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Melissa is an Author, Speaker, Coach who specialises in subjects related to Highly Sensitive Children. In this conversation, we will come to hear why Melissa thinks sometimes having a diffused vision is a relief. We will learn how to ground ourselves even amongst busy travel schedule, crowds and bright light. We talked about what sensitive children need to hear. She shared how she turned her relationship with her mother around and helped her to understand and accept who she is. Finally, we touched on the power of EMDR therapy.

A CLIP FROM THE INTERVIEW

Resources mentioned

Far From the Trees by Andrew Soloman

The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron


About Melissa

Melissa Schwartz was born an intense, sensitive, empathic, power seeker. Her intuitive ability to decode misbehavior and her passion for giving a voice to the legitimate needs of children naturally evolved into becoming the co-creator of Leading Edge Parenting, co-author of Authentic Parenting Power and author of soon to be released, Under the Hood: A Manual to Understand the Inner Workings of Children. She is an internationally acclaimed author, coach and public speaker bringing new perspective based on current research and personal experience to transform the field of child development.

www.leadingedgeparenting.com or www.sensitiveparenting.com (both link to the same website)

www.facebook.com/highlysensitivechildren

www.facebook.com/leadingedgeparenting

www.facebook.com/groups/highlysensitivechildren — her private group for parents of HSCs

www.instagram.com/leadingedgeparenting

https://www.amazon.com/Authentic-Parenting-Power-Thoughts-Behavior/dp/1492168246 — this is the book she wrote with her mom
https://www.theparentcleanse.com
— this 21 day, self-guided course starts at any time

Full Transcript:

Melissa: Hi, Imi.

Imi:

Welcome to Eggshell Therapy. Thank you so much for agreeing to be on the show.

Melissa:

It’s my pleasure to be here with you, thank you.

Imi:

Whereabouts are you now, geographically?

Melissa:

I am in San Diego in California.

Imi:

Yes, and I’m in London, England.

Melissa:

Isn’t technology amazing?

Imi:

I know, I know. This is working well, as well, for once. Okay. Thank you for being on the show. This is a podcast dedicated to people who are emotionally intense and quite sensitive. I would love to start from the beginning of your journey. My first question is whether you consider yourself an emotionally intense person?

Melissa:

A resounding yes. I’ve been emotionally intense, from what I hear, from the moment I was born, probably even when I was still in the womb but my whole life, I have always felt things what I believe to be deeper than other people. I like to explain it when I talk about what it feels like, the saturation is more intense.

Melissa:

If you think about a pale pink and a pale blue that most people feel, I feel like cobalt blue and magenta, just more saturated, more intense experience.

Imi:

That is a really lovely analogy and I can immediately visualize it.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

Are you quite a visual person as well?

Melissa:

I am, I am. I was actually a professional photographer for a little while [inaudible 00:01:48] school and I think that my visual sense is one of my strongest senses. I think I see color in more range than most people. Some people might look at a picture and say, “Oh, I see red and orange and yellow,” and I’ll see a thousand different degrees of red, orange, and yellow in the way that colors mix and things like that.

Melissa:

Yeah, I wear glasses, wear contacts and I’ve often thought about having corrective surgery on my eyes. Doctors have said to me over the years, “Do you want to do it?” And I always say no because I like being able to diffuse my vision. As somebody who has such an intense sensory experience all the time, it’s nice to be able to, I say, turn my eyes off and diffuse my vision.

Melissa:

Because I do, I take in everything, I notice details. It feels like my eyes are kind of always working overtime. Yeah.

Imi:

It’s really interesting because I did my Lasik surgery ten… Gosh, how old? I was 17 and I lied to my parents. I did it behind their back. I saved up a whole lot of money and did it when the technology wasn’t there but after how many, I think 15 years… I forgot how many years, but all these years has passed and actually my sight is beginning to deteriorate.

Melissa:

Huh.

Imi:

Now I’m enjoying the joy of blurry vision as well.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

What’s really interesting in what you said is that sometimes it’s okay to have a diffused vision in a metaphorical sense, that sometimes it’s okay to relax, to not feel so much.

