Stuck In The Spider Web Of Approval?

Are You Caught In The SpiderWeb Of Approval? - HSP Health Blog
Are You Caught In The SpiderWeb Of Approval? - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

I like getting approval. I suspect we all do. Yet I hate wanting or needing it.

I hate all the games that go with approval:

  • the withholding of it – treating it like it is a prize or a weapon.
  • the distortion of information to manipulate approval
  • the overvaluation of approval when we are really all in this together.

We are social creatures, so social issues are important to us. Since none of us survive alone, our social life has great weight and can cause us pain or provide us  with immense joy. Often we personalize social issues and judge each other, while disregarding the toxic social climate that can create many behavioral challenges. So many issues that are labelled emotional and are assumed to be simple but are really anything but. Approval is one of them and it is one of our biggest challenges.

What Is Approval?

Approval is a kind of social stake in the ground. A position, if you will, with group force behind it. That is why we take it so seriously and should.

Approval is the manifestation of group structures, an expected allegiance. The viability of any and all social arrangements require allegiances. Approval is a way of enforcing allegiances.
So it often feels as if we are damned if we do and damned if we don’t and there is some truth to that. We cannot simply ignore the group structures that we need to negotiate. We also cannot let destructive groups totally control us either.

One way to think of approval is  to consider it an initiation into human social culture. Of course, it occurs in our childhoods, and if unexamined rules our entire life. Approval is a handed down formula for how to be, how to behave and who to be courtesy of those around us especially our families.

Approval: The Spider’s Web That Claims Us

It is impossible to escape the wounds of our social structures. The best we can hope to do is do our healing work, find our integrity, our calling and make our contribution to the world.

We need to be kind to ourselves about approval because it is such an important part of our lives. Approval can be very seductive and cause us to feel safe. It is a false security but can cause us to give up opportunities to learn and grow.

One of the reasons we need to be kind to ourselves about our susceptibility to approval is that approval is an important tool for learning. When we are young we are learning and do so in a number of ways:

  1. trial and error as when we learn to walk
  2. imitating others or approval based learning.

Imitation is more than peer pressure or conformity. It is actually a way to learn skills. Neuroscientist David Eagleman, who has investigated conscious awareness, memory and unconscious mental processing, demonstrates how imitation is an important form of learning. In this article, he shows how approval was used to teach chicken sexing in Japan in the 1930′s and plane spotting in World War II in Great Britain.

It may seem like a reach, but the point is that much of our learning is absorbed through imitation, and cues from our environment from approval. We store the learning in our brains and draw on it in the future from our memories.

Therefore, it is inevitable that approval will play a role in how we learn. In fact, according to the article it can be the most effective way to learn some things. Unfortunately, we may also naturally develop the bad habit of starting to judge ourselves on the basis of the approval or disapproval that we receive.

The Application Of Approval

Approval may be used to teach us many things:

  • group values to promote social cohesion
  • how we are expected to demonstrate loyalty
  • our “identity”
  • how to be in relationship
  • what are acceptable behaviors and boundaries
  • what group customs are important
  • how we are to contribute to group stability and often therefore what change is likely to be rejected.

Approval is the past carried forward. It is a kind of solidified social opinion.

Often when we are making decisions we take the temperature of the social circumstances around us. That is not necessarily bad, however, it means that we will be constrained by the approval of others. If we are in a supportive, benevolent and constructive environment, we can easily make decisions that support us. If our environment is not so benign, our self affirming choices will likely generate a backlash.

Group norms which are supported through approval and disapproval play a huge role in the ability of a group and its members to embrace change and personal growth. For many, abiding by group norms is fine and comfortable. What do you do, however, when those group norms are toxic and resistance to change is high? What do you do when group norms become a kind of sleepwalking so that the groups members are really not engaging with reality and potentially risking the well-being of the group?

The big problem with approval is that we and other can become ossified by sticking to what is approved and what is not. What can be a useful learning method can come to block our ability to fully engage with life and our development.

Highly Sensitive People And Approval

Highly sensitive people have trouble fooling themselves about what they are experiencing because our nervous systems are like an ever present alarm system. So if the approved method of doing things is not working or even dangerous, we will likely become aware of it. As a result, we may not be able to go along with what is approved. Our awareness carries social risks. So we always have to make a decision about our awareness: to follow it, reject it, postpone it, tell others about it. It can feel like a tremendous social burden and it is. It can also help us develop our wisdom and serve others.

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Self Pity And Grieving: 6 Ways To Feel Better

Army Photography Contest – 2007 – FMWRC – Arts and Crafts – Fallin

Self pity and grieving are very different.  Self pity is the stuckness of despair. It can be a bitter feeling of longing for something you cannot have but need. Often what we want does not seem like too much to ask, which is why self pity can be so painful. Sometimes it feels like the end of the world.

