Building Healthy Barriers for Highly Sensitive People

How hypnotherapy helped my hyper-empathy

Steve, my hairdresser in Hollywood, asked me out of the blue one day during a regular cut and style, “I’m getting certified in hypnotherapy, you wanna be a case study?”.

“Sure, sounds like fun”, I replied, only because I trusted Steve implicitly; not only with my hair but with my subconscious mind.  I say that because I knew just enough about hypnotherapy to be picky regarding who I’d let talk to me while I was in a trance. 

At that point in my life, somewhere inside me, I knew I was vulnerable to intense energy and pick up on feelings up like a radar. I had no real skills to help me with what I now know as hyper empathy.

What happened twenty-five years ago in that hair salon was so amazing, it changed the way I function within my energy field even now. 


Hypnosis as a healing modality

Las Vegas and the movies really botched up the image of hypnosis as a therapy. Images come to mind of people squawking like chickens or a doctor waving a watch to reveal hidden secrets against a person’s will.

More realistically, the Mayo Clinic defines it this way,

“A trance-like state in which you have heightened focus and concentration…It can be used to help you gain control over undesired behaviors or to help you cope better with anxiety or pain. It’s important to know that although you’re more open to suggestion during hypnosis, you don’t lose control over your behavior.”

When we began, Steve asked what I wanted to work on. I told him I’d like to be more assertive. Although that came to pass, first and foremost he noticed how easily I went into hypnosis and that was a red flag for him. He wanted to help me build some filters for my suggestibility out in the world. Boy was he right, I was suggestible and that’s an understatement. 


Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and Hyper-Empathy

As a disclaimer, I’m only speaking for myself from my experience and acknowledge this can be a tough row to hoe for many folks. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help to a qualified professional if you find yourself bogged down by this sensitivity.

I’m referencing hyper empathy and being an HSP, as it’s known now, as a personality trait, not a disorder. If you’re curious to know if you fall under this category, you can take this self-test from Dr. Elaine Aron, a pioneer in research on this topic to get you started on your journey.

Back then I really didn’t know how deep-in I was. I had two modes of operating; raw-nerve or a block of stone, there was no middle ground. I figured I was shell-shocked by my young adult life and it was to be expected. I was like a rabbit ready to run at any moment.

I didn’t realize I had a gift. The problem was I just didn’t know how to use it correctly. 


Is hyper empathy a gift or a curse?

I had begun practicing in the healing arts and noticed I had a real knack for understanding my client’s needs. Problem was, I’d also take on their symptoms! I could get my client’s headache after massaging their feet and they’d feel great. It seemed crazy.

I needed to find a way to use this trait as a sustainable skill, and not to have it continue to drain me. On this journey, I would go on to discover more tools especially in studying Chinese medical energy cultivation, but for now, this was kind of new.

If you can picture it, Steve looked just like Albert Einstein; all disheveled hair and kind, sharp eyes. On the side, he created a one-man show portraying the genius himself. We began the session and using his voice, without the German accent, he guided me gently into a relaxed state. 

I was floating and sinking at the same time, maybe you can relate to that sensation. I didn’t feel afraid because I knew I could pop out of it anytime.


Creating healthy filters

He asked me to imagine I was radiating a bubble that floated out around me. I began to think of it as a translucent liquid armor filled with light.  The key was that this armor was permeable, and the filters were set by me. It could be my say-so if an energy would fully enter into my deeper space.

What I received was the gift of observation. One degree removed from the outside world, I slowed down the stream of information coming at me. Those few extra beats gave me time to execute the power of choice.

This didn’t make me a hard or unfeeling person. I found I could be more effective in my work and a better partner in my relationships. I was learning how to come from a place of responsiveness rather than reactivity


Breaking the trance

It’s funny that I learned to be more conscious by going deeply into a trance.

I learned to pay attention to the state of my awareness. I could take those few heartbeats now offered to me thru the barrier to observe a feeling, identify where it was coming from and who it belonged to, then let it pass thru me.

The point is that trance happens, and not always in the best environment. We can all be hypnotized by screens and constant advertising bombardment if not careful.  I’ve learned to keep my power of choice operational and filtered thru my full awareness. Not reacting like a rabbit.


And because my filter got efficient thru practice it engages without much effort from me. I get to take a step back and decide. When I feel myself getting over-sensitive and losing resilience, I know I’ve been missing my recharging time when I go into my own trance of meditation to build my inner resources.

Learning to grow a permeable filter so I have time for critical thinking has been a game-changer for me to use my gift for a good purpose in my life. I don’t know where Steve is today, but I hope he somehow feels my gratitude for realizing I had no filter then helping me to build one.