Are you a highly sensitive person? Do you have a highly sensitive person in your family? What are some things to be aware of when it comes to working with highly sensitive people?
In this podcast episode, Joe Sanok speaks with Lisa Lewis about working with highly sensitive people and her podcast, Am I OK?
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With three certificates in energy healing and Level 2, Reiki certified, Lisa has gained extensive training in the mind-body connection. She also has the traditional training of a Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy, and together she offers clients a holistic approach during sessions. Dedicated to her private practice and work in her community, Lisa sees patients in her Pasadena, California office, as well as virtually in online therapy or phone therapy.
She has a keen interest in helping those who struggle with issues related to being a highly sensitive person, as well as parents and individuals navigating through depression, anxiety, stress, or trauma. With over 20 years of education, training, and life experience, Lisa is well-equipped to help others in their healing and personal growth.
Get in touch with Lisa at email@example.com or call her for an initial consult at 626.319.5076.
In This Podcast
- What does it mean to be an HSP?
- Parenting a highly sensitive child
- Finding balance as an HSP
What does it mean to be an HSP?
An HSP, a highly sensitive person, is characterized by different traits:
- Someone who is deeply empathetic,
- Feeling emotions deeply and at an intensive level,
- Thinking deeply about various topics and can deep dive into topics,
- Highly sensitive people are sensorily sensitive: they are sensitive to loud sounds, bright lights, noise, crowds, very rich or spicy foods.
It’s not a mental disorder, it’s not a physical disorder, it’s actually a personality trait that you’re usually born with … a highly sensitive person is also known as sensory processing sensitivity and highly sensitive people make up about 20% of the population. (Lisa Lewis)
Highly sensitive people are attuned to subtleties and can easily pick up on the subtext of a situation, read someone’s expression or understand slight changes in the environment or in the person they are interacting with. This is different from being hyperaware.
Dr. Elaine Aron coined the acronym DOES that explain the HSP traits:
- D – depth of processing
- O – overstimulation
- E – emotional responsivity or empathy
- S – sensitivity to subtleties
Parenting a highly sensitive child
You do not need to label your child an HSP if it feels premature or unnecessary, however being aware of this can help you to be understanding of the situation, which is more important.
With an adult or a child, how to teach regulation if you suspect some high sensitivity:
- Working with a personal boundary: teach people and children about your emotional and energetic bubble.
- Learn what is comfortable for you in terms of your space, both physically and emotionally, and set that boundary with your loved ones,
It can be difficult in the beginning for an HSP, as a child or as an adult, to set up those boundaries because they may be concerned about being perceived as aggressive or standoffish. To get past these mindsets, you can try:
- Getting to know yourself and what you need.
- Recognize in yourself when you feel uncomfortable in a situation and understand what emotions you are feeling in that moment. Being aware of this mind-body connection can really help an HSP to understand what they need to do in order to equalize their emotions and return to their equilibrium.
Finding balance as an HSP
Highly sensitive people may sometimes feel like they are swinging back and forth between being withdrawn into themselves or being expansively empathetic and carrying everyone’s emotions.
It’s learning to navigate [that] maybe if I pull back a little bit of my energy that I can still be present with the person while they’re experiencing what they’re experiencing, it doesn’t mean I have to merge or I have to have that really deep empathy where it’s going to really affect me … it’s learning how to keep that boundary and really be present and grounded with yourself. (Lisa Lewis)
In order to maintain equilibrium and remain grounded in themselves, highly sensitive people need to find a balance between how much they give and how they nurture their own energy.
Because they so willingly and freely invest their time and energy into others without expecting any return, they can become resentful if they stay that course. Therefore, HSPs need to learn how to self-regulate and place boundaries around their energy so that they do not become depleted or burdened with things that are not theirs to carry.
It is also important that non-highly sensitive people and HSPs have a dialogue about what each person’s needs are so that each party can be welcomed and interacted with without someone giving or taking more than necessary.
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Meet Joe Sanok
Joe Sanok helps counselors to create thriving practices that are the envy of other counselors. He has helped counselors to grow their businesses by 50-500% and is proud of all the private practice owners that are growing their income, influence, and impact on the world. Click here to explore consulting with Joe.