Self Pity And The Loss Of The Self

Self pity can be very difficult to handle not only because it can be tied to our dreams but also because it can be tied to the expression of the good in ourselves and our natural drive toward self actualization. So when our dreams – even the simple ones –  do not come true a part of us often loses its optimism and resilience. Self pity is often the loss of our idea of our best self.  Self pity is also funny in a way. No matter how worked up we get about how the world has done us wrong, and often it has, it always makes us feel worse. Whatever the problem is does not get better with self pity, so hurting ourselves or someone else never helps. Self pity can cause a lot of harm and often feels as if it simply adds to our loss.

Differences Between Self Pity And Grieving

Grieving is different. Grieving is about the loss of something or someone we have had. When we grieve we feel the absence of something that lived in our hearts and lives. Grieving is often about a passing of someone or something from our lives as a chapter ends and another begins.

Grieving is sad but does not come with the same desperation of self pity. Self pity can occur when we lose something we never had a chance to have. An example would be the person who lost their parents very early in life, and who feels sorry for themselves because their life has been such a struggle because not having parents does in fact make life more difficult. That experience is quantitatively and qualitatively different from the person who loses parents as an adult which causes grief but the loss is an ending. In the former case, the lost parents live in the imagination and in a dream; in the latter case, the lost parents live in experience and the heart.

Self pity and grief are both natural feelings. One is not more justified than the other. Self pity comes with a perception of damage to ourselves and our lives and the wistfulness of what might have been. Self pity is a hurt to our willingness to be a part of life in a positive way, because there is a feeling of not getting the chance at something.  Often the reasons are beyond our control. Grief can come at a more natural ending point of a phase of life or of a relationship. Grief accepts the transience of life and as such has a more graceful attitude toward change and loss. Grief has its pain but also its dignity. Self pity and grief may be different but that does not mean that they are mutually exclusive. But grief at some point diminishes. Because self pity often comes with a lot of anger, it may not end until we let go of one dream and replace it with another. It can take a long time.

Handling Feelings Of Loss

We live in a culture with few skills for handling negative feelings.  When our unhappy feelings are invalidated they go underground but are still there to be processed. When individuals cannot release those feelings, they may turn to “acceptable” forms of expressing their pain like alcohol and drugs. All feelings including negative ones run their natural course and need to be accepted.  Here are a few techniques for providing for your self pity and grief feelings whether your companions in life accept your feelings or not:

  • a journal can work wonders.  Of course, it should remain private.  I had one at one point, and scribbled my feelings in it which was a more energetic discharge of the feelings that also made my writing unintelligible. That worked for me!
  • meditation will help and I highly recommend making time every day for meditation.
  • embrace whatever you are grieving.  Can you make a shrine that you spend time with to honor your feelings and loss?
  • seek out a therapy group so that you can receive some compassionate care from others.
  • do not relinquish your idea of your best self because you are going through a tough time.  Often in our success driven society it can be hard to appreciate ourselves when we have a setback.  Your best self may have nothing to do with fame or social approval. Framing your journey as part of a larger human story can make acceptance easier.
  • good food and sleep are small acts of caring which do wonders.  Try to care of yourself.
We all deserve the best life we can have.  Part of life is handling our painful feelings. Hopefully this list will help you find a graceful path through sad moments by dignifying your experience and your life.

Tyranny of the Clock

 

Clock © by Earls37a Flickr

People in an economic system based on production learn to live with the tyranny of the clock.  Although people have been tracking time since the early days of humans, our relationship with time has become different.

Time used to be related to something going on in nature.  People measured the hours of sunshine, the seasons, and how long crops took to grow.  The day began when the sun came up and ended when it set. Our survival was directly related to what nature offered us and so our relationship to time was related to nature also.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have changed our relationship to time and nature. We treat nature as something we control.  It is understandable that we sought to control nature because we felt so out of control in relation in nature: weather was so unpredictable, the basic needs of people were not being met, and disease was rampant.  At the time, natural resources were so plentiful. So we created machines and production processes to harness natural resources to take care of our basic needs and kept on going.  Now we do not seem to be able to stop.

There were understandable reasons for the economic system that we have created.  Human society at the time of the Industrial Revolution was saddled with all sorts of limits that needed to be challenged. Some of these limits were based on belief systems. Some limits were geographical, others political.

Even time felt limiting because we were limited by the amount that each person could accomplish which in tern limited our ability to meet our needs. Since the Industrial Revolution, the clock has been used as a tool for challenging limits through productivity measurements which evaluate how well we produce in a specific period of time.  Our educational system is organized around time.  We have a certain period of time to learn a given amount of material, whether we learn or not is often irrelevant, when time is up, time is up.

