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“The Wound is Where the Light Gets In” (on Coping with our Coping Mechanisms)

There’s nothing wrong with being a highly sensitive empath. But as we learn about why we are the way we are, we might get down on ourselves. Perhaps we start to focus on the emotional wounds and the negative coping mechanisms we’ve picked up along the way. 

sad pug mood
Overthinking about how we’re doing things “wrong” can put us in a sad pug mood.

For example, years ago I learned about codependency and was horrified to find out I had been functioning by being manipulative in many ways. Ugh!

Maybe you’ve had some “Ugh” moments on your healing journey too. If so, remember that you’ve done the best you knew how up until this point. Really, all of your coping mechanisms had a purpose in getting you through something difficult. Although we may want to let go of some ways of functioning that no longer serve us, know that the wounds you carry don’t make you any less. 

But some of us, perhaps being extra introspective, may even get to the point of existential dread, marinating on how much of one’s personality might be a coping mechanism. “Why am I like this? Who would I be without all this baggage?!?”

Have you ever wondered about such things, or am I just next-level crazy? Such disturbing musings I’ve had personally, like “Am I even funny, or am I just trying too hard to keep people happy?” (Don’t answer the part on whether I am funny, lol.) Or “Do I even like to write or am I just unable to express myself any other way?” (The answer is yes to both.)… are really quite irrelevant.  

If you’re struggling with such self-defeating thoughts as well, pause, and take a breath. Besides just focusing on our more cringe-worthy behaviors, we can and should appreciate the ways our coping mechanisms have actually turned into something beautiful:

  • Maybe you are funny because you felt you needed to keep people happy. It was never your responsibility, but you can still love and appreciate the joy and fun you bring to people’s lives (maybe including your own!)
  • Maybe you learned to be relatable because you felt like you couldn’t show how smart you really are without getting beat down. Your ability to talk to anyone and make them feel heard is still wonderful, and you can keep doing that while also letting your intelligence shine. 
  • Or you learned great empathetic attunement because you were trying to keep chaos at bay. You shouldn’t have had to deal with that. But your kindness and understanding are so valuable and appreciated. You can keep being highly empathic and still learn to set good boundaries. 
  • Perhaps you’ve always been a helper because you felt it was the only way to earn love and belonging. You don’t have to earn love, you’re already lovable! But you can keep your helpful spirit and learn to recognize when things are truly helpful and when they are enabling.  

Although we might often focus on those negative coping mechanisms that helped us get through hard times, we can and should appreciate the beautiful parts we’ve picked up along the way.

As the poet, Rumi said, “The wound is the place where the light enters.” 

That light is yours, so be proud of it, and keep radiating warmth.  

Coping with our coping mechanisms: An article for HSPs and empaths by writer Jennifer Lauren Parker.

If you’d like to read more just for empaths and highly sensitive people, please check out my new book, Secrets of the Resilient Empath. And pop your email address in so we can keep in touch. Thanks for reading!

coping mechanisms, CPTSD, empaths, existential dread, healing, highly sensitive people, overthinking