25 Ways to Handle Anger Productively

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I observe with slack jawed awe as a customer has a meltdown of manic intensity over an account payment query that would bring the New York stock exchange to its knees—the amount in question? Ten dollars! Like a large indignant toad she looms over the cashier who exhibits superhuman maturity and restraint. Without raising her voice, she smiles and gives a logical step by step explanation of why there is no error.

This information is obviously not penetrating the customer’s self righteous fog so the cashier offers to credit her account. At this, the customer hisses I’m not a charity case! I don’t want a credit! I’m a bookkeeper; this account is wrong; you’ve made a mistake! The cashier points out that it’s an automated accounts system and asks whether she should cancel the credit. Yes yells the customer.

When I walk by twenty minutes later, the combat weary but still calm cashier is asking so can we get this clear? Would you like me to credit your account or not? The customer by this time is the subject of ill concealed humor from others. Her ego temporarily punctured, she whips the printout from the cashier’s grasp and departs.

What Was That All About?

Why expend all that energy making a major production out of a minor issue? Why did she so desperately need to be right while making the cashier wrong? The amount in question was absurdly small so it wasn’t about the money.

Obviously her sense of value was disproportionately dependant on being right. When your sense of value is fragile the propaganda machine inside your head often attributes malevolent intent to people when none exists. I know you’re laughing at me….I know you’re out to get me so I’m going to get you first.

But Anger In Itself Isn’t Bad

Like the stress response, it’s a messenger. Anger has a purpose and is frequently misunderstood. Used productively in the right context, it can be a powerful force for good.

  • Anger helps us draw boundaries
  • Anger tells us what is and is not acceptable
  • Anger alerts us when we’re giving too much and receiving too little
  • When someone’s words or actions make us angry, it tells us what WE need to change to feel safe and comfortable again
  • Anger invites us to look inward—rather than the knee jerk reaction of lashing out.

Don’t Believe Me?

Rewind the movie of your life to a time when you felt trapped, victimized, backed into a corner—and suddenly something snapped “enough! I will not tolerate this! I am worth more, and this has to change now” you screamed. I’m willing to bet that desperate, angry outburst led to a quantum leap forward in some area of your life—a dead end work situation, a painful relationship, an overdue lifestyle makeover or an increase in self value. Anger can catapult us out of a comfort zone that has ceased to be comfortable.

25 Ways To Handle Anger Productively

  1. To derail the momentum of someone’s rage—replace the anger trance with a sudden change of subject, or authoritative command. The verbal equivalent of slapping someone out of hysteria.
  2. Although being disemboweled by a leopard might be more appealing—agree with her, show empathy, invite her to sit down, relax and build rapport you must have had a really rough day…..I know how frustrating it is….this deflates anger instantly.
  3. Count to ten or visualize a tranquil scene….yes it does work! It allows the adrenalin surge to subside.
  4. Instead of reacting like a sleep deprived snake, challenge your perception of the issue; reframe the picture in your mind. Perhaps his intent isn’t malicious. You wouldn’t get mad at a toddler for his limited communication skills, would you?
  5. Breathe—slowly and deeply! It is biologically impossible to remain tense or angry while doing this. Try it!
  6. Anger is a condition in which the tongue works faster than the brain; walk away—mentally and/or physically. It could save someone’s life.
  7. Before radically redecorating your aggressor’s face, press the pause button and ask yourself what underlying fear or insecurity pulled your anger trigger.
  8. Get to know your anger triggers intimately.
  9. Use your mental zoom out facility. See the whole picture, not just part of it. Put things into perspective.

10. If it feels as though you’re trying to reason with a stick of dynamite, hold up a ‘red card’ or ‘stop sign’ to call a halt, while you all cool down and evaluate the situation.

11. Channel your rage into physical exercise—go for a walk, run, ride a bike, dance or pummel a punch bag. Regular exercise reduces the anger impulse.

