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Monday, May 18, 2015

HSPs and the Challenges of Ambition and Achievement

This morning, I was reading a post about HSPs and Achievement by fellow HSP blogger Cliff Harwin. Cliff asked his HSP readers: "What are the biggest obstacles to Achievement?"

I sent off my answer (below), but the question really made me think and realize that it's an issue with many "layers" of meaning.

Now, let me preface what follows by saying that these impressions apply to me, and are-- by no means-- intended to serve as some kind of broader summary of "How HSPs feel about Achievement." That said, I will also add that I have encountered a great many who could deeply relate to how I feel.

First, here's how I originally replied to the blog post:

My major obstacle is that I am just not ambitious. The concept of "achievement" isn't something that shows up on my radar. I want to "achieve" paying my bills... which is not to say that there aren't things I'm passionate about-- there are-- I greatly enjoy nature photography, beach combing, writing and other things... I just have never felt much compulsion to "do" anything with that. So I end up at the crossroads of HAVING to do "something" in order to have a "realistically functioning" life and just being a "stationary object." 
Thankfully, I have made it to where my life revolves around my basically "playing with my hobbies" for a living, which is quite enjoyable... but it doesn't afford me any more than the fundamental ability to "pay my bills." Which I am not sure where fits on the "achievement" scale. 
So then I can close my own circular reasoning with the answer "My biggest obstacles to achievement are that I don't care about achievement."

Now, whereas I stand by those words, they do beg some deeper exploration. Specifically, they bring to mind discussions I have had with fellow HSPs concerning how we define "success."

I have been asked the question whether I am "avoiding" or am "in denial" about something relating to achievement and success, and that's a valid concern,

Many moons ago, I spent several years in therapy-- and one topic that came up along the way was whether or not I was being "avoidant" of certain aspects of life, and specifically whether I was suffering from the (not uncommon) psychological condition referred to as "Fear of Success," which plagues many who are perceived by the greater world as "underachievers."

In the course of some pretty rigorous self inquiry work, I did manage to sort out the parts of my psyche that avoided "striving" out of a fear-- old "programming"-- centered on the negative thought pattern "as soon as I have anything, it will just be taken away from me, so why bother in the first place."

With that out of the way, I am still left with my "core values attitude" towards the meaning of "success" and "achievement." So let's poke around in that.

"Achievement"-- which we might consider a branch or cousin of "success"-- generally comes about as a consequence of our motivations. And this is an area in which many HSPs find that their personal life philosophies radically differ from those of the Greater World. When you're highly Sensitive, you're often not motivated by the things the greater world uses as measuring sticks for success. And I'm not just talking about work, here.

To narrow down what I was trying to arrive at, here are a bunch of things I can honestly say I am not motivated by:

Fame? Who cares...

Power? Not the slightest interest.

Material objects? I could see myself collecting art, but that's about it.

Money? Only to the extent that I'd definitely prefer to just PAY my electric bill, rather than deal with the stress of negotiating payments through a bill collector.

Winning? Being "number one?" Not really. "Doing my best," definitely... but not as a function of "ranking" myself; rather, to get a sense of satisfaction from "a job well done."

Of course, now we've taking most of the conventional measures of achievement and success off the table-- so what does that leave us with?

To some degree, I am motivated by wanting to "be happy." Of course, that opens up a whole new bag of worms... because what does "happy" mean? I won't explore that at length-- the shortest version (for me) amounts to some combination of "feeling secure" and "having enough" that I don't have to worry about whether I can afford the rent, electricity and food in the most basic of ways. Nothing fancy.

I am also motivated by a desire to maintain inner peace... and "being left in peace." I am also motivated by my enjoyment of exploring ideas; examining mountains of unrelated facts and data... and then pulling together common threads that turn relative "chaos" into a meaningful and more readily "digestable" summany.

Then there's that rather nebulous concept called "making the world a better place," which rings true in the idealistic natures of many HSPs. Again, it's something I can't generalize about because we each have our own interpretation of what that means.

