On managing our connections and our hearts

Sometimes, we can be just standing around at a bus stop and people start talking. Before we know it, we know their life story and they see us as their best friend. It’s interesting how HSPs often seem to develop accidental friendships with people who don’t actually know them from Adam! Sometimes, of course, it is mutual and we can celebrate having found a like-minded soul to talk to about what has meaning for us – sadly that is not often the case.

As HSPs we listen deeply and I think people often feel this as love.  Sometimes it’s love, but often we are just being ourselves in a general way.  Since we understand them quickly and deeply, people often open up and this is great, but it means we sometimes then carry too much of other people’s ‘stuff’ around with us afterwards – they feel great, we feel weighed down. I’ve often heard HSPs talk about how they now avoid this hobby or that place because there is someone who has decided they are their best friend – and the HSP doesn’t know how to get away without risking upset.

It’s hard at first to get a balance. It feels important to make sure that we are genuinely choosing those who we want to listen to and who we have as friends.  It’s not a bad thing if we limit our closest friends to those who can reciprocate, especially if we are still struggling with past hurts or family set-ups. If we don’t use caution, we could get very tired and also, in time of need, find that those who we are spending time with, cannot offer us the same quality of support, and that can lead to resentment.  Sometimes, we are still with friends from the long distant past, who for decades have been gradually providing less and less benefit, but we don’t know how to say goodbye. It’s important to try to find equals, then we will have plenty of energy to share around for others who might need us from time to time. Understanding that friendships can have a varied life-span helps. Some friends are there for a short time, others stay a lifetime. What matters is if it feels like a mutual friendship, at whatever level that friendship is happening.

Of course, when it’s us who are looking to make a connection, our heart often leads – and the connections we make tend to be very deep indeed. So taking care of our heart can become quite an important task if we want to survive making close relationships, especially the romantic ones where we may end up with a life partner. Being well tuned in to others means we often detect their needs quickly, sometimes even before they do, and we rush to meet them if we can. This sensitivity to others’ needs and desires can sometimes lead to over-commitment, one-way commitment or a commitment that is too early in a relationship. These are the times when we can end up in relationships that are fraught with demand, or abusive in some way. Having a tendency to be loyal to a fault, HSPs can then struggle to withdraw from a relationship.

But with the right person, an HSP’s relationship can be very special indeed and provide a longed-for intimacy. For this reason, when positive relationships end, HSPs can sometimes take longer to get over it than most. Those deep connections are hard to tear away from and the grieving process can be very long, with losses at many levels.

This might sound obvious, but whatever the state of your friendship group, do remember to include HSPs in your ‘gang’. You would be surprised how many dissatisfied HSPs I come across who are annoyed with friends who don’t understand them, who realize after consideration that they have forgotten to look for high sensitivity as a quality of choice in their potential friendships. Maybe this happens if HSPs have grown up having their trait reflected to them as a negative, so they have avoided HSPs like themselves and tended to seek out non-HSPs, especially extraverted non-HSPs as their allies – friends their non-HSP families would like to see them with, but who will not always provide the understanding and soulful conversation needed to feel connected.

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Whatever the state of your relationships and friendships, it’s worth remembering that there is good advice and information in the books of Dr Elaine Aron. She writes insightfully about intimate relationships in her book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person in Love’. As you may know, she works closely with her husband, Art Aron in his research on love relationships (Art came up with the ’36 questions of love’ that you may have heard about on the radio or seen on the internet in the last few years). Taking care of your heart will mean you also take care of your energy. The better care you take, the more you will have to give.

Barbara Allen

Founder and Director
National Centre for High Sensitivity CIC
Article written by Barbara Allen (e-mail: accounts@hspsensitive.com)

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