Empath-friendly Movies (good movies for HSPs and Empaths)

This post was inspired by a search on Google for “Good movies for Empaths” and the surprising discovery that a list like this, did not really yet exist.

So I would like to begin suggesting certain films that I feel are suitable for Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP) and Empaths.

Like most empaths and sensitive people,  I am not a fan of overly violent and unpleasant movies.

Empaths will indeed tend to find that movies with a lot of negativity, hatred, violence, and (to a point) stupidity, will tend to rub them the wrong way.  Often the negativity, violence, etc., will be taken (rather involuntarily) into the Empath’s energy field, and lodging there, become yet more weight for the Empath to energetically “carry around”, in addition to the general burden the Empath tends to pick up from the suffering/pain/sadness in the world around them!

So it is generally advisable, most Empaths find, to reduce their consumption of gratuitous violence, negative films, etc., for their own psychological, energetic, indeed even physical well-being.

Maybe more details should come on this later.  I would like to begin suggesting some movies.

This should be an ongoing project that should be added to frequently.  Also feel free to suggest your own!   I look forward to us putting together perhaps some kind of library or reference list (bibliography) of  Films Good for Empaths:

life is beautiful poster

 

Life is Beautiful  (1997):  Dir.  Robert Benigni

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118799/

In a list of “empath friendly films”, it may seem counter-intuitive to begin with a movie that is set in a concentration camp during the Holocaust.     But Life is Beautiful is about one man who somehow finds ways to make this singularly cruel and terrible backdrop into something, dare we say, rather fun and lighthearted.

 

 

The central character, played by Benigni, is devoted to keeping his son from feeling depressed or scared in the camp, through treating the entire situation as one great game, that nobody can let on they are playing.

While that may sound absurd and a rather tenuous premise, Benigni pulls it off brilliantly, making this one of the most heart-warming and beautiful films of all time, in my opinion (and many Empaths may feel something of the same way).

The final scene may make you cry, if you are an Empath (it never fails to for me).  But they are tears not of sadness, but somewhat in awe of the great and terrible beauty, the incredible beauty and generosity human beings can show.    In any case, just a wonderful movie that everyone, (especially Empaths perhaps), should see at least once.

 

We may also take it as a commentary on the techniques Empaths can master to “make a heaven out of” what often seems a bit more like a hell, a world that may be difficult for them.   If Benigni’s character can make such a hell into a lighthearted place, perhaps we Empaths can perform a similar transformation on the more mundane hells and purgatories of our lives.

 

Adam (2009)

Adam, the title character, has Asperger’s syndrome.  Thus he is certainly not an empath.  While Empaths viscerally pick up on the emotions and energies around them,  those on the Asperger’s-Autistic spectrum have something of an opposite problem, generally having difficulty understanding the emotions of others.

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However, those with Autism-Asperger’s do have certain things in common with Sensitive Persons (HSPs) and Empaths, which is that they tend to be far more sensitive to stimuli.  Like HSPs and Empaths, they tend to feel that “the world is too much with them,”  and it is a difficult place for them to live in and to interact with others.

 

This is a beautiful story about one man with Asperger’s, trying to make his way in the world.   Many Empaths and HSPs have been mistakenly described as having Asperger’s tendencies perhaps by parents or those close to us,  and it is touching to see someone with this psychological makeup getting by in the world.

Also a beautiful film and a touching story.  Highly recommended.

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower  (2012)

Very enjoyable film for anyone who ever felt “out of place” in high school.  Ah the weirdos, the misfits, these are the people many Empaths can relate to, since they may often have been that way themselves.

While Empaths may have been popular or well-liked people, they undoubtedly have often felt themselves, to be people who were a little odd.    The beautiful young characters of this film,  are also certainly outcasts and misfits in that regard.   A nice movie.

 

Amazing Grace (2006)

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A very nice film, providing a good piece of history for understanding the background to the abolition of slavery in Britain…   The main character is certainly portrayed as an idealist, dare we say perhaps an Empath  (he has to stop his cart every time he sees a horse being beaten, getting out in the rain to rebuke and stop the perpetrator of the violence).