For me, it means that if my presence or input can somehow lessen others' concerns and suffering, then I have "done right." But I am a fairly "passive" person, in the sense that I have no ambition to go forth and "wave abnners," or teach, or be a counselor or coach, or give lectures or workshops... in an ideal world, change for the better would happen because someone reads words like these and get an insight that helps them on their path; helps them navigate life a little easier.

But that's an outcome that's difficult to measure in terms of "Achievement." In fact, it's an outcome that's probably impossible to "measure" in any terms... and part of why the term achievement is more or less meaningless to me... and to a good number of other HSPs.

But now something else has arisen here-- a paradox, of sorts. As I have closed in on defining my motivations-- and let's, just for grins, call them things I would like to "achieve"-- I am opening up the interesting paradox that one of my "biggest obstacles to achievement" has almost always been "the need to make a living."

Perception? Or reality? Or excuse?

Maybe the truth is that I just haven't yet figured out how to turn a desire to... put the information in front of people that would inspire them to examine their lives and reduce their own pain and suffering... into something that pays for groceries and electricity, here in 3D reality.

So... my "ambition," and-- ultimately-- the "achievement" I strive for-- is bridging the gap between "doing what I want" and "I need to eat."

Until then?

I'll continue "playing with my hobbies for a living," because it's the best substitute I have.

If you've read this far, congratulations! And thank you!

What was the point of this article, really? In a sense, an exercise in thinking about the layers of deeper meaning behind words we see every day. There's that trite saying that "change comes from within." Whereas it's true, many people miss something in translation of "within." Within doesn't just mean that it starts with ourselves, it means that we need to get to the "center of the onion layers" of our being in order to gain real understanding and then make real changes.



What do YOU think? In closing, I'd like to rephrase Cliff Harwin's original question and instead ask "What does Achievement mean, to YOU?" Have you done the inner work to truly define-- "from the center of the onion"-- what your ambitions are? If not, is something keeping you from that? If so, what? Do share and leave a comment!

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

HSP Derailed! Overstimulation... or ADHD?

From time to time, I find myself examining just where being a Highly Sensitive Person "ends" and where "other issues" begin.

Personally, I believe that thoroughly "understanding ourselves" is one of the most important things we can do for ourselves, as HSPs.

Why?

It's an easy "out" to simply attribute everything we struggle with to the blanket statement "because I'm an HSP, that's why" and thereby shut ourselves off to genuine avenues towards living better and more fulfilling lives. Let's face it, not everything we experience is because of high sensitivity.

Issue at hand: I work from home, and yesterday I was working on a fairly large "catch-up project" I've been avoiding (a bunch of fairly dull paperwork sorting related to business taxes) when something unrelated "came up."

Even though I was only "distracted" for about 20 minutes, I found it almost impossible to get back to being productive, and the more I tried to pick up where I had left off, the more irritable and overstimulated I felt. Eventually, I just gave up and moved on to doing something completely different. Even so, I remained kind of annoyed with my own inability to resume where I'd broken off and the remainder of the day ended up pretty much being a loss. Ever experience something like that?

So what's really going on?

Whereas I am an HSP, I am also an adult with ADHD. I am easily distracted, and I have issues with concentration. And that's not "because I'm an HSP." Now, the "overstimulation" part? That's more likely where the sensitivity kicks in.

And the fact that was sitting here "processing deeply" and overanalyzing the whole thing? That's probably also related to my being an HSP...

OK, So that last bit was a joke. At least sort of. We HSPs do ruminate a lot...

It's not always easy to get these distinctions to fit neatly into one category or another, but I do find it useful to pause and examine what's really going on when distressing situations arise. I realized that part of my anger with myself stemmed from very old memories from school where my parents were often told that "Peter would do really well if he'd only apply himself more." I would get angry because nobody seemed willing to consider that I just couldn't "apply myself" any more. I tried... I really did.

So why do I care "what's what" and why do I feel that it matters... and why should it matter to you?