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This is the practice of the practice podcast with Joe Sanok, session number 594.
Well, I am Joe, Sanok your host. I hope you are doing so awesome today. You know life is good here in Northern Michigan, as summer comes to a close. We’ve had tons of time, stand-up paddleboarding, walking down to the beach, or biking down. We’re really fortunate where we live just a couple blocks from the beach and we know the city park that we call the secret beach. It’s unmarked, but it’s a city park. My girls and I love it because we’ll bike on down there. There’s hardly anybody there. It’s like we have our own private beachfront property that we only pay through our city taxes. And it’s only like people in the neighborhood that seemed to know about it, but now I’m telling you for some reason. So I guess if you’re in Traverse City, you’ll have to find the secret park. You can go on a scavenger hunt for it.
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[JOE] I’m so excited today to have Lisa Lewis who has the Am I Ok? podcast, which is working with highly sensitive people. An HSP is something that’s near and dear to my heart. I’m pretty sure that my oldest daughter might be an HSP. But I don’t want to like label her too early and maybe Lisa can tell me how early it’s helpful to talk to people about being highly sensitive and things like that. But Lisa, welcome to the Practice of the Practice podcast.
[LISA LEWIS] Thank you, Joe. I’m so glad to be here and to be a part of the Practice of the Practice podcast as well. I launched my podcast last Wednesday and it’s up and running. So I’m barely one week old.
[JOE] Well, let’s start with the podcast. So you have a podcast aimed at helping highly sensitive people and people that love them. What’s your story in regards to HSPs and wanting to start a podcast that helps people that are highly sensitive or the people that love them?
[LISA] Well, my story actually I was thinking about this how it all like originated is back last year during the pandemic and working, I’m a licensed clinician, mental health professional. So I work with clients and just this intensity of what everyone was going through and including myself and my family. I would hear with my clients about, am I okay? Will I be okay? And I’d asked myself that question too. So that’s what kind of launched the idea of Am I Ok? because I’ve heard that so many, so many times just to myself and in my practice. I am highly sensitive, I identify with highly sensitive. So I want people that are highly sensitive, whether it’s for themselves or they know someone that is, or they’re thinking, questioning themselves to find out more information to how they can feel okay with themselves.
[JOE] Yes. Well maybe take us through a little bit of what is a highly sensitive person. Some people may not have heard that term, or maybe they’ve heard it, but don’t really know how to classify or think through that. Help us understand what does it mean to be an HSP
[LISA] So HSP, it can show up in many different ways. We usually care deeply. So we have a lot of empathy. We feel deeply. So again, that empathy and the feeling deeply is that it’s at an intensity level that maybe above average. Sometimes we don’t know how to turn that off. And we also think deeply. So we don’t like to be so much surface level thinking. We like to take it a little bit deeper, so we can go from really like micro ideas and really expand it to macro ideas. Also, we can have sensitivity to like the five senses, to smell, to touch, to hear, to sight. So highly sense of people, it’s not a mental disorder. It’s not a physical disorder. It’s actually a personality trait that you’re usually born with.
Dr. Elaine Aron has done all of the research on it, and she has what a highly sensitive person is also known as sensory processing sensitivity and highly sensitive people are about 20% of the population. Also 50% of the people in therapy are highly sensitive persons. So our brain is wired a little differently than most and we really pick up on more subtleties with depth of processing and emotional regulation. And she coined it. There’s an acronym that she calling to call it does DOES. What that stands for is depth of processing over stimulation, emotional responsitivity or empathy and sensitivity to subtleties.
[JOE] Yes. So for most families, I mean, I think about one of my daughters who reacts, she has a strong startle response so when, like there’s a fire drill at school, or if there’s unexpected loud sound. With kids, how does this show up and how important is it to give them that label early on? Because I think labels sometimes can help with resources or shortcutting or understanding, but it also can become something that if someone really kind of labels themselves or gets labeled and maybe that’s not good at an early age. So how does this look in kids and what do you encourage in regards to parents as they notice maybe some sensitivity in their kids?
