Have you ever been told or felt you are too sensitive or too empathetic? If so, you are not alone. Many people find themselves sometimes overwhelmed by their own intense feelings or feel like you are taking on others’ feelings or problems. If so, you might be a “super feeler”
What is a ‘super feeler‘?
A ‘superfeeler’ is a set of characteristics developed by the creators of Emotion Focused Family Therapy, two Canadian psychologists, Adele LaFrance and Joanne Dolhanty, The word ‘super feeler’ describes someone who’s a deep feeler on many levels;
1)Feels their own emotions intensely
2)Picks up feelings in the environment easily, such as the feelings of stress others are carrying
3)Takes on the feelings of others such as if others are anxious you can start to feel anxious too
4)Being more alert or extra sensitive to “threats in your environment” such as being uncomfortable with yelling (growing up and/or as an adult); when you say others are yelling they state they are just raising their voice
5) Having an urge to rescue or help others, not just because you have a big heart, but because you want to stop the bad feeling inside of you that you get when you see the other person hurting.
6)Wanting to fix or manage another’s problems so you feel less stressed out or uncomfortable.
As you read through that list, maybe there were some “bells” going off – that you recognized some of these characteristics in yourself or a loved one.
How does one become a ‘super feeler’?
Becoming a superfeeler is likely impacted by the following factors:
Genetics – “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” – Passed down from the previous generation – such as having a parent with the same characteristics
Negative life events or stressors early in life
What are the Challenges of being a Super Feeler?
Being a super feeler is a gift, but it can also feel like a curse – if superfeelers are not supported to manage their intense feelings – particularly in childhood and adolescence where its often felt more intensely – it can eventually lead to burn out, avoidance, and the development of unhealthy strategies.
Naturally super feelers often try to cope by avoiding situations or emotions and can take up unhealthy habits or behaviours in order to avoid the overwhelming emotions they feel.
Sometimes the difficulty is related to saying no – taking other people’s problems that are not their’s to carry. Sometimes they are so good at giving their support and encouragement to others, unfortunately some super feelers do not have people in their life who also “give” in return.
Because of these struggles, unfortunately, superfeelers can be prone to mental health struggles such as anxiety or depression, eating disorders or even physical ailments with no medical cause.
What Do Super Feelers often Need:
Superfeelers can benefit from support to harness their superpower and strengths – young and old alike can benefit from specific support to work things out.
Super feelers need to have strategies to manage their intense emotions– one way is through a process of emotion identification and validation called emotion coaching which can learned to support oneself and others.
Super feelers need to set boundaries with others and themselves and improve their capacity to recognizing what burdens are theirs and which are other people’s responsibility.
Super feelers can feel shame and guilt very strongly. Shame is the feeling associated with low self-esteem or the feeling of not being good enough. Guilt is in the same feeling family as shame – the difference is guilt is feeling bad about my actions such as something I did was bad; whereas Shame is more about me and my identity such as that I am bad. Although super feelers do not feel a sense of shame more than others, because they feel all emotions more intensely, shame and guilt will also be felt more powerfully. Some super feelers can benefit from support from a validating person in their life to help them better understand and work through their feelings of guilt and shame.
Lois has been honoured to work with super feelers and those who care for them for many years. She counts it a privilege to see how transformative it can be for people to be able to make more sense of themselves as they learn about super feelers and able to take steps to cope more effectively with the challenging aspects of being a ‘super feeler’. Often this helps them to connect the dots to explain some of their choices and behaviours in a different light and knowing that there are others who share the same characteristics can often leave people feeling less alone.
If you think you or your loved one are a super feeler and you want support to connect more of the dots, please book a free 15-minute phone consult with Lois to see if working together would be a good fit.