Sense and Sensitivity

The ups and downs of daily life as a Highly Sensitive Person

Is It Love? Or Attachment?

Finding the right partner for a healthy relationship.

Have you ever met someone and felt such an instant and amazing bond of attraction and connection that you thought this person must be The One? You feel so comfortable with them and such a closeness that you think you must have, at last, found your soul mate. But is it true love? Or have you found yourself attached someone, not because you love them, but because you need them? And how you can tell the difference?

Sensitive people are not only vulnerable to sensory stimulation in their environment, but to other people as well. We often absorb other people's feelings and moods and we can become easily absorbed into their way of life, their beliefs and consequently the way we feel about ourselves. If that someone is a narcissist, it can become very difficult to separate ourselves from them. We become their prey, but we don't realise it until it's too late. Instead, we think we're falling in love.
When these two elements, sensory stress and other people, are combined, it can become a toxic situation. For example, if you've just moved to a new town or started a new job, you are going to feel overwhelmed by the newness of your environment. A big life change is stressful for anyone, but HSPs feel it intensely. And an HSP under stress is vulnerable to the influences, good or bad, of other people.

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Say you've just started a new job in a new town and you meet this guy. He is friendly, funny and he wants to help. He shows you a reliable place to get your car serviced and he invites you out for drinks after work with colleagues. He even helps you assemble your new flat pack furniture. He provides all the help and companionship you could ever want, and more importantly, that you need. He also makes you laugh and tells you how great you are, how he's been waiting for you all his life. You feel appreciated, flattered, relieved to have found someone you can rely on. And you feel loved.

You start a relationship with this person, but soon other people are wondering what you two see in each other. You don't even have much in common. But you feel that you have a real connection. And so you stay, even when this person makes more and more demands of you, even when they start making you feel bad about yourself. No matter how bad it gets, you stay because the thought of losing them is terrifying. The truth is that the only thing you really have in common is a terrible loneliness, a need for someone to be there, and the need to feel that someone cares. This is attachment. Attachment is a need for someone to fill a void in your life or in your self-esteem. When you feel that you are all alone and cannot rely on yourself, someone will come along and you will feel that they are a port in the storm - someone to talk to, someone to help you, to hold you, someone to hang on to. Love is not a need. Love is not demanding or desperate. Love is whole and wholly giving.

The trouble is that our subconscious minds will draw us to someone who resembles our subconscious beliefs about ourselves. So if you are in a state of stress or vulnerability, however well you feel that you are coping, if you subconsciously believe that you need help or that you can't really manage on your own or that deep down, you're not really good enough, you will attract people who also believe that about themselves and about you. And you won't realise that it's a bad situation to be in because it will seem familiar to you. You will recognise yourself in them and that will be comforting. And so you will want to stay.

Any port seems a welcome place in a storm. But that doesn't mean you have to stay. You don't even have to drop anchor. Just keep sailing. Remember that you will be okay out there on your own, you will weather this storm. And when you come through it, you will meet people who have also weathered their own storms, and then you can face life together, knowing you've found someone you can truly count on and truly love. And someone who truly loves you.

Deborah Ward's new book, Overcoming Fear with Mindfulness, is available now.

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