[LISA] Well I work mostly with adults. However I also have children too, and also I was a child at one time. So it’s, I don’t like labels myself and it’s really more about understanding what is really happening in this situation. And the more that we can understand what’s happening in this situation and get some tools and techniques, then we can either help ourselves or help our loved ones, including our children. So if you look at the startled technique and, the central nervous system may be wired a little bit differently, so there’s that startle technique. And it’s this learning some tools and techniques, how to bring it back down to a state of resiliency, so more of a more neutral or of a more pleasant instead of like an unpleasant sensation.
[JOE] And whether it’s with an adult or a child, how do you teach that in a way that doesn’t feel like it makes them feel different than other people and more kind of understand this is kind of who I am, and this is what I need, like teaching those skill sets? What would you suggest?
[LISA] Well, I suggest, and how I work with clients, especially around just feeling so deeply, feeling maybe too much is really working with what a personal boundary is. And a boundary is not about letting people in or out or blocking people. It’s really how you can regulate yourself. So personal boundary, and I like to use like an energetic bubble, we all have an energetic bubble that really goes all around us. And I like to work with people and I’m working with setting boundaries. What does that even look like? What does that even feel like? And it’s like, we can face each other and I can walk towards the person and they tell me like, okay, when to stop. When am I comfortable? When am I not comfortable? And people are surprised that maybe I come all the way up to their face, maybe I run into them, or maybe there’s more of a distance.
So it’s really knowing what is comfortable for you and then learning how to kind of set that boundary with other people that are in your life. I like to use the example of being at the grocery store and being in the checkout line. If someone is like right up next to me I feel like I can notice that I’m really sensitive to that and I’d have to ask the person to back up a little bit to be out of my personal space. So that’s how I like work with people, setting emotional and physical boundaries.
[JOE] And when you’re working with HSPs I would imagine, tell me if this is true or not, that that’s kind of a new skill to start to set those boundaries. And for them it might feel more aggressive than they prefer. It might feel more confrontational than they prefer. Like, what are some mindsets or ways that you help them kind of believe in themselves enough to say I have a right to say to someone back up in the grocery line because they’re kind of, I’m guessing making that kind of emotional kind of scale is like, well, I could just put up with this and move on and not have to deal with potentially a confrontation or I can feel good about setting boundaries. How do you help people think through that and challenge, maybe the ways that they’ve thought in the past?
[LISA] So how I help them work through that is really just really getting to know themselves and knowing what they need and just recognizing inside themselves, “Oh, okay. Am I uncomfortable with this situation? What is happening inside me?” And it’s learning to read really your body. And I also work with mind body therapy. So that’s what I use that practice with my clients and also with myself. So just recognizing, oh, wow, like I am really uncomfortable right now. Or this is happening. What can I do? Do I need to do something for myself? Can I talk to this person to allow them to understand what I need for myself?
[JOE] Yes. So what are some other examples? I think that hearing kind of the grocery store example is helpful for people to understand maybe how an HSP is viewing the world and what they can do to positively affect the world.
[LISA] So HSPs show up in many different ways. There’s a lot of them in the helping field. So we see that with counselors, therapists, doctors, nurses, emergency workers, also too, like the heads of states, heads of countries. So these people are really good communicators. They can bridge the gap, especially in high conflict. They can hold that space when there is conflict and they can hear it and they can process it and then they can articulate it so other opposite sides can hear what is happening. So that will allow them to come to a place of understanding and hopefully a place of resolution.
[JOE] Yes. I remember reading one of the books that you had recommended about HSPs. I think it’s The Highly Sensitive Person in Love where the author was talking about how people thought that for a bit, maybe HSPs were, it was like a flaw in evolution, but that actually when you look at it there’s an evolutionary benefit to just someone being highly sensitive. She was talking about how, imagine you’re walking through the jungle and you’re in a spot you’ve walked a bunch of times and everyone else is just ignoring all the signs of there being a tiger or something dangerous. And then you have one little kid that’s in that group and they’re a highly sensitive person or one parent that’s highly sensitive person and they’re tuned in differently and they know there’s something off, like let’s just pause. And those families survived more because of the HSP. But then you can’t, if a hundred percent of the population were HSPs, that’d be difficult in its own way, but we’ve really kind of undervalued how HSPs can help us. I just found that really fascinating, kind of the evolutionary nature of highly sensitive people.
