The Othering Of The Highly Sensitive Person

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.

 

 

 

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Our High Sensitivity: Both A Gift and Vulnerability to Anxiety

Along with the many benefits of our high sensitivity trait, we may also be especially susceptible to anxiety.

One aspect of a highly sensitive nervous system can be a strong startle response, as noted in an item on the Self-Test on the site of Psychologist Elaine Aron, PhD: “I startle easily.”

Of  course, just being easily startled, at any age, is not by itself an indicator of high sensitivity or a ‘symptom’ of anxiety – but there is some research that people who carry a gene that regulates the neurotransmitter dopamine in a certain way have an exaggerated “startle” reflex. Researchers concluded this sensitivity “may, in combination with other hereditary and environmental factors, make them more prone to anxiety disorders.”

From article: Genes affect anxiety and startle response, American Psychological Association press release.

Dr. Aron writes, “The sensitive types in any species tend to freeze and hide rather than fight or fly in the face of danger. Any of these reactions to danger is all right, but involve different ‘costs’ or put different stress on the individual. Research on other species as well as on humans, including my own research, suggests that the cost for this strategy is being more prone to develop chronic anxiety and depression when exposed to danger generally or to threats from aggressive others.”

From her Comfort Zone newsletter post: A Future Headline: “HSPs, the Key to Human Survival”?

Author Susan Cain notes many ‘shy’ people seek “refuge from the socializing that causes them anxiety. And many introverts are shy, partly as a result of receiving the message that there’s something wrong with their preference for reflection, and partly because their physiologies compel them to withdraw from high-stimulation environments.”

From her book: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

Dr. Aron thinks this is “an enormously entertaining book” but that Cain’s discussion of ‘introversion’ throughout “is almost identical to what has become the standard definition of high sensitivity—deep thinkers, preferring to process slowly, sensitive to stimuli, emotionally reactive, needing time alone, and so forth…”

From my Creative Mind post Are Introverts More Creative?

This brings up the issue of labeling. Many actors, for example, say they are ‘shy’ or ‘sensitive’ or ‘introverted’ and many writers and others use these terms as more or less synonymous; they aren’t, of course.

Dr. Aron, for example, says “Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called ‘shy.’ But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion.”

From my post: Shyness, Introversion, Sensitivity – What’s the Difference?

What wrong with anxiety?

Ordinary living provides us with many reasons to feel anxious – and anxiety can be a way to protect us from dangers, both physical and emotional.

But mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem can interfere with anyone expressing their talents, perhaps especially for those with a “finely tuned” nervous system.

Therapist and creativity coach Eric Maisel, PhD thinks “Only a small percentage of creative people work as often or as deeply as, by all rights, they might be expected to work. What stops them? Anxiety or some face of anxiety like doubt, worry, or fear… anxiety is the great silencer of the creative person.”

From post: Eric Maisel on anxiety and developing creativity.

Dealing with our anxieties

How we think about and label our physical, cognitive and emotional responses can have a strong impact on our acceptance of those responses, versus thinking we need to “do something” about them. Of course, some people have levels of anxiety that may need medical help.

But feelings such as a rapid heart rate, shallow breathing or racing thoughts can be confused with anxiety, and may just be a form of arousal, or excitement. Or too much caffeine: Dr. Aron notes HSPs are very sensitive to it.

She also points out that some items on an anxiety scale or test will sometimes be true for all HSPs, “since we do all avoid risks, which is something like being anxious or worried about outcomes.”

From her Comfort Zone newsletter post: A Letter from Elaine, Happy Summer to HSPs.

In her book “Emotional Freedom” Psychiatrist Judith Orloff, MD writes, “Since emotions such as fear, anger, and frustration are energies, you can potentially ‘catch’ them from people without realizing it.

“If you tend to be an emotional sponge, it’s vital to know how to avoid taking on an individual’s negative emotions or the free-floating kind in crowds. Another twist is that chronic anxiety, depression, or stress can turn you into an emotional sponge by wearing down your defenses. Suddenly, you become hyper-attuned to others, especially those with similar pain.”

From post: Psychiatrist Judith Orloff on coping with emotional overload.

She also gives specific suggestions in her book, and article How To Stop Absorbing Other People’s Negative Emotions.

It can be helpful to acknowledge that our trait of high sensitivity may include vulnerabilities to anxiety and overwhelm, but also offers many ‘gifts’ – such as enhanced creativity, greater empathy with others, deeper appreciation of the sensations of life, and more.

HSP Identity: A Plant In The Right Place

My name is Lisa McLoughlin and I am from Green Alder coaching, based in the UK.