When the clock controls how much attention we give to something or someone, we relinquish control over our lives because we are not really engaging with life and the realities around us.  If it takes two years to learn a subject that is allotted only six months time, then essentially one’s learning is controlled by the demand for speed. If it takes 2 hours to accomplish a task well and one hour is all that is allowed, again we relinquish control over our lives, and the quality we are able to bring to it by the demand for speed.  If it takes a year to grieve the loss of a friend, and the people around you demand that you grieve quicker, then your life is diminished by the demand for speed.

The demand for speed is a serious issue for highly sensitive people since creativity, deep listening, and serious problem solving do not lend themselves to time pressure. HSP’s inevitably suffer from distracting and unhelpful conflicts when they are expected to work under artificial, and unnecessarily restrictive time schedules. To the highly sensitive person production is not the end and be all of one’s work life. Qualitative considerations are more important than quantitative ones – within reason of course.

Being sensitive means that we notice the cost of our highly competitive and highly demanding capitalistic system. We notice that stress in ourselves and others, the loss of time for connection and the kind of deep teamwork that is satisfying and inclusive. We see the loss of our cherished natural environment and all the cost to animals and humans. I suspect that to most HSPs the cost-benefit analysis does not read that way it does to a corporate accountant. As a result, how we use time will also be different.

The tyranny of the clock does not allow for the freely engaged way of relating to living and problem solving that results in deep satisfaction. It does a lot of damage so create more problems than it solves. There is such a need for healing caused by the destructive shortsightedness of the economic machine.  As a result it is bound to be unsatisfying to highly sensitive people.

Time is precious; a high pressure system is not very appealing to highly sensitive people who will treat time as they treat other things with regard and diligence.

Love Your Defenses!

Love Your Defenses - HSP Health Blog
Love Your Defenses - HSP Health Blog

Source: Morguefiles

So many defenses. I feel like my life is often about bumping into defenses of one kind or another. Dealing with defenses feels like walking through a field of hay.  With each step you meet  a new stalk(defense) that obscures your vision and parts as you walk only to reveal a new defense.

Often the defenses I bump into are the defenses of other people. I dislike bumping into them because in doing so the relationships changes – often not for the better.

When defenses show themselves, the relationship door usually closes even if only for a moment and we realize we are not welcome. That happens to highly sensitive people a lot.

Of course, sometime defenses are our own because we get hurt and our healing is not easy.

What Are Defense Mechanisms?

According to Dictionary, a defense mechanism is:

an unconscious process, as denial, that protects an individual from unacceptable or painful ideas or impulses.

Defenses are a way for us to:

  • like ourselves in painful circumstances
  • make sense of something that does not work for us
  •  taking care of ourselves.

Defenses can sometime be a kind of denial. Denial has a bad reputation because it is interpreted to mean that there is something wrong with you, that your are too weak to face the truth about something. Denial like all defenses are often meant to protect us from a shock to our systems, and sense of loss that we are unable to process and handle.

Defenses Can Create A Healing Space

I respect defenses even if I consider them to be toxic sometimes; I understand that they have a purpose.

In the case of people who have suffered a serious trauma they can be life saving by creating a space for the healing process. I don’t think anyone should be denied their healing space. We highly sensitive people are often harmed, sometimes seriously. Our ranks have many who have suffered serious child abuse. We can have defenses as a way of protecting ourselves from further harm.

Often however, we know that our healing takes a lot of time and the world has little patience with our healing needs. So our defenses can protect us from intolerance that only makes our pain greater. At least that has been my experience.

Sometimes Defenses Do Not Help

Sometimes our defenses may create a healing space for us but not necessarily help us heal.

It could be that in spite of ourselves we are reinjuring. It could be that we have been and are subjected to the wound of prejudice and it does not heal. It could be that our injuries are so serious and grave that we need a lot of time for healing. Then we need to be kind to ourselves.

It could be that we are in a situation that causes us ongoing pain. Perhaps for some reason we are unable to make a change that will make the situation better. Sometimes we have to accept the world as it is – with all its faults, let go of it, and make the life we deserve.

What Our Defenses Are Missing

Sometimes our defenses miss a lot.

They can miss our deservingness. They can miss the generosity we receive. They can miss our creative gifts. Sometimes our defenses want something that is not there and will not be. As long as we seek what we are missing we will not have a better life that we can create.

I admit it is hard to let go.

Handling Your Defenses

Defenses deserve to be taken seriously.

We can use them as clues that we are missing something and often not what we think. We can use them to be good detectives for our well being and the well being of those around us.

