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Healing Depression in the Highly Sensitive Person

by Dave Markowitz(more info)

listed in mind matters, originally published in issue 226 - November 2015

Imagine your soul is a jigsaw puzzle. Let’s say this personal mosaic has 1,000 pieces. On their own, some pieces will appear dark and murky, and others will appear brighter and more joyous. These darker and murkier aspects of the self are but pieces of the immense beauty of the totality of who we really are - the full jigsaw puzzle. Yet we’re taught to disown and repress the ‘bad’ stuff (often called the ‘shadow self’) and solely focus on and express the ‘good’. 

Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), however, don’t repress. We feel. We emote. We feel deeply. Then we emote even deeper. We know through experience that we are every-thing. We know that conscious or unconscious repression of the shadow self is denial of what exists and is detrimental to our process of healing and becoming whole, but there comes a point when we’ve got to wonder, “Haven’t I expressed enough? I’ve been at this for decades…”  

Of the numerous human expressions represented by the many pieces within each person’s jigsaw puzzle, the most common for HSPs to consistently feel - and most often get overwhelmed by - is grief. Grief is a natural, human emotion the body uses to heal loss -any kind of loss. And everyone has various forms and degrees of loss, but not everyone suffers from what’s called depression. 


Dave Markowitz 226 Healing Depression


Persons with more typical levels of sensitivity who have been taught to repress their grief are negatively affecting their brain chemistry. When this is analyzed through scientific means, oftentimes a diagnosis of depression is given, but too few are looking further into this chicken or the egg causality dilemma. The X factor is their inability to acknowledge, feel, and express this very raw human emotion that is just another piece of the human puzzle. 

On the converse, those who are taught to honour and express their grief will keep the rivers and streams of emotional energy open and flowing. A person with flowing energy will always be healthier than one whose energy has been shunted by fear, shame, guilt, or even machismo. Staying with the jigsaw analogy, a person who is ‘in the flow’ has owned and honoured all the pieces of the puzzle - all aspects of self. He or she may be considered more ‘whole’ and will typically be healthy and vibrant.

For HSPs, Everything Is Different

HSPs (also called ‘Empaths’) typically know that repressed energies lead to illness, but we don’t repress. Most of us are dealing with the opposite - too much emotion. Sadly, we have learned the hard way that some forms of: traditional medicine - mind-body therapies - and even energy modalities don’t address our concerns very well. Some of us feel and release and feel and release, and go to numerous good-intentioned practitioners but still see no relief. It’s not because they or we are bad, un-spiritual or unloving, or that we’re ‘doing it wrong’. On the contrary, most HSPs are beautiful, intelligent, spiritual, heart-centered people who are the nurturers of other people, animals and the planet. It’s just that we’re energetic and emotional sponges. And no matter how much we feel, release, and embrace the grief, unless we get to the root, what is cleared will always be reabsorbed from others. The root in need of attention is the overly empathic nature. Unless we address that head on, the symptoms will reoccur. Otherwise, we go from book to book, modality to other modality, or become workshop junkies and still don’t get permanent relief. 

‘Back to square one again!?!?!’

Not getting to and working with that root cause always leaves us searching for answers. The ultimate goal is both releasing symptoms and then fine-tuning the empathic abilities so that we can still be caring and sensitive but not overloaded! What good can an overworked HSP actually do, anyway?!?!

Because Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs) are walking sponges for other people’s emotions and energetic states, we’re often carrying other people’s pieces of their jigsaw puzzle in addition to our own. If you’re feeling stuck, lonely, unfulfilled, anxious, unmotivated, or physically unwell and you’re an HSP, it’s very likely that you have taken on these aspects from another person. And for those with a really high Empathic Rating (an intuited percentage of how much you are dealing with that is not yours), you can be taking on energies from other families, cities, cultures, or even the planet! THAT is why you’re still looking for answers. You’re looking for healing in all the wrong places. You need specific tools intuited by an HSP for other HSPs. How could anyone else know what you’re dealing with than another HSP? That’s like asking a Priest for marriage advice!

  • I have learned first hand that taking on enough energy that isn’t our own is like trying to run a marathon with a few people on your back. How could you not be fatigued carrying all that weight? 
  • Likewise, if you’re taking on others people’s anger, how could you not have tightened muscles or stiff joints? 
  • If you’re taking on others people’s mental confusion, how could you not be dealing with what’s called anxiety? 
  • If you’re carrying the weight of anyone or everyone and you know that concentrated thought creates matter, how could you not be carrying a few extra pounds? 
  • And if you’re taking on others people’s grief, how could you not be dealing with what’s called depression? 