I would like to share a personal account of my journey to discover that I am an HSP.

Is There Something Wrong With Me?

Most of my life I felt like a weed— not belonging to my environment. Being a weed was a bad thing and needed to be fixed, eradicated, changed, and just a blot on the landscape.

I often wondered, “If only I could be like all the others…the ornamental and outrageously colorful, extravagant man-made plants (people)…perhaps my life would be easier on me?”

Well, what is a weed? ‘A plant growing in the wrong place’ is the commonly accepted description. But wait a moment, how are we to know it is in the wrong place?

The war on weeds began with the coming of intense farming and public opinion. Who’s to judge a plant and name it a weed when all it is doing is trying to survive? Surely, a weed is entitled to the same life as any other plant?

Despite mans’ persistence to eradicate weeds by hand and chemical weed killers (like the Extrovert Ideal), the war has never been won. The same old weeds show up in the same spots, demonstrating gritty resistance, and persisting through centuries of persecution.

You have to admire their tenacity!

It’s only recently that I have come to respect the weed and understand that it is a plant, that might not fit in with expectations of it’s environment, but it has just as many rights to thrive and flourish as any plant—often with useful properties and benefits to the environment. So, I am left asking, “What if a weed is entirely normal and just needs to stand proud and comfortably in its environment—room for us all?”

Harsh Words

So, my life—to date—has been built on the sense that I was flawed or damaged in some way and that my purpose in life was to fix myself and fit in with others around me.

“You will never set the world on fire…you are so quiet…you are boring…you are a swot…you are too sensitive….stop crying…toughen up…you have the McLoughlin bad-luck…you are self-absorbed…you don’t contribute” were some of the general comments I received through my childhood and adulthood.

I noticed the harsh words struck deep into my heart and I felt myself shrink into melancholy instead of flourishing in spite of them. The comments were like chemicals trying to eradicate the weed, so that an outgoing and colorful ornamental pansy would grow in its place—just like all the rest of the ornamentals’ in the garden.

How I Came To Feel Damaged

Deep down I quite liked myself. I loved my ability to paint & draw and my creative drive and imagination, my spirit, and the rich texture of my internal world.

I could quite easily entertain myself for hours and I thrived when my environment was nurturing and supportive of the unique me. I had an internal warrior-like fire of passion and persistence.

Why didn’t my inner brilliance show in my external world? Why couldn’t I shine and show who I really was?

Unfortunately, I had a tricky upbringing with a mixture of overprotective love from a mum wracked with anxiety and guilt, and a father who had a severe form of Multiple Sclerosis (since I was two-years-old). Boy, did my mum and dad struggle. But, they did the best that they could at the time.

My mum was cautious and my father was a gentle-giant of a man (an angel from heaven). My sister and I willingly tried to please them both; to make them proud, to soothe them, and make them happy. Due to our difficult circumstances, my sister and I were forced to grow-up before we were ready. I remember wrestling with my desperate need to stay as an imaginative child playing with my dolls, against the pull to be a responsible adult for my mum and dad’s sake. My sister and I were pulled into situations such as mopping my mothers brow as she cried herself to sleep (when my father was placed in a nursing home), or, at the age of ten, dragging my father from the front door to the living room chair—he crashed out of his wheelchair trying to let the dog in, whilst my mum was at an evening class. She found the three of us laid out exhausted on the living room floor.

It kind of deeply affects an HSP as you grow up. It blossoms and develops your kindness and empathy, but also caustically hurts to the point of feeling ‘damaged’ in some way.

The HSP Career Challenge

During my childhood and early adult life, I looked to external guidance on what I should do as a career— I just wanted to paint and draw. But I was gifted in school with regular ‘A’ grades. I confused everyone with my hard efforts to please, often waking at 4 am just to revise and get better grades; to make my mum and dad proud.

My internal compass went awry, and I reluctantly agreed to pursue the sciences which eventually led me to physiotherapy (a role that required extroversion, ability to be with many people and groups for long periods of time and constant interruptions from junior staff and NHS bureaucracy).

The whole of my physiotherapy career was a private hell. I tried self-improvement courses, numerous physiotherapy courses and general soul-searching to see if I could change myself and grow into the role—it never happened. I was glad to eventually find some peace with regular mindfulness meditation and yoga since 2008.

In my personal life I was naturally gravitating towards caring for the planet, positive news and healthy and nutritious food. Something inside of me was starting to take control and gain momentum—I liked the feeling. I became a voluntary Director of a Community Supported Agriculture Scheme (CSA) and trained in permaculture design.

