‘Too much to handle’ can be code for too deep, too emotionally responsive, too sensitive — basically too human.
Highly sensitive people often feel like we’re “too much.” Too deep… too intense… too inquisitive… too communicative… too controversial… too thoughtful… too analytical… too emotionally responsive… too anxious… too sensitive… too idealistic. You know, all those qualities that make our species the most intelligent of all of the mammals? Too human, really.
You see, for all the traits that may make it seem like we’re “too much,” they really make HSPs a gift to the world: from the way we pick up on subtle nuances to how others feel safe opening up to us.
And we’re not the only ones.
The Horse Who Was ‘Too Much’
As a young teen, I loved working with horses. Once, our little group of horse-lover friends attended an expo where we got to watch a horse trainer I’d read about in my horse magazines. His name was John Lyons, and he could get a horse to do almost anything — by doing almost nothing more than looking her in the eye.
I remember standing excitedly outside the ring, so anxious to watch this real-life “horse whisperer” work his magic! The horse looked young, nervous, and panicky with the crowd gathered around. She’d anxiously prance around the ring one moment, stop abruptly, and paw the sawdust. Then her head would spring up, high and alert, and she’d start running in circles again.
I’d seen other trainers work with young horses like this. Many times, if the horse didn’t pick up cues right away, the trainers would make an impatient, threatening statement like, “Now it’s time to show her who’s boss.” There’d be frustration, anger, and cursing — and threats would be made to the horse as the trainer would rise to what he perceived as a challenge from the young, seemingly unruly animal.
But John Lyons was different.
He entered the ring and began casually chatting with this young, untrained horse he had never met before. He told the audience what the horse’s body was telling him, about what she was thinking.
Then John responded to the horse’s signals with his own subtle body language, based on how horses communicate with each other in a herd. He would face the horse directly, turn his side to the horse, hold up his hand, turn his back to her … and the horse would move certain ways, stop moving, and come toward him — all based on these very subtle body cues. It was incredible!
And it was also so gentle. Both horse and human were happy, calm, and clearly understanding each other after only 15 minutes of being together. This horse was happily responding to all of John’s cues, without being beaten, threatened, chased, or exhausted into submission.
This animal was respected, carefully observed, listened to, and responded to. Even in her wildness, he kept admiring her traits and telling the audience what was so great about her energy, her attentiveness, and her intelligence. He was truly delighting in this horse — the things most people couldn’t see at a glance.
A sacred bonding began in that ring, a new friendship. It was beautiful.
That horse — whose eyes had been flashing with panic a half hour ago — was not, in fact, a dangerous threat or “too much horse” at all. She was simply misunderstood. But the trainer who took the time to understand her and to honor her basic need for mutual respect was able to reap the benefits of all she had to offer.
In caring hands, it was plain to see that this horse was an excellent, highly intelligent creature. It is the same with highly sensitive people.
The Power of Accepting Our “Too Much”
At certain times throughout my life, I have felt like a young, untrained horse. No matter what I did, or how clearly I tried to communicate basic feelings or needs, I felt I was just “too much” for anyone to understand or accept.
At those times, I’d just keep my head down and do what I was told, pretending like I didn’t know or feel more than I did. If not, I would experience fear, emotional abandonment, and, maybe worst of all, shame.
For example, I falsely accepted my true, highly sensitive self as an “annoying problem” in relationships. I relearned this over and over again, relationship after relationship, for decades. And I tried to become something, someone more acceptable, more palatable, more subdued… all in an attempt to get my emotional needs met.
This is what happens to highly sensitive children who are given the message “you are too much” from a young age. They believe they are too much. They are shamed for having outside-the-box ideas, strange needs, controversial thoughts, outlandish ventures, and waaay too many questions.
These children learn through fear and shame to suppress their intuition. They learn to keep quiet and not make a scene, for fear of being told they are selfish, ridiculous, or shameful. They lose their voices and their very sense of self. If they dare to let their true selves out, they risk emotional or physical punishment. It’s easy to see why they might struggle with anxiety and depression.
Can you relate to that young horse, feeling misunderstood and, at times, “too much”? Consider that some of the most brilliant individuals in history were also once given the “too much” message:
- Stephen King’s first book was rejected by 30 publishers.
- Jim Carrey was booed off a stage.
- J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone was rejected by 12 major publishing companies.
- Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first job because she was “unfit for TV.”
- Walt Disney’s first company, Laugh-O-Gram, went bankrupt.
If you’re tired of being punished or shamed for being you, it’s time to get your voice back. And if you’re stuck in a cycle of self-abandonment, it’s time to get YOU back.
Does reclaiming your true, untamed self feel like a journey into ominous, uncharted territory? Here are three ways to embrace your amazing muchness.
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3 Ways to Reclaim Your ‘Much-ness’ — and Embrace it
1. Start speaking up, even if your voice shakes.
Start being you, even if your heart is pounding. Start, even if your voice shakes. Stand up for something you believe in. Share something deeper on social media. We HSPs already tend to be big thinkers, so sharing something we’re passionate about often comes naturally to us. Do the brave thing, and don’t give way to shame. Notice what it felt like before and after. Keep doing it. You’ll get braver each time!
2. Let go of relationships where you feel you cannot express your true self.
If you feel unheard, unseen, criticized, belittled, teased, controlled, punished, or shut down when you try to express your true self, it’s probably time to let go of that relationship.
Usually, these people are more comfortable in power-over relationships, so if you try to assert yourself, they may feel threatened and lash out. This is not your fault. You deserve mutuality, freedom, and acceptance in your relationships.
3. Surround yourself with a new kind of people who will value your high sensitivity.
Surround yourself with people who “handle” you, so to speak, like John Lyons handled horses. This may be a new and different kind of people than you have around you now.
When I say a “new kind of people,” I mean those who desire mutual respect in relationships, who genuinely embrace your precociousness, and who delight in and encourage all of the “too much” things you have been shamed for throughout your life. We are damaged through relationships, but we also find healing through relationships.
You, mighty sensitive one, are not too much. If this is a new concept, just mull it over for a while: Mutual respect, genuine acceptance, and emotional support are not too much to expect in relationships. These things are actually basic human decency that every child — every human — is worthy of, yourself included.
I would love to be a part of your HSP support team. As a certified Aroma Freedom Practitioner, I offer AFT coaching sessions that help HSPs reprocess unresolved emotions, change subconscious patterns, and discover breakthroughs. Learn more at Rise & Shine Aroma Breakthrough Coaching.