Life as an HSP can be challenging, and since we are living with an inborn trait all we can do is "manage" our lives to run as smoothly as possible. You can't "treat" being an HSP and there's no "cure" for it (It's not even a "diagnosis") but often we can apply certain techniques and "helping tools" to help smooth the bumps. But to do so correctly, it's important we understand the nature of the bumps we encounter and precisely what caused them.

As a simple metaphor, "allergies" and "a cold" both cause your nose to run and it would be an easy out to say they were "the same"... but from a healing perspective, it makes little sense to treat them like that because they are actually two quite different things.

So it is with being Highly Sensitive, and dealing with things that are not high sensitivity... but still cause us distress. We mustn't allow our trait to become a convenient "catch all" to explain away all our difficulties.... be informed! Know yourself!

What do YOU think? Do you usually have a clear understanding of what happens "because you're an HSP" and what happens for other reasons? Do share and leave a comment!

Sharing is Love! If you found this article helpful, interesting, thought provoking or useful, please consider sharing it with others! Use the buttons below to post to social media or send by email, and help be part of  the ongoing process of spreading general awareness of the HSP trait. Thank you!
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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Being a Highly Sensitive Person and the "It was MY Fault!" Trap

In our hallway, we have a couple of whiteboards that serve as the "Information and Nerve Center" of the household.

Aside from calendars and upcoming events, we also use the space for mind mapping and developing creative ventures. Inevitably, as few quotes and sayings get written up there, as well-- ranging from "this would be a great band name!" to "revised" (or "improved," as we like to think) versions principles outlined in the 1000's of self-development books we own.

This being an HSP/HSP household, clear communication between Sarah and myself is of the essence. Along the way, we have adopted various "tools" to help us, including the principles from Gary Chapman's "The Five Love Languages" At some point-- partly as a joke-- we made up a sixth "Love Language" which we've named "Statements of Unfault."

As I said, it was just a joke...

... but it has its roots in a reality that plagues many Highly Sensitive Persons: A tendency to "assume responsibility" for events and outcomes that aren't actually ours to "own," especially when they are somewhat negative in nature.

How often have you found yourself saying "I'm sorry!" in situations where whatever you are proclaiming to be "sorry" about had absolutely nothing to do with you? How often have you-- in work, or family, or social situations-- been tempted to "assume responsibility" for something that didn't go as expected? Maybe it was an outdoor party, and you found yourself "taking ownership" of the fact that there were inadequate preparations in case of rain. Maybe you were even apologizing for the rain, as if YOU made it happen.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that part of what we deal with in these situations is an HSPs natural tendency towards being empathic, helpful and wanting people to feel good and be happy. It seems to be part and parcel of this gig to want to make things right for others. Nothing wrong with that!

But there's a big difference between merely "caring," and actually taking responsibility for screw-ups that weren't our doing.

Caring is great... but "assuming fault" can be damaging not only to our self-esteem, but if it's a pervasive pattern, it can even lead to depression and health problems because we deliberately take on "feeling bad about ourselves." Let's face it-- nobody likes feeling guilty and like they failed, right?

I certainly don't. But here's a confession... I used to, many moons ago.

In some cases, we actually can become "addicted" to not feeling good about ourselves-- which is why the habit can be very hard to break.

So why do we do this? And how do we break free?

There are numerous reasons, and they are mostly too complex to explain in a blog post. Often, we are dealing with "stories" from our families of origin or relationships where we felt powerless and out of control, and the only way we could gain a measure of control was through "taking responsibility" for things gone wrong. We may also have been extensively "scapegoated," so being "the guilty party" feels-- if not exactly "good"-- at least "natural." Maybe we have issues with feeling "unseen" (this was me!), and in being "responsible" for life's disasters, at least we got noticed and received a measure of gratitude and appreciation when we could put things right.

But seriously?

Who wants to spend a lifetime "righting disasters?" Whereas we might be good at it and feel a fleeting sense of accomplishment it is typically a thankless path... and it's very easy to end up in a place where we become disillusioned and bitter; missing out on joy and happiness.