I was instinctively averse to the regular negative news; depressing soap operas; seeing cruelty to humans, plants and animals; I even struggled to watch the harsh realities of a wildlife program. There was a continued tendency to feel overwhelmed in work (seeking solitude at lunchtimes), in my personal life, and I became frustrated that I did not seem to have the robustness as others did around me.

The Beginnings Of Change

As a misfit in my personal and work life, I eventually burned-out with a diagnosis of social anxiety disorder. It’s no surprise I was anxious, I had increasing pressures in a career I disliked, and my marriage was imploding.

I did not resonate with the label of social anxiety disorder, but it was a start for healing. I noticed myself shrinking and struggling with a husband who, although extremely supportive, did not know how to nurture me gently. He too saw me as broken; just like my family and me.

With a call to adventure and internally growing courage and inner trust, I had no choice but to follow my deep-down instincts—I realised that external advice and manipulation had not worked and was actually harming me.

I left my old life and gradually grew into myself.

My inner guidance lead me to coaching the quiet person, painting, drawing, Susan Cain, Elaine Aron, writing and to a beautiful replenishing and nurturing experience—my new life.  On this journey I serendipitously discovered I have been normal all the time—an introverted HSP. The power of knowing and feeling this label is immense.

I stand tall as a unique plant in exactly the right place!!!

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HSP Experts’ Guide To An Empowered 2014

The HSP Experts' Guide To An Empowered 2013

 

This year HSP Health has decided to start the year off with another HSP Experts Guide this time to having a great 2014.

Our experts are very familiar with all of the HSP challenges having advised highly sensitive people for many years.

The HSP Experts Guide To An Empowered 2014

These wonderful HSP experts will be offering their assistance to help you navigate the start of 2014. The objective to help you shine by offering tips on how to navigate the challenges of being sensitive. All of our contributors are experts on the subject of being sensitive. They will be helping you to become stronger and more empowered to create a wonderful life for yourself and are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Douglas Eby is a writer, researcher and online publisher on creative expression and personal growth. He is creator of the Talent Development Resources series of sites and author of the books Developing Multiple Talents: The personal side of creative expression and Being Highly Sensitive and Creative.
  • Cliff Harwin is the owner of The Highly Sensitive Person Publishing Company and the author of the book, Making Sense of Your High Sensitivity: Discover, Develop and Maximize Your Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Traits. In his book, he reflects upon his life and provides a unique perspective on the lessons that he has learned as a highly sensitive person. The purpose of his company is to provide thought-provoking, inspirational, and insightful information from a personal perspective.
  • Grace Kerina  gently teaches writing skills to people who want to inspire and help others (like solo entrepreneurs and life coaches), helping them navigate their own writing process, write more confidently, master marketing materials, polish website copy, blog meaningfully, start and finish books, and more.
  • Lisa McLoughlin is a coach for quiet professionals and leaders—providing a roadmap to navigate the terrain of work. She is a Licensed Physiotherapist, director of a community supported agricultural program, and a degree candidate for a masters in coaching Psychology. In addition Lisa is an artist.  Lisa can be contacted through her website: Green Alder Coaching.
  • Kathryn Nulf  is a certified health coach and registered yoga teacher. Kathryn supports HSPs in her private and group coaching programs to step out of overwhelm and finally feel free and at peace around food. Her passion is to help HSPs discover what it’s like to have an inner flame so strong that it’s not swayed by every stressful event in life. Kathryn helps her clients embrace their unique trait so that their whole self can embrace life. If you’d like to find out what working together might look like, set up a {free} discovery session at her website.
  • Mary Kay Parkinson is an, HSP, energy healer and life coach based in Maryland. Her site offers information about the HSP trait, and many articles about living well as an HSP.  Mary Kay is a highly trained psychologist, energy healer and coach in spiritual development. She has a BA in Psychology, and has studied at the  Center for Intentional LivingBarbara Brennan School of Healing , Mentor Coach, the Bert Hellinger Institute USA, and the Potomac Massage Training Institute. 
  • Ted Zeff Ph.D., received his doctorate in psychology in 1981 from the California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA. Dr. Zeff has more than 25 years experience counseling sensitive children and adults. He currently teaches workshops and consults internationally on coping strategies for highly sensitive children and adults. Dr. Zeff is considered one of the world’s experts on the trait of high sensitivity. He has given presentations and workshops in Denmark, The Netherlands and in many venues throughout the United States. He is the author of The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival GuideThe Highly Sensitive Person’s Companion and The Strong, Sensitive Boy. His books have been translated into five languages. Dr. Zeff’s articles about how to detect and prevent bullying have appeared in many magazines including Texas and Ohio state PTA, Canadian Association for Child and Play Therapy and the Connecticut School Psychologists Association He has been interviewed by Good Morning Bay Area on NBC TV, National Public Radio and Psychology Today, as well as by Dutch and Danish magazines.