We can get that denial out on the table and ask it to help us see what needs to be seen. We can appreciate ourselves for caring about ourselves and each other. We can let our defenses lead us to something better, kinder, and more rewarding.

 But first we have to open the door and go wading in the field of our pain to hear what it is telling us. When we do we will be greeted by a breeze of relief, and healing.

The Othering Of The Highly Sensitive Person

HSPs: The Shadow People - HSP Health Blog

The highly sensitive person is different.

Being different means that they often live in the shadows.

I thought about this today when I was reading an article about feminism in Great Britain, written by Anna Ford, a respected British journalist.

What struck me about the article was her wonderful description about the marginalisation of women, an endlessly repeating story that she has experienced her whole life.

The wonderful qualities that women bring to the table are mostly devalued.

Isn’t that also true of highly sensitive people?

The Marginalization Of The Highly Sensitive Person

Marginalization is an interesting and recurring experience for many people.

It manifests in the process of othering.

Othering is nasty.

It is a way of relating to someone as if they really do not have the same right to be here on the planet, that in being different there is something wrong with them.

Are there any HSPs who haven’t had that experience?

As a highly sensitive person, I have been othered my whole life.

Othering can be subtle or overt.

It is often patronizing or condescending.

When being othered you are often invisible.

What Is Othering?

According to Advanced Apes:

the othering process is the human tendency to believe that the group (race, religion, ethnicity, culture, gender, country, sexual orientation, species etc.) that they are a part of is inherently the ‘right’ way to be human.  As a consequence of this, people who other consciously, or subconsciously, believe that anyone who is not apart of their group is a threat, an enemy or a liability that must be converted to conform immediately to the norms and standards of their group, subjugated permanently, or eradicated completely…

The phenomenon of othering has its roots in our evolutionary history.  We know from primatological studies that group solidarity is exceptionally important in all of the African apes.  Knowing who is, and who isn’t a member of your group is exceptionally important for reasons intimately connected to survival.  And basic evolution theory states that any behaviour or trait that confers a survival advantage will be selected for; and the stronger the survival advantage, the stronger it will be selected for.  In the case of ‘othering’ behaviour, it probably became an extremely valuable behaviour that would have become permanently fixed within our lineage millions of years ago.  Whenever territory, food, and mates were scarce (which would have been frequently, and in most cases permanently), intra-species competition would have been strong and othering behaviour would have been selected for.  Forming a group can allow you to align yourself with other individuals altruistically to maximize your own (and everyone else in the groups) ability to acquire territory, food and mating opportunities.

The Experience Of Othering For The Highly Sensitive Person

Many highly sensitive people are very uncomfortable socially. They experience themselves as different and unwelcome in the world.

They may also be subject to bullying, taunts and social rejection.

Highly sensitive people are in the minority in the world since only 15-20% of the world’s population is highly sensitive.

Their different biology means that they do not share the interest in competitiveness and aggression that unites the non-HSP population.

HSPs offer wisdom, perspective, compassion and empathy to those around them, but those traits are not as valued as competitive skills.

As a result, many highly sensitive people, experience themselves being excluded, treated with condescension and even blamed for their different nature.

When we are othered, we are treated as not normal, and not right. People around us including our families often try to change us into a “normal” person, someone who is right by their standard of normalcy.

They are wrong to do so.

There is nothing wrong with the highly sensitive person. HSPs are simply different.

 

 

 

Why Highly Sensitive People Are Practical!

Highly Sensitive People Are Practical - HSP Health Blog

Benn sewing a bit again :-) © by storebukkebruse

Highly sensitive people are often treated poorly.

HSP’s are empathetic and creative and as a result do not easily fit into the Western cultural model.

To many people, apparently our being different causes them to judge the highly sensitive person as a flake.

Not so fast!

Differences Between Highly Sensitive People And The Non-HSP

Highly sensitive people have nervous systems that absorb everything in their surroundings. The HSP nervous system is like a sponge taking in all forms of sensory information as well as nuances in the energy of the people around them.

So highly sensitive people are highly aware which is really a wonderful gift!

All of the information that HSPs take in needs to be processed. It has to be taken in, assimilated and dealt with. That means that  the highly sensitive person usually has to slow down to deal with and understand the information that they are taking in. Slowing down provides the highly sensitive person with the ability to conscientiously process information.

Non-HSP’s do not take in the volume of information that HSP’s do. Their nervous systems do not pick it up. Non-HSP’s are often faster than HSP’s. However in being fast, they are often wrong, too.

HSP’s And Information

I am sure you have heard the expression, “Knowledge is power,” and there is some truth to it. It would be nice if we could apply it to HSP knowledge not just non-HSP knowledge. Apparently we cannot – yet. I guess what is defined as knowledge does not really apply to energy fields, psychic perception or empathic ways of knowing.