 

The End of the Tour (2015)

A sweet and rather powerful movie about an interviewer spending time with the writer David Foster Wallace.  DFW is most certainly a sensitive man (and a misunderstood, rather unusual, rather brilliant one),  and one would think, very probably an Empath.

Peaceful Warrior (2006)

Not a high-budget or very slick or polished film.   But certainly an uplifting and inspirational, could we say “spiritual” film, that reminds one to live in the moment, follow one’s dreams, etc.

 

Ram Dass: Fierce Grace (2001 Documentary)

A lesser-known (perhaps hard to find) documentary,  on the spiritual teacher Ram Dass.  Inspiring for anyone with interest in spirituality, the 1960’s, or the a piece of spiritual history.    A very beautiful film in which we see the transformation of Ram Dass himself, his survival of a stroke and learning to deal with it, and the transformation of others along the way.

 

The Celestine Prophecy (2006) 

 

Incredibly corny at times, and certainly not a candidate to win any film awards.  That said, if one can look past the rather clumsy acting and execution (which, frankly, reminded me of the rather clunky dialogue of the book),   the message of one interconnected world, being open to synchronicity, etc., etc., is something that many Empaths may feel they resonate with, and can be a bit inspirational.

Avatar (2009)

OK, OK.  Yes, it is very mainstream, very big-budget,  and the ending is rather disappointingly formulaic.   But…  Could we leave out a film featuring “blue people” who are so reminiscent of weird extraterrestrial Empaths?  (forever talking about “feeling the energy,” trying to live in peaceful harmony with their environments, etc.).

A very beautiful movie, in terms of setting, story, and everything.   As noted, the end is rather disappointingly predictable (the blue people defeat the bad guys in battle! Great.)   But still a wonderful movie that everyone may as well see at least once.   Just a really enjoyable and beautiful film.

 

Good Will Hunting (1997) 

A feel-good movie about a young man realizing his potential with the help of a mentor.  A nice movie that will bring your energy up into a more positive state, rather than down. 

The Big Short (2015) 

An enjoyable lighthearted look, full of plenty of comedy, into the rather serious subject of the deception that led to the Financial Crisis.   A rather silly film, but can satisfy Empaths’ interests in serious topics, while at the same time making us laugh and genuinely enjoy the movie.

Catch Me If You Can  (2002) 

A lighthearted piece that is fun all the way through, without any heavy energy for the Empath. Quite enjoyable to watch in its completeness, and a very empath-friendly choice.

A nice movie for any night of the week, important and highly enjoyable.

Promised Land  (2012)

Empath friendly.

Groundhog Day (1993)

A great and genuinely funny (and in certain respects, definitely philosophical) film starring Bill Murray.    A certified classic.   One can take from this messages about learning to live in the moment, take the positives rather than the negatives from life, etc.  Just an all-around feel good and at times hilarious film.     Bill Murray at his best.   Feel good all the way through.

Juno (2007)

Another film about young people (kind of like Wallflower) who are out of place misfits in this world.   A good feeling film.

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

They may not exactly be Empaths, but these people are definitely psychologically different.  An enjoyable film mostly all the way through.

Gandhi (1984)

Every Empath should see this.  One of the most beautiful biographical films ever produced, on one of the most incredible souls to walk this earth on our century.  Probably the most famous Highly Sensitive Empath in human history (well… perhaps besides Buddha, Jesus, and a couple of others.  Perhaps we should say, one of the most famous in “modern” history).Gandhi-independence-day-673x1024

Gandhi’s story is an incredible one about how a man who was once too afraid to even speak to a table of people (feeling dizzy, stuttering and stumbling, and not able to get his words out), eventually was among the most respected moral leaders on Earth, helping a nation of over 400 million people in humanity’s first ever successful large-scale nonviolence independence movement.

A truly incredible life and accomplishment, and an incredible film.

I hope to produce some articles or books on Gandhi as Sensitive person in the future.  He is really perhaps among the most accomplished and inspirational Empaths of our time.

 

 

 

 

 

Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), Introverts, and Feelings of Loneliness

I want to write about Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), and feelings of deep, profound, gutting, “loneliness” that they often find themselves having to deal with.

To begin with, the majority of HSPs would probably describe themselves as “Introverts”, in the sense that they recharge energy not through being in a group of people, but rather by having some time to themselves.

