See your sensitivity as a superpower not a weakness. This shift in mindset will help you understand that there’s nothing you need to “cope” with because there’s nothing wrong with you. Understanding sensitivity as a strength will help you come into your power and see yourself as unstoppable.
As a part of our series about How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christina Lopes, DPT, MPH
Christina Lopes, DPT, MPT is a spiritual teacher, former clinician, and CEO/Founder of Christina Lopes International: a purpose driven company that focuses on the advancement of human consciousness. She’s worked with over 2,000 private clients (most of them sensitives) and reaches hundreds of thousands more monthly through her popular YouTube channel (25+ million views)
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourself and what you do professionally?
I’m a spiritual teacher and life coach but until 2013 was a clinician (physical therapist) who specialized in neuropediatrics. My life took a big turn through loss that triggered a spiritual awakening for me. And from there, I shifted my career from clinical work to spiritual work. But the change in careers was such a blessing as I’m now able to help people heal in a deeper way than I was ever able to before. It’s in the bridging of science and spirituality that I have found the sweet spot when it comes to helping facilitate healing and transformation in others.
Aside from my career as a spiritual teacher, I also run a successful YouTube channel where we release weely actionable content in the field of personal development and spirituality. We reach hundreds of thousands of viewers per month and this has been a significant part of my mission as a healer too: to provide valuable spiritual content for those who may not be able to afford to work with me.
Thank you for your bravery and strength in being so open with us. I understand how hard this is. Can you help define for our readers what is meant by a Highly Sensitive Person? Does it simply mean that feelings are easily hurt or offended?
As a spiritual teacher, I define Highly Sensitive People (HSP) in a different light than what is usually talked about in mainstream psychotherapy circles. To me, HSPs are people who are extremely sensitive to “energy” (mainly emotional energy). In other words, they pick up on (and often absorb) subtle energy information that others may not pick up on readily. For example, an HSP can enter a room full of people and immediately know how the group is feeling, the subtle cues that a person may give off even before eye contact or conversation. I’ve had many clients who are so sensitive that they can accurately sense the emotions someone is feeling, while standing back to back with them: before seeing or talking to the person.
So it’s not that HSPs get easily hurt (although that sometimes can be true), it’s that they are extremely accurate readers of energy. Which is why I consider this a superpower, not a weakness. The issue with many HSPs is that they can suffer for many years because they inadvertently absorb the energy they pick up on. They don’t realize that a sensitive person can choose to absorb or not absorb the energy they detect in their surroundings. So they end up taking on the energy of others, especially the lower negative emotional energy like rage, anger, fear, anxiety, shame, and guilt. But once the HSP trains him or herself, they can enter any environment without fear of absorbing energy because they can actually dominate the energy of a room if they so choose to. That’s why I call it a superpower.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have a higher degree of empathy towards others? Is a Highly Sensitive Person offended by hurtful remarks made about other people?
Yes to the first question for sure! HSPs have high levels of empathy because they become energetically “attuned” with the energy of another person very easily, like a tuning fork does. But they only become offended if they have not trained themselves in understanding energy and how to stand in their power. Sensitives usually have a strong sense of justice because they literally can feel on their skin (because of their energy absorption capabilities) what another person may be feeling. So if someone is mistreated, they will feel that in a very visceral way. Almost as if the offense were directed at them.
Does a Highly Sensitive Person have greater difficulty with certain parts of popular culture, entertainment or news, that depict emotional or physical pain? Can you explain or give a story?
I don’t like to offer absolutist answers but in my experience as a strong sensitive and in working with thousands of HSPs, yes, we do tend to shy away from depictions of violence or even injustice. This is especially true as the person opens up more and dives deeper into their sensitivities. I remember when this happened to me. Before my spiritual awakening, I used to love to watch Game Of Thrones! I was obsessed with the story as many around the world were. But after my awakening, I became more open and sensitive to energy. And suddenly, I couldn’t watch the show anymore. It became painful to me: painful on a very deep body/emotional level. So I stopped watching TV with lots of violence or gore in it.
Can you please share a story about how your highly sensitive nature created problems at work or socially?