Melissa:

Yes.

Imi:

Do you have tools and strategies to kind of healthily cut off rather than unhealthily dissociate?

Melissa:

Yeah. I love that you raise that question too because I think most sensitive, emotionally intense people have unhealthy ways to dissociate things like technology or drinking wine or eating sugar or those kind of things that seem like they work, but they don’t really.

Imi:

Absolutely.

Melissa:

Yeah, and for me, some of the healthy ways that I do it, fortunately I live right by the ocean so I get to take a walk by the beach which is a really good way for me to step out of what’s going on and recognize how small I am in comparison to the rest of the world. That, for me, is really wonderful, just kind of going and breathing fresh ocean air.

Melissa:

But of course, I’m not always there. Sometimes, I’m traveling. I travel to speak quite often and that can be very overwhelming. The flying, staying in a hotel, being around crowds of people, speaking, the bright lights.

Melissa:

The thing that I do most regularly that’s helpful is a grounding meditation, a sort of meditation to feel connected to the Earth and release whatever it is that I’m absorbing or holding onto and come back to feeling what my own energy feels like, that sort of peaceful, just presence and get away from that buzzing, that activity.

Imi:

I hear you, I hear you. When you have access to it, ocean, water, nature. Does that explain the brilliant painting or photograph behind you that says it all?

Melissa:

Yeah, and I love water. My birthday is in July, I’m a Cancer and I’ve always just been drawn to water. There’s something about it being cleansing and nurturing and for me, it’s a real comfort. Taking a bath or a shower is another way that sometimes just helps me let go and cleanse whatever things I’m holding onto that aren’t serving me.

Imi:

That is really interesting because that’s what I find. Everyone resonates with one or two particular elements in nature. For me, it’s wood and many people, it would be water or just the Earth and the landscape that calms me down the most would be trees and forest and not so much water. But what you’re saying is that, for you, any water elements, even when you’re not by the sea, little things like a shower, can help ground you.

Melissa:

Yeah, absolutely. Sometimes I’ve had moments when I’m speaking or after I’m done speaking where I’ll just end up in the bathroom, splash some water on my face, and that feels like it kind of snaps me out of an energetic trance that I might be in.

Imi:

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Melissa:

It’s nice that-

Imi:

[inaudible 00:06:49].

Melissa:

It’s always available, it’s always with me.

Imi:

It’s always available. I have to come back to that meditation that you mentioned that you can do wherever you are, when you’re traveling, speaking. How long does it take you and what form does it take, if you don’t mind sharing the nitty gritty details?

Melissa:

Sure. The meditation that I like to do, it can take anywhere from two minutes to 15 or 20 minutes really depending on how much time I have and it’s something that I use in between working with clients and again, it just kind of depends on how much time I have.

Melissa:

It’s sort of a three or four step process. The first piece is about getting grounded and connecting to the Earth and really feeling myself rooted into the Earth. Then the next piece is about releasing any energy down through that connection and then the third piece is about drawing fresh energy up through that connection and letting it fill up my body and cover the outside of my body as well.

Melissa:

The sort of inner, outer protection and then the fourth piece is to extend that energy around me and sort of find myself in a bubble, a protective bubble that is filled with my own energy and sort of seals out anything that I don’t want to allow in. It’s really a loving boundary, which I think for the sensitive, emotionally intense people…

Melissa:

Going back to your beautiful question, that is the healthy action, right? It’s taking care of ourselves on the front end rather than waiting until we feel invaded by other energy or overwhelmed because then we’re just kind of coping with it. Then we’re trying to metaphorically get the water out of the boat and the way you keep that boat floating is to not let the water get in.

Melissa:

To me, this meditation keeps that metaphor of water out of my boat so that I don’t find myself sinking.

Imi:

Yeah, that’s really well said because I always say to people, there are two kinds of cutting off. There is a healthy kind of checking out and saying, “Okay, I have enough. I’m going to stop listening to my thoughts for now. For five minutes, I’m just going to listen to my body and relax.”