12. If you can visualize eviscerating him or her, you can visualize floating safely above the war zone in a bulletproof bubble.

13. Toilet train your impulses, instead of exploding lock yourself in the bathroom and vent.

14. When your self esteem is strong, you’re confident about where you stand, so you don’t need to keep ‘growling’ to prove it.

15. Suppressed anger makes you sick. It’s as productive as ingesting arsenic. Pour it out on paper, do some emotional vomiting. You might even end up with a bestselling book.

16. Find constructive alternatives to yelling, swearing, attacking, throwing things or ingesting substances. Have a personal life goal that you are passionate about. Think about it, talk about it, study and research it and work towards it—especially when you feel threatened, overwhelmed and powerless.

17. Laugh! If it’s likely to fuel the fire—lock yourself away and laugh. Use your overflow valve.

18. Talk anger triggers through with a counselor, therapist or good friend.

19. Build firm personal boundaries so that it’s harder for people to pull your triggers.

20. Cut or limit contact with people who are anger triggers in your life. Pump up your verbal self defense skills.

21. Recharge your batteries regularly in a quiet ‘safe space’ that no people or noise can invade.

22. Remember our brains cannot discriminate between what is real or imagined. What you consistently watch, listen to; participate in, focus on and who you hang out with colors the way you react to the world.

23. If you do explode, once you have calmed down—apologize; it costs nothing and has a profound impact.

24. Use your resources—get professional help.

25. Use anger CONstructively instead of DEstructively.

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Why Impatience Is SO Bad For You

Why Impatience Is So Bad For You - HSP Health Blog

Impatience is so bad for you.

It is one of the most seductive emotional states.

It is a great way to make life more difficult and relationships challenging.

Impatience is like playing a child’s game of bumper cars with real life and adult consequences.

Worshipping At The Altar Of Speed

I find the adoration of speed in our culture to be curious.

When I am going fast, I stop thinking.

Speed demands focus on the task at hand and so it cannot be a time to contemplate what you are doing.

To be truly effective at warp speed, you need to have contemplated, evaluated and assessed your intended actions before you engage in them,

Does our cultural speedfest really allow for that?

In my opinion, no.

Speed For Conquest

When the speed of daily life is ramped up, there are consequences. One of them is what happens with our attention and intention.

When we function at a slower pace, we spend time contemplating what we are doing, what we want to do,  and what we need to do.

We think about the implications of our actions, the alternative courses of action and the possibilities that our choices present.

We can own our intention.

When we have to go faster something has to give. What gives is usually the way we direct our attention.

A high speed life makes us more task oriented and more focused on the short-term.

That means that we delegate the long term to others. In doing so we disempower ourselves.

Faster living means that we have been made one down almost like objects or parts on a conveyor belt. We are the wheels on the bumper cars and someone else is doing the driving.

Our attention has to be elevated but we have lost our intention in the process.

Impatience Is Controlling

Moving at high speed means that there is not a lot of time for considering our purpose and agendas. Our attention is usually directed to working off items on our to-do lists. The really important stuff of life usually does not make our list and so without realizing it, our lives stop being our own.

We are living in speed, even in a state of perpetual emergency.

When you are in an emergency you do not have time to stop and ask why, you simply have to deal with it.

Someone else has set the priorities. While we think we are making choices, we are really filling in the blanks in a sentence created by someone else.

Observe impatient people. They are masters at making something wrong with you if you are not performing as they expect you to, or are not busy enough as if your busyness was a sign of your goodness.

How Impatience Took Us Over

Impatience is important as a social tool. It used to be that we aligned ourselves with nature. Our lives depended on an effective interaction with the source of our nourishment – the physical world we live in.

Nature is slow and always in process. It is interdependent. We have to work with and learn from nature. Imposing our will usually does not work vey well.

With the Industrial Revolution and the development of machines, markets took over from nature and became the center of our lives. We were diminished as was nature, simply servants of the market system.

