Tips for Parents: Nourishing the Mind, Heart, and Body of the Spiritually Sensitive Child
Wilkes, P.
Davidson Institute for Talent Development

This Tips for Parents article is from a seminar hosted by Paula Wilkes, who discusses a number of topics related to sensitivity.

What is spiritual sensitivity? Many parents may have read about Dabrowski’s “over-excitabilities”: sensual, intellectual, imaginational, psychomotor, and emotional. Spiritual sensitivity includes many aspects of these categories, but I believe it stands on its own as an important sensitivity experienced by many gifted people:

  • Profound empathy and exceptional emotional depth
  • Intuitive insight; ability to see the truth of situations
  • A strong connection to the natural world
  • May feel misunderstood by the world around them

And these sensitivities can lead to loneliness and self-doubt.

According to Judith Blackstone, in her book Belonging Here, spiritual sensitivity may lead to the following challenges:

  • Thin Skin
    • Action: Create a strong but permeable boundary between yourself and the external world. Learn to inhabit your body.
    • “Unlike the array of symptoms mentioned in the sensory processing literature, the people who have this gift are usually well-coordinated and high functioning.” (p. 88)
    • “The cure for this discomfort is actually to become more sensitive and open…You remain steady and open while the movement of life flows through you.” (p. 89)
  • Landing on Earth
    • Action: Stay grounded within the whole of your body by mending your inner fragmentation. Find the innermost channel of your body.
    • “People who are spiritually gifted often have particularly strong wills. At the same time, they are also often extremely impressionable or malleable, as if they were actually made of a more porous material than most other people.” (p. 115)
    • “People who are diffuse have difficulty feeling centered in themselves. They feel, and look, somewhat hazy and unfocused, as though they are somehow dispersed outward into the space around them.” (p. 125)
  • Hearing the Cries of the World
    • Action: Open to your joy, even as you respond to the suffering in the world around you. Become your own caretaker.
    • “Extreme sensitivity to the emotions of other people, and the spontaneous upwelling of compassion in response to their suffering, is part of spiritual openness. It can ripen into the unconditional love and compassion of spiritual maturity.” (p. 139)
    • “Children with this type of openness have not yet developed the inner strength to withstand the emotional intensity that they feel around them. Nor do they possess the perspective to distinguish another person’s emotions from their own. Their emotional sensitivity may even hamper their emotional development, for they may never find the inner peace or distance necessary to cultivate emotional resilience.” (p. 139-40)
  • Shape Shifters
    • Action: Remove the protective mask of the false personality. Get centered. Learn to be here, now.
    • “The potential for this aspect of spiritual maturity is often present in spiritually gifted children as a rich capacity for imagination….They may have difficulty concentrating on school work that bores them, when they can easily escape into more entertaining fantasies. With their ‘head in the clouds,’ they may be ridiculed or ostracized by friends and family back on earth.” (p. 162)
    • “They may also create false personae that are, because of the children’s depth and sensitivity, both deeply distorting, and as they get older, extremely troubling for them.” (p. 162)
    • “If we observe children closely, we will see that the false smile, for example, can appear very early in life….these patterns mask and constrict our authentic self.” (p. 163)
  • The Stranger
    • Action: Make the return from self-exile to self-acceptance. Uncover the essence of your being so your preferences, aspirations, and talents are more accessible.
    • “Many spiritually gifted individuals grow up with the sense that they are in exile, that they are ‘strangers in a strange land.’” (p. 183)
    • “This gift can also be a source of loneliness and confusion. As children, these far-sighted individuals often see what they are not supposed to see. They see through the mask of propriety, the forced smiles, or the small and large lies that maintain a veneer of peace in the family home.” (p. 184)
    • “The inability to fit in with one’s family is a terrible dilemma for children, who naturally love and need to be loved by the people around them.” (p. 184)

Nurture the Mind: Meditation; Mindful breathing

Nurture the Heart: Gratitude Journals; Gestures from the Heart tapping; Breathing Love to self and others; EmWave; Raise Your Set Point for Joy

Nurture the Body: QiGong, Yoga, Tai Chi; Massage; 4 Pebble Meditation; Donna Eden’s Energy Medicine

Aron, Elaine. (2002). The highly sensitive child. New York: Broadway Books.

Belknap, Martha. (2006). Stress relief for kids: Taming your dragons. Duluth, MN: Whole Person Associates.

Blackstone, Judith. (2012). Belonging here: A guide for the spiritually sensitive person. Boulder, CO: Sounds True, Inc.

Daniels, Susan. (2008). Living with intensity: Understanding the sensitivity, excitability, and the emotional development of gifted children, adolescents, and adults. Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press, Inc.

Heller, Sharon. (2002). Too loud, too bright, too fast, too tight. New York: Broadway HarperCollins Publishers.

Lama Surya Das. (2011). Buddha standard time: Awakening to the infinite possibilities of now. New York: Harper Collins.

Levine, Madeline. (2012). Teach your children well: Parenting for authentic success. New York: Harper.

Piechowski, Michael. (2006). “Mellow out,” they say. If I only could. Intensities and sensitivities of the young and bright. Madison, WI: Yunasa Books.

Singer, Michael. (2007). The untethered soul: the journey beyond yourself. Oakland,CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc.

Zeff, Ted. (2010). The strong, sensitive boy: Help your son become a happy, confident man. San Ramon, CA: Prana Publishing.

Other Resources

  • Deeper Flow with Lee Holden DVD
  • The Qi Healing Kit by Lee Holden (DVD with standing and sitting Qi Gong, 2 CDs, 20 cards, and 51-page workbook
  • Six Healing Sounds: Qigong for Children by Lisa Spillane
  • Mindful Movements: Ten Exercises for Well-being by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness with Children by Thich Nhat Hanh
  • A Handful of Quiet: Happiness in Four Pebbles by Thich Nhat Hanh (in press, October, 2012)

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