Imi:

But then there is the survival strategy, dissociative cutting off which is just your body gets too much and it just have to cut off.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

Okay, well thank you so much for sharing that. I’m sure it will be useful to some of my listeners who are also intense and sometimes need a way to ground themselves.

Melissa:

Yes.

Imi:

I know you have a lot of experience, as well. We will get on to your own journey and your career later, but I know that you work with and see a lot of sensitive and intense people. The mystery question is, why… It’s okay if you don’t have an answer to it, but why do you think some people are more intense and sensitive? Is it nature, is it nurture? What is that about?

Melissa:

Yeah. I think it’s probably a combination. Elaine Aaron’s research tells us that somewhere between 15 and 20, maybe even 25% of the population has a genetic trait that makes them predisposed to being more sensitive, more emotionally intense but then it’s also my belief that nature only goes so far and then it’s the way that we are responded to, that we are understood or misunderstood, especially in our early years that can amplify or sort of reign in that intensity.

Melissa:

In other words, when a young child who is very intense emotionally and very sensitive to energy and through their sensory systems gets the message of, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you making a big deal about that? Just don’t let it bother you,” that child doesn’t learn one, how to handle their sensory experience or their emotional experience and it gets compounded with the message that there’s something wrong with them.

Imi:

Absolutely.

Melissa:

Their experience gets bigger and bigger and more intense and more magnified. That, for me, is where that nurture piece comes in. On the other side of it, if that same child is met with understanding and guidance that teaches them things like age appropriate meditation from a young age and healthy tools to identify and express their emotions, then the nurture element can actually help them not necessarily feel less intense experiences but handle it with more grace and less reactivity.

Melissa:

I think [inaudible 00:11:37]. That’s the piece where the nurture really impacts how somebody is handling life, whether or not they’re given these tools at a young age or if they wait until they’re adults to learn it, which is okay in any way that it happens, but of course, the younger you are when you learn these things, the easier your journey is.

Imi:

Absolutely. I mean, young children came into this world, we’re not meant to already know how to do things and how to regulate our emotions and we need some extra guidance. For the ones who are born emotionally more intense, we need extra, extra guidance and to be delivered in a kind and patient way, which is difficult.

Imi:

I understand it’s a really tall order, but it’s also what they need to develop and actually more and more scientific research in attachment theory, more and more, it’s validating that there’s something neurologically essential. The feedback, yeah.

Melissa:

Yeah, and what I found because I work with parents of highly sensitive children is many parents assume or expect that children can express themselves. I often hear parents say things like, “Use your words.” I say, “They don’t know how to use their words.”

Melissa:

Or they’ll be saying to an infant, “Stand up and walk.” Or saying to a toddler, “Drive the car.” In other words, they need to have the experience, they need to have the natural progression of learning and emotions work in the same way. We’re not born emotionally intelligent. We have emotional experiences but we need to develop that intelligence and the ability to articulate it.

Melissa:

That only gets developed through patience and compassion and guidance and it is a tall order for parents. With these very intense, reactive, sensitive children, the experience is heightened for everybody and so, it can feel very overwhelming, especially if a parent themself is highly sensitive.

Imi:

Absolutely. Gosh, this has left us so many questions that I wanted to ask you. I will, but before I do, I would like to come back to you and your experience because I know you have years of experience. You started out as a nanny, didn’t you?

Melissa:

Yes, I did.

Imi:

How do you go from being a nanny to being such an exceptional coach?

Melissa:

Well, I actually studied child development when I was in high school. I went to a high school with a really unique program where we studied child development and ran a daycare program.

Imi:

Wow.

Melissa:

We could interact with the children and-

Imi:

In high school?

Melissa:

In high school, yeah and it was a low income program that served families in our community, so we got to be with the children and then talk about the children and how to meet their needs and why they were behaving the way that they were. From a young age, this idea of understanding misbehavior as communication was really implanted for me.

Melissa:

When I became a nanny, it was right after I graduated college. I had studied photography and I was trying to build a photography business and in the midst of that was working as a nanny to support myself. I have memories of calling my mom who is a child development specialist and worked with young children in her 45 plus years of career.