The machine became almighty. We became dependent on:

  • the political machine
  • the machines of government
  • the machines of finance
  • the machines of war
  • mechanized business.

A machine doesn’t see you or relate to you.

You have to keep up with it, bend to it, and support it. This is why in spite of all the improvements in our living conditions, most of us feel an unspeakable loss. We never had it so good or so bad.

Taking Our Lives Back

Slowing down is the beginning of taking your life back.

It helps to see the mechanized structures of our lives as detrimental to intentional living, and look for ways to be as present as possible to all aspects of our lives.

We are not here to serve some machine.

We are here to live fully.

The impatient life of markets takes so much from us. Letting go of it, being willing to be without it as much as possible restores you to a right relation with your own life.

It’s worth doing.

It’s a great place to be.

Overcoming The Need To Please

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Highly sensitive people have many ways of handling their nature and the overwhelm that they experience. Being different means that relationships are often difficult for us. We often feel at a disadvantage in relationships feeling one down because we feel disrespected.

There are many reasons for this. Our compassionate non-competitive natures seek mutuality in a one-upsmanship world which does not respect our kindness. So we often want the respect we deserve but cannot claim. So we seek ways to achieve social acceptance. Pleasing is one of those ways.

Do You Feel The Need To Please?

The need to please comes from our need to establish and maintain the interpersonal bridge with others. there are many ways that the interpersonal bridge is created and sustained. Most of the time there is some kind of shared experience or other kind of bond created through:

  • blood relationships
  • being neighbors
  • school and school activities
  • shared interests
  • work
  • community activities
  • shared values
  • shared life experiences

Highly sensitive people have trouble with the interpersonal bridge because often their values are different from those around them and also because they are different and experience most things differently it is hard for them to bond over shared experiences. Many times HSPs are loners but not by choice.

The weakness of the interpersonal bridge is something that we live with each day and it is often a source of feelings of vulnerability. We do not fit in and know it. We suspect therefore that we are unwelcome.

Coming To Terms With The Challenges Of Being Different

Being different does not necessarily mean that we are unwelcome. Humans are notorious for comparing themselves to each other so we may remind others of undeveloped aspects of themselves and in that way create feelings of discomfort. That is not our fault but something to be aware of.

However, if we expect to be close with people whose values are radically different then we are probably inviting some hurt into our lives. There are many people who do not and will not “get” HSPs and that is something that we have to accept.

We can improve our social life if we reserve our serious social investments to those where our values are compatible.

When Do We Start To Please?

The need to please will surface when we are trying to fit in with a group that is different from us where we would like to have some social standing. It could be a work environment or family group. Whatever the situation, pleasing comes from thinking that the burden of the interpersonal bridge is primarily ours and that unless we make a special effort their may not be a relationship and we may be harmed in some way.

In these situations being ourselves is something we think will harm us or cause us to be rejected. We have to be someone else in order to survive socially.

Overcoming The Need To Please

The need to please is above and beyond doing one’s part in a relationship. The need to please is a function of being made inferior in some way. It is an outcome of trying to survive in a social structure where you are disfavored. It is a way of trying to cover up your differentness so that you can acquire needed resources. Pleasing is a social strategy of minorities and social outsiders throughout history.

So what can you do?

Here are some questions to ask about how you are living to see if you can make some changes that will provide you with more social safety:

  • what relationships do I have where I feel a need to please?
  • in what way am I dependent on others for supplies (of any kind) that causes me to be in relationships where I need to please?
  • what changes can I make to reduce my needs so that I have fewer relationships that require unnatural pleasing?
  • if I cannot reduce my needs can I find alternatives that are more supportive of my self respect?
  • can I create what I need?
  • can you ask for more of what you need from relationships that are one-sided to make them feel more mutual?

Sometimes a little strategy can make all the difference in helping us rebalance our relationships and make them more mutual.

Are Passion And Creativity The Same Thing?

Are Passion And Creativity The Same Thing? - HSP Health Blog

 

Do you think passion is important?