[LISA] Yes, and that’s really a good point and that comes back to like, we’re 20% of the population and we’re needed to like survive for the population to survive just for the reasons that you named. And it’s also in other animals as well. So yes, we are, I like to think of maybe we’re on the outside looking in, just being very aware and conscious of what’s happening if there is, really comes back to that primal state. Are we in any danger and even as a highly sensitive people, when they walk into a room, they can know like what’s happened. They can read the room, whether it’s an argument are has there been silence or happiness, or choke, laughter. They can read it.
[JOE] Yes. Now I want to talk a little bit about what you’ve discovered through the podcast and through taking the time to interview experts around this topic and kind of formulate your own thoughts around it. What’s been challenging with the podcast, what’s been exciting with the podcast?
[LISA] Well, what’s been really exciting is that I’m interviewing so many great experts on this subject and that I’m even learning more about it myself. I don’t know if there’s been like anything really challenging about it. What I’ve come to learn in this, what I’ve really wanted, how this really wanted to unfold is just even talking to friends when they’ve listened to the podcast. And just the question of am I okay, that is a bridge for people to start talking about themselves and what’s happening to themselves. And I was just listening to a couple of my friends last week and it just started like opening, they just start opening up and blossoming. And there’s things about them I didn’t know. And I was like, yes, this is what I’m really wanting. This is my, maybe I’m seeking for not only myself, but for everyone in the world. It’s just to really feel like they belong, they fit in and it’s okay if if you’re, I don’t even want to use the word different, but we need you and I want everyone just to feel okay with themselves.
[JOE] Yes. Well, and it’s interesting kind of working with podcasters so much now to see how some of the first questions when we’re discovering what a show is going to be about. That to me is a question that just kind of cuts through the heart of all the other questions is what’s a topic that when you’re hanging out with your friends, if you’re having a glass of wine or green tea on your porch that you could just keep talking about for hours. Because I feel like that’s where for one you want a topic that someone’s just going to enjoy talking about. If you enjoy talking about something and you’re curious about it, instead of saying, “Well, where’s the market going?” it’s just going to be a better podcast. And secondly, just for longevity to say if this is something that you’re naturally talking to your friends about to be able to bring that back into the podcast and almost kind of test out ideas with your friends and see how they land, even if you’re not doing that consciously it just makes it that it’s a part of your life, an extension of your life that you just happen to be podcasting about.
[LISA] Yes. I love that. And again, like highly sensitive people, we can start micro and go macro and it really expands our lens and we can get to the point, like why are we here? Why are we living? What is this all about? Do I matter? Does this matter?
[JOE] Yes. And how do HSPs make the most out of that kind of superpower, because I think that there can be times that can be really helpful and there’s probably times that that makes life difficult for them.
[LISA] Yes. And it also can feel like a burden, like to feel and to care so deeply can feel really heaviness inside ourselves, wondering like, do we have to care less or do we have to feel less? And does that mean we care less? And that’s not what we want to do. So it’s literally learning to navigate maybe if I just kind of pull back a little bit of my energy, that I can still be present with the person while they’re experiencing what they’re experiencing. It doesn’t mean I have to merge or I have to have that really deep empathy where it’s going to really affect me. So it’s really learning how to, just like I said, in the beginning, to keep that boundary, really be present and grounded with yourself so you can show up for the other person and also show up for yourself the way that you want to show up.
[JOE] Well, and how much, when you’re either working with a couple or someone, an HSP that is in a couple, or someone that loves an HSP, how much do you put on the non-HSP to adjust the environment or change things in the house or those sorts of things compared to the HSP, maybe creating their own boundaries and advocating for what they need. Like, how do you sort that out?
[LISA] So that’s what we call it, that’s really a dance. And that’s something that the two individuals, if in the relationship will need to work out between themselves, and that may look different for any partnership, any relationship, whether it’s professional, personal, and also for the HSP to take ownership and accountability of their feelings in their reactions. Sometimes we do have to even let the other person know, and also like we may have to push ourselves a little bit so the other person in the relationship feels heard, feels seen, and also getting their needs met. It’s not all about the HSPs’ needs getting met.
