Minding HSP (high sensitivity persons’) boundaries

Hello, Ms. Wollinger!

Thank you so much for your book, it is very helpful to me, because you really understand what is going on inside of me.

I’m 28 years old and have been dealing for the past two years with my eating disorder. The contributions in your blog and your book gave me the feeling that I finally understand how all of this is connected, and I will continue my path to recovery along these lines.

I’m also enthusiastic about EBH (Emotional Body Healing), the method you describe in greater detail in your book. It helps me greatly to deal with my feelings. Since I am an HSP (highly sensitive person), this method is truly helpful to me.

My problem has to do with feelings that are not “mine”. When, for instance, friends share their problems with me, or when I sense tensions between people, I often feel badly afterwards. It is almost impossible for me to deal with these feelings with the help of EBH. Something in me resists, since the whole thing really has got nothing to do with me.

It takes me a very long time to recover from such “foreign impacts”. Oftentimes, my body reacts with a headcold, I get angry, and my inner driver shows up. Naturally, food cravings also appear, although my binging attacks have become less hefty and occur less often.

Is EBH also the right method for dealing with this type of feelings, or are there other possibilities for drawing effective boundaries and to remain grounded?
I look forward to your reply!
With thanks and kind regards,

My response:

Dear Ms. P.,
Thank you so much for the positive feed-back on the book, which made me really happy. Moreover, I am pleased that you’re enthusiastic about EBH (Emotional Body Healing), I, too, continue to be a fan 🙂

Your question shows that you have progressed on your path, because it sounds as though you’re already able to differentiate precisely between your feelings.

I am quite familiar with the situation you describe, because I’ve gone through it myself. Let me share my experiences with you:

The issue of great feeling sensitivity is connected with the HSP story, but also with one’s own stability. This means, when we don’t know where the “self” is, where our own center is, then we will notice much too late (and sometimes only when in the middle of a binging episode) where our own boundaries are. In my case, there was the additional issue of certain “dogmas”, such as: “I am only worthwhile when I’m helping”, “I may not say no”, “I’m not entitled to do well, especially when so many others are not well off”. Moreover, I allowed some people who weren’t good for me to get too close to me (“energy suckers”).

This is basic work (= longer term) which needs to be done with the help of psychotherapy or body-oriented methods, in addition to working on issues like self-worth and self-love.

As our sense of self-worth increases, it becomes easier to endure the feelings of others. Once we know who “we” are, where we begin and where we end, it happens less often that we are being steamrollered by feelings.
This can be a real challenge in partnership situations because of the great closeness involved. It may be helpful to talk about this in principle, meaning to say openly how you feel and then agree on how to communicate it when another such situation arises. This helps to avoid an escalation when the partner is pouring out is troubles and we tell him/her: “Okay, darling, that’s great, but your feelings don’t do me good right now”. This could be quite unpleasant. Therefore, it’s a good idea to discuss such things calmly, in a good moment when the relationship is sailing in smooth waters, meaning not in an acute crisis situation. Good partnerships resolve problems jointly, because each topic concerning one of the partners is also a concern to the other.

Nowadays, I’m able to sense tensions in a room and can decide what to do about it. The most important thing is not to take it personally (meaning I don’t have to save the planet at this party, and I can simply leave). With respect to others’ suffering which I can feel quite strongly (or, at least, I imagine that I can feel it strongly, since one can’t verify it by asking someone: “Excuse me, are you suffering right now?”) I deal with it by perceiving it, but refrain from attaching myself to it. This means that I deliberately do not ponder it, but rather attach myself to something nice, such as the sun or a smile. This has become easier for me, ever since I deliberately picked social projects I volunteer for during my spare time, by donating time or money. While we may not be able to save the entire world, we are indeed able to improve things by taking small steps, and I think it is really important not to run around with a guilty conscience all the time, but rather steer the “I want to help” energy in productive ways.

I think it is extremely important to connect to joyful and beautiful things, because there are so many good things despite suffering and problems. For HSPs it is particularly important to take in both aspects.
On your question regarding EBH: Yes, the method is well-suited also for this purpose. It would be important to find out what’s happening in your body when feelings arrive “that aren’t yours”. What happens? Do you become irritable? Irate? Does your throat become tight? Simply try to notice, perceive and welcome. At some point, you’ll develop an excellent alarm system, for which you may be really thankful, for instance: “Aha, my throat is tightening up, ALARM, ALARM. It could be that someone is overstepping a boundary. CAREFUL! Stop! Check out the situation!” Perceiving is always the first step. Action (setting boundaries) follows. Then you may consider in a quiet moment what you can do so you feel better (see above the example of partnership situations).

Personally, I don’t think it is good to set oneself apart as a matter of principle, because that can also make us dull. I think it’s good to remain flexible, just like a plant that may sway with the wind, while still remaining stably rooted.
If something inside you resists, if might be interesting to observe this feeling. “Hello, whatever it stirring inside of me, I welcome you.” Moreover, anger and inner drivers are excellent candidates to address. If you don’t manage, maybe you need an individual EBH session. Some things are difficult to approach on our own; for example: we don’t really like to see the anger or the drivers, and when we apply EBH ourselves, it is easier to disgress into thousands of other thoughts. If, however, another person is next to us and helps, then it is easier to stay the course and to deal more intensively and deeply with our feelings.

The whole thing does indeed have something to do with you 🙂 You can’t help sensing other people’s feelings, but that is also a gift you have, and you can decide how you want to deal with it and at the same time strengthen your own center and your steadfastness.

I hope I’ve helped you with my reply.
Best regards from Vienna,
Olivia Wollinger


Ms. P. wrote back to me one more time:

Hello, Ms. Wollinger!

Many thanks for your prompt and comprehensive reply.
I’ m going to try to find my center and to attach myself to positive things …… to work on it.
Viewed from a distance, the following doesn’t seem fair: It sometimes happens that I’m angry with exactly the person I actually wanted to help. At a subconscious level, I’m holding the person responsible for my lack of energy and even expect that they understand why I’m not doing well. But that’s simply too much.
Many thanks for the valuable work you’re doing. Keep on going! I think that many women are extremely grateful to you.

P.S. Are you familiar with Les Fehmi’s “Open Focus Method”? In my view, this is a great exercise for helping us to feel ourselves. Maybe this could be helpful to some of your clients?
Many thanks again for your reply and kind regards, P.

Here’s my final reply:

Dear Ms. P.:

Another hypothesis just came to my mind: Maybe you are additionally expecting thanks or a strengthening of your self-worth? To exaggerate a bit, maybe you expect to be told: “Thanks a million for having sacrificed yourself for me, you are the best, I wouldn’t manage without you, I could only do it with your help. Thank you for being in this world. And, you’re not only the best but also the most beautiful, – which I’ve been wanting to tell you for a long time.”
Until now I was not familiar with the “Open Focus Method”. There are so many useful and meaningful methods, – and the idea is to choose one that seems to be right for the moment and where we have the feeling: Yes, this is helping me!

Let me wish you all the best,
Olivia Wollinger

(translated by Ulli Wiesner)