The highly active nervous system and right-brained orientation of HSPs causes them to take in different kinds of information. Therefore, highly sensitive people are likely to approach the world without the ideological frame for information that accompanies many non-HSP’s. They benefit from a holistic rather than linear perspective.

HSP’s have a natural openness to the world because of their biological structure and natural empathy. It lets them see what is there rather than what they want to see. It gives the highly sensitive person a big picture perspective. That is a huge advantage in getting a handle on reality.

Non-HSP’s And Information

The non-HSP approaches things differently. The non-HSP nervous system does not recognize all forms of information. Whereas the highly sensitive person is sensitive to stimulus and energy, the non-HSP has a more linear approach to information and problem solving. Non-HSP’s have a more short-term problem oriented approach to information.

The non-HSP has a cause and effect processing method that is often grounded in the material world, whereas the HSP is grounded in the energetic world. So often the two “worlds” will seem at odds or at least incompatible.

How We Grew Apart

There was a time long ago when HSP’s and non-HSP’s worked together with considerable regard for one another, a time when the skills of both were appreciated.

When people lived in close contact with nature, our home, they needed every tool available to them. In tribal societies, people could not escape their considerable vulnerabilities.They had to be as mindful as possible about all aspects of their environment.

They listened to the wind, the sun and all aspects of nature. Their deep connection with nature was how they knew when they were at risk. Shamans, trackers and others gifted in energy perception were very important to the well-being of the tribe. Problem solvers were important as well. Having the ability to provide material support to the tribe where little material advantage existed was also valued.

In this environment, both the HSP and non-HSP worked together for the well-being of the community.

Of course, it changed. The material and tactical non-HSP ascended as we “conquered” nature, and highly sensitive people were devalued. As we separated ourselves from our natural home, many of us lost our ability to relate directly to the natural world of which we are a part. In a way you could say that we rejected our home and our connection with it.

Except, of course, HSP’s who are gifted with a close connection to nature.

Who Is More Practical?

The non-HSP is often directed toward problem solving whereas the HSP direction is first toward understanding.

The left-brained, linear thinking approaches of non-HSP’S have given them an advantage, which is that they have developed many tactical skills for problem solving. Those skills mattered when there were few of us and an abundance of natural resources to put to use to make life at least minimally livable.

Tactical skills are also very important when your life in danger and are also what we draw on to accomplish something. They are the “how” of accomplishment.

Tactical skills are great but they are NOT intrinsically practical. In fact they can be highly impractical if they are used indiscriminately. One example is the tactic of using medication to deal with human ailments. Used as a tactic whenever a symptom of illness or discomfort arises medication is not practical and just temporarily defers the problem. In fact it can be dangerous. The leading cause of accidental death right now is from medication.

Being a problem solver does not mean you know enough about a problem’s context to be wise in your use of your problem solving tactics.

Contextual thinkers are often the highly sensitive because their natural awareness gives them more information to construct an accurate picture of the context.

Understanding context means taking a holistic approach to a situation so that you can accurately describe a situation, where there is a problem, and what the problem is. Holistic thinking takes you out of reacting to people and circumstances. Rather than eliminating symptoms of problems, holistic thinkers seek constructive solutions not just in the short term but also the long term.

How HSP’s Help The World

Highly sensitive people have been treated as second class citizens for a long time. However, as our world becomes more compromised by environmental and other crises of human life, it is apparent that the tactically oriented non-HSP has made a mistake in excluding us from the social and governing space.

As a species we need to develop ourselves so that we become as constructive as possible in how we live. We cannot afford anymore all of the collateral damage from poor living choices. The damage is piling up and drowning us. Highly sensitive people have the ability to help the human race to become more contextual and holistic in its approach to life, an ability that we sorely need.

Life has been defined as a war. It is time for us change that definition of life into one that is more sustainable. HSP’s are the people to make that happen.

What could be more practical?

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Why We Need Highly Sensitive People Now

Why We Need Highly Sensitive People Now - HSP Health Blog

Thinker on a Rock, 1997 cast bronze by Barry Flanagan, British, born 1941 © by cliff1066™ Flickr

Why do we need highly sensitive people now?

Are we seeing a renewed interest and dare I say respect for the sensitives of the world?

Conditions Are Everything

Conditions are everything. We are culturally bound which means that it is easy to lose sight of how other conditions may be changing.

Right now we are seeing a perfect example of a disconnect between human cultural systems and world conditions. Human cultural systems are digging in their heels in order to maintain the status quo, while the reality of deteriorating global conditions continues its significant harm to the environment, humans and other living creatures on the planet.

So perhaps  the concept of “mind over matter” – or left-brained linear thinking – has its limits although we do not seem willing to concede the point.

