A Reexamination Of Comfort Zones And Creativity

Being in one’s comfort zone or not seems to be a marker of all sorts of wonderful traits including creativity and progressiveness. I can even be a path to success and wealth!

I consider myself a creative person. However, I find many ideas about comfort zones, and getting out of them, to have very little to do with creativity and creating a good life for yourself.

Since I perceive quality of life something that we can and need to create for ourselves, I think that reevaluating comfort zones is a necessary step before it is possible to actually improve your life.

Distorting Comfort Zones

Current ideas of comfort zones, in particular getting out of one’s comfort zone, are very much tied to the growth model of economic progress. Getting out of one’s comfort zone appears to have become somewhat of a cultural ideal and I think that is problematic. Being uncomfortable is not necessarily better than being comfortable. It is important to be able to know when to step out of comfort zones and when not to.

Here are some reasons, a society might value having people move out of their comfort zones:

  • if our comfort zone is “bad”, we will seek continuous self-improvement. Although there is nothing wrong with learning, it is better when it is for healthy reasons rather than to live up to a cultural ideal,
  • we buy and consume more, in particular more than we need. If living in a smaller house and having fewer possessions makes sense for us, it will be demeaned in a consumption based economic system. “Enough” is just a synonym for your comfort zone.
  • it can be thought of as supporting the hypermasculine culture of Western civilization with its emphasis on markets, competition, conquest, and expansion. Nurturing and sustaining activities are mostly devalued. One example of the mindset occurs with those people who assert that they will rest when they are dead, as if rest is a waste of time.
  • if we are out of our comfort zones, we may not be true to ourselves. For example, we are out of our comfort zone when we pretend to be happy when we are not. If we do this often enough we lose access to and recognition of our real feelings and true selves.
  • if we go along with getting out of our comfort zone as a cultural model, we may not be able to identify our real values and aspirations.
  • there is more to comfort zones than the demands of a hyper consuming society.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone is not about becoming extreme in sports or any other endeavor.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone implies that what is natural may not be good. Should we be rude because being cordial is in our comfort zone?
  • dissing comfort zones suggests that the ordinary is not good enough. Actually the ordinary is magnificent if we can stop long enough to see it.

Getting out of one’s comfort zone can be as mindless as any other idea.

Reframing Comfort Zones

One way to get out of the trap of comfort zones is to reframe what you are doing because frankly your comfort zone is really not all that important an idea to wrap your life around. It certainly should not be a reason for doing anything.

If you make yourself present to where you are, what you want or need to do and the steps to accomplish what you need to do, how do comfort zones enter into that?

Do you need to get out of your comfort zone when brushing your teeth. Perhaps standing on your head while brushing would be out of your comfort zone, but would it be worthwhile to do so?

Perhaps you should consider sleeping standing up because that would be out of your comfort zone.

A Better Use Of Comfort And Discomfort

All absolutes are problematic, because there aren’t any. Absolutes are an illusion. So turning anything into an absolute as a guide for living life is a mistake. That includes “getting out of your comfort zone” if you use it as a measure of whether or not what you are doing is a good idea.

It is far better to use comfort to determine when something is working or not. We use it as a tool for learning and living in a healthier way.

We HSPs have the ability because we are so intuitive, creative and in touch with our feelings to notice comfort and discomfort as a way to make life work better – not as an absolute but as a tool for compassionate living.

That is really the value of discomfort and comfort and one of the wonderful ways HSPs can add a lot of value and magic to the world.

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5 Reasons Why We Need Highly Sensitive People

5 Reasons Why We Need Highly Sensitive People - HSP Health Blog

African Penguin© by zoutedrop

Why do we need highly sensitive people?

HSP’s make up approximately 20% of the population. Highly sensitive people have received increased interest lately because of books like Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person and Susan Cain’s book Quiet, which are helping us to understand more about the quiet members of our world.

Our culture is predominantly as an extrovert culture. Extroverts are externally driven to seek rewards, prestige and power. Introverts bring an important and different perspective that we need.

This is what they give us:

  1. highly sensitive people’s take in all kinds of stimulus. Their sensitivity means that they see what others do not. Extroverts often are very fast in their actions, however, speed often means mistakes. The insights from HSPs can protect us from the mistakes that come from going too fast.
  2. highly sensitive people are often deep thinkers. They can see connections and factors that are important in a particular situation that others may not be aware of. They are able to notice pitfalls and potential land mines in our plans and strategies saving us needless headaches.
  3. highly sensitive people are holistic thinkers. This means that they offer an antidote to our fragmented society.  Fragmentation increases the disconnection between different parts of a group, company, or an entire society. Holistic HSP’s see and act as bridges between different parts of social or economic ecology to ease and improve problem solving.
  4. HSP’s are sensitive to all the various forces at any given point in time. They often work from a longer time frame which enables them to see current, emerging and dying forces at the same time. This ability to notice makes it possible for HSP’s to set priorities from  a big picture and longer term perspective.
  5. HSP empathy and sensitivity can reduce polarization between different groups or parts of organizations.

HSP’s are very sensitive to potential consequences of actions and therefore provide an important balancing function in a fast paced world and fragmented society making them valuable members of our homes, companies and communities.