There's no easy path out, but simple awareness that you're in this pattern is a great start!

We can also help ourselves by asking whether the "emotional script" we are running actually has anything to do with "Right Now,"or is it actually an outdated "remnant" from from a situation that no longer exists. We may be "reacting to a memory."

Personally, I was helped-- a LOT-- by a little known book called "When Misery is Company" by Anne Katherine (pictured at right-- link leads to its Amazon page). Not an easy read, mostly because I didn't "want" what was being said to be true-- even though it was. Have a look-- I highly recommend it!

Ultimately, we all deserve to be happy. But it's difficult to be happy if we are stuck in a pattern of making choices and taking actions that keep us in a place of feeling guilty and responsible.



Does any of this resonate with you? Do you find yourself "taking responsibility" for things that were not your doing? Is it an "active" thing, or do you just "fall into it?" Do you wish you could change things? Do share and leave a comment!

Sharing is Love! If you found this article helpful, interesting, thought provoking or useful, please consider sharing it with others! Use the buttons below to post to social media or send by email, and help be part of  the ongoing process of spreading general awareness of the HSP trait. Thank you!
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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

HSP On The Road: Joshua Tree

I am not home, at the moment. I am typing these words from the funky living room of a small bungalow in Joshua Tree, California. It has been a while since I last traveled-- almost precisely two years.

This morning, I was having conversations with myself-- inside my head-- as to whether or not I have really missed the change of scenery.

Let me preface this by saying that I experience travel and adventures through the eyes of a LOW "sensation seeker" HSP. I am one of those who prefers routines and "the known" to adventures and the unknown. And I have never really felt compelled to "collect experiences," for their own sake.

Traveling is overwhelming. You go to a place you don't know, and you don't have your "stuff" and you're probably on a different schedule than you're used to. Things around you are unfamiliar, and (depending on where you are) maybe even the food is unfamiliar. These are all things that don't sit so well with many of us HSPs

What I do really like about traveling is that it offers me the chance to get away from the ever-present piles of "things I need to get done," and the attendant sense of stress and pressure that comes with knowing that no matter how hard I might try, there will always be more "things" in need of doing than there is "me."

As I sit here and look out across the back patio onto a yard filled with unfamiliar vegetation and wildlife, I feel a certain degree of relaxation come over me... from settling into the realization that there is not a thing I can do about all the stuff clamoring for my attention, back at home. I might as well just relax.

Of course, it has taken me some years to learn to "stop worrying" while I am away.

A tendency to "worry" seems to go hand-in-hand with being a Highly Sensitive Person. Maybe it's that sense of "conscientiousness" Elaine Aron talks about, in her books. I worry, because I feel like I am not being conscientious enough about my work, when I am away from that work. At least I used to. And I used to feel like I was "failing" people by "daring" to take time off. The irony of that is that I never thought anything negative about other people for taking time off...

I expect these feelings have been exacerbated by the fact that I am self-employed in a "company of one." The infamous "buck" stops with me.

Taking time off does give me the opportunity to engage in one of my favorite pastimes: "sitting and thinking." And while engaged in sitting and thinking, I often feel my mind and body let go of all the tension and stress that has built up, as a result of normal daily life.

HSPs are often uncomfortable with the unfamiliar... so we tend to avoid it. I know I often have. There may be all sorts of truisms about "stretching your boundaries" and "stepping out of your comfort zone," but to what end do we do so? And is it really helpful... or is the very fact that we have-- and get to be in-- a comfort zone part of what makes us able to feel centered, as HSPs?

What do YOU think? First of all, do you enjoy travel, and the change of scenery? Or does it just stress you out? Do you find "unfamiliar territory" to be a good thing, or a bad thing? On a broader level than just travel, do you think that "pushing outside your comfort zone" is important for HSPs? Or do you feel more like the very fact that you have a comfort zone and stick to it, is what keeps you grounded? Do share and leave a comment!

