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That courage and dedication you so generously share with the world, has inspired me to push myself a little harder, persevere at each task a little longer, dig a little bit deeper to where the answers just “feel” right to both my humanity AND my spirit. Your insights have reinforced my direction and given me additional tools that help me clear my path. I’m wired into my creativity as never before and the new music is pouring out of me faster than I can record and produce it; this is the Un…
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During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
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Robin Williams and Sensitive People: Deeply In Touch with Human-ness

robin williams

As I watched the clip of Robin Williams on Johnny Carson, I marveled at his colorful and speedy delivery of stories, impressions and entertainment. He knew the outrageous antics and rapid-fire creativity were his bread and butter, the crowd pleasers, but he also knew to pull back and slow down to thoughtfulness and gentleness. He spoke in his real, sensitive voice every once in a while. He let the crazy-fun mask slip and reveal his intense connection with human-ness. He had to have that connection. How else could he emulate humans so masterfully?

Tender-hearted much?

I think many of us know that sensitive piercing of humanity. We walk around daily with a lightning rod connecting our brains with our hearts. We have no choice but to feel profound sadness, madness, glee and empathy. It is our nature to be  immersed in emotion. We feel so deeply it aches in our chest sometimes. There’s a price to pay for this gift of being so in tune with what we and others feel.

Intense attunement can exalt or destroy you. For Robin Williams it did both.

The show must go on

I can’t say I’ve experienced long-term severe depression (as Robin did) but I have been consumed by emotions to the point of sleeplessness, anxiety and despair. Recently, I experienced confrontation in a relationship over money. It involved legal action so there was a level of formality to it as well. I feel conflict like  a leather strap across bare flesh so this kept me up at night. Conflict by itself is highly threatening to my nervous system but add to it the financial element and I’m definitely at a disadvantage. The currency I trade in involves relationships and feelings not dollars and cents. Despite intense feelings, hours of mental/argument preparation and lack of restorative sleep, I carried on like the proper suburban mom I am, attending back to school events, shopping for school supplies, chatting with other parents and above all keeping it together for my kids’ sake. It was an exhausting performance at times.

As dearly introspective people, we spend a lot of time in our heads. It can be dark and troubling in there. We are keenly aware of our soft and fragile parts. We’ve sat with them in the middle of the night as they shivered with worry. We’ve carefully guarded them with masks of pretending. But sometimes these tender parts seep out and cause us embarrassment or worse, shame. Those moments when we can’t defend our beliefs well or we feel overwhelmed by our family’s needs or we cry when we’re supposed to be confident. Sometimes the darkness swirls within us and consumes us with doubt and isolation. We feel like we are alone on a jetty of less than because we can’t do everything that others can and it’s so hard to ask for help because we should be able to do this, be strong, be happy and make others happy. shame-670x383

Diffusing emotions

In order to keep our heads above water we have to diffuse intense feelings.  How to do that?

During the days prior to the big meeting regarding the financial issue, I realized there were certain times when I almost forgot the looming conflict.

What helped me relax and refocus my energy so that I could escape the downward spiral?

1. Supportive friends: I am so fortunate to have kindred spirits as friends. They listened to my worries and frustration and backed me up with love and lightness. They helped me not take things so seriously by saying things like, You know Bren, you could just laugh at this. I needed that reminder, that option to take a step back and go lightly. It helped me disentangle myself from the web of defeating emotions.

2. Preparation: I think many of us sensitive types are highly conscientious perfectionists. We have extreme ideals and strive to live by them. In this case I did extensive leg work by poring over documents, taking notes and asking questions of friends who had been in similar situations. Introverts often have a hard time speaking extemporaneously so I mentally prepared my arguments, ad nauseam. Action dissolves fear — one of my favorite mantras.