For that reason, HSPs will find it inevitably important to schedule sufficient periods of “downtime” into their lives.  Whether that means breaks from work, from friends and family even, etc.    It is important for them to have enough time for themselves to recharge, for their own mental and even physical health.

That said, from speaking with and working with many HSPs (and also from personal experience), I have found that HSPs are still likely to have dealt with (sometimes very acutely), at certain times in their lives (or for extended periods, or chronically even), feelings of “loneliness,”  “aloneness,”  wanting companionship, or just feeling a bit too alone.

It is interesting, because on one hand as HSP’s, we demand and crave aloneness — yet on the other hand, we can feel acutely separated and alone at times.

Part of this may have to do with our natural differences from others — as a minority of the population (say, 15-20% it is often estimated),  HSPs are outnumbered by those who think and feel perhaps not to the same degree of depth, or in the same way,  so they may isolate themselves,  consciously or unconsciously, from the grunting and mawing of regular society, which can be so exhausting, and often unfulfilling.

So why then should HSP’s also complain of feeling “too lonely” at times?   Are HSP’s just complainers?   Do they just want to have everything “just right”?

There may be something to that last suggesting — of everything needing to be “Just Right.”  We might call this the “Goldilocks Syndrome” (can’t be too hot, too cold, needs to be just perfect, or one feels uncomfortable).    Many of us as HSP’s may have been criticized, mocked, or blamed for seemingly being so hard to please — though we may be reluctant frankly to make demands on others,  others may see that we are made uncomfortable by anything outside of a specific range.

That is to say, that while HSP’s are more sensitive to goodness, joy, and beauty, they are also equally more sensitive to pain, sadness, and suffering.   There is a quote from Alan Watts to the effect that,  “One cannot become more sensitive to joy without correspondingly becoming more sensitive to precisely the same degree to suffering.”

Thus, while HSP’s may be able to derive tremendous joy, a wonderful feeling of serenity, calm, and fulfillment from just sitting alone quietly, perhaps by a river somewhere doing nothing  (one recalls Ram Dass saying, that after all of his years of spiritual practice, he is perfectly happy just to sit and look at a wall all day long — it brings him great joy);   at the same time,  they are also more sensitive to the negative feelings that may be associated with being a bit “too” alone.

That what others, the majority of the population, may feel as vague boredom,  for the Sensitive Person it may be a feeling of being struck from the depth of their heart, with a profound aloneness, sadness, lack of love, etc.    Even if they are not alone chronically!  Even if I was with my partner, best friend, or at work yesterday, if today I am suddenly all alone with nobody to turn to, this feeling may sneak up like a snake through the weeds!

It can certainly be surprising, for those of us who love solitude so much, to suddenly feel afflicted by our solitude.  Who saw it coming?   But it may help, at least a little bit, just to know that this is entirely a natural phenomenon, it is part of our being more sensitive to both the good things and the unpleasant in life;  we need not be ashamed of it;  and at the same time we need not (though we surely know this already!)  make a big deal of it either.    We can remember,  the most important words on the signet ring in the well-known story:   This Too Shall Pass. 

God Bless and Love to all Sensitive Persons who have felt loneliness, and who may even be feeling it now.   Here are some particular ways to deal with loneliness, as an HSP  (OK, just one overall suggestion, but perhaps more to come later:   )

  1.  Go Out for a Walk or Bike Ride (or some similar exercise) in a Natural Place

Nature and Exercise are two profoundly healthy and healing stimuli for the body, especially  for the Highly Sensitive Body.    Studies have found that people dealing with depression, may receive the same mood life they got by taking an anti-depressant pill, from simply going for a brisk walk.  Just 5-10 minutes of exercise (just tell yourself that, and you are likely to start enjoying yourself so much after 5-10 minutes, that you will want to stay out for 30 minutes or more — the whole day even),  has been to shown to lift one’s mood immensely.

If you want a longer term plan,  pack up some water bottles, a snack or two, etc., whatever makes you feel comfortable, maybe bring a book to read or something interesting to look at,  put them in a backpack,  and head out for a long bike ride somewhere.   Make a day of it.  Make your own picnic.   If it is a nice day, you are sure to end up having a glorious day on your own.

