I was once on a weekend training course where, at the end of the first day, we were given homework to bring something in the following day that represented what we felt was one of our gifts. We would have to share and explain what we’d brought with us to the rest of the group.
As I was staying away from home for the course, I didn’t have access to a lot of materials and couldn’t think what on earth I would take in. An idea finally came to me when I took the tube to the training course the following morning and saw the stack of Metro newspapers at the entrance to the station. I picked one up and put it in my bag.
When it came to my turn to share, I remember sitting in the ‘sharer’s’ seat in the circle, feeling very nervous. On the floor in front of me, I laid out different stories from the newspaper I’d cut out sometime before the session.
I’d chosen a selection of stories of woe about the world, which obviously were not difficult to find in the newspaper: stabbings, thefts, the dreaded ‘economy’, the depressing things happening in the environment.
I started to cry almost immediately as I explained that I felt that one of my gifts was that I cared so much about everything in the world. Just thinking about it now and writing this brings me back to those tears; the enormous amount of pain and suffering in the world is always at my fingertips, which I’m sure it is for you too as a highly sensitive person.
The woman running the session and other people on the course held the space for my tears so beautifully and as they subsided, she said, ‘and you don’t have to change everything alone.’
I knew she was right, of course, but I’m sure you understand that sometimes it really does feel like you’re responsible for resolving every last piece of pain and suffering in the world, all by yourself.
Many highly sensitive people struggle with these feelings. Maybe it’s part of the reason many of us find it hard to find focus in our work life – because we really do want to help in so many ways.
But it’s not anyone’s job to solve everything. We have to trust that it’s ok simply to play our part and as Parker J Palmer writes about so beautifully in his book, Let Your Life Speak, we have to know ourselves well enough to know the kind of work that is not suited to us, as well as the work that is.
If we can trust that everyone else also has a part then it frees us up a little to enjoy whatever small part is ours to play, without feeling guilty that we’re not doing more. Without feeling guilty that we’re not doing everything.
Love and courage,