The program will begin on January 3. I hope you can join us.

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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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Identity And Thoughts: Changing The Narrative For Highly Sensitive People

shutterstock_56815777

Do your thoughts drive you crazy?

Do you ruminate a lot and feel that you are going around in circles?

Do you think that your thoughts control you?

What Are Our Thoughts?

Our thoughts are mental pictures that we create.  They often seem automatic and out-of-control. They are a natural consequence of our interaction with daily life and are your way of processing and dealing with what is happening around you and to you.

Our thoughts are our mind’s desire to take care of us. They also are a way of our dealing with the unknown and unknowable. Our thoughts support our assumed identities and try to identify our place in the world. They help us to belong.

Unfortunately, our thoughts often seem to be running our lives.

Why Are Our Thoughts So Painful?

For many thoughts can be very painful because through our thoughts we determine here we stand in life. Our thoughts are essentially left brained operating in a linear way and aligned with the manifested world. They are mathematical and materialistic.

If we identify with our left brained thoughts then we are only looking at a small part of reality and not necessarily what is true.

One of the reasons thoughts can be painful is because they attempt to place us in an identity that works in a world that often has preconceived ideas about who we are and should be.

Our Thoughts And The Cultural Narrative

Our thoughts can be a lot of things. They can be about personal aspects of our lives as well as the public aspects. Sometimes they have a short term focus. Sometimes not.

Most often they seem to be a way of interpreting and dealing with the cultural narrative around us. The problem with continually engaging in this way is that the cultural narrative usually has a life of its own. For highly sensitive people, the cultural narrative is usually about non-HSP life and lifestyles so it is basically not about them.

We can, therefore, feel left out and our thoughts do not necessarily help us with that.

However, we are not here to serve a social structure. We are here to become our best self. Sometimes the social structure and our evolution are at odds and we are not suppose to fit in.

Reclaiming Your Narrative

It is important to have a sense of yourself separate from the narrative around you.

Narratives about life are just stories as the research on human evolution in Spiral Dynamics show. Narratives are the social structure created to support and justify a particular cultural embodiment. They change when we need to change. They are not sacred. One person’s narrative is not necessarily another person’s narrative.

Narratives are not necessarily the TRUTH.

When you try to be a part of the cultural narrative and take your identity from it, you may be creating problems for yourself.

Identifying with the cultural narrative works for many non-HSPs since the narrative usually reflects them.  It may feel wrong that they can be so comfortable in the cultural narrative when as a highly sensitive person you feel like an outsider.

For that reason you have to identify a narrative for yourself or your thoughts will be dominated by ideas related to a narrative that doesn’t suit you and only causes you mental frustration.

Creating Your Own Narrative

Highly sensitive people need to create their own narrative.

We need to separate ourselves from the dominant narrative. To do so we need to make some mental adjustments:

  • see the existing cultural narrative as hanging rather than fixed.
  • align your narrative with the evolutionary process going on around you. That way you support improvements in life and are not simply fighting the existing cultural narrative.
  • notice how your narrative can be helpful to others as a way to help you maintain your ability to connect with others.

When you take back you narrative, you can eliminate a lot of the thoughts you have about your place in the existing system and let your thoughts now serve where you are going and what you are becoming.

It is a great way to stop ruminating and start creating the life you deserve.

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Are You Numbing Your Sensitivity?

 

As I stood in line waiting to order my cup of coffee, I reached for my phone in my purse. You know, just in case there were any new updates within the last 5 minutes since the last time I checked it.

I didn’t feel the need to check. I just did it. You might be thinking that yes, you do this, too. It’s like we are on autopilot sometimes. Or are we?

Avoiding Our Sensitivity

What if we aren’t? What if we know exactly what we are doing?

What if we are checking our phones—or eating when we’re not hungry, or watching another episode on Netflix, or {insert supposedly mindless activity here}—because feeling our sensitivity just feels like it’s too much?

Do you do this? Do you participate in little actions throughout your day to avoid your sensitive self feeling too much, feeling life around you?

Why We Numb Ourselves To Our Sensitivity

I get it. We HSPs know what it’s like to truly feel our way through life. It can get overwhelming. Eye contact with a stranger. Sitting too close to someone on the train. Returning a phone call we don’t want to make. Showing up to a stressful job. Meeting new people at a party. Heck, even being with our own families at a holiday gathering.