3. Exercise/dancing: As has happened countless times over the years, I found myself feeling strong and sexy as I worked out and sweat in my weekly cardio kickboxing/hip-hop class. It’s a sensual class with never-ending variety.  Something about being immersed in hot music and letting go of inhibitions. It’s a pleasurable release that makes me feel connected to myself and the others in the studio. The physical pleasure and effort distributes the toxic emotions and their corresponding chemicals. Deeply sensual experiences ground me. They cause an outflowing of emotions but also tether me to the present where everything is fine and beautiful.

4.Expressing: Writing projects are my work.They engage my mind in the most satisfying, meditative way. It’s me spilling on the page. Emotions flowing outward instead of uncomfortably filling my insides. I imagine painters, sculptors, dancers, builders and creators of all kinds feel this wonderful release of energy.

5. Helping:And then there’s the most stunning gift of writing… connecting with and helping others. As my mind churned about the financial friction, I received daily emails and messages from space2live readers thanking me for making them feel understood and not so alone.

All I do is tell my story.

It’s an amazing thing.

It diffuses the darkness for myself and others.

Bring the darkness to light

The tension continues for me regarding the relationship conflict. I suppose there will always be some form of lingering relationship emotion in my life. The trick is to not let it engulf me. The trick is to bring the internal external. Make my specific experience universal. Diffuse the overwhelm with love, labor, creating and helping.

Robin Williams did this. He gave magnificently to his audience, charities and those he loved. He expressed. He connected deeply. In the end a Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis may have  exacerbated his depression thus letting the darkness win.

How do you diffuse intense feelings? Have you ever lingered in darkness? What pulled you out? 

Robin in happier times connecting with the beautiful spirit of Koko the gorilla.

 

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

How To Be Lively, Energetic and Vibrant When Your True Nature Is Thoughtful, Introverted and Reticent

The Introvert’s Love Affair with Solitude: Will It Always Be Taboo?

Where’d My Energy Go? 12 Causes of Over-Arousal for the Introvert and/or Highly Sensitive Person

How to Protect and Liberate Your Energy:A Guide for Introverts and Anyone Who Feels Drained

How to Remedy Anxiety and Stress When You’re an Introverted Feeling Type

 

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13 Comments

  1. Otto von Münchow August 21, 2014 at 3:44 am - Reply

    First of all, the loss of Robin Williams is very sad. A tragedy. He will be missed by so many. Secondly I agree with your five points on how to defuse a downward spiral. I very thoughtful post.

    • Brenda Knowles August 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm - Reply

      Thank you Otto. There are many more ways to diffuse emotions. I’m sure I’ll figure them out as I go.;) For now, my 5 points keep my head above water.

  2. November August 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    I have so many thoughts on these subjects….introverts vs. suicide, introverts vs. extroverts vs. suicide, depression vs. suicide…..there is so much to think about.

    I felt pain in the last year that caused me to think “I need a way out” and I did spend time thinking about the subject of suicide (more like an inward, “what do I think” conversation with myself about the topic, not actually planning or researching anything…but in enough pain that I never denied it as a last resort). The pain that causes those feelings of desperation is indescribable…

    I’m in a better place now, but the memories of staring out a window and feeling so utterly empty and alone (lonely?) bring tears to my eyes. (Especially when I also felt the deep need to BE alone, as in physically….not even wanting to be around my husband. Alone vs. Alone……) I wish no one had to feel that way. I’m so sad when talent is lost. Robin Williams impersonated voices like no one else, which made him one of my favorites.

    • Brenda Knowles August 21, 2014 at 12:07 pm - Reply

      I know you are a deeply feeling person November. Like you, I’ve experienced those almost unbearable dark and empty days. I have come to realize they usually pass. We almost drown and then something saves us. A lot of times it takes proaction on our part. I will reach out to a friend or help someone. I will plan a getaway – even a trip to a favorite thrift store or farmer’s market. If I just get nourishing time to myself it helps. There are so many people and things to worry about. It takes a lot of energy to pull ourselves out of the abyss and rise again. You are doing a lot of inner work but it’s necessary. Keep on fighting the good fight.:) Find what saves you. What makes you want to live brightly? For me it’s often relationships but I also love meaningful work and travel. Hugs and peace to you dear November.