Melissa:

She’ll not be happy that I’m giving away her age, but I used to call her on my way home from being with this little girl and say, “Did I handle this right? What do you think I should do? How could I have done it differently?” I used to kind of bounce things off of my mom and get feedback.

Melissa:

I didn’t realize it then but my mom was really coaching me about how to be with this little girl and I worked for that family and a couple of other families over a few years, children of all different ages, and continued with that same approach of getting feedback and really being honest with myself about when was I losing my patience?

Melissa:

When did I feel like I didn’t have a resource that I needed to help this child? Where could I be more consistent in creating routines and boundaries and very clear rules and expectations? How was I responding when a child was acting out? Was I taking it personally or was I reading into their behavior?

Melissa:

That all gave me this really robust understanding of what it was like to be with young children in a professional way because a parent may use something like a time out or they might get frustrated and yell. But when you are a paid professional working with a child, those are not acceptable behaviors.

Melissa:

I really had to be held to a higher standard because I was an employee, I wasn’t with this child in the role of a parent. Over the years, I kind of got away from working with children for a little while, although I brought all of those skills with me into being a photographer.

Melissa:

I shot people and so, a lot of it was about building rapport and making very fast, authentic connection. So, I had this very windy, meandering professional path that led me to working with highly sensitive children and started about 10 years ago. Now my mom and I actually work together. We share a coaching practice, we wrote a book together, “Authentic Parenting Power”.

Imi:

“Authentic Parenting Power”, I’ll put it in the show notes later.

Melissa:

This book was really my entry into being a parent coach because as my mom started writing this book and I was reading what she was writing and sharing thoughts, I would say to her, “Actually, you’re missing what I needed as a child and you’re missing what these sensitive kids needed and especially what those parents need to hear to understand why their children are behaving that way.”

Melissa:

I started speaking from the child’s perspective and offering this different idea rather than just speaking to the parents for their children.

Imi:

Yes, I was very curious about that. I heard your story, that you’re actually working with your mum now about parenting and that’s parallel itself. It’s really intriguing. If you don’t mind me getting a little bit personal-

Melissa:

Sure.

Imi:

What was childhood like for you? I think ultimately, I’m interested in how this process of working with your mum on the work project might potentially be quite healing for you.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

Almost like you’re speaking up for yourself when you were younger and you were not able to.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

Sorry, that’s three questions in one.

Melissa:

I’ll try and answer them and if I miss anything, feel free to remind me. In my very early years, of course my memories are all sort of unconscious at this point but from what I’ve heard from my parents and cousins, family that was around, I was a really challenging child or so they tell me.

Melissa:

I was born very sensitive and intense. When my mom and I do talks together, she’ll usually begin a talk by saying that my older brother, if he could speak when he was born, he would’ve looked around and said, “Ooh, this is going to be fun.” He just kind of coasted through life.

Melissa:

When I was born, I would’ve said, “Oh my gosh, I don’t want to be here, put me back in” because when I was born, life always felt like too much for me. The sensory experience felt too intense, everything felt challenging, I had a hard time settling and being comfortable.

Melissa:

Because both of my parents were educators, my mom was an early childhood educator, they would tell you if they were sitting here right now that they had a lot of ego with my older brother because everything they did worked. He was sweet and easygoing and he listened and very often, we use the marker of a child listening as them being good.

Imi:

Oh yeah.

Melissa:

Personally, my perspective is a little bit different. I don’t think it’s actually emotionally healthy for a child to just listen. I think there are different ways that we can help children be cooperative and we can have consistent rules and boundaries and ways of doing things to keep children safe. But just blindly listening to authority is not necessarily a mark of a good child.

Melissa:

I was very much not a listener. My mom tells the story of my brother would climb on something and she would say to him, “That’s not for climbing,” and he would stop. I would climb on something and she would say to me, “That’s not for climbing,” and I would look her right in the eye and keep going.

Melissa:

We were just born with very different hard wiring. Somewhere around when I was four or five, after my parents having these thoughts of, “She’s too sensitive, too intense, too reactive, too emotional”, they realized that I wasn’t changing, that no shaming it out of me was going to change who I was.