There is a quote from Emerson to the effect that, the Oyster becomes more beautiful through healing it’s own shell with Pearl.

That is, when you can learn to deal with your emotions yourself, and to sit with (or bike with, walk with, run with, exercise with), what you are feeling, you become stronger, more beautiful, a more real person.    All the best people are the people who have struggled with physical or emotional pain or difficulty.    All the most meaningful people’s lives have been fraught with tough times of varying degrees.

So perhaps we should celebrate our loneliness or feelings of pain, no?   It makes us deeper, more compassionate, more beautiful people in the end.  Even if you can’t tell that that is happening now.

Highly Sensitive Men (HSM), the Masculine, and Gandhi

I have been quite interested in the last few years in the phenomena of Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), largely because I am a Highly Sensitive Person myself;  and in particular recently in Highly Sensitive Men; again, because I am one myself.

What is High Sensitivity?  With the reader’s indulgence, I will copy my introduction from elsewhere:

High Sensitivity is an innate psycho-physical trait which comes with great benefits but also very real challenges.  It is found in 15-20% of the population — too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you. HSPs have a greater sensitivity to their surroundings, often greater empathy (generally involuntary), a tendency to pick up on myriad subtleties in their environments, as well as to be overwhelmed more easily, due precisely to their perception involuntarily picking up on so much….

 

The bulk of the research on this has been done by the terrific Dr Elaine Aron, who pioneered this research and work, and has written several books and done much to publicize the emerging-ly understood phenomenon of HSP.   This trait, I would remind non-HSP’s as well as HSP’s themselves, is well-supported by empirical research.   Elaine Aron’s website, HSPerson.com, is a great starting point.

 

 

But why I am interested in the situation of Highly Sensitive Men (HSM), is multi-faceted.

For one thing, I find there to be what we might call an interesting tension between the masculine archetype on the one hand — which David Deida, for example, characterizes as being defined by an “unwavering consciousness”, as well as a toughness or independence, an ability to stand outside of a situation and view it dispassionately, an ability to be a warrior, whether physical or spiritual; and so on.

 

And on the other hand, the situation of Highly Sensitive Men. Being more sensitive to the stimuli in their environment, it may be more difficult for Highly Sensitive Men to maintain their strong and unwavering consciousness —

 

Largely because, simply we might say, their consciousness is aware of so much more    than the consciousness of the majority of the human population.

As empaths or sensitives, they are taking in a tremendous amount of stimuli;  and this much more easily leads to over-stimulation, giving them what might seem like a less strong or masculine aspect.

Also an increased sensitivity to pain, to loud noises or bright lights, to the emotions and energies of others around them;  would all seem to contribute to making it more difficult for the Highly Sensitive Man to take on the Warrior archetype.

 

That said, perhaps we should be mindful of the great achievements of certain Highly Sensitive Men throughout history, who were warriors in their own way.

 

The most relevant to this discussion jump out as Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Gandhi.  These two were almost certainly Highly Sensitive Men.

Gandhi’s story in particular is the story of the evolution and growth of a man who was incredibly sensitive (for all of his life).   In childhood, Gandhi’s sensitivity made him at times painfully shy and nervous.  Even having grown up and moved to England, he had a terrific fear of public speaking.

In his autobiography, Gandhi recounts the story of how he was to make a brief address at his Vegetarian club (really an unimposing small group of unusual Englishmen, the English vegetarians of the 19th century) — he planned merely to read his speech off of a paper, but upon standing up, his head spun and he nearly fainted from this novel situation, and was unable to read his speech.  He gave it to another man to read it out for him.

 

This was the same man, who years later would address millions, who would speak to crowds of many thousands, with an extraordinary self-assuredness and not a trace of fear or uncertainty.  A man who would become one of the greatest leaders of his century, and indeed one of the greatest human leaders in history.

 

Gandhi’s example shows that Highly Sensitive Men, by embracing their unique gifts, can become spiritual warriors of the highest degree.  In our next post, we will examine more carefully the example of Gandhi, and how he used his sensitivity to his advantage, despite the real difficulties it must have put in his way.