[JOE] Yes. And in those boundaries, I think that that probably is a dance where of course any partner wants to help make their partner’s life easier, but there’s also some of that individual responsibility to do their own work and advocate for what they need. Because I imagine that’s hard for some HSPs to learn, to set those boundaries and advocate for those. And that might be more of like a new language for some people.
[LISA] Yes. And that’s is like, it would be like learning a new language if you’re learning like a foreign language. This is a new language about yourself and the more that we can learn about ourselves, the more at ease we can be with ourselves and we can reframe that story maybe that story that’s keeping us in the past or not allowing us to liberally in the present moment.
[JOE] Yes. Well, the last question I always ask my guests is if every private practitioner in the world were listening right now, what would you want them to know?
[JOE] I want them to know that they are appreciated, that the work that they’re doing is so important, no matter if you’re working with an HSP or what your population is. Also to remember your own self-care, that we are in this profession because we do care and we give so much of ourselves that is so important to also take care of ourselves. When we can take care of ourselves, we’re modeling to our clients and other people in our lives that we do matter to ourselves and in that way, again, we can show up the way that we want to show up for other people and also ourselves.
[JOE] Oh, that’s so good. Thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast Lisa. If people want to learn more about your podcast, learn more about your work, what’s the best way for them to connect with you.
[LISA] Okay. So my podcast, Am I Ok? and that is the letters O and K, the question mark. You can find that on Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Deezer, on all the podcasts. You can also go to my website at wwwamiok.podcast.com. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m on Instagram and Pinterest as well.
[JOE] Thank you so much for being on the Practice of the Practice podcast Lisa.
[LISA] Thank you, Joe. So glad to be here.
[JOE] Well, go check out Lisa’s podcast and actually in just a couple of weeks here on, let’s see, it’s going to be Tuesday, August 24th, we’re going to do a reverse podcast of Lisa’s show so that you can hear what her show is like, see what kind of interviews as she talks and all those sorts of things. So you’re going to get a little taste of her show as well on the 24th.
If you’re interested in creating a podcast and you want some support, we have tons of support from just going to some, do it yourself, type things through Podcast Launch School, all the way up to the Done for You services. So the best way, if you’re starting a podcast to get connected and to connect to any of that is just go over to practiceofthepractice.com/apply. We’re actually building out a full website for Podcast Launch School, to put all of our podcasts and services over at podcastlaunchschool.com. Right now, all those services are not over there because we were really amping up the number of services that we’re helping in supporting clinicians that are launching podcasts. Because we have over 250 people who’ve launched podcasts through us and through our training.
So there’s this whole wave of amazing therapists creating great content that’s helping the world. So many people that I interview or that I talk to say that they want to see more and more licensed people out in the world doing this kind of work, that the podcasting world is kind of sick of the self-proclaimed expert. And they want the actual experts like you, the people that are listening to this. So feel free to check that out.
Also, don’t forget, Thursday is the New Friday is on sale now. It’s going to ship on October 5th. We’re getting the audio book recorded through Harper Collins. They found an audio person. I got to listen through a bunch of people’s voices and decide which voice I want to read my work. What a weird thing to do. And I’m going to be talking more and more about just how I positioned myself to be able to get a book contract with Harper Collins. So if you aren’t on the email list, feel free to jump on the email list over at pillarsofpractice.com, where you can get access to our free e-Courses also. But again, that book buy of five books, it’s going to cost you a $125, will get you a free ticket to Killin’It Camp, which tickets start at $197. So it’s actually cheaper to buy five books than it is to just pay for the ticket. So you can give some to your clients.
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Thank you so much for letting me into your ears and into your brain. Have an awesome day and I’ll talk to you soon.
Special thanks to the band Silence is Sexy for your intro music. We really like it. And this podcast is designed to provide accurate and authoritative information in regard to the subject matter covered. This is given with the understanding that neither the host, the publisher, or the guests are rendering legal, accounting, clinical, or other professional information. If you want a professional, you should find one.