus on this sensitive part of yourself as long as you are able to process the information. If you cannot do so, it can be traumatizing and lead to persisting high sensitivity.
Does this have something to do with our tendency to immediately judge and categorize the things we notice?
No, you are not struggling with high sensitivity if you are still able to judge and categorize information. People who suffer from high sensitivity feel that their thoughts, experiences and feelings race in circles around them. They demand so much attention that the person cannot find peace. Its as if you are standing on a highway with cars approaching you from all directions. There are so many cars that you do not even know where they are coming from anymore. This image can help us understand high sensitivity.
Would it be better to simply accept this trait as a part of yourself instead of viewing it as a problem or making a big deal out of it by labelling yourself as “highly sensitive”?
Yes, it is important to accept that this is the current situation. Acceptance will reduce stress and permit a realistic assessment so that you can focus on the things that give you strength instead of your emotions and external stimuli. If a person is highly sensitive, I recommend that they seek out activities that stabilize and center them and bring them inner peace. Chopping wood is more beneficial for a highly sensitive person than meditation. Exercise is better than a walk in the woods that is inevitably associated with perceiving your surroundings. You should do the opposite of mindfulness exercises until balance is restored. Just like our example with the soup – you need to reach an appropriate amount of salt before the soup tastes delicious again.
I do not consider high sensitivity to be a gift because it is incredibly overwhelming.
I am surprised that you mention that “chopping wood is more beneficial than meditation”. Why is that?
Meditation helps people find their center. It is a gentle, delicate journey. If a person is overwhelmed due to their heightened sensitivity, it is similar to inflammation. Meditation will provide even more space for this feeling and ethereal matter to grow – the crown of the tree will grow and the roots remain small.
What happens while you are chopping wood?
Chopping wood helps you redirect your focus from your emotions and perception to the piece of wood directly in front of you.
It is grounding…
Correct. You could also clean your kitchen, dig in your garden, craft or paint. It should be an activity that requires you to concentrate on the work you do instead of your many subtle perceptions.
Is the intention to help you get out of your head?
Not necessarily. The goal is to direct your attention to something that grounds you.
To what effect?
You will achieve balance. It is similar to a person who is really good at math, but not good at writing. I think it would be great if they practiced math, but it would be a pity if they neglected their writing because it would eventually result in a discrepancy.
If my perception is too sensitive and I have a weak foundation, I need to work on the foundation. If I work on the perception instead, the problem will just intensify. I often notice this in my clients. People who had a mild sensitivity eventually developed a high sensitivity because they began to focus on their emotions and perceptions until they took up too much space and disrupted this balance.
Did they focus on themselves too much by telling themselves: “I need to meditate so I can feel centered.”
Yes, or they realized that they are very sensitive and tried to develop this trait even more. This can be problematic because they eventually perceive more than they can process. In addition, perception is only a part of your intuition. The most important thing is what you do with the information you perceive and whether you are able to process it. If you are unable to understand and process the information you perceive, you will feel overwhelmed.
It does not make sense to promote your perception because it will make matters worse. It is important to work on grounding a highly sensitive person so that their foundation can grow stronger.
In order to summarize what we have discussed, could you tell us how you define high sensitivity?
Short and sweet: high sensitivity is a limitation in the ability to process stimuli, emotions and perceptions. The more limited a person’s ability to process information, the more sensitive they are.
Finally, do you have any tips or tricks that can help someone cope with high sensitivity…
It is helpful to accept that high sensitivity is a part of you, and that it is an imbalance instead of a gift. It is nothing bad, and we may experience it several times in our lives, but it is important to restore balance instead of trying to turn high sensitivity into something it is not. It is not a special gift. It is a functional disorder that prevents you from processing information. This will intensify your perception, but it will also be disruptive.
A final example: if I wake up in the morning after a night of restless sleep, I will feel irritable and will easily be overwhelmed with the events of the morning. This is not a special ability; it happens because I am feeling overwhelmed. High sensitivity is similar, and it is important to give yourself time to regain your strength and vitality so that you can better cope with your emotions, intuition and perceptions. Once you are able to do so, your sensitivity will become one of your strengths.
So, we should chop wood instead of meditate …
Rico Brunner, thank you for this discussion. This was the podcast with Rico Brunner about the topic “High Sensitivity”– thank you for joining us.