Highly (spiritually) sensitive people

iStock_000001758636SmallThis year I have been amazed at the number of ‘highly sensitive’ or ‘highly spiritually sensitive’ people who have come into my life and asked to meet with me and receive some mentoring, coaching, just spend some time asking questions etc. Often, these people flourish when they realise that what they are feeling is validated. Sometimes all that is needed is affirmation and a confidence that what they are sensing is accurate. God is obviously up to something as there are no co-incidences with God. A beautiful friend whom I have tracked with for several years is highly sensitive and has often helped me understand more about these people, especially as I have a child who is one. Sometimes I will explain a difficulty I am having with my child, and my friend will give me insight into how that child would be feeling and what would be occurring within them. My friend encouraged me to read Carol Brown’s book “The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity“ several years ago which I flipped through then, but these last few weeks I have been going through the book and really trying to get a grasp on how these folk see and experience life, themselves, God, and others differently.

Highly sensitive people make up about 20% of the population and they tend to easily become overwhelmed by the continual flow of sensory data surrounding them. There is nothing wrong with them. Their central nervous system processes sensory data differently to the rest of the population. They are often the people who are told to “stop being so sensitive”, “Toughen up” etc. Often these people are termed ‘burden bearers’ for carrying other people’s burdens – willingly or unwillingly! They can easily sense and feel what other people are feeling. These people may well be prophetic but their prophetic gifting may also be that they are sensing what the other person is feeling and they name it. They have an unusually high ability to empathise. They are natural burden bearers in that they have a natural high level of sensitivity that enables them to see, hear, taste, feel, smell the intensity of what the other person is experiencing. For them, it is like being in the other person’s skin.

From my understanding, it is like having every sense on full alert. These folk may well walk into church and pick up the atmosphere within the place. For example, if there is an overwhelming sense of grief, they may well immediately feel it and then feel something is wrong with them, not grasping the fact that they are ‘picking up’ the reigning spirit in the atmosphere. If there is conflict within the pastoral team, they will feel uneasy but may not be able to identify what they are sensing, other than they don’t feel comfortable being there. Strong noise, smells, many lights etc may overwhelm them. Often these people find it hard to stay in church the full service if it is noisy, overwhelming, or some undercurrents occurring with members of the congregation that don’t even involve them. Often these folk will want to leave the building immediately after the service and not hang around in a noisy foyer catching up with folk. They would prefer a small intimate gathering than a noisy large gathering any day.

I am a member of our church’s Healing Rooms and have helped a highly sensitive team member realise that what they are sensing about the people who come for prayer is accurate. Previously, this team member would see a person approach for healing and pick up immediately something about that person eg that they were blaming themselves. After the initial stuff was dealt with, this team member may well ask the person, “I’m just wondering if you may be blaming yourself for your accident?” If the person said “No”, then the highly sensitive team member previously would feel like she had got it all wrong and then would go down the track of feeling that perhaps she was blaming herself for that and she couldn’t separate the feeling. The team member then would begin to doubt herself and felt she could no longer trust her instincts. On the other hand, I would be standing there silently going “Yes, you nailed it. That is exactly right. Fair enough, the person either doesn’t want to admit it or doesn’t even realise it, but that is o’kay, we can work with that and try a different approach.”

There are several books around on Highly sensitive people and helping them understand themselves. Ted Zeff has a book ‘The Strong Sensitive Boy’. Carol Brown also has another book which has more practical outworkings, called “Highly Sensitive”. Dr. Elaine Aron has a website www.hsperson.com which can also help throw some light on the issue.

In “The Mystery of Spiritual Sensitivity” by Carol Brown, there is a chapter on parenting a highly sensitive child. This has been helpful in my trying to help my child. Sometimes in a stressful situation, my voice may take on a tone, without being raised, that screams ‘high alert’ to my highly sensitive child. They pick up nuances easily and can become easily offended if it is not handled appropriately. As parents of highly sensitive children, we can easily become frustrated with their sensitivity and teach them to compartmentalise their feelings and not to trust themselves or their own feelings. Be extremely careful of how you discipline them and what language you use so as not to cause harm or distrust. These children may well be the ones that see in the spiritual world and this needs to be validated and not ‘shut down’.

Highly sensitive people can easily become performance orientated or step up to ‘fill in the gap’ with what is needed in their family, putting everyone’s needs first so as to reduce the family stress and meet needs. They are adept at ‘fading into the background’ so as to not cause additional problems and stress. As children, they can easily become chameleon’s, reflecting the behaviour of the person they have just been with. One of the most helpful things for the highly sensitive person to learn is to be able to identify the emotion and feelings, and determine if it is theirs or not. They must learn to gain the information of an emotion but not allow it to rule them and to learn what their responsibility is in relation to what they are feeling. Help these folk to have an emotional vocabulary and the ability to distinguish their own spiritual, emotional, physical and psychological load from that of others.

An extremely helpful practice that our family uses after every time we have been involved in public ministry, whether healing or prophetic ministry, is to use our hands to physically brush off our shoulders and head (and thus, spiritually and emotionally brush off) anything that has attached itself to us from that time that doesn’t belong to Jesus. We just say out aloud “We brush off anything that has attached itself to us during this time that doesn’t belong to us and that isn’t from Jesus”. Our family finds it extremely helpful and effective to do this. This practice commenced in our family when our other child, not the highly spiritually sensitive one, was involved in praying for over 100 people one day in church, came home and immediately felt sick. Nothing could remove that feeling of nausea and wanting to vomit and uncomfortable feeling in their stomach for the next 24 hours despite prayer, medication etc. 24 hours later I was getting frustrated and asked more questions and realised that it had commenced immediately after the praying for others. I just ‘brushed’ everything off that child that had attached itself to them during the public healing time and immediately that child sat up in bed and declared that they were feeling fine and no longer sick. I was gobsmacked with the immediate response and realised that something had transpired in the spiritual in that moment that I couldn’t see and that it was an important lesson for us to learn.

My encouragement to you is to help you and your family members/children understand whether or not they are highly sensitive as soon as possible and help them understand how to successfully manoeuver through life with this gift of sensitivity and to be able to use it to its fullest as God intended.

Prophetic Activations / Exercises to incorporate into your week:

The purpose of these exercises is to help us hear God’s voice in a clearer manner. They sharpen our senses to hear and recognise God’s voice and His way of communicating with us. This enables us to grow in our relationship with God and also to impart to others what God tells us for them. Feel free to use as many of these activations each week as you can. The more you practice, the sharper you become at hearing God’s voice. Enjoy!

Remember that whenever you give another person a prophetic word or picture etc, please make sure that it is encouraging, edifying (strengthening) and comforting (1 Corinthians 14:3)

1. Children / Families Activation: Select a person for each child/family member to draw a picture for. Imagine you are at a circus and draw what that family member would be doing in the circus and why.

2. Group Activation: Have people pair up. Spend a few minutes asking God to give you a title for a book about your partner’s life. Ask God why that title and press into God for more surrounding those words. Share with your partner.

3. Beginner Activation: Ask God to show you what your position and role and responsibility at a circus would be and why. Celebrate what God shows or tells you.

4. Intermediate Activation: Ask God to highlight a person to you. Spend some time with God asking God for the words to write a love letter from Him to that person. Write it out fully and give to the person.

5. Advanced Activation: Ask God for some encouraging, edifying and strengthening words to write in a letter to your local politician or a new member of parliament or someone in a position of government within your city. Ask God for the specific words to include.