It can be a lot to handle. Because we feel life’s moments more intensely, the volume can feel like it’s turned up too high a lot of the time. Mere eye contact with a stranger can feel like it’s just too much to handle when you’ve already got an ongoing to-do list in your mind, plus you’re still dwelling on the conversation you had earlier with a friend that just didn’t sit well with you.

Because there’s already so much going on internally, numbing our sensitivity to the stimulation around us can feel like the most natural thing in the world to HSPs.

Sensitivity Does Not Have To Be A Trap

But what if that moment you’re missing is one that may change your life? What if you could have both—a lively inner world and a way to meet the stimulating present moment with courage and calm, at the same time?

It takes some heart to heart time with your intuition, regular practice, and compassion for yourself along the way, but it is possible. With practice, HSPs can slowly baby step their way out of numbing their sensitivity and begin looking at life around them with curiosity, offering it their attention even if it feels awkward. Even if it feels scary.

A nod to a stranger, a “How are you?” to your cashier at the supermarket, showing up to a networking event, not looking at your phone during time spent with a loved one—it may not seem like it, but these are all brave acts for the HSP.

They require us to feel multiple things at once. They ask us to get real with the world around us.

Checking our phones to avoid feeling the world around us is just one way we may be numbing our sensitivity. The ways are endless, and some much more destructive than others. Avoiding feeling too much by drinking alcohol, doing drugs, sleeping too much, eating too much, the list goes on.

Do you catch yourself numbing your sensitivity? If so, how do you do it? What is one small step you can take this week to connect to the world around you while still feeling safe and OK in your HSP skin?

Share with us in the comments below.

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™

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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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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Sensitive And Powerful: Can You Be Both?

Powerful? Then you can’t be sensitive.

This is the message we receive from the time we are young.

Of course it is based on an idea about strength and power.

So perhaps we need to reexamine these ideas and see if they make any sense.

What Is Power?

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, power comes basically in two forms: personal and institutional:

  • power is the ability to get something done or create an effect of some sort. It is a skill.
  • power can also be assigned as in institutional power. This power is the ability to control. It is the province of rules, roles and laws. Often institutional power is maintained by the prevailing group consciousness in any society which essentially gives it the permission to make the rules and laws that govern everyday life.

These definitions ring true. Power is either acquired through working at developing a skill or through assignment.

Both of these definitions equate power with action:

  • the action of an individual in learning how to do something, and
  • the power of institutions to act to limit the actions of others.

They also have a flaw.

The Flaw In The Definition Of Power

The common definition of powerful is highly affiliated with masculine norms that have defined culturally accepted behavior and they are action oriented ideas about being powerful.

For so long masculine and feminine have been defined as opposites, so the feminine and feminine characteristics have been designated as less attractive and less powerful.

The feminine has been traditionally associated with right brained intuition and which means that being highly sensitive is also associated with being feminine.

“Doing” has been placed on a pedestal. Observing, knowing and intuiting are all listening skills which are generally devalued in a cultural systems that demands action oriented behavior.

A Powerful Distortion

It is interesting that we are still beholden to ancient ideas about the sexes. For all of our advances, we are still perpetuating simplistic ideas about men and women. Unfortunately these ideas have consequences and are not up to the challenges of complex modern societies.

Limited ideas about strength limits our ability to find solutions to our problems – and it is showing.

When we misdefine strength and power we also misdefine what it important and necessary.

If action is a strength then contemplation is not.

If logic is a strength then intuition is not.

If brawn is a strength, compassion is not.

One-sided dualities are inherently limiting.

So How Can Sensitives Be Powerful?

In reality it can be very difficult to break through dualistic ideas about identity and power.

Duality, however, doesn’t work. We certainly see plenty of evidence around us of how duality creates as many problems as it solves because it always leaves out key factors.

That is the opportunity for highly sensitive people.

HSP’s are the great noticers of disconnection of all sorts.

Our awareness is our power. Our challenge is to make our awareness available in the world.

Many of us have experience with resistance to change: sometimes it is ours, often the resistance of others. We know from personal experience that when people are not ready for change we cannot move them to do anything. Our ideas will fall by the wayside because it is not our job to get someone to change.

There are , however, some things we can do.

We can introduce ideas that someone might not have thought of.

We can show how a new approach can be successful by talking about innovative successes.

We can show how a positive view of humanity is worth considering because of our own experiences.

We can show how going too fast causes us to miss important factors that eventually lead to unnecessary failure.

We can help others see the benefits of going slowly and carefully.

We do not need to change the world.

We can open the door a crack and let in some fresh ideas. Perhaps someone will consider those ideas today or in the future.

All we have done is introduce some new possibilities.

That is powerful.

And it is powerful enough.

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