I suffered for many years as a sensitive because I hadn’t yet discovered my power and that I can choose to not absorb energy from other people. So whenever I went out to a party or a bar, I remember always looking for an exit strategy, just in case I felt uncomfortable. And sure enough, after a while at a bar or social gathering with lots of people, I would sometimes go into panic mode because I felt like I was being overpowered by the heavy energy of people around me.
So I would go home and need time alone to recuperate. Years later, after my awakening, I started to understand that energy works both ways: I can absorb it from others or I can choose to propel my energy outward and not let anyone’s energy encroach on mine. This was a breakthrough for me. I never had to leave a party after that because if I entered a space that had too much negative energy, I would simply close my eyes and visualize the whole room being dominated by my energy of peace. This really does work!
When did you suspect that your level of sensitivity was above the societal norm? How did you come to see yourself as “too sensitive”?
Oh, for most of us this happens early on in childhood. I remember as a child I hated shouting and could feel the emotional energy of my parents very easily. Some of my earliest memories come from before I could speak, when I was feeling my family’s energy but didn’t know how to communicate what I was feeling. I didn’t even have the words to communicate yet! As the years progressed, I just assumed there was something wrong with me, as most sensitives feel early on in their lives.
I’m sure that being Highly Sensitive also gives you certain advantages. Can you tell us a few advantages that Highly Sensitive people have?
Not just a few advantages but a ton of them! I see my sensitivity as a superpower, not as a weakness. The biggest advantage to me is my ability to influence the energy around me. If someone is sad or angry, I can easily help them transform that energy quickly. Another advantage is the ability to deeply connect with others. I use this a lot in my work as a spiritual teacher and retreat facilitator. Sensitives have such a deep level of empathy because of our ability to pick up on and sense the emotional energy of others. So we know what someone is feeling even if they cannot communicate the feeling themselves. This is very validating for someone who may not even have the words to express their pain or trauma. Being able to just connect with someone without words is a great gift that sensitives can give others.
Can you share a story from your own life where your great sensitivity was actually an advantage?
I use it when I work live with people in my retreats, for example. I lead very large group retreats where people come to heal from significant trauma that they are not able to access and work through on their own. When we’re together, I’m able to use my power as a sensitive to connect with them deeply, understand where they are coming from, and help them feel and process their emotions. I can do this easily because at a very deep level, I’m feeling what they are feeling and so am able to walk with them through those challenging emotions and coach them on how to diffuse emotional energy with calmness and peace.
There seems to be no harm in being overly empathetic. What’s the line drawn between being empathetic and being Highly Sensitive?
I don’t see a line here. HSPs are by nature highly empathetic, just as a concert pianist is good at playing piano. Sensitives cannot divorce themselves from empathy, it’s who they are.
Social Media can often be casually callous. How does Social Media affect a Highly Sensitive Person? How can a Highly Sensitive Person utilize the benefits of social media without being pulled down by it?
In the same way that an HSP can enter a room and not be affected or brought down by the energy there too. It’s the same superpower or skill. You have to hold your energy, hold your power. No matter what “room” or space you’re in: physical or virtual. An easy exercise I teach my HSP clients is to visualize their body surrounded by an egg of light. Like they are encased in an egg made of energy or light. The egg is about the size of their outstretched arms. No matter where they go (online or to a physical location), they carry their egg with them, protecting them, shielding them from any harsh energy. With practice, they can even learn to expand their energy egg out far from their bodies, where it encases a whole room or even building.
How would you respond if something you hear or see bothers or effects you, but others comment that you are being petty or that it is minor?
I simply don’t gage my feelings based on others. My feelings or experiences are all valid, at whatever intensity I’m feeling them. So if someone projects their experiences or interpretations onto me, I smile and let the projections go right past me. This skill is one of the signs of emotional maturity: to stand in your feelings without having the need to validate them or gage them against the experiences of others.
What strategies do you use to overcome the perception that others may have of you as overly sensitive without changing your caring and empathetic nature?
I don’t fee the need to overcome anyone’s perception of me. I simply show and teach others that sensitivity is not a weakness or flaw and that we should all learn to be more sensitive, not less. You see, there’s a fundamental misconception that I help HSPs correct: that we have to adjust to a world that is insensitive. As if the standard or “normal” is being non-sensitive and the rest of us just have to learn to cope with our sensitivies in a harsh world. But perhaps sensitives are here to show the world that it doesn’t need to be so harsh. Perhaps sensitivies are here to pave the way for others to open up and become more sensitive and vulnerable themselves.