Sharing is Love! If you found this article helpful, interesting, thought provoking or useful, please share it with others! Use the buttons below to post to social media or send by email, and help be part of  the ongoing process of spreading general awareness of the HSP trait. Thank you!
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

HSPs and Finding Meaning in Life

It is a common refrain in the growing global HSP community that we desire to live life "authentically" and that we want our lives to "have meaning."

Regardless of whether these are HSP-specific desires or something all humans wrestle with, it's certainly true that we HSPs spend more time thinking about-- and discussing-- this topic. That only makes sense, given that "processing deeply" and the ability to introspect and live in our inner worlds are core attributes of being highly sensitive.

But what exactly is this "meaning" we seek?

And are these really questions we can ask collectively, and hope to find an answer to?  Or is "meaning" such an independent and individual thing that each person's "meaning" is unique to them, only? Well, one common thread among HSPs seems to be that many of the "societal" values and ambitions of our world do not offer meaning in the lives of a Highly Sensitive Person.

Over a decade ago, I wrote here on this blog about Giftedness, Existential Depression and Being an HSP. I am not sure that I have personally progressed all that much, but at least I have a somewhat better understanding of my own processes... including answering the question "What is the MEANING of meaning?"

Perhaps one of the more important things I have learned is that "meaning" doesn't have to be Big. I think many people-- myself included, previously-- frequently labor under the weight of believing that our lives don't "matter" and are not "meaningful" unless we're-- figuratively speaking-- "inventing the cure for cancer" or "ending world hunger."

In fact, I have started calling such thinking "The Cure for Cancer Syndrome" because people seem to literally feel immobilized-- and doubly depressed-- as a result of feeling like their contributions are "too small" to matter.

But meaning can be quite Small. And the issue isn't the "size" of the meaning, but embracing that meaning comes in many forms and sizes, and recognizing that the small ways in which we find-- and give-- meaning are all important. We don't have to "invent a cure for cancer."

In an ideal world, we would find meaning in everything we do, from our work to what occupies our free time. Alas, we don't often live in an ideal world, so we have to find our meaning where we can, while striving to make our overall lives feel more meaningful.

For a Highly Sensitive Person, meaning is often found through some form of creative expression-- art, performing, writing, teaching, helping, volunteering. Some argue that most of these endeavors don't make a real difference in the world... which I usually counter with the statement "SOMEone had to be Einstein's teacher..."

An example of how we can change the world in small ways can be illustrated by my recent experience with writing this blog: I started up again-- after a 16-month hiatus-- as a result of reading someone else's words; a fellow blogger. By simply sharing her enthusiasm, I recognized how much meaning came to my life as a result of writing these pages... and that the meaning was "there," regardless of whether the writing actually touched others.

Even though that is a tiny thing, who is to say it didn't have meaning? And that it didn't "matter?"

In addition, I recognized that I had thrown away the metaphorical "meaningfulness score sheet" by which I had been judging my own efforts in terms of external feedback, instead of my own inner direction. In most cases, the sense of meaning comes from within, not from the outside.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with wanting to change the external world, and to find meaning in doing so... but if we can only derive "value" and "meaning" as a result of others' opinions, we put ourselves in a perilous place where our happiness stands and falls based on others' words, rather than our own endeavors.

So here's the question of the moment: Do YOU have deeper meaning in your life? Where do you get your meaning from? Is it an inner process, or an outer process? Objectively, have you sometimes fallen into the trap of feeling like life has "no meaning," as a result of the "Cure for Cancer Syndrome?" Leave a comment!

Sharing is Love! If you found this article helpful, interesting, thought provoking or useful, please share it with others! Use the buttons below to post to social media or send by email, and help be part of  the ongoing process of spreading general awareness of the HSP trait. Thank you!
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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

HSPs and Resuming Abandoned Projects: HSP Notes Lives Again!

As human beings-- whether we're Highly Sensitive, or not-- we remain constant "works in progress."