Melissa:

I like to say it’s much like if you look at a child who’s born with blue eyes and you say to them, “Why are your eyes so blue? They should be brown,” you cannot shame those eyes into being a different color. Our temperament, our hard wiring is the same way. It is not going to change, it is who we are.

Melissa:

When I was about four or five, my mom started taking parenting classes which I think was a bit of an ego blow because she was an early childhood educator, she got her Master’s degree from Columbia University, a prestigious school in New York City and she knew what she was doing.

Melissa:

She had been successful in her career and yet, none of it worked with me. What she realized in taking this class I that who I was was different and that I had different needs. I struggled socially and academically over the years, as most sensitive children do, because I didn’t fit into the box and I didn’t play the game and I pushed back and I questioned why things were the way that they were.

Melissa:

I had a couple of very close friends, but generally I didn’t really care about being popular or fitting in with the main crowd. Most things that children do like going to school dances and being on sports teams didn’t really appeal to me. I was much more interested in making art and having deep conversation with one or two people, or reading. Those sort of things.

Melissa:

Down the road, when my mom started writing this book, we really got into conversation about what I needed as a child and we hadn’t really had the opportunity to have those conversations.

Imi:

What were the things that you had needed?

Melissa:

The things that I needed were just to be understood for who I was instead of being questioned. I watch a lot of parents of sensitive children say things to their children like, “Why are you so upset?”, or, “Why are you making a big deal?” They can’t explain it. That would be like saying, “Why are your eyes so blue?” “I don’t know, because that’s how my genetics are.”

Imi:

Yeah, as soon as you said that, I remember times when my parents said that to me with all the best intention. It’s really hurtful.

Melissa:

It is hurtful.

Imi:

Yeah.

Melissa:

What I tell parents now when I work with them is instead of asking your child, “Why are you so upset?”, just validate their experience and say, “You’re so upset. This is a really big deal for you. This feels really big. You are really angry.” By giving them that language and affirming what they’re experiencing, they begin to identify it themselves. They begin to learn to say, “I feel upset. I feel angry. I feel nervous. I feel scared.”

Imi:

And that’s how they learn to regulate emotions themselves.

Melissa:

Exactly.

Imi:

Becoming an adult and once you’ve got into certain ways of dealing with things and certain patterns, it becomes really hard to shift things.

Melissa:

Exactly, and I think for many sensitive adults, because they did not get that in their childhood, they have these emotional experiences as adults but don’t know how to identify them and so then they turn to again that beautiful question you asked, to these unhealthy regulating behaviors. Things like isolation or using a substance or food or technology to numb how they’re feeling because they don’t know what to do with it.

Melissa:

When we give children the ability to deal with it in their younger years, even just by saying, “This is so hard. You’re so upset right now. You’re really angry that I told you it was time to leave,” or, “You’re so sad that you have to stop playing.” Then we learn as adults how to identify what we’re feeling and we don’t beat up on ourselves for having those feelings.

Melissa:

I think a lot of sensitive adults don’t know what to do with their emotional experience and then they feel kind of shame and lament that they’re having it.

Imi:

Just now when you said those words to the imaginary child, I feel very moved by the compassion in your voice and in your eyes. I was just thinking about all the adults out there who hasn’t had to force you to have such experience. Their parents might no longer be there or just don’t have the capacity to be that holding, grounding force for them.

Imi:

What should they do? I mean, can they be there in their parents? Is there a way of them… They can’t go back to the past and change their childhood. What can they do today?

Melissa:

I think they could do a beautiful meditation where they sit with their own inner child and they see themselves as that young child and give that inner child that compassion because I know for me, as an adult, when I was able to give that to my own inner child, I stopped needing it from other people.

Imi:

Yeah.

Melissa:

The other thing that I’ve found is so many parents struggle to do this with their children because they didn’t get it. When parents learn to do this for their own children, it’s actually healing their own inner child at the same time.

Imi:

Yes.

