Much of my personality was shaped growing up in an emotionally dysfunctional and disconnected environment. My physical and educational needs were being looked after, but there was something missing like a wilted plant receiving water and sunlight, but deprived of nutrients.  My “friends” were always competing to be the best athletes as if that was all that mattered. I was always trying hard to win recognition, but due to my underdeveloped athletic skills, I never got close to getting it nor playing on the school team.

Now as an adult, I am learning to turn my insecurities into strength by not allowing others to quell my love and creativity.  Just because society rejects your sensitivity, doesn’t mean you have to reject it.

~ vincenzo ©

Heightened sensitivity has occupied a prominent place in my head and heart.  As a boy, I’d often gaze at the reflection in windows or mirrors to look at my face. Although I could vaguely recognize or detect it, invalidation permeated my environment. Little by little the emotionally toxic world sowed self-doubt within my sensitive nature. I tried to decipher what triggered the contempt. Why were only some children targeted while others favored? Was it my dark skin, my slower speech or my hesitancy?

When growing up, resources about emotional issues were scarce. Internet was still in its mother’s womb. In order to survive, I grew up out of touch with my emotions. By example, I learned to express pain as little as possible. To complicate matters, communication was minuscule in my family of origin. Thus, I felt unworthy, though I pretended none of the antagonism was having any effect on me.

Self-esteem comes with healing. A background full of pain, anger and sadness often creates dependency without realizing it. When Christ’s love becomes a reality, you begin to feel less compelled to seek approval, and yet it takes time to process insecure attachment, especially when it is the driving force behind all your endeavors.

~ vincenzo ©

Emotional Validation awakens an interest in me perhaps because it was scarce while growing up. Ridicule, reprimand, rejection and sarcasm on the other hand were the order of the day. These made daily interactions painful, intimidating and confusing. As a boy, I’d often gaze at the reflection in windows or mirrors to look at my face. I wondered how my visage could trigger such intense despising and contempt. Was it my dark skin, my slower speech or my hesitancy?

When I was growing up resources about emotional issues were also scarce. Personal computers and/or Internet access were not dreamed possible. There were no online forums, support groups or blogs to compare notes. In order to survive, sensitive souls had little light with which to navigate, so they grew up out of touch with their emotions. By example, they learned to suppress pain as much as possible.

As adults, many sensitive people have chronic difficulty identifying feelings. They are susceptible to indecision, self-doubt, anxiety and irrational fears. They experience emotional instability including a gnawing sense of emptiness. Some become incoherent in their verbal communication when over-aroused, fatigued or distressed. These issues may or may not interfere with their work, yet for me when work is finished, I am usually drained and unfit for any other kind of activity.

For those who exercise and pay attention to their nutritional needs, these go a long way to maintaining a more stable emotional system, yet for all the inner work and personal development, parts will always remain vulnerable.

It is imperative to raise awareness of the need to model Emotional Validation even when it is generally disregarded. Here is one example of EV and the difference it may make.

http://www.smartclassroommanagement.com/2014/04/19/why-you-need-a-good-relationship-with-difficult-students/

~ vincenzo ©

* “Emotional validation is the process of learning about, understanding, and expressing acceptance of another person’s emotional experience. Emotional validation is distinguished from emotional invalidation, in which another person’s emotional experiences are rejected, ignored, or judged.” — http://www.about.com
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As a child I sensed I was different and somehow set apart from the herd.  Although I sought to camouflage myself, sometimes my emotional sensibility would leak out.  I didn’t know what sensory overload signified back then, yet I vividly recall how too much stimuli could leave me overwhelmed, incoherent, and exhausted.  On top of that list I also had few social skills.  In my family of origin communication was overshadowed by emotional upheaval and the need to keep up appearances.

My life was a mix of childlike joy and competitive misery.  I remember summer vacations, the playful titillation of sunshine and breeze on my icy cold wet skin after a long swim, trekking home with my best friend — our fingertips dipped in bright orange from synthetic cheese puffs. However these and other Disneyesque scenes interspersed themselves among many boot-camp segments where I had no idea what was being asked of me. Coaches and fellow players yelling or ridiculing me for my latest blunders. I never questioned these uncivil acts, but assumed they were fully justified.

Although school life dragged on in its tiresome/tedious way, one day something unusual happened.  I don’t remember what the speech was about nor the name of the student. I just remember the effect her storytelling had upon me. We were in third grade. She was a slim East Indian girl with charming Asian eyes and an intelligent sounding soft voice. I remember her unassuming literary style, disarming me with her playfulness and uncommon wisdom. After that speech, a subtle creative process of mitosis began. A love for words awakened. Little by little, I started enjoying classic literature, creative writing and dabbling in motivational talks.

Later as an adult, I began reading about the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and how many HSPs are creative/gifted. The challenging side however, is they also have neurotransmitters making them vulnerable to emotionally intense environments. I was most relieved to finally view my childhood through this benevolent and insightful perspective.

~ vincenzo

“Being a low-maintenance child or partner (a nice word for self-neglect) is idealized as a valuable attribute.” – Charlotte Z. Cavatica

Many children who cannot rely upon their immediate environment to meet their needs, become as low-maintenance as possible. Some refer to this as an avoidant personality. Beneath their tough exterior, some develop exaggerated fears of letting others down and feel acutely responsible for others’ disappointment and anger. ~ vincenzo ©

Throughout youth, many children seek to fix or “unbe” themselves. Their social role call them to adopt a highly charged, extroverted front — to cover their highly sensible, introverted nature. Regardless of their true temperament, they matter to others only to the extent they reflect the resilience and tough-mindedness of the high school jock or spirited cheerleader. ~ vincenzo ©

Sometimes I involuntarily enter a state when childhood memories flash mutely onto the screen of my mind. I’m referring to the daydream variety. They usually pertain to common childhood scenes (sometimes even dreary), yet immersed in euphoric/sublime feelings. Sometimes I seek in vain to decipher the subtext of these powerful yet elusive flashes. Why they exist. How I can tap into their mystery.

This imaginative/ blissful realm is intimately connected to my artistic expression, because it ultimately involves the cultivation of self understanding.  As Casper David Friedrich says, “The painter should paint not only what he has in front of him, but also what he sees inside himself. If he sees nothing within, then he should stop painting what is in front of him.”

My favorite medium is mural painting where I combine the muted beauty of photo realism with the decorative boldness of zentangle.  My writing and my faith are also intimately connected to my artistic expression, but I will leave this topic for another time.*

~ vincenzo ©

This post has been revised. What I uploaded was taken from part of an email I wrote July 18, 2014 to a new cyber-friend in Panama.