Long term readers have probably noticed that "not much has been happening" on these pages, for quite a while. It's true. There's a long song-and-dance routine I could share with you to explain that, but the short version has two very simple parts:

Part one, I simply got "tired and bored with myself," when it came to writing, and so I stopped. In a sense, I followed my own advice to not keep doing things simply because "we're in the habit" and "other people expect us to."

Part two, I found myself mired down in a longer period in my existence where I seemed to feel perpetually overstimulated by the basic "demands of life."

Writing is basically a "diversion" for me, and one that has never paid for the light bill, rent or groceries. As such, it's a "luxury" in my life. When things are financially "tight" (as they have been for a couple of years, now) such diversions get cut from my personal "HSP energy budget." If it doesn't "pay the rent," it pretty much gets the ax.

That said, it isn't that I haven't had anything to "say," when it comes to "life as an HSP," but here's the fundamental shizzy: Just jotting down some quick ideas and insights in a "flow-of-consciousness" manner takes me less than 30 minutes. I type pretty fast, so the bones of a 1000-1500-word article easily flows out within a reasonable time frame. So what's the problem?

Taking that 1500-word article, fine tuning it, polishing it up, carefully considering it, adding pretty pictures and ruminating on (aka "processing deeply") whether or not it truly is "fit for public consumption" takes me hours, if not days to complete. And so, the underlying story is not that I have felt too exhausted "to write," but I have felt too exhausted "to publish." Because there's a huge difference between simply "writing" and actually "publishing," even when it comes to a simple blog like this.

Now, maybe that sounds mystifying, so I'll expand a bit. One of the fairly common attributes of being an HSP is a sort of "elevated sense of conscientiousness." On the whole, that's a good thing. The "problem" with it can be that it's also the breeding ground for a sort of perfectionism that can keep us stuck-- in my case, not wanting to just "throw things out there" when I didn't feel were "good enough." Maybe that's just a personal philosophy for living: If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well.

Short version: I've been writing, just not publishing.

Anyway, this morning I found myself trying to answer the 427th email asking me if "I had stopped blogging" and if I "no longer wrote about HSPs."

As I said, the truth of the matter is that I never stopped writing, I just stopped publishing. As I write these words, I have 50-some half-baked posts/articles sitting in my "drafts" folder, waiting to be "set free." Actually, most of them are about 90% written. As I looked at them-- before answering the email-- I came face to face with one of my "demons" that has always plagued me, especially in work contexts: The eternal "inner conflict" between "hating busy-work" (which includes prepping, editing and fine-tuning writing for publication) and "being intolerant of imperfection" (And "imperfection" is what happens when I don't take time to do the busy work.)

This tendency has haunted me across many aspects of life... I'm OK with doing the "creative work" and can be extremely prolific, but my "drive" to "bring it to market" (so to speak) is almost non-existent.

All this "churning of thoughts" came about because I have been working on an article (I also write for the "Consciousness and Metaphysics" press) about "not having enough time" to do the things we want to. My own lament is that I "don't have time to write." Well, that's actually a lie. I have plenty of "time to write." I just lack the inclination (and time) to "create finished work." And because of my perfectionistic tendencies, I refuse to let anyone (clients, editors, customers) have "half-assed garbage," even if they would be perfectly content with it. I have to be content with it.

But that's not even the whole truth. As HSPs one dilemma we often face is that the things we most want to do are not income producing, and we end up in a struggle to find balance between our "idealism" and "functional reality." Sure, I want to write, but I can't afford to write.

Anyway, the holidays are almost here, and the days have gotten very short, and I am spending less time outside... meaning that I (technically speaking) have more time to be in front of the computer-- aside from just purely working. Hereunder, taking on the somewhat daunting prospect of finishing and "releasing" the 40-something "mostly written" posts and articles currently sitting in the "drafts" folder here at HSP Notes.

I did have to ask myself the question "why bother?"

Why not just delete them all and "start from here?"