So many cultures have come and gone because they disrespected the underlying conditions that supported them. Jared Diamond has written about this topic in his book, Collapse. Too often cultures become inflexible putting themselves at risk. HSP’s can help with that.

Highly Sensitive People Notice Conditions

Highly sensitive people are masters of nuance. They sense everything and notice when something is not working. Their nervous systems pick up all sensory information around them. HSP’s nervous systems are somewhat like a lightening rod or an advance warning system. The highly sensitive person can tell when something is wrong when others do not see it.

Highly sensitive people pick up all sorts of signals from their environment:

  • sound
  • visual
  • tactile
  • psychic
  • energetic

if there is a signal or sensory information of some sort, HSP’s receive it.

What The Highly Sensitive Person Does With What They Notice

Highly sensitive people can become overwhelmed by the information they take in from our overstimulated and highly complex culture. And for many it is a huge burden. However it can also be a blessing because it provides HSP’s with some important skills:

  1. highly sensitive people process information deeply so their view is often complex and inclusive.
  2. HSP’s notice shifts and so they notice factors like: the strength and resilience of an issue, the relationship between forces, the interdependencies and where they are working and where they are dysfunctional.
  3. a highly sensitive person will process information contextually and will therefore likely have a holistic and integral approach to understanding the issues in any situation.
  4. because highly sensitive people take in so much information, they tap into many factors and considerations that others may overlook in sizing up situations and problems.

Why Highly Sensitive People Are So Valuable

Because of their holistic, complex and complete information processing skills, highly sensitive people are able to notice the changes in underlying conditions in a situation. They do not get locked into a system as the status quo. In fact, they will likely see any human system as having a lifecycle as everything else does.

HSP’s can discern both short term and long term challenges and fashion an approach to problem solving that integrates both.

HSP sensitivity is especially valuable in dealing with complex structures and systems because they have the ability to determine where the weaknesses are, and what the causes are including where changes in underlying conditions are creating problems.

Highly sensitive people are extremely valuable people at any time. Right now as we are having serious challenges to current human structures they are even more valuable because they can help us problem solve from a smarter place.

Changing times call for smart choices. HSP’s can help us do that.

For More Information:

About The Highly Sensitive Person

Are We All Becoming Highly Sensitive People

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Human Identity At A Crossroads

Do You Need An Identity?

Masks of animals © by Kevin Hutchinson

Do you need an identity?

I ask myself this question all of the time. I find identity to be such a nuisance and I often wonder if I am alone.

Why do we need one anyway?

Is Identity Only A Social Convenience?

I think so.

It never ceases to amaze me how often people relate to me according to a perception about my identity that has nothing to do with me at all. I am sure I am not alone in that experience either.

It changes the interaction. Instead of two people being with each other having a conversation, when someone relates to you from a perceived identity, they are talking at you and so the interpersonal bridge becomes damaged. Identity may be a social convenience, but it can also be a trust destroyer.

Myths And Identity

Identity wasn’t always like it is today.

Many early human societies organized their communities around myths. Their stories were often promoted some aspect of human development. You could call them the human development industries of their times.

Some myths were created to describe challenges on our path from childhood to maturity. They became a form of communal glue that helped elders shepherd the next generation from dependency to roles of stewardship. Rites of passage were considered important and essential in earlier human societies since they depended greatly on the maturation of the individual.

Survival needs and shorter lifespans made individual maturation an imperative not an option. The result was that:

  • they ensured the survival of the group
  • they ensured the individual’s survival
  • identity was not simply a personal matter
  • identity had a reality basis that anchored each individual and the social group in nature
  • maturation was a process that helped the group and provided each individual with a way to develop skills and receive validation from the group.

Of course this is an oversimplification. Many early societies practiced different forms of identity discrimination and other practices that we find inhumane today. Nonetheless, there was still a relationship between reality and identity in earlier human societies that provided a groundedness that we have trouble finding today.

The Evolution Of Identity

It is not the purpose here to romanticize early societies but to notice how disconnected our identities can often be from a sense of reality.

Our modern consumer society ties identity to cultural rather than natural markers. In our zeal to conquer nature we have lost our connection to it and our grounding.

We have also lost our rites of passage and our connection to natural processes.There is no passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

When our connection is to nature, we have a identity formed around something dynamic. Product lifecycles, stock market movement and annual entertainment schedules are not the same thing.

Mass culture has a defiant relationship with nature. Since our survival depends on earning a living in the existing system, we will as well.