Quiet by Susan Cain: Book Review

If you haven’t read Susan Cain‘s fabulous book, the bestseller Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, you are missing out.

Susan’s light approachable style takes a challenging subject and makes it accessible. Susan’s book not only explores introversion but also questions the extrovert ideal that dominates the Western world.

Quiet is extremely well researched. Susan Cain draws on medical experts, sociological researchers and experts in the field of introversion and high sensitivity. She also does a masterful job of illuminating the experience and reality of many introverted people including herself to demonstrate the value they offer society.

Most books on the subject of introversion or high sensitivity focus primarily on the psychology of the introvert. The needs of introverts have been under addressed in our culture and many introverts have felt like aliens from another planet unable to navigate the challenges of extrovert values and expectations.

Susan’s book does a wonderful job of juxtapositioning the extrovert and introvert natures and offering perspective on the differences. Although extroverts are more visible in the public domain, it is amazing how many great advances for the human race come from introverts:

  • Rosa Parks
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Bill Gates
  • Warren Buffett
  • Einstein
  • many artists
  • many of the strongest and most effective CEO’s.

Introverts are often the creators and agents of change through their combination of compassion and creativity. They see what others do not which is why an introvert is known for being insightful. Introverts operate deeply and multidimensionally which makes the high pressure, high-speed competitive economy of Western capitalism antithetical to their natures.

As Susan points out, introverts need to be careful about their career and social choices because their nervous systems require considerable rest. However she also describes many situations where introverts are able to adopt some extrovert traits when working in a job that they consider a calling. Interestingly introverts make better leaders of self motivated people.

Susan Cain does a wonderful job of mapping the introvert/extrovert territory giving us the big picture, the research, the wisdom of experts like Dr. Elaine Aron and many examples of people who have successfully mastered the art of living as an introvert in an extrovert world.

As a lifelong introvert, I consider Quiet a must read who anyone wanting insights into introverts, their challenges and value whether you are an introvert, a family member, or a colleague. As many as 1 out of 2 people qualifies as an introvert. Knowing about them is wise. Quiet can only help improve your relationships with these special people.

Michael Jackson: An HSP?

michael_jackson © by bartleby78

Was Michael Jackson an HSP?  The odds are that he was. Highly sensitive people are known for being different and suffering because of it.  They are also frequently highly gifted and often geniuses.  Unfortunately, many HSP’s suffer from any number of genetic, stress and anxiety disorders that impair their functioning. It is not my purpose here to dissect the course of Michael’s life and treatment because that is beyond my knowledge. However, it is interesting to notice in retrospect how many of the characteristics of being an HSP he had:

  • Apparently even when he was young he was shy.  He found it difficult to do the missionary work of the Jehovah’s Witness religion that his family belonged to.
  • By all accounts, he suffered from extreme child abuse.  Apparently, he was frequently beaten with a strap, and experienced nightmares from having been terrorized by his father.  Many HSP’s are people who have suffered from severe child abuse. If he was born a highly sensitive person, the child abuse would have made his sensitivity worse.
  • Although he was alienated from his father he did express his love for him. Many highly sensitive people are very loving and highly empathetic people.  That he could love his father in spite of all the abuse makes me think that he had the HSP’s capacity for empathy but also perhaps some challenges with effective boundaries.
  • He was apparently an introvert. Even as a child in a very large family he felt lonely.  Being abused can create loneliness because abuse is a form of rejection of another person. In addition, if one feels lonely also because of being different that can increase the pain of social isolation dramatically.  It appears that Michael was not able to effectively handle his social pain. The Daily Beast interview of Deepak Chopraa bout Michael Jackson’s life provides a lot of insight about his shyness and loneliness.
  • He had a genetic disorder.  Michael was diagnosed with Lupus and also had vitiligo.  Lupus is considered one of the genetic disorders affecting highly sensitive people according to David Ritchey, author of the book, The H.I.S.S. of the A.S.P. based on a study of highly sensitive people.
  • He had insomnia.  Many highly sensitive people have insomnia, because they suffer from nervous system overload because of their sensitivities and have difficulty handing them.
  • He was exceptionally gifted.  This needs no explaining, but it can be a characteristic of HSP’s.
The purpose of this is to notice characteristics of the highly sensitive person demonstrated in Michael Jackson.  I am sure that there may be others of which I am not aware.  There is enough evidence, however, to suggest that he was in fact an HSP. It has only been recently thanks to the pioneering work of Elaine Aron, Ph.D., that the highly sensitive person has been identified as a type of individual, in fact one out of five in the general population.


HSP’s suffer from many genetic, stress and anxiety disorders, and need a strict health regimen to manage their health.  Apparently his good friend Deepak Chopra was able to help him develop some healthy habits, but for some reason he was not able to maintain his healthy lifestyle. Perhaps he was unaware of the HSP trait.  Perhaps he felt like a failure for having the dificulties he had.



We are just beginning to understand the highly sensitive trait and all its manifestations, emotional, mental and physical.  I hope that the Michael Jackson’s of the future will have better access to a more understanding world that will truly be able to offer effective help.