A LETTER TO THE PASSIONATE SOULS
Dear Intense, Sensitive and Gifted Ones,
Without you, this work would not exist. You are an inspiration, and an essential part of our collective quest.
If I were to sum up my messages in three sentences, they would be:
One, there is nothing wrong with you.
Two; not only that, you are in a unique position to do something, create something, stand up for something.
And three; your sensitivity and intensity are not your hindrances, but DOORWAYS to your fullest potential.
In our society, the norm is to try and cover up our deep-rooted existential anxiety by means of numbing. When things get too much, it is in our human nature to want to want to close our eyes and pretend that nothing is happening. Many people have settled to dull their mind through engaging in mindless activities or consuming short-lived pleasure. Passionless life is chosen because it feels, even just superficially, easier and more secure.
According to philosopher Jasper, this is how most people live their lives:
‘We forget that we must die, forget our guilt, and forget that we are at the mercy of chance,’ ‘In our day-to-day lives we often evade them, by closing our eyes and living as if they did not exist.’ (Jasper 1951 p.20)’
However, those who were born with a sensitive and perceptive soul struggle to do that. It is not that you try to be different, or pretend that you are special, but you simply cannot shut down your natural ability to see and feel so much.
Perhaps like Jasper, you ‘fail’ to numb yourself to the harshness and darkness side of reality:
‘ The ultimate situations— death, chance, guilt and the uncertainty of the world— confront me with the reality of failure. What do I do in the face of this absolute failure, which if I am honest I cannot fail to recognise? (Jasper, 1952, p. 22) '
Your sensitivity makes it hard for you to fit into the ordinary, hypocritical aspects of this world. This is because you possess a special kind of awareness to the truth, to injustice, to suffering, and to the painstakingly beautiful things. You may have been described as having keen intelligence, and unbounded perceptivity; You may have been called or feel like an old soul. Your sentimental nature means you are always pondering the transient nature of all things beautiful, and plagued by an intangible feeling of divine homesickness.
Even when others don’t see it, and you have not yet recognised it, it actually takes a tremendous amount of courage to be you! In fact, may I suggest that you are born a warrior of life, the protagonist of a Hero’s Journey into your authentic self?
You see, passionate engagement with life is not an easy path, and it is a path less travelled by. The word passion comes from the Latin verb patio, which means to suffer and to endure. Passionate living entails a kind of openness where you are being exposed to the up and downs, gain and loss, pleasure and pain in life. When you choose to walk the path of passion, you commit yourself to come face to face with the bare bone of reality- including its embedded challenges and uncertainties, even when they pain you, trouble you, and tire you out.
You may feel that you have no other option than to take life seriously, and you aspire to live fully, intensely, with full presence and passion. Even when it hurts, the intense and gifted soul inside you stubbornly refuses to be diluted for her infinite zest for life, and wants to embrace it all, with wide open eyes. Perhaps deep down you know that in the end, the joy and aliveness you will experience is in direct proportion to the suffering you can endure. In the end, without sensitivity what would life be? It is this part of you that has given your life so much colour and meaning. Although it is a source of both ecstasy and terror, it is also the source of all that is precious and memorable.
Your love for life itself is the most powerful when you can combine it with your ability to see beauty and make intellectual or creative linkages. This is what artists and poets have done all their lives across history. Sadly, though, historically and up until today, those with visionary or insightful qualities are also deemed mad, pathological, and schizophrenic by the world.
In order to channel your natural gifts into an artistic or productive output, you must first build a healthy relationship with your intensity. To do this, it is critical that you do not collapse into the trap of pathology. Rather than being overwhelmed, oppressed and isolated by your sensitivity, you use it to create structure and meaning, to find your tribe, and ultimately, to actualise your fullest self.
We can liken your unusual life path to that of a shamanic initiation— in a way, you have been initiated to bring passion and truth back into our collective psyche. By nature, you are the pioneers of the world: you are the questioners and the progressives whose role in the world is to bring forth the realities which others do not yet see or understand. You can deny it, fight it, but in the end you would not be able to deny or suppress your unique insights and perspectives. Although you might not have chosen this path, it is your path.
Not being able to own your gifts and be authentic about your true nature keep you in hiding and holds you back from bringing your gifts into the world. Such act deprives not only you but also the progression of our collective consciousness. Your sensitivity and intensity are the doorways to your fullest potential, and you are not serving the world by playing small.
Once you have embraced your sensitivity, intensity and giftedness, you will realise that all along it is leading you to your own freedom and peace. You will realise that you have no other choice than to yield to what has been given to you. You will experience unspeakable peace by surrendering to what seems true to you. You can finally stop fighting, stop trying to pretend to be who you are not, or to suppress and hide your sensitive and intense nature.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
FROM MISFITS TO LEADERS
I hope my work will challenge what we as a society think we know about sensitivity, empathy, being different and creative.
Diversity is the universe's natural state- we see this in nature and the galaxies. All the different ways we are of being, perceiving and serving the world form the bedrock of our progression. Yet we seem inept at embracing differences; people often feel threatened by what they do not understand and comprehend, and eventually attack each other. The problem is not our differences, but our judgement of each other, and the indifference towards it. By pathologising, stigmatising and marginalising intense people, the world is sitting on a gold mine without knowing it, and we are being held back in progression as a collective.
