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For the first time in my life I could truly explain, through your words the way in which I experience life and myself. Brenda… It all fell into place. I had found myself and had such a moment of clarity. It felt like such a big weight was lifted off of my shoulders. Finally I felt like it was ok to be me. I was not the only one. I had found people and a little space where I fit in. … I was at work and crying on the inside. Emotions ran wild inside me. I was ecstatic, sad, confused, motivated, i…
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman

“I was struggling with my daughter (16 at the time) and our constant fighting. You said something to me that changed my life! You were speaking about your own situation and you said to me “my child could not handle my emotions”. This was a HUGE “lightbulb moment” for me and it forever changed the way I dealt with my emotions when I was around my daughter!

I am happy to say that things have never been better between my soon to be 18 year old daughter and myself! I honestly never thought we would…

Mom M
Because of your blog, I know that it is possible for me to have the love that I want one day and that I don’t have to be alone.  — Indepthwoman  on space2live
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…
THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister

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High Sensitivity or Childhood Stress? What Causes Reactivity or Withdrawal

stressed woman

I recently read In the Realm of “Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction” by Dr. Gabor Mate´. I’ve found Dr. Maté’s philosophies and experience regarding addiction and its origins fascinating. Essentially he says pain is the fuel of all addiction. We use substances and behavior to self-soothe. He does not believe it is primarily genetic. He believes early childhood experience and environment are the main indicators for future addiction. Keep in mind that addictive behavior includes everything from taking narcotics to shopping.

A child who is stressed early in life will be more overactive and reactive. He is triggered more easily, is more anxious and distressed.   — Dr. Bruce Perry senior fellow at the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, Texas

A later quote in the book from Dr. Maté, also says that addicts lack differentiation — the capacity to maintain emotional separateness from others. They absorb and take personally the emotional states of other people.

Both Dr. Perry’s quote and the quote about lacking differentiation reminded me of the traits I hear describe highly sensitive people, of which I am one.

Triggered more easily

Being born with a highly sensitive temperament means our nervous systems are more easily over-aroused. We often seek low stimulation to keep our system running smoothly. This definition harkens to introversion as well, but I believe high sensitivity more closely resembles the reactivity of someone who suffered from childhood distress.

Both childhood stress and high sensitivity have biological origins. A lack of attachment (interaction, nurturing, eye contact) to primary caregivers  in early childhood physiologically affects the neural connections in the brain. The child who suffers abuse or neglect or experiences the stress of a caregiver, has her brain development stymied. The tools and neural mechanisms necessary for self-regulation, do not develop to their full potential. Thus, the child is more reactive.

child crying

A child born with a highly sensitive nervous system, feels her environment with greater intensity than a child born with an average level of arousal. They may learn to self-soothe but they also find themselves having to do that more often.

Feeling others’ emotions

Both HSPs and those with traumatic childhoods take on others’ emotions. They find it difficult to maintain their own integrity.

For those with trauma in their backgrounds, a need for hyper vigilance regarding threats made them highly aware of other’s moods and presence. Their nervous systems are in essence always on the lookout for danger or the threat of loss of something they need. They can read the room well and are ready on a moment’s notice to react.

Highly sensitive people often say they feel others’ energy. They take it on. Their nervous systems tune into very subtle cues in the environment. I have been asked as a coach for help to not take on other’s energy. It is an arduous task to not only differentiate between our and other’s energy/emotions but to cut ourselves off from the other person’s needs or pain. Often we experience the emotions of those we love. It is hard to say no to them, but for our own health and well being it is necessary to say no to those who do not want to help themselves. Small children being the exception.


If we take on other’s suffering and try to fix everything, we could be fostering codependence. Codependent people get their identity and self-worth from rescuing or caring for others. codependence differs from dependence in that codependence encourages unwanted behavior. In many relationships, particularly parent/child relationships, dependence is necessary.

Finding relief

Whether we are an HSP or a sufferer of childhood stressors, we want relief. We want to feel calm and secure.

In “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”, Dr. Perry goes on to say that if we give alcohol to someone whose baseline level of arousal is high and compare it to giving someone whose baseline level of arousal is average, we see that both experience the alcohol’s intoxication, but the person with the higher arousal will also feel pleasure and relief from the stress of the high arousal.


I wonder if HSPs have more trouble with addiction. Is it possible that seeking solitude is a form of addiction? We need it to soothe ourselves. Is too much solitude a problem, like an addiction to drugs or alcohol? Both “addictions” can leave us isolated.

These are questions piqued as I read Dr. Maté’s book. I welcome your thoughts.

Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash

Photo by Arwan Sutanto on Unsplash

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