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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.
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
M.G.
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
Indepthwoman
BRENDA: thank you SO much! Your advice is exactly what I need to do. I am amazed how much you “get” me after only exchanging a few messages!… Again, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. You’ve helped me more than a year of therapy sessions! – Megan on space2live
Megan
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
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
Sherrie
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…
Gary
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…
Niko
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 …
D.R.
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo

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Worried About Being ‘Too Much’ in a Relationship: High Sensitivity and the Relational Paradox

hands outstretched hiding

Relational paradox: When convinced a relationship won’t tolerate who you really are, you leave a part of you out of that relationship.

When I read the description of a relational paradox in Dr. Amy Banks’ book, Wired for Connection:The Surprising Link Between Brain Science and Strong, Healthy Relationships, a lightbulb went on in my head. The concept and real life experience were not new to me but the articulation of it was.

Leaving out the highly sensitive, expressive, emotional part

Over the years, I’ve put the relational paradox into practice in many, many relationships, both romantic and platonic. In most cases, I did it subconsciously. In most cases it was the highly sensitive, highly expressive, highly emotional part of myself that I excluded. It is that piece of me that I fear most people can’t handle or won’t like.

Long-term effects of not being authentic

The long-term effects of not being 100% authentic in those relationships were a sense of not truly belonging and not feeling understood. At any moment, my real personality might slip out, be negatively judged or worse, completely rejected. In some instances it was, which only reinforced my diligence to hide the unwanted parts. My guard could not go down. I had to be strong, tough and quiet about feelings.

From childhood, I have been in close relationships with both judgmental and non-judgmental people. The hammer and eggjudgmental people made it unwise to reveal my tender side. My vulnerability was used against me, creating an unsafe environment. The non-judgmental people gave me a sense of friendship and belonging but even with them I was hesitant to completely let my guard down. I still had a fear of being rejected because of past experiences with intolerant personalities. I mostly played the sweet, pleasing, never-sad, friend.

Activating the DaCC

Dr. Banks states in her book that when we are on high alert for not belonging or feeling accepted our DaCC (dorsal anterior cingulate cortex) activates. This is a small strip in the brain deep in the frontal cortex. The DaCC is part of an alarm system in our bodies and is primarily known for picking up the distress of physical pain and the social pain of being left out.

If your DaCC is chronically or consistently activated it becomes highly sensitive to potential threats, thus making it more likely that you see danger (dislike, rejection, lack of acceptance) even when it may not exist.

Reading about the relational paradox concept in Dr. Banks’ book happened to coincide with a real life situation in which I was wrestling with the question of how much of myself to reveal to a new friend. In fact, I had written a note to myself a week prior that read, “Am I worried about him not being enough or me being too much?”

My note expressed my fear of my friend not being emotionally sensitive and deep enough (my fear of being too sensitive projected on him??) and my fear of  being too sensitive, talkative, dependent, wrapped up in my kids, etc. I had experienced rejection and judgment for all the latter fears at one time or another. I had been ‘too much’ in the past.

I do not want to experience that cut off/rejected feeling again.

How to stop hiding parts of yourself

Dr. Banks recommends starting with taking note of when you hide or pull back in a relationship out of fear of ruining the connection and being rejected. Next she suggests keeping a mental or written library of positive relational moments (PRMs). PRMs involve memories of clear acceptance and connection. Thirdly, she suggests sharing some of your hidden self with people you consider highly safe.

letting light in windowIn Are Perfection-Seeking and Self-Reliance Holding You Back from LoveI wrote about letting go of the fear of being too sensitive. I vowed to curb my distancing behavior and move toward love. My hiding and pulling back are now in my conscious awareness.

I have forever kept a diary or notebook of my high and low moments in life. In recent years, I’ve developed a practice of thinking about happy memories when I feel my stress levels rising. In recent months I’ve started putting positive moments in notes on my phone. If I start to feel anxious, I pick up my phone and read the PRMs listed there. The notes have been a great resource for keeping me in calm-land.

Lastly, I’ve done deep reflection over the last year or two about who are my safe relationships. I’m delighted to say I have several. When I start to feel my insecurities creep up I call one of these unconditionally kind caring people and spill my worries on them. I know it’s OK to get upset with them. I trust them. They trust me when they are in need of wholehearted listening as well. These relationships are such blessings.