Melissa:

I think when you’re blessed with a sensitive, intense child in your life, it depends on your spiritual religious beliefs but personally, my spiritual belief is that that child comes into your life to help you heal. That child specifically chooses you to have that experience and you choose them. There is a healing that comes through that parent-child relationship, too.

Imi:

That is really beautiful. I’ve read a book by Andrew Solomon, it’s called “Apple Is Falling”? I forgot. Something about falling far from the tree. I will put it in the show notes later, but in that, he said something about when you are blessed with a child who’s wired differently, you have two choices.

Imi:

You either rise above the occasion and raise them in the best way you can and learn from it, or you just give up and torture both the child and yourself. That leads me to a really important question. How important it is, the role of self compassion, plays in parenting, especially when you have a sensitive child and you are sensitive and a lot of things get triggered?

Imi:

We talk about it as if it’s simple, but it’s a really complex emotional matrix. To name the difficult things, I know some parents look at their child and they get envious of what the child has and they didn’t. Like you said, they never had it before, they just have no idea how to give it.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

When the child doesn’t stop demanding, crying, shouting, as a parent, you feel really helpless.

Melissa:

Yes.

Imi:

There’s just so much feeling and then you feel guilty for feeling angry or you feel helpless and et cetera.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

That wasn’t really a well-formed question. I think I was asking about self-compassion.

Melissa:

Yeah, I think self compassion is the most important thing for all of us because if we are beating up on ourselves for any reason, then that’s actually what we’re modeling to the people around us. If parents are modeling self compassion, if they’re easy on themselves, if they’re loving to themselves, then that’s what their children are picking up from them.

Melissa:

Again, I often say to my clients things like, “You don’t have to do the laundry today. You don’t have to do everything perfectly.” For me, the real indication, the marker is how do you feel about yourself when you lay your head on your pillow at night?”

Melissa:

Are you beating yourself up? Are you remembering that one little incident where you yelled or you lost your patience or are you looking at the connection that you had with your child that day? Are you feeling good about the way that you navigated challenges for the first part?

Melissa:

That, for me, is the real marker of the self-compassion is what is our inner talk really looking like? How can we continue to soften it? Because if we can’t be compassionate to ourselves, nobody else can really give that to us.

Melissa:

Sure. Oh yeah, and we’ve talked about that too because there were many years where I just didn’t feel understand and I didn’t feel accepted for who I was and I couldn’t change it. It’s just like my eyesight. I wish I could see without my glasses, but it’s just not possible and no amount of shaming or condemnation is going to change that.

Melissa:

When it’s about who you are, your core identity and you get these mixed messages, it does make you angry and for some people, my predominant stress response is to fight. I tend to get angry. Some people shut down, some sensitive, intense people who have the same sort of experience that I had may just become very withdrawn from life and very defeated.

Melissa:

Yeah, exactly. For everybody, it kind of shows up differently but for me, yeah, I have plenty of years where I was angry and I still have moments where it flurries in and out. But I’m also realizing that as an adult, now it’s up to me to give that self compassion to my inner child and nobody else can go back and understand her the way that I wish she would’ve been understood.

Melissa:

Now that’s on me, that’s my responsibility and it’s also my privilege. It’s my right and it’s very empowering and freeing to know that I don’t need anybody else to validate who I am and now that can come from myself.

Imi:

Yeah. It sounds to me, the game changing bits as being able to be your own best parent and able to hold your ground. Once you’ve done that, you become more self sufficient and in a way, you’re able to release the anger and expectations towards your mother or your parents?

Melissa:

Absolutely, yeah. I’ve certainly done plenty of healing modalities and all of that has been a piece for me. I think it’s also important to acknowledge that we can’t do it on our own. We’re social beings and we’re not meant to do it on our own. That sort of isolation is a piece of that delusional thinking.

Imi:

Yes. What have you found to be the most helpful out of all the modalities that you have tried?

Melissa:

Personally, I’ve found EMDR therapy to be the most incredible and you probably know a bit more about it even than I do because of your professional background but for me, it really helped me get into the unconscious beliefs. I like to think about it as though my mind is a garden and EMDR helped me get into where the weeds were and pull them up by the roots [inaudible 00:31:51] picking them up off the top of the surface.