Do you think that creativity requires passion?

These are important questions because many people think that creativity requires passion and that without passion, creativity is impossible.

Does Passion Help Creativity

Many people think that passion is necessary for creativity to occur. However, we need to reconsider this idea.

Say you bump into an animal that you have never seen before. In your mind you start to invent stories about what kind of animal you are seeing and why you have not seen it before. These stories are creations of your mind. Did you need passion to create them?

Creating, then, is a natural to us as breathing since we are always engaging with and trying to make sense of the world around us.

Is Passion The Same As Motivation?

When you are motivated, does it come from passion?

When you are hungry your motivation to eat comes from necessity. When you treat someone else well, your motivation can come from love, respect, or if you are dealing with a bully from self preservation.

So motivation can be all over the map. If you tie your creativity to your motivation, you will have trouble creating since your motivation will change and fluctuate.

What Is Passion Anyway!

Passion is most often called a powerful feeling.

The Free Dictionary‘s definition of passion describes 4 basic categories for passion:

  1. a powerful emotion, such as love, joy, hatred, or anger.
  2. ardent love, strong sexual desire; lust, the object of such love or desire.
  3. boundless enthusiasm… the object of such enthusiasm.
  4. an abandoned display of emotion, especially of anger

I think that we recognize that passion can be a powerful emotion, but there are many powerful emotions. What distinguishes passion is enthusiasm. When we have passion, we feel an enthusiasm for what we are passionate about.

This is another interesting definition of passion from Mapmaker:

Passion is the energy that comes from bringing more of YOU into what you do.

Simply put, it’s being who you are and doing what comes naturally. When what you do is in alignment with who you are, you get energy from doing it. It’s like water flowing along its natural riverbed. It actually gains energy from the path it’s taking (compare that to what most people experience in their work, which is more like trying to force it up and over a mountain).

So passion comes from a sense of connection between ourselves and what we are doing. Passion happens because there is some relationship between us and the work. In fact you could say that passion occurs because the work is us.

Passion And Creativity Are Not The Same

Creativity is not passion. It is a skill.

Passion comes from us. Our enthusiasm for something says something about who we are and what we have to give the world.

Passion is about something that attracts us; creating is about bringing something into existence.

Passion is a love of chocolate, creating is make an unusual chocolate cake.

Passion is a love of roses, creating is making a new hybrid tea rose.

Passion is a love of color, creating is making your own painting.

You Need Both

Passion tells you something about yourself. Creating is something you do as a result of your passion.

I personally think you need both.

It is a good idea to know yourself and where your enthusiasms lie. It is also a good idea to master the self discipline necessary to create something.

Creativity and passion can reinforce and accentuate each other. When they do you harness the best of yourself and your skills. That means you can offer some serious contribution to the world, which is a wonderful way to live.

The Importance Of Uselessness

The Importance Of Uselessness - HSP Health Blog

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Being useless feels awful.

Being useful feels good, doesn’t it?

It is nice to feel valued and know we are valued. It helps us to feel secure.

It also means we are supported to others and that we are welcome in the world.

Is There A Stigma For Being Useless?

As a highly sensitive person, I suspect that the highly sensitive suffer more from being perceived as useless because:

  • we need more rest and frequent breaks
  • we are not handy for dramas and emergencies since we operate more slowly
  • we question a lot of things including others view of what is useful – like I am doing now!

Busyness often seems like much ado about nothing.

The Problem With Being Useful

We live in a very strange time. People are expected to be highly productive. However, in spite of it we are often replaced by machines.

We are filling up the planet with huge amounts of garbage – the residue of our productivity. We are becoming sicker and sicker from our efforts to survive in a system that makes us obsolete.

Being productive does not mean taking good care of ourselves. It does not mean developing greater self reliance. It means participating in the consumption business: supporting it, making it work and reaping rewards from it.

In other words, being dependent on it.