  3. David Kanigan August 16, 2014 at 3:44 am - Reply

    Wonderful video and post Brenda. Not sure if you read Andrew Solomon’s piece in the New Yorker, but worth the read…

    https://twitter.com/davidkanigan/status/500307025494962176

    • Brenda Knowles August 16, 2014 at 8:48 am - Reply

      That was a wonderful write up in the New Yorker. Thanks for bringing it to my attention. I love how it described his two essences – manic and sensitive. Interesting that suicide is ‘contagious’. My middle son (age 12) keeps wondering out loud why someone who had such a great life would commit suicide. It does make many think, if RW couldn’t take it then how are the rest of us supposed to? Our vulnerability is brought forward.

      • David Kanigan August 17, 2014 at 11:54 am - Reply

        So true Brenda. A few clicks either way in our genetic make-up and our ability to ride the peaks and valleys can be most challenging.

  4. nightowwl August 15, 2014 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    As an introvert who spent much of my life trying to play the role of extrovert, I know firsthand how much damage this can cause. Introverts are born knowing the secret to happiness – yet we are told from day one there is something wrong with us. We love who we are until we are told we should be someone else; someone more talkative, more social, who smiles more, and laughs more. People spend years searching for what we already have – yet we are ostracized for what they desire.

    We are made to feel guilty for being whole, and it has got to stop. I believe Robin Williams is just the latest casualty. In the entertainment industry alone there has been a rash of young people committing suicide – not coincidentally, all were described as sensitive and thoughtful.

    I am angry. I am angry at a world that is so incredibly rigid; where words full of nothing are deemed more important than silence; where judging others is a way of life; where contemplating the nature and mystery of who we are is n.

    It is literally killing us.

    • ilona fried August 16, 2014 at 7:43 pm - Reply

      “We are made to feel guilty for being whole”. I think you hit the nail on the head, beautifully stated. “Where words full of nothing are deemed more important than silence.” Yes. Yes.

  5. Jan August 15, 2014 at 5:51 pm - Reply

    As an introvert who spent much of my life trying to play the role of extrovert, I know firsthand the damage this can cause. Introverts are born knowing the secret to happiness – yet we are told from day one there is something wrong with us. We love who we are until we are told we should be someone else; someone more talkative, more social, who smiles more, and laughs more. People spend years searching for what we already have – yet we are ostracized for what they desire.

    We are made to feel guilty for being whole, and it has got to stop. I believe Robin Williams is just the latest casualty. In the entertainment industry alone there has been a rash of young people committing suicide – not coincidentally, all were described as sensitive and thoughtful.

    I am angry. I am angry at a world that is so incredibly rigid; where words full of nothing are deemed more important than silence; where judging others is a way of life.

    It is literally killing us.

    • Brenda Knowles August 16, 2014 at 8:25 am - Reply

      I keep coming back to the same idea — different, not better. We are different than our more gregarious extroverted friends but neither temperament is better. It’s just easier to overpower a more sensitive individual. We are happy outside of the spotlight because we have our own light within.

      The truth is we are all sensitive and we can all be outgoing within the right environment. If we could just stop judging and commit to appreciating.

      I’m concerned for our well-being too Jan. More love and less division is needed. More quality and less quantity. We can do our part by loving who we are and honoring ways of being that don’t harm others.

      Thank you for your candid and thoughtful comment.

  6. Ruth Rainwater August 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm - Reply

    I think we all tend to play a guessing game when someone commits suicide. We can never truly know why because often the person who commits suicide doesn’t know why either. He/she may be in so much psychic pain that there is no rational thought left. It is a tragedy.

    • Brenda Knowles August 16, 2014 at 8:13 am - Reply

      Agreed Ruth. We can never fully be in someone else’s mind/heart/pain. We just know they were in the kind of pain that they found insurmountable.

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