How safe relationships feel

According to Wired to Connect, this is what you feel when safe relationships soothe the DaCC pathway:

Calm

You can count on that person in an emergency

It’s safe to acknowledge differences

A sense of belonging

Like an equal

Valued

Like there is give and take

I may always hesitate before showing strong emotions to someone. I may always wonder if they will accept, understand and even reciprocate my sensitivity. My nervous system is primed for negative judgment but with new insight and more discernment regarding positive relationships, I feel a greater sense of trust, calmness and confidence in being authentic.

 

Do you ever fear you are too much for people to handle? Do you hide parts of yourself to maintain relationships? Do you have safe relationships?

If you would like guidance soothing your social pain or fear of rejection, please contact me for personal or relationship coaching. 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Morena October 24, 2016 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    Brenda, this is one of the main reasons why I am single. Men don’t want to deal with my emotions and sensitivity. They are always telling me to be strong. This is why the last guy I was talking to, we’re not talking because of how I am. Everything was fine when I was back east but when I came to the west coast and things got overwhelming for me and I vented about it. He didn’t want to deal with it… and thats perfectly fine….some people just can’t handle how I am. Men are always telling me to be strong because they don’t want to deal with my emotions about anything no matter what it is.

    They’re hard and shut down, so they want me to be the same way. Everything you said here is exactly how I feel and what I write about. And about finding someone you feel safe to vent to emotionally. Every time I feel a certain way about something, the guy that I’m talking to at the time, wants to act like a magician and dissappear but when they want to vent to me, they expect me to be there…It’s going to be a long time before I find love. My ex was always ghost when I felt a certain type of way about anything, and over time you just shut down and you are numb and you don’t feel safe to express yourself to anyone….I just got rid of him, that solves that problem, LOL.

    I’m not going to stop being myself and being an HSP. It’s who I am and I can’t be anymore grateful that I found your website, which gives me and others literally the space to live and be free with our emotions, we need a safe community. I express myself way to much for any man to try and sensor me. When others try to make me feel bad about having a sensitive loving heart. I just move on from them. I don’t have room for any negativity and any one-sided relationships. I’m tired of giving and being there and listening, I want the same thing. I’m not asking for money, lol.. I ‘m asking for emotional security and support. And I can’t even get that. So I just stay by myself. Because if I can’t have that in a relationship. I don’t want anything at all. I’m not wrong for having feelings and I don’t need to be sensored, just because you don’t want to deal with how I feel.

  2. Kat October 22, 2016 at 2:34 pm - Reply

    Brenda, Such an amazing post! It’s enlightening and uplifting at the same time! You have toge gift to tap into issues that sensitive people experience, and untill you brought those issues to light! I’m one to say, I used to feel alone with those issues! I used to think I’m ‘differen’, due to my sensitive side that made interactions with others pretty hard at times. Now! your posts help me feel aware of who I am as a sensitive person, more inclined to accept myself, less lonely in a world that frowns upon sensitive people like me and so much stronger and happier with who I am.

    I too experienced feeling it’s not safe to be myself around family etc when growing up! Those two dreadful words: ‘Highly sensitive’ showed up on my report cards in elementary school! Hard to forget them. I too have learnt from an early age, that strong emotions are unwelcome, and that I had to act ‘tougher’.

    Thankfully, my sensitive side, as I grew older, and especially in the past 10 years or so, has contributed to being the following:
    – great loyal friend
    – supportive boss towards my employees
    – better listener when random strangers want to share stories about their lives.
    – being beautifuly in tune with animals and nature
    – appreciating music to a point where I feel it and enjoy it at a much higher level than others around me. It’s FANTASTIC
    And many other wonderful things, that I feel,if it wasn’t to my awesome sensitive side, they wouldn’t be there.

    Thank you for all you share Brenda! And thank you for letting us share with you and with those who experience similar thoughts.

    • Kat October 22, 2016 at 2:38 pm - Reply

      Just need to apologize for all the errors in my previous post! Typing on a smart phone at work, has its downfall!

    • Brenda Knowles October 23, 2016 at 8:03 pm - Reply

      One of my biggest desires when I write is to make people feel less alone and more understood. I’m so thrilled you feel that. Thank you so much for your very, very kind words. I’m so glad you feel heard and understood here. I definitely feel you! 🙂 Totally agree about the music thing. Huge bonus about being highly sensitive!

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