This is one of the observations that highly sensitive people will make about our current system and the idea of being useful: we are really making ourselves dependent.

Busyness Is NOT A Sign Of Intelligence

Busyness has a fatal flaw. It keeps us engaged tactically and removes us from considering the big picture.

As a highly sensitive person, I notice when the big picture and present activities are at odds. In fact, I notice when anything is at odds. Busyness is what we expect from subordinates, the foot soldiers of modern life, the Hans Brinkers of our increasingly decaying commercial system. That means that busyness does not make us masters of our fate. Just the opposite.

Busyness does not seem like such a great deal. It is worth asking ourselves why we are doing all this.

Why are we?

Are You Engaged?

Many people think of being busy as the same thing as being engaged. Often we are made to think that slowing down is a kind of disengagement, even an abandonment of our responsibilities.

But engagement demands a lot of presence. Busyness does not. So when we are being very busy in many we ways we are increasing our disengagement with life. We stop asking important questions about what we are doing and why.

Why Being Useless Improves Engagement

When we are being useless we are open to whatever comes our way. Whatever information that needs to shape our perception comes when we are that moment of rest and open to it.

When we are useless, we are open to a different agenda. It could be the voice of our innermost self speaking to us. It could be an awareness of the big picture that shows itself to us.

Nothing can reach us if we are not receptive. So being useless is a way of being receptive to inputs from any and all sources. When we are receptive, then we engage in a different way, in a more informed way, in a more complete way. It shows up in our work. We do work that is more on point. we waste less time on that which is irrelevant or unimportant and we know the difference.

We rise to the level of creator and steward which gives us and others a greater experience of satisfaction.

Sensitivity And Being Useless

One of the challenges of being sensitive is that it is hard to fool ourselves. We know when busyness is hollow, counterproductive or destructive. We can feel it.

However, we need to work and want to work in a way that suits us. Adopting the openness of being useless lets us sidestep busyness for a form of engagement that is rewarding to us.

It is a good idea for each HSP to spend some time each day not just resting but being useless and open to the voice and wisdom of our true selves.

Our receptivity will reward us with greater enjoyment and fulfillment.

Rocking The Boat: An Important Life Skill

Do you want to rock the boat?

Make abstract art!

Abstract art does many things but it is best at rocking the boat and causing us to see things in a new way.

Rocking the boat is an important life skill, and one that highly sensitive people should embrace.

Mindless Activity

Currently we are besieged by change.

Given the endless activity of novelty and new “trends” you would think that we allow and accept rocking the boat.

In reality, we are probably not that open and accepting.

Mindless activity is not change.

Mindless activity can stop change because it invites shallow activity. Mindless activity is activity for activities sake; it is not purposeful and well thought out.

Another way to limit change is by creating chaos. Evolutionary psychology points out that the easiest way to stop growth and development is to have a war – which is a form of aggressive chaos.  Chaos is limiting because each moment is divorced from the next so that sustained activity becomes impossible. Under chaos, time and continuity are under siege; in war people are, too.

The Serious Business Of Rocking The Boat

When you are serious about anything, you have to invest time and energy. Serious intention requires a lot of thinking, experimentation, testing of the waters, mistakes and creativity.

Serious intention means you have to slow down enough to make the necessary investment in what you are trying to accomplish.

Working fast reduces investments of time and energy which creates shallow results. One way to keep people from rocking the boat is to have them fixate on a lot of ever changing novelty. It keeps people busy and creates illusions of change. The phrase, “The more things change, the more they say the same,” applies to this scenario.

To make serious lasting change, then, requires a considerable amount of sustained effort. It has to be well thought out because that is the requirement of serious commitment.

Rocking the boat is not the same thing as being challenging or provocative. It is relatively easy to be provocative but not easy to take an idea from conception to reality. That is hard work!

When we rockthe boat we are changing ourselves and developing strength. In doing so we are changing relationships and power structures.

Not everyone welcomes this.