Consideration number one: I never set forth to try to write "self-help" or "advice" or general insight articles for HSPs. When I started this blog, it was just a place for me to keep my own musings about what life was like, when you are an HS male living in Texas-- as I was, back in 2002. Frankly I was both surprised-- and slightly amused-- when I started to get "readers." Almost 13 years later, I'm now surprised by how many of these "random musings" have been read by 10,000 or more people. That's both startling... and a little scary.

Getting back to "why bother," I feel that part of my Calling has always been to "share information." Not in a "connect 'A' to 'B'" sort of sense, but in simply sharing something that made my walk through life easier... and maybe someone else's life could become easier as a result of reading and thinking "I could do that!" That's really my only ulterior motive, here... and that's as true now as it has ever been.

Consideration number two: I have never liked "unfinished business." It hangs over me like a dark "psychic cloud." Hence the idea of just deleting everything from the "drafts" folder seems just "wrong." After all, those insights and thoughts did happen, right? And they might be useful. Besides, deleting them feels like an even greater "loss" of time than taking/making the time to finish them. On top of which I'll be the first to admit that I am a bit lazy, and odds are I'd start writing some of the same things I've already written... and that's just a waste of effort!

"So why so many ruminations on this?" you might be thinking.

In part, getting back to the roots of this blog: It was here for me to explore my thought processes and "think out loud" about life as a Highly Sensitive Person. And that's precisely what you're witnessing me do... share my thought process. We all have our way of learning... some learn best by have something that looks mostly like an "instruction manual." Others-- I count myself among them-- learn best through "experiencing through someone else's experience."

And truth be known? "Ruminating" and "processing deeply" (and sometimes "overthinking things!") is part of what we HSPs DO, in life. And I'm no different.

So, "stay tuned" for a series of "the lost articles" to come to light, in the course of the next few weeks!

In the meantime, here's the "question(s) of the week:" Do you tend to deliberately STOP projects when they become "too much" for you, or are you more likely to quietly "let them slide?" And when you decide to resume them, do you just "start where you left off" or do you tend to put a lot of effort into "getting organized" and trying to resume from a place where things are as smooth and "complete" feeling as when you stopped? Leave a comment! Start a discussion!

Sharing is Love! If you found this article helpful, interesting, thought provoking or useful, please share it with others! Use the buttons below to post to social media or send by email, and help be part of  the ongoing process of spreading general awareness of the HSP trait. Thank you!
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Monday, October 28, 2013

Too Many Worthy Causes-- Not Enough Money!

The holidays are coming up.

What that means-- at least some of what that means-- is that there will soon be an increasing stream of "worthy causes" coming our way.

So many of them really are "worthy." I often wish I could give to all of them... it almost makes me feel guilty that I have to "choose," and the very process of having to make a choice in this context can make me feel quite overwhelmed.

Part of me also feels "judgmental." After all, who am I to say that an organization that rescues kittens is more "worthy" than an organization that sends food to people in Sudan?

And yet, I have a hard enough time being able to afford my own groceries, so I can't just give away everything to every appeal that comes my way.

Of course, that's just part of the issue.

Because people out there perceive that I "know people," I am often approached and asked if I will help promote (or endorse) a worthy cause.

Again, the choices can be difficult. What do we put our energy behind? I tend to be extremely discerning about what I "put my name on." It's not that I don't like what I am presented with, it's more a case of not wanting to overwhelm people with every worthy cause under the sun.

I suppose that's part of consideration for others... empathy, perhaps? I know I get overwhelmed by the many choices, so I don't feel like it would be right to overwhelm other people with a ton of choices.

I am also hesitant to come across too much as "begging for money," no matter how worthy a cause may be. Perhaps that makes me a lousy marketer-- so be it. But it makes me uncomfortable. I'm already part of a couple of non-profit organizations that are "in the family" and it's hard enough to ask for donations on their behalf!

So what's the purpose of this whole post?

Well, I do have a "hidden motive" for bringing up money and giving.