For the last few decades, our world has been driven by linear, mechanistic, patriarchal values (by which I do not mean an individual male is oppressing women, but a cultural narrative that is dualistic, results and action-oriented). We have gone very information-driven, intellectual, and concrete. We have been ambitious, driven, stressed human-doings, disowning our essence as human beings.
But many of us are waking up to the fact that the old way of operating has reached its limit. Our global economy is outgrowing the capacity of the earth to support it, and what is happening in the politics might just be the ‘final push’ of the old system, before it is forced to recede.
The chaotic time that we are in is also imbued with potential.
Humanity is calling for a different way of being, and a redefinition of power. Even in the most ego-driven corporate space, increasingly we hear people saying things like ‘trust your gut instinct, ‘follow your intuition’, or ‘watch the energy in the room’. The value of white space, rest, sleep and mindfulness is entering the mainstream media, and more female pioneers are rising to the horizon. The popularity of Brene Brown’s work on vulnerability, Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, the phenomenal success of Susan Cain’s book Quiet are all pointing to something.
Like a bamboo tree that bends but does not break, the new paradigm of power comes from balancing the yin and the yang; from not just fighting, but also yielding. We are not only ready but also hungry for a different kind of leadership. Our new world calls for those who are sensitive, intuitive, empathic, authentic and transparent. We are waiting for the emergence of heart-centred trailblazers, torch-bearer, and bridge-walkers. And this is where sensitive, intense and gifted people come in.
WHY YOU MATTER NOW MORE THAN EVER
Perhaps up until now, you have not yet grappled with the value of your qualities. You did not get why you feel angsty, impatient, restless and depressed with issues that other people find acceptable. The truth is, you are a fast-moving machine in a world that does not keep up. You are a truth seeker in a society that is complacent about hypocrisy. Your thoughts are critical and challenging when others opt for a comfortable life. You are a passionate lover in a culture plagued with fear and separations. Intense people are positioned to be the game-changers, the truth- tellers, and the fierce lovers of the world.
In fact, you are the canary in the coal mine. In the old days, miners sent canaries into unknown pits. If the canaries stopped singing, they knew the mine was toxic, and they would stay away. When there are woes in the world, the sensitive souls are amongst the first to take the hit. Your sadness, anxiety, rage are not wrong; They are warning signs of the world’s pain. Except that this time, we need you not to die as the canaries did, but to rise to the occasion and bring the message of truth and passion back into the world.
At this point, some of you may ask: Am I really that ‘special’? Are you suggesting that I am superior in some way? Does this further alienate me from those around me? I do understand the fear of your own power, and of losing belongingness. Here is a more useful way of thinking about it: We all have our unique blueprints and trajectory in this lifetime, and everyone is being gifted with certain qualities to do certain things in the world. Maybe you are qualitatively (rather than quantitatively) different to someone who is less intense, but that does not make you any better or worse.
And when you are given the ‘package’ that comprises a fast brain, fierce passion, the ability to see things penetratively and to feel things deeply, you have no choice but to do something with it. As your body already knows, suppressing your expression leads to existential guilt, depression, restlessness, physical pain and chronic emptiness. In other words, you don’t have a choice but to follow where your intensity leads.
Many of us feel we have no choice but to protect ourselves in this unpredictable and volatile world. You might have felt that you had to withdraw, to defend, to hide behind four walls. As you have probably figured out by now, such strategy leads merely to internal deadness. Defending against the world doesn’t work. Neither do shrinking and hiding. And numbing out your heart brings psychic death. The only thing that can take you forward is to open your heart and mind.
My pledge may seem extreme, but for too long intense people have been misunderstood, shamed, and sidelined, and just like the beginning of any movement, a forceful pushback is needed to swing the pendulum.
Claiming your place in the world is not just a real act of courage, but also a form of noble public service. By showing up to the world as the sensitive empath that you are, you are championing not just for your rights, but also all the passionate and porous souls that come before and after you. By standing up for yourself when others call you a ‘drama queen’ or ‘too this and that,' you are helping your soul sisters and brothers to fight against injustice. Being unapologetically honest about your emotional reality is not only personally healing, but also transpersonally meaningful.
So far my work has focused heavily on the ‘healing’ and the ‘coming out’ process, and these will continue to be paramount. But I also think we are ready for the next step. Part two of this book is titled ‘from Healing to Thriving’. Truly, it is time intense people move from victimhood to heroism, to go from being the ‘misfits’ to standing as the leaders of the world (and this can take many forms. You can be a thought leader that speaks to a small niche, a quiet creative pioneer, or you can model how to be the best parent in town).
For now, I will leave you with this quote from Herman Hesse, and I wish you well on your utterly precious and heroic journey:
“We who bore the mark might well be considered by the rest of the world as strange, even as insane and dangerous. We had awoken, or were awakening, and we were striving for an ever perfect state of wakefulness, whereas the ambition and quest for happiness of the others consisted of linking their opinions, ideals, and duties, their life and happiness, ever more closely with those of the herd. ‘