Rocking The Boat May Mean A Fight

HSPs are natural albeit often inadvertent boat rockers.

Being compassionate and empathetic are two reasons. Being creative and energy aware are others. Our very natures, being different from non-HSPs, cause us to create conflict just by being ourselves.

But it takes more than creating conflict to rock the boat or tip it over.

Seriously rocking the boat takes sustained work and focus, something that HSPs may not be good at because of our strained nervous systems.

Serious boat rocking also may mean a fight although I mean fight in the sense of constructive engagement.

To create any lasting change the old and new engage in a struggle over the merits of their positions and the necessity for change, the comfort of the old and the dangers of complacency, the skills that we know and the ones we have yet to learn.

It is only in the struggle that the merits can be known, and strengths and weaknesses assessed.

HSPs are good at grappling with the merits but not with the fight. We may be good grapplers but we often do it in private because our grappling may not be welcome.

We may also avoid fights because they often seem like a smoke screen used to obscure the necessity of change. Fights often seem to be more like resistance to change so we may resist the fight.

HSPs Can Become Great Advocates For Change

Rocking the boat should not be thought of as a reckless activity. You could make the case that the best people to rock the boat and create change are empathetic HSPs.

However, we also have to be willing to fight. Fighting does not have to be fighting against, which is often how we think of it. Fighting can be the activity of bringing our hearts to a conflict.

Bringing our hearts, sensitivity, creativity and seriousness to change gives HSPs the potential to be great agents of change.

We need change and we need HSPs to embrace it and become part of leading it.

 

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How To Embrace What You Are Feeling

Reconnecting With Your Feelings - HSP Health Blog
Reconnecting With Your Feelings - HSP Health Blog

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You need to be able to identify what you are feeling.

There really aren’t any good or bad emotions—they all carry a valuable message—even hatred and fear. Feelings bear important news; tell us what we thrive on and what we don’t, what energizes us and what drains us. They troubleshoot by showing us where to tweak; like a game of hide and seek they say cold, warmer, hot.

A Feeling Is A Messenger

The first step then is to be aware of what you are feeling. Step two is to interpret the feeling; ask “what is this feeling trying to tell me?”

Often our feelings are just telling us we need to nurture ourselves back into a state of strength and alignment—be kinder and more compassionate toward our selves or re-arrange our priorities.

The trick is to embrace and practice positive feeling patterns, so they become dominant—our default program. As we become increasingly aware of how we’re feeling from moment to moment, we become more adept at consciously creating our emotional climate, independent of other people and outside influences.

Powerful! Handle With Care

Emotional energy is one of the greatest powers on earth, a force of nature—capable of creating life and wreaking untold destruction.

Learning to manage your emotions is a bit like learning to drive a Ferrari—beyond exhilarating done with expertise, but potentially lethal if you’re not aware of what you’re doing. Speed and momentum builds exceptionally quickly. Slamming it into drive and flooring the accelerator without checking whether there’s a wall in front of you is not smart!

It’s advisable with emotions—and Ferraris to put them in park, pay attention to what’s going on around you, in which direction you’re pointing and then accelerate—gradually….

Choosing Emotional Responses

Imagine you are walking toward a dangerous or destructive experience, like lurching into the jaws of a hungry lion—and you’re thinking oh crap, I know how this story ends and I really don’t want to be lion lunch! Because you are now more aware of your emotional direction; more attuned to how they make you feel, you are in charge of where your emotions take you. You are no longer helplessly propelled by them.

So you stop, check your emotional pulse, do a mental pirouette and reach for a thought that takes you in the opposite direction, followed by another similar thought, and another, and another—that gradually lead you away from being sucked into a feeling you don’t want.

For instance why the hell does he always say that? Why does he always know best, tell me what to do, treat me like a child? It’s not as though his life is such a shining example of success and happiness. I hate it when he does this. What right has he got….and so the momentum builds.