Melissa:

I was able to really get into where did this false belief come from, where was it planted? Then remove it at the source so that it removed the emotional charge for me. I can still think about a specific memory or even a belief that I used to have, whereas years ago it would’ve caused all of this inner turmoil and tension in my body, now I can think about it and it’s like, “Oh yeah, that happened,” or, “Yeah, I used to believe that,” but it doesn’t affect me anymore.

Imi:

Wow. It’s amazing to hear that you had such good experience with it. For those who don’t know, EMDR stands for, let me think, Eye Movement Desensitization Processing.

Melissa:

Yes.

Imi:

I never had extensive period of EMDR therapy myself but I’m trained actually as a therapist.

Melissa:

Yes.

Imi:

I didn’t go for the full certification and in that training, we had to do certain exercises on each other. What I found the most powerful was that really unusual memories came up. It’s like unusual dreams and the impact wasn’t immediate, but once you give it some time, it does seem to change other things in the background.

Melissa:

Yeah. The way that I explained EMDR, similar to what you just said was, if you’ve ever see a clown pull a handkerchief out of their mouth where they pull it and then they keep pulling it, do you know what I’m talking about? That’s what EMDR felt like to me. It was like I started to pull on one memory and then all of the sudden, all of these other things were attached to it.

Melissa:

All of these subtle, very seemingly insignificant childhood memories were all attached and I was able to see how this thread, this thread of false belief was woven through so many experiences and it was almost like it was being pulled out of my psyche. I could see it, like, “Oh, this is what I used to believe. This used to feel so true and now it doesn’t feel true anymore and it’s now lost its power for me.” That’s kind of what it felt like.

Imi:

Yeah. Okay. A change of subject. I know you have a sensitivity summit coming up or maybe when this aired, it’s already out. It depends when this is aired. What’s the hope it will inspire?

Melissa:

Yeah, my vision for this sensitivity summit, it’s a free, virtual summit and the reason why I wanted to do it was because I always knew something was different about me. I knew I was sensitive and intense, but I wasn’t able to label it and I was even doing this work coaching parents of sensitive children before I’d heard the term “highly sensitive”.

Melissa:

My vision for doing the summit was to help other people like me who were sensitive, intense, reactive, but weren’t able to identify what was different about them, begin to learn that they weren’t alone and learn about this genetic trait that a fifth of the population experiences because it is true across cultures, religions, gender.

Melissa:

There is no one who’s immune from being highly sensitive. It is innate, it is inborn, there is nothing wrong with us, there is nothing special about us. That’s my own personal belief. It just is the way that we are and when we come to understand that we are hard wired differently and that we have different needs than neurotypical people, people that are not highly sensitive and don’t have unique neurological wiring, then we can thrive, then we can be okay.

Melissa:

My vision for the summit was to bring together different experts in the field of high sensitivity who can share their own personal experience, their professional experience and offer these different glimpses of insight into how to thrive with the trait so that people can come to understand themselves and nurture that inner child that maybe didn’t get it when they needed it.

Imi:

Yeah, I love it because on the surface, it seems to be geared towards parents but actually, as the conversation unfold, it’s not just for parents of actual children but also for parents for all our inner children. It’s applicable to most, to all of us. Right. What is your definition of resilience?

Melissa:

That’s a good question. I suppose for me, resilience is having your own internal resources to draw on because if we’re looking outside of ourselves to be okay, we’re in big trouble. It almost goes back to what I was saying about me being soothed by being by the ocean.

Melissa:

It works if I’m by the ocean, but if I’m in a place that’s landlocked, I’m in big trouble. The resilience is knowing that I’ve got all the resources within me to handle life and to thrive regardless of what else is going on.

Imi:

That is a really good definition and it’s also the definition of adulting, of become a grown adult, of knowing what we have in our arsenal, our toolbox.

Melissa:

Yeah.

Imi:

I know I have a few books that I just go to when I’m feeling out of sorts. On that, please share one book that has changed your life.

Melissa:

Just one? Oh my gosh.