What are the “myths” that you would like to dispel about being a Highly Sensitive Person? Can you explain what you mean?
The biggest myth is that sensitivity is a weakness that we have to cope with or overcome. I could never do the work I do and touch so many lives if I weren’t sensitive. It’s a superpower that when trained can become a vehicle for positive change on the planet. The more that sensitives learn to use their power, the more we can help the world heal from pain, trauma, violence, and disharmony.
As you know, one of the challenges of being a Highly Sensitive Person is the harmful, and dismissive sentiment of “why can’t you just stop being so sensitive?” What do you think needs to be done to make it apparent that it just doesn’t work that way?
The moment people realize that sensitivity is a power not a weakness, they’ll stop wanting to pull other people away from it. For example, you would never ask Usain Bolt to stop being a champion sprinter would you? Likewise, no one would ever tell Michael Phelps “why can’t you just stop being such a great swimmer?” We don’t tell people to stop being something that’s powerful right?
The moment we start to look at sensitivity as a superpower, more people will want to develop that skill, instead of shying away from it.
Ok, here is the main question for our discussion. Can you share with us your “5 Things You Need To Know To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person? Please give a story or an example for each.
Sure, here’s my top list:
1. See your sensitivity as a superpower not a weakness. This shift in mindset will help you understand that there’s nothing you need to “cope” with because there’s nothing wrong with you. Understanding sensitivity as a strength will help you come into your power and see yourself as unstoppable.
2. There’s a huge difference between being sensitive and being fragile. You’re definitely not fragile. Sensitive people are actually incredibly resilient by design because their openness to read and attune to energy means they feel more by nature. And deeply feeling people could never survive on this planet without resilience embedded in them from the start. An iconic example of what it means to be sensitive and resilient comes from one of the largest religions on the planet. Imagine the image of Jesus being crucified. Would anyone look at the whole crucifixion scene and say “ Boy Jesus was really fragile.” Of course not! He endured extreme physical pain and yet remained open through it all. That’s the power of sensitivity.
3. You can choose to be influenced or be an influencer. This was one of the most liberating lessons I’ve learned in my life about the power of being a sensitive. Many times, sensitivities think they have to back away from uncomfortable energy or emotions that they may be feeling from the outside. That’s what I used to do! Whenever I felt heavy energy, I’d run home to be alone. But then I realized this crucial fact: if I could be influenced by other people’s energy, then they could also be influenced by mine. This was life-changing for me. Because it meant that from that point forward, whenever I entered a space that had heavy energy, I would simply switch into “influencer mode”: grounding my energy in the space and choosing to dominate the energy instead of being dominated by it.
4. You’re a fine tuned energy reading machine. Just like a Ferrari is a fine tuned car. This means you must learn how to use your superpower to your advantage. Watch empowering videos or read empowering articles about HSPs and how to develop your skill. I recommend searching for information on sensitivities in spirituality or personal development circles, instead of psychotherapy circles. I have a few videos for empaths and sensitives on my own YouTube channel.
5. You can be a sponge or a burning fire. Your body can pick up on energy, emotions, and moods very easily. But remember that you have choice. If you enter a space that feels great, then just take a deep breath, let your body relax, and take in the energy around you (like a sponge). I do this when I’m around a high vibration spiritual teacher or a group filled with empowering and optimistic people. If you enter a space where the energy doesn’t feel good (maybe people are angry or judgemental, etc) then turn yourself into a “burning fire”: visualize your whole body becoming a living fire that burns anything dense or negative that comes your way. This little exercise works like a charm!
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
The movement that I’m already leading is one of spiritual awakening. Where people wake up to deeper truths about life and the Universe. That we are all connected and can live from a place of love and connection, instead of fear, scarcity or violence. Millions of people are going through awakenings right now all over the world and I’m so honored to be helping many of them along the way.
How can our readers follow you online?
Most people initially find me on my popular YouTube channel. You can just type Christina Lopes in the YouYube search bar and I’ll show up right away. If people want to go deeper than my many YouTube videos, they can also go to my website www.christina-lopes.com , where there are tons of free (like free meditations) and paid resources (retreat and online courses).
Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.
Christina Lopes On How To Survive And Thrive As A Highly Sensitive Person was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.