Early Impressions of Amma’s Ashram (Amritapuri) — “Rajasic” Spirituality, of Energy, Love, and Movement, and perspective of an HSP

Here I am at Amma’s Amritapuri Ashram in Kerala. For some reason, my first inclination was to blog  this from the perspective of an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) – for perhaps, it seems to be largely my psychological constitution which has coloured much of my experiences and my perceptions, over the last couple of days.

To begin with, practically all HSP’s can relate to the notion of having difficulty sleeping, in unusual or unfamiliar circumstances (or, for some HSP’s, the circumstances do not have to be particularly unfamiliar).

For me, it usually takes a change of setting, or stressful circumstance to affect my sleep.

That said, I have usually had pretty good success sleeping on Indian trains.

The night of my travel to Amma’s Ashram, however, was an exception. Through various factors (not enough exercise? Excessive Idli’s and Chappatis close to bedtime, leading to “frustration and irritation”…), I became quite discomposed, and slept only a couple of hours during the night – perhaps 2 hours.

That said, during those two hours I had some wonderful dreams.

In any case though, despite the nice dreams, I was quite tired on my first day at Amritapuri.

 “Rajasic” Spirituality

The place, I would say, partakes quite strongly of what Ramakrishna once referred to as “Rajasic spirituality” – a spirituality that is based on movement, energy, passion, fun, love, joy, or, etc., etc., etc. – Rajas can be translated using a family of terms, (“passion” is a favourite one), but in this case I might refer to the Rajas of Amma’s Ashram in terms of its Energy, its Excitement, its Noise, its Movement, its Love, its Joy, its Busy-ness.

(the characterization of Love and Joy as “Rajasic” rather than primarily Sattvic, comes to me from a book I have been reading lately, Peter Marchand’s The Yoga of Nine Emotions. This is a really fascinating book which I recommend highly – would like to blog on it in more detail perhaps in future.)

In any case, I see the activity at Amma’s as quite exemplary of Ramakrishna’s characterization of “Rajasic” Spiritual Practices.

The quotation from Ramakrishna where he speaks at length about these types of Spirituality, is quite candid and humourous actually – I believe I found it in the beautiful book Sayings by Lex Hixon…. Can’t find it online at the moment but want to see if I can find it in the near future.

Amma’s Ashram and Rajasic Spirituality

Why do I speak of Amma’s in terms of Rajas?

It may be useful, for discussing this, to draw a contrast with Sattvic spirituality.

Sattvic, would generally mostly partake (if we decide to carry on using the matrix of the nine emotions described by Peter Marchand) of the Rasa – the “taste” (literally), or Emotion, of Shantha, or “Calmness.” (Shantha being the noun, clearly, affiliated with the well known Sanskrit adjective-cum-Indian-backpackers-and-hippies-phrase “Shanti”!)

So Sattvic spirituality, calm and quiet spirituality, is more inclined to keep to itself; one might say, to remain introverted…. In Ramakrishna’s description of the various spiritual aspirants, the description of the Sattvic spiritual aspirant I remember being described as humourously introverted. (Something to the effect of, “While others are going to the temple, parading about with powder, robes, and prasad, the Sattvic aspirant might feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing, and simply rise early and do his prayers quietly in his own room…”)

“While others are going to the temple, parading about with powder, robes, and prasad, the Sattvic aspirant might feel a bit overwhelmed by the whole thing, and simply rise early and do his prayers quietly in his own room…”  (Ramakrishna)

Spirituality containing more calmness or shantha, may be more conducive to Introverts and HSPs. Or at least Spirituality that is a bit more quiet – as compared with the sound and excitement here at Amma’s while she is around.

But this is leaving too many things out, and is too quick a treatment.  But I wanted to begin putting this out there, in case the discussion might be of interest to any HSP’s or Introverts – including perhaps followers of Amma!

I am aware, come to think of it, that I believe the well-known writer on HSP, Ted Zeff (Who has written various HSP “Survival Guides,” which are quite good little books), is himself a fan, perhaps even a devotee, of Amma-chi. So while my mind has gotten a bit tired now (it is quite early, before breakfast here, and blood sugar has dropped), I would like to try and expand on this further, hopefully later today.

(If I am not overwhelmed by the wonderfully Rajasic spirituality of Amritapuri!)

Om Shantha Hasya Shringara (Om-Calmness-Joy-Love)