That means:

  • natural cycles are ignored, abandoned, and disrespected. We routinely ignore sleep needs which naturally restore us. Our schedules are determined mostly by work and entertainment schedules.
  • health practices which require that we respect nature in order to be healthy are routinely ignored. Our bodies are built to live in tune with the seasons. We are meant to eat differently during each season. In the spring, for instance, the foods that are naturally available then, will help us detox.
  • ignoring the deeper processes of human maturation. We have many smart people and successful people. We celebrate them. Do we celebrate mature people? In our youth oriented culture, not so much.
  • ignore needs for serious mastery. Grades may signify a type of progress but development is more than passing though a classroom and performing on a test. As Malcolm Gladwell points out convincingly in his book, The Outliers, it takes 10,000 hours to master anything. Do we provide our young people with a foundation that lets them achieve that?
  • ignore self actualization needs. Are people allowed to form their identities based on their talents and natural relating to the processes of life or do we expect them to have identities that only serve the cultural and economic system? Can we see beyond the existing system to the stewardship needs that we are missing?

The Birth Of Stewardship

Out of necessity we are beginning to evolve a new human skill: the skill of stewardship. Human society up until now has been very survival oriented. Now we have to change and with it our notions of identity have to change as well.

What does an identity forged around a groundedness in earth and based on sustainability look like? How do we create identities that have nothing to do with survival when that is what we have known up until now?

What does it do for the interpersonal bridge that is so often broken in human relations when we are in a human culture where we all share the responsibility for sustainability?

Stewardship requires maturity. Can we give up our youth oriented cultures? Can we recreate deeper human development processes that support mastery and maturity? Can we become longsighted rather than shortsighted? Can we create cultures of trust?

I do not know the answers, but we will need to find them and I am hoping we will enjoy doing so, because they will bring an improved quality of life for many people.

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Criticism Is Not Problem Solving

Criticism

Inner Critic © by anthom

Much has been written about criticism and the inner critic.

So why another article?

It seems to me that we take criticism for granted as an OK thing to do.

Perhaps it is our consumer culture run amok. Isn’t complaining how you get something done?

Maybe to some but I think we need a rethink about this topic.

Does Criticism Really Solve Problems?

I don’t think so.

Criticism is not problem solving. Criticism often feels intense, but criticism can be deceptive because it feels as if we are doing something when we are criticizing someone or something. However, more often than not we are not really doing anything when we criticize except putting our displeasure on someone else.

I am not suggesting that all criticism is a mistake – far from it. Without displeasure and criticism we could not improve and progress.

However, all criticism is not equal. In our consumer culture, convenience is an expectation and the absence of it often treated as a problem. This is one  kind of criticism that deserves questioning. Were we promised a convenient world?

Criticism And The Need To Be Right

Criticism can often feel strange or a little bit unreal. After all, the sun does not rise and judge us. The wind does not criticize us. A red light will not mouth off at us when we are driving through it. So criticism is our personal expression of some sort of disharmony, dissonance or displeasure.

Implicit in any criticism or judgment is the thinking that there is a right way to think, be, or do something. This is another form of criticism that deserves questioning.

One of the biggest difficulties people have in relinquishing their critical views is that they may feel that their point of view is perfectly reasonable – and they may be right. However, the result of being right and reasonable creates an obstacle to problem solving. Instead of seeking solutions to problems by opening themselves to ideas, many people turn others into the “problem” and are off and running trying to fix their identified “problem”.

Curiosity: The Missing Link

So what is wrong with this picture?  For starters, something is missing.

One thing that is missing is curiosity. Curiosity is a wonderful way to find a bridge between perceptual differences. Curiosity is about possibility whereas criticism is often about lack.  Curiosity can help us see better when we are willing to learn.

Curiosity takes a fixed position and opens it up to new ideas. It enables an individual to engage a conflict with beginners mind and find a solution to whatever the problem is. Being curious softens self righteous and entrenched positions.

Criticism often comes from a fixed perspective because it assumes that a “right” answer in advance so most differences will be seen as wrong.

A fixed position is often outcome oriented so an individual with a fixed perspective will have more difficulty understanding an unexpected result than someone who recognizes the fluid nature of processes and the potential and likelihood of different outcomes.

HSP’s And Criticism

Highly sensitive people are frequently faced with many critics because of their different perceptions, talents, and processing capabilities.  They will often be misunderstood.  By trying to shift the interpersonal ground from criticism to problem solving  by inviting curiosity they have a greater chance of improved outcomes for themselves and others.

For Additional Information:

Toxic Criticism

Toxic Criticism and Developing Creativity


Have You Tried Ecstatic Dance?

 

“In many shamanic societies, if you came to a shaman or medicine person complaining of being disheartened, dispirited or depressed, they would ask you on of four questions: When did you stop dancing? When did you stop singing? When did you stop being enchanted by stories? When did you stop finding comfort in the seet territory of silence?