Stop! Take your emotional pulse. Do a mental pirouette and start a new thought thread like, I’m not sure of his motivation for saying these things. Maybe he means well, maybe he doesn’t but I will not allow his words to catapult me into feeling angry and resentful. I can choose how I feel and I choose right now to ignore his comments. I choose to think of something that makes me feel confident about my abilities, something that makes me smile….and so that momentum builds.

Your Emotions Are Too Powerful To Use Irresponsibly

How about reclaiming ownership of them now:

  • Hug someone—your self first
  • Regularly list all the things you’ve achieved, overcome and excelled at—notice how this makes you feel
  • Make a list of all you appreciate in your life—it will show you what is most meaningful to you
  • Get to know your self—reflect, do self hypnosis or meditate for ten minutes today
  • Support or praise someone who needs it—your self first
  • Remind your self how valuable you are—often
  • Decide as soon as you open your eyes that this is going to be a magnificent day and everything is going to go your way
  • Anytime you feel yourself slipping out of alignment, pivot and get right back on track
  • Laugh often—and take note of what makes you laugh
  • Evaluate whether your goals are really in alignment with your self. If they’re not, change them—or your perception of them
  • See the best in everyone and everything—especially your self
  • Find solutions—don’t dwell on problems
  • Read, listen to, interact with and watch only stuff that lifts you up
  • Honor your feelings. They are valuable messengers and will keep you in alignment, even when life tries to push you off your perch

Just like our biological immune system, when our emotional immune system is strong, balanced and healthy, opportunistic emotional saboteurs cannot hijack how we feel.

Tips For The Urban HSP

Tips For Urban HSPs

As an HSP, I sometimes think I must be truly nuts to be living in New York City, a place that seems like the very embodiment of the word “overstimulation.”

Crowded, loud, bright and always on, it can be a nightmare for the senses.

If you let it.

I’ve lived here for nearly 15 years now, and I’ve found ways to make it work. (I have a bit of a dream writing job, and this is one of the only places I can really do it, which is why I don’t leave, in case you’re wondering. Also, nearly everyone I love is here, which adds weight to the case for sticking around.)

 Attitude For An Urban HSP

I think the lessons I’ve learned as a Big Apple HSP can be helpful for all, particularly those who might be living in other, smaller urban environments. I think you have to start by just seeing city life slightly differently than many. Here, I think there’s often a default attitude of, “Only in New York! Gotta love it!” when, for example, you’re on a crowded train at 9 a.m. and all of a sudden theres’s a mariachi band furiously playing, mere inches away from your face.

No.

You actually don’t have to love it. (I suspect very few people love it, but I applaud their generally optimistic ability to pretend that they do.)

So here are a few of the survival tips I’ve come up with to make being an NYC urban HSP work for me.

Protect Your Hearing

1) Get good headphones, and don’t be afraid to use them.
I’ve always been shocked that so many people are willing to put up with the crappy white headphones that come with an Apple product. They make my ears sore after only a few minutes of listening, and they don’t fit well enough to filter out ambient noise (nor do they stop everyone around you from hearing your music, one of my big pet peeves about public transportation these days: if you’re not wearing headphones yourself, you are more often than not subjected to the contents of someone else’s).

No, I’m talking about getting some of those little rubbery ear buds, or, if you’re loaded, a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones (they’re on my wish list). A little of your own curated music can radically change a walk through a chaotic city street, a subway car filled with yammering people and blaring conductor announcements, or a store where four overly cheerful salespeople come up to you within the span of a minute and say, “How ARE you today? Can I help you find anything?” Just point sheepishly to your headphones, as if they are surgically implanted in your head and totally beyond your control, and move away.

2) If you’ve got a smartphone, get a white noise app.
Music is good in many situations, but I find that when I need to really concentrate on reading or writing something, it’s too distracting. My white noise app is the best thing about my iPhone by far. Mine lets me create my own mixes of soothing sounds: beach waves crashing and light rain! Tree frogs and oscillating fan! Or just plain old white noise. Actually, brown noise, which is softer than white noise. Check it out, you’ll see what I mean. Any of these will instantly reduce my HSP stress by half. It’s also genius for hotel rooms while traveling (more on this in my upcoming sleep tips post).

