Highly sensitive people are known for being independent and able to be alone.
However, that does not mean that we necessarily are happy and comfortable with it.
Recently I have been asking myself why being alone is considered, “bad” or a sign of a problem.
Do I need to be herded into a group, an identity, or a cause?
Why Is Being Alone Stigmatized?
Have you ever noticed that being alone carries a stigma?
Why do we disparage the “crazy cat lady”, or the “poor” bachelor?
It amazes me that to this day the early definitions of being human still apply. You are to be married, have children, women should be mothers and men should be warriors.
These are important and valued roles. They are the subject of most social discourse. Succeeding at them is gives us status which gives us social protection.
Does Popularity Protect Us?
Acquiesing to and succeeding at these roles also give us popularity.
That is a lot of social incentive to conform!
Does popularity protect us?
Popularity may have had important survival implications in the past. Consider an old civilization having food shortages. Who would eat and who would not? Certainly the least popular would be less likely to be saved.
The popular social roles once has serious survival implications. People did not live long, so we continually need new ones. War was common and soldiers were needed. War, disease and short life spans meant that only certain roles were supported, roles that affected the ability of the group to survive.
Those days may be over. However, they still seem to live in our minds.
We have certainly developed a lot of skills around coercing people to be a certain way. And the stories that we tell are often around our survival story.
Saving ourselves is a popular story and popularity is like social grease in a complicated world of many differences and agendas.
Ostracism As Punishment
Being alone is often used as a punishment.
It is the basis of shunning and ostracism, and designed to engender conformity.
Being alone or the threat of abandonment is a great way to enforce loyalty to a group. Since we need others to survive, ostracism is a serious threat. It does not matter whether you are an adult or child, unless you have independent resources, ostracism can be very harmhul to your health and well-being.
However, it is often more of a social game than anything else in modern society – the game of who is in and who is out. A game with consequences.
For me and from other highly sensitive people, social rejection is a greater concern than being alone.
Social rejection for many highly sensitive people comes from being different, something over which they have no control.
Being holistic and inclusive thinkers, we do not naturally see the divisions, rules and roles that others may call reality. The survival game that engages so many people is not a natural conversation for highly sensitive people.
The problem can also be a sensitive one since highly sensitive people are outnumbered and will be unlikely to have a significant voice in many social situations.
Highly sensitive people are good at seeing beyond social and cultural drama, so when they are being rejected it can be because they see life and what is important differently. The value of highly sensitive people does not lie in the the survival drama, it lies in the manifestation of our higher selves which we need to do more of.
Finding Social Value For Highly Sensitive People
The Dalai Lama made the observation that we do not need more successful people, we need more healers and peacemakers. We need more people to lay down their weapons, give up chasing trophies. We need more people to become grounded in the reality that we are not really adversaries and there is no prize to be had. There is no one to beat.
Highly sensitive people offer a lot to a world that sorely needs their holistic brains in order to detach from the human survival story so that something new can emerge.
Our social value comes from our wisdom and insights, our knowledge of the pain caused by repeating the survival drama with each new generation.
We can question, offer new ideas, encourage new thinking, offer our creative prowess and friendship.
This are important social contributions that make highly sensitive people valuable and worth having around.