Imi:

Yes.

Melissa:

Really it’s hard to choose one. I think I would have to say “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine Aaron because of all the books I’ve read, that book was the most affirming and validating for me. It really helped me to feel like I wasn’t crazy and that there was nothing wrong with me because for most of my life, I thought there was something wrong with me for experiencing life the way that I do.

Melissa:

It would be like not being able to see your whole life and then putting on a pair of glasses and having clearer vision. That book, “The Highly Sensitive Person” really helped me view myself clearly and the funny thing about when I read that was I realized how many of my personal friends were also highly sensitive and I remember texting a picture of the cover to all these friends saying, “Oh my gosh, this is who we are. Can you believe it? There’s nothing wrong with us,” because it just felt so validating.

Imi:

Yeah. Great. Please share one quote, song, or poem with our listeners who are also emotionally intense, sensitive, gifted and probably have felt misunderstood all their life.

Melissa:

Yeah, I think most musicians and artists and poets have probably melt misunderstood their whole life and are highly sensitive and that’s probably why they turn to that form of expression. On that same vein, I think Alanis Morissette, if you’re familiar with her music-

Imi:

Yes, yes, she’s so authentic. I love her.

Melissa:

Yeah, she’s highly sensitive and she was actually featured in the movie “Sensitive” with Elaine Aaron and it’s funny because when I was an angsty teenager, I really loved her music and as an adult now, gosh, it’s probably 20, 25 years since her first album was released. She’s kind of really come into herself as a sensitive artist and it’s funny to me to think back to when she first started writing music and how I identified with the struggle and the angst and the feeling misunderstood.

Melissa:

Now both of us have had our own personal journeys and now her music and her career is much more about helping people understand the trait, building connection, and I know she talks a lot about attachment parenting now, so I suppose she would be the artist that… I really appreciate her sensitivity and the way she’s woven it throughout her career.

Imi:

Is there a particular song that touches you?

Melissa:

There is a song that she wrote, I believe it’s called “Thank You” and it’s really just a song about gratitude, appreciation which I think for sensitive people is a really powerful tool and I know I’ve had days where I’ve just been struggling with everything and wanting to just crawl into bed and pull the covers over and one of the things that’s really helpful for me is to make a gratitude list.

Melissa:

Sometimes I like to do it alphabetically. There’s something about triggering both sides of my brain and trying to alphabetically go through and name things that I’m appreciating and maybe even write it down, that can get me out of my stress response and [inaudible 00:40:52] the chemistry that’s in my body.

Imi:

Oh, I’m thankful for the apple that I’m eating, the bed I’m sleeping on, the com that I’m using. I’m good at this.

Melissa:

All of those things, yeah. By the time you get to the end of the alphabet, notice if you feel a little bit different. Maybe it’s a small degree, but if there’s any shift in the wanted direction then for me, it’s a tool that works.

Imi:

Great. Thank you so much, Melissa. This has been wonderful. Can you tell us where to find you on the internet?

Melissa:

Yeah, you can find me online at LeadingEdgeParenting.com.

Imi:

Leading Edge Parenting.

Melissa:

That’s the company that my mom and I run together where we both coach parents and I’m also on Facebook. You can find me and I have a private group for parents of highly sensitive children and it’s called Highly Sensitive Children. In that group, I bring together… There are thousands of parents from around the world who I love that they all share the same experience of trying to understand their children.

Melissa:

Because like I said, it doesn’t matter if you’re in London or United States or Hong Kong or Australia, India. We have lots of parents from Asia and Europe and Africa. It really is incredible and they are all having the same experiences with their children.

Imi:

Wow.

Melissa:

That community is a really wonderful way to interact with me and other parents too.

Imi:

Okay, so for the parents amongst us, please check it out. Thank you so much for being here today. I really appreciate it.

Melissa:

Thank you, Imi, it’s all my pleasure. Appreciate it.

Imi:

All right. Bye for now.

Hey, thank you so much for tuning in. For more, please head to eggshelltransformations.com. There you will find more stories, articles, and resources for people just like me and you. Bye now.

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