So begins the forward to Gabrielle Roth‘s book, Maps To Ecstasy written by Angeles Arrien, Ph.D., a cultural anthropologist who has written The Four Fold Way and Signs of Life. Maps to Ecstasyis an introduction to the wonders of ecstatic dance.

Why Dance Is Making A Comeback

It’s noteworthy that dance is making a comeback at this point in time. Dance has never died. However its role is changing aided by several popular dance shows, Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. Although dance has always had a social role, increasingly its healing role is being recognized.  So You Think You Can Dance in particular has presented this therapeutic role of dance using dance for emotional, psychological and cultural healing.

These changes are not accidental. As institutional structures fracture and a new way of life comes into being, dance has the ability to help us not only heal the past but also to be more fully engaged in the present. You have to be present to dance, otherwise you trip over your feet or worse.

Dance gets us out of our heads. It heals the mind-body connection.  Dancing helps us be fully in our power and lets us see that we are OK and can trust ourselves.

Tribal Dance

It’s in the air. We can feel it.  As our monolithic economic system breaks up, the world is becoming more tribal. Tribes have had a negative reputation in maintream culture for a long time. Tribes have been depicted as ignorant, dangerous, worshiping many gods and having strange practices.

We are now learning a different story about tribes. Tribes have skills that we are very removed from: understanding nature, healing skills, and ecstatic dance skills to name a few.

Tribal dance is very old and has many functions. Many of us have heard of rain dances, but tribal dances actually had another function. Tribal dances have been used for emotional healing and psychological growth for thousands of years. Tribal dances let the dancer enter into the energy of their lives, relate to, accept it and let go. It is a way of processing deep emotional issues that is both non-harming and healing. It is a way of staying in right relation to life and the world around you.

Tribal dances are used at important life transitions to help an individual process the emotions they are experiencing so that they can release and be clear for the next events in their lives. Blocked and unprocessed emotions are inevitably harmful and prevent us from wholeheartedly engaging with life. Tribal dance prevents people from becoming frozen in an emotional state by using the free form dance to help the individual to move through their feelings.

Ecstatic Dance

Ecstatic dance is a freeform dance. Modern Ecstatic dance is the brainchild of Gabrielle Roth, who has used dance as a therapeutic method for many decades.

Gabrielle has written extensively about dance as a way to reclaim our ecstatic experience of life. Ecstatic dance gets us out of our heads into our bodies and helps us see ourselves as the actors in our on lives. It creates unity between ourselves and the life force of the planet. It helps us be one with the stages of life and accept and move through them gracefully.

Gabrielle has identified five universal life energies that she has incorporated into her dance. Interestingly they are also the stages of the creative process. She describes the five rhythms as:

  • the flowing rhythm: a teacher of fluidity and grace. Flowing is like a warm up, when we start to engage. It is gentle and curious.
  • the staccato rhythm: the teacher of definition and refinement. Staccato is structure and order, like working with building blocks. Staccato works with what is.
  • the rhythm of chaos: the rhythm of creativity seeking form. chaos occurs when we go beyond what is. We have worked staccato and now move into a creative phase with what we have been working on. All the curiosity of flowing and working of staccato prepares for chaos.
  • the lyrical rhythm: the rhythm of synthesis and integration. In the chaos phase of our creativity we open to the new and consider many possibilities until we find what will work. Lyrical is the integration and synthesis of that new information or solution.
  • the stillness rhythm: the rhythm of contentment and peace. After synthesis and integration, we can stand back, consider what we have done and gracefully let go, releasing ourselves and our work until we engage again.

The Value Of Ecstatic Dance For HSP’s And Everyone Else

As we enter a more tribal age, we each need to be in our own power and connection at the same time. For so long we have been glued to computers, assembly lines, and other structures of the industrial age, that many of us are stiff in our bodies, hearts and minds.

Ecstatic dance loosens it all up, gets our energy flowing, helps us see what we can control and what we have to let go of. Ecstatic dance is a dance for helping is to heal into a more mature and joyful time.

Ecstatic dance can help you learn to lead, to follow and to get out of the way, each in its own way at the right time. It can make us whole at a time when we desperately need whole human beings. Becoming more whole will also help us to respect and like ourselves more and in doing so we can like each other more as well, making a better world possible.

If you are a highly sensitive person, ecstatic dance can help you remain connected and remove stress so that you can stay more in your natural creativity. If you are a non-HSP, ecstatic dance can help you safely step out of your mind into you body and help you feel your connection to all things. If you have suffered harm or trauma, ecstatic dance can help you move through your feeling so that you feel like living again.

Ecstatic dance is a wonderful safe practice that can help each of us feel better and connect better. I can’t think of anything better for each of us than ecstatic dance.