Protect Your Boundaries

3) Make subway rides work for you. As Elaine Aron might put it, use your boundaries. Don’t worry about everyone else’s feelings so much. My instinct is generally to try to make other people feel good, so I’m not all that comfortable saying no or shutting things down even when I really need a break from human beings (which is pretty often).

But I’ve found that in order to stay sane, you have to just power through that instinct and be a little protective of yourself. For example: when riding on the train, someone sits down next to me eating an egg sandwich. She seems perfectly nice otherwise and part of me doesn’t want her to feel like a leper if I get up and move. But you know what? An egg sandwich smells disgusting, and it’s ruining the precious half-hour of down time I have in the morning. So I’m gone.

Ditto someone who’s having a loud, laughing cell phone conversation next to me. Or twitching just slightly oddly in a way that suggests they might be a bit off. Or wearing pungent perfume. Just get up and move. You’ll feel so much better when you do.

Similarly, when I’m leaving work and someone tries to catch me and take the train with me, I generally come up with a reason to split off (“I have to make a call first,” or “I have to run an errand”). I find that when my subway ride gets diverted into chitchat or small talk, I tend to reach my destination feeling depleted and annoyed, which reduces my ability to be present for whatever my next activity was. So I just find non-mean ways of getting out of the shared subway ride.

It’s best for everyone.

The Challenge Of Smelly Air

4) Get an air filter
One of my least favorite things about New York is the smells. And I’m not even talking about the stereotypical pee and garbage aromas, which tend, in my experience, to be a bit overstated. No, it’s the cooking smells that really do me in.

Apartment building living just inevitably comes with having to share the air with other people who like different food than you, and if you’re an HSP, those odors can feel like a punch in the face. Someone down the hall from me must, I think, own a deep fryer, because nearly every night it smells like Popeye’s in the hallway. This is not OK. This smell makes me deeply sad. But I can deal with it, because I have a pretty decent air filter going in my apartment’s entryway. It also just offers some psychological support, knowing I have a little mechanical sentry between me and the olfactory chaos going on outside my door. (In a pinch, I find that a Yankee Candle also works pretty well. Who knew? But it’s nothing compared to an air filter.)

Bottom line, just because you live surrounded by other people doesn’t mean you have to feel violated by their ill-advised culinary choices.

Create Your Own Lifestyle

5) Get a dog
In a way, this might seem odd advice, because a dog does come with its own set of stressors: they cost money, they require lots of attention, they may wake you up barking at absolutely nothing in the middle of the night. But if you get a good one, they can also offer a brilliantly convenient excuse for getting out of things and living a lower-key life than you might otherwise be expected to do as a city-dweller.

Everyone in your office going out for happy hour, and you’re sort of expected to go, even though the thought of being stuck in a noisy bar making small talk makes you want to bang your head against a wall? Don’t sweat it, you have to go home and walk the dog. Sorry! Additionally, your dog will ensure that you must go on multiple rambles around the neighborhood daily, which is a practice that’s highly beneficial for soothing the HSP’s system. Which brings me to my next tip.

6) Live near a park
It doesn’t have to be Central Park (or your city’s version of Central Park). But if you have someplace you can get to reasonably easily where you can be among trees instead of human beings, that’s going to increase your quality of life a whole lot. (As well as your dog’s.) Go regularly. Go every day. Take deep breaths and always know, when you’re in the midst of the urban circus, that this will always be here waiting for you. Don’t live near a park? Make it a habit to walk through one on your way to work, if you can. Get off the train a few stops early and incorporate a park walk into your commute.

7) Get plants
Plants! It’s like having a mini park in your apartment.

8) When all else fails, Xanax.
Just kidding. (Not really.)

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.