How Did We Learn to be so Detrimentally Selfless? Were We Born that Way?

I believe that we’re all born Highly Sensitive to energy. Infants may not logically understand other people or the world but they can feel what’s true. Infants can recognize when others are happy or unwell. As babies, we learn that our actions have an effect on others’ energy. If we laugh, others laugh. If we express fear or sadness, others worry. Some of us enjoy this perceived responsibility and expand upon it. Eventually we become healers and confidants. (Others shut down their sensitivity and their empathic connection with others. They become lawyers. Ha!) 

One of my clients exemplified this perfectly: 

‘Laura’ has clear recollection of being 4 years old and ‘knowing’ her mother wasn’t feeling well. Her empathic abilities let her know this to be true, and because all children want to receive, be, and express love, they intuitively reach out to others. Laura could feel that connecting with her mom with sound and touch helped her mom feel better. Her mom was in a very bad way, and Laura placed her hands upon her mom’s head. She stayed there for a while, intuitively feeling that this was helping her mom. And to Laura’s 4 year old self, it was. Unfortunately, Laura had taken on a tremendous amount of energy and had been unwell from that point onwards, later diagnosed with depression and suffering from numerous other ailments for many decades until she found me. 

One of the most powerful things I ever intuited was that on a soul level, no one can be responsible for another’s path. Laura’s mom had her own path, and Laura took on the path of her mom in addition to that of herself. How could she not be anxious? How could she not be unhealthy and depressed? Laura’s intentions were positive, but this perceived over-responsibility not only didn’t serve Laura in this lifetime; it delayed her mom’s soul-level experience that it wished for her mom. This perception stayed with her for years, leading her to be everyone else’s caregiver first and putting herself last.

We were able to shift her from feeling responsible for others - the pattern she learned early on that got her love and attention - to a higher vibration version of caring for others. We transformed her sense of responsibility to one of true compassion that sees the bigger picture and acts from that awareness. I showed her that she can actually increase the quality of connection with others and at the same time not let her take on and keep others’ energies. I showed her how to be more of a funnel than a sponge. These steps are detailed in my book, Self-Care for the Self-Aware and are briefly summarized in this article in  Positive Health PH Online Issue 222, The 5 Steps for Healing the Highly Sensitive Person

Your Part in Healing

To truly heal with permanence, you have to have be an active participant in the process. You have to really get that while your actions may have played a part in your condition, you don’t have to blame yourself. How could you have known any better? You were a child!

Practitioners can only lead the way. We can take you through certain processes, but your diligence, persistence, and surrender are paramount. Just like a Personal Trainer gets you to do that last set of repetitions, a good health coach pushes you through any resistance to change. And unless you’re the exception, you’re going to have some resistance. Make sure to work on the exact level that your body needs, rather than what you want it to be. Everyone wants to heal overnight, but only a small percentage can reverse decades of causation and make deep shifts that way. Symptoms can certainly be decreased or even eliminated energetically, but deep transformation requires lots of action and commitment - unless it doesn’t! I’ve seen radical shifts in short periods, too! Your level of healing is directly proportional to your willingness to see your past as stepping-stones to a better you rather than a prognostication of the future. 

If you feel this can help others, please share via Social Media and alike. Thank you!


Some say ‘depression’ is genetic. I’m not here to argue with your beliefs but rather expand upon a condition that too many are struggling with. Even if it is caused by genetics, epi-genetics shows that predispositions don’t have to manifest or continue. Others will say only years of psychotherapy or prescriptions can help. I AM NOT advocating reducing or eliminating your therapies or prescriptions based on this article. If you feel it’s working, then continue your efforts. Do whatever it takes. What I propose can be done alongside what your doctor recommends.


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About Dave Markowitz

Dave Markowitz is a two-time best-selling author, intuitive healing facilitator and guide for Empaths and Highly Sensitive Persons. His work has been endorsed by Shirley MacLaine, Lynn Andrews, Lee Harris, Dannion and Kathryn Brinkley, Karen McPhee, Dr. Meg Blackburn Losey and more. He’s shared the lecture bill with Deepak Chopra and Gary Null and has worked with thousands of empaths and highly sensitive persons (HSPs) since his “empathic awakening” in 2012. To find out more about Dave, check out


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