Sit with it
One expression that some of my native-English-speaking friends use is “sit with something”, as in: “I’m gonna sit with it for a while and see what comes up”. I’m Dutch, and while we have expressions that are similar, most of them include words like “think” or “thoughts” or some other indication that a cognitive process is involved. Whereas “sitting with it” to me sounds like you’re not required to think, just to sit.
It expresses patience and compassion. You give yourself time to think about something, but also to feel, to observe, to sense. And I love that. How often do we immediately switch to into Action? Or Finding a Solution? Especially when something doesn’t feel comfortable..
Sitting with it means that you just let the question, the situation, the ‘not-knowing’ be there for a while. In a society that continuously (and loudly!) yells action is needed, or answers, or measures should be taken, etc. I think allowing ourselves to sit with something is like a breath of fresh air.
And, in a society that tends to question your capabilities or skills when you don’t know something (yet), or when you just want to put something on hold for a while, it’s actually quite brave if you allow yourself time.
Don’t worry, ruminate or stress out
The challenge, of course, is to really allow yourself to experience, to feel, to be still. Not to think of or be stressed about finding a solution, not to have all kinds of ‘imaginary conversations’ to practise your response to a situation.
It’s about letting the matter or question simmer. Take some distance. Observe what happens, how you feel.
Another reason I like the expression is that you work through the emotions that come up. That is not easy, is it? It takes guts to face your fears, your anger, your frustration or sadness. Avoiding or ignoring them seems so much easier. Move on. Right? But pushing emotions away doesn’t help, they have this annoying tendency to keep asking for your attention. They want to be acknowledged. Bearing that in mind, you might as well just sit with them and be done with it :)
Challenge for HSP
For a highly sensitive person this can be a challenge. Especially not to fall in that trap of worrying or over-analysing. As highly sensitive people we like to know why something happens, why we feel a particular emotion, why we have not thought of something before, why we experience a certain situation over and over, etc. Right?
Especially when something is unpleasant, or stressful; especially when it drains our energy or overwhelms us— we think it helps if we can get to the bottom of it. That way, we figure (whether consciously or not) we can avoid these situations in the future.
Need for safety
Wanting to understand ‘how and why’, I think, also has to do with HSP’s great need for safety and security. Safety is a broad concept: it is not just about experiencing physical safety but also has to do with feeling emotionally safe. It’s not only about feeling safe with other people, but also with yourself.
But what is feeling safe with yourself? How does that feel? If you feel overstimulated, or overwhelmed by emotions, or if you can’t think of a solution for something: can you then still feel safe with yourself?
Stop and check, but also trust
Dr. Elaine Aron described the pause-to-check reflex that many HSP have. Our tendency to scan any (new) situation or environment for possible risks. We do take that too far sometimes!
Thinking that we will ever understand everything and have control over everything is, of course, an illusion. Life happens! We have no control. More importantly, we don’t need that control. We don’t need to avoid situations, people, or feelings.
We may trust and rely on our problem-solving ability, our intelligence, our social skills. We know how to navigate emotional ups and downs, we are resilient. We can handle more than we may think!
So, sit with it..
Let go. Be open. Be patient. Have confidence. Have compassion. Allow.