I get quite a bit of email from the global HSP "community," asking if I'll write about various subjects as they relate to living as an HSP. One that often comes up-- and which I have studiously avoided taking on-- is money, finances and HSP's relationships with these.

Of course-- traditionally speaking-- "money" is one of "those subjects" we are taught to avoid, as part of good manners (along with religion, sex, politics and child rearing). And yet, it seems like an important topic for HSPs... perhaps because a lot of conventional financial wisdom doesn't apply to the Highly Sensitive Person. How so?

Well, after almost 17 years of studying this trait of ours, it's quite clear that HSPs don't measure "success" as other people do. For one, we are more concerned with being Human BE-ings than Human HAVE-ings or Human DO-ings... and yet, we still have to function within a world where the grocery expects money when we check out. We also face the issue (which Elaine Aron also alludes to in her books) of "underemployment," meaning that we are often in professions where we don't make a lot of money... so saving is difficult.

For the moment, though, I am going to just keep the ideas percolating while I try to figure out where to allocate my limited charitable giving budget.

If you DO have specific questions about HSPs and finances, do write in... or leave a comment... and I'll certainly enter your feedback into the mix.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

HSPs and Healing: What we Support and Believe in

Recently, I've been reading about HSPs and values... and what it means to walk our talk, even though it may be a difficult path to stay true to ourselves, in the face of a world that often wants to diminish or invalidate anyone who calls themselves "sensitive."

In this case, I am not just referring to personal values like "do not steal" or "do not hurt someone," but staying true to ourselves in the sense of honestly pursuing our interests and passions (and not hiding them!) even though it seems like almost nobody else seems even remotely aware of-- or interested in-- those interests.

It seems to me that one of the things that often cause us to abandon our truth is the tendency to compare our choices with things and people outside ourselves. We compare ourselves to others, or to ideals, or even to societal stereotypes and our genuine preferences suddenly seem so far away from the norm that we start to question ourselves.

Metaphorically speaking, it's like everyone else's favorite foods are things like "steak" or "ice cream" or "garlic bread" and our favorite food is the slivered dried root of some plant nobody has ever heard of. And whereas that is our genuine and authentic preference, we might start saying that our favorite food is "ice cream" just so we won't feel quite so alienated from those around us, and to perhaps avoid awkward blank stares and potential eyerolls.

As a writer, I tend to write for fairly esoteric specialty fields. Suffice it to say that writing articles about HSPs and life as a highly sensitive person is the most mainstream writing I do. Most of my other writing goes to niche hobby fields where the entire potential global audience might number fewer than 10,000 people. For example, I write about collecting sea glass. I also write about labyrinths and I write about stamp collecting. One topic/interest I write about has a potential global audience of perhaps no more than 200-300 people.

At times, I have felt pressured-- and this is pressure I largely have put on myself-- to write more mainstream things, in service of feeling more like I fit in. But writing reviews of smartphones, or travel guides to Cancun is not my truth and I would be abandoning my essential values if I were to choose to choose that path. But it's tempting-- in a not very healthy way-- because people seem excited when I tell them I am a writer, but then seem disappointed when I share what I write about.

The "staying true" dilemma can have other wrinkles, as well. From time to time, I have considered writing more mainstream articles because I wrestle with the issue of money: Do I write something "normal" and get paid for it, or do I write "my truth" and remain uncompensated because such writing may have spiritual value or practical value, but no commercial value? Which path must I take?

It is a common issue among HSPs that we struggle to feel good about ourselves if we don't live authentic lives yet-- for many of us-- true authenticity involves a substantial element of "being different." As such, authenticity can be a double-edged sword because we feel good for being authentic, but less good because that authenticity is sometimes-- or often-- met with skepticism and resistance.

Even if the words are not spoken directly, the feedback we get from the world sometimes contains a hidden subtext of "Oh, I'd sort of hoped you were doing something more normal."

Ouch.

Many HSPs-- whether we openly acknowledge it, or not-- carry around an assortment of "wounds" we're trying to heal. These wounds often are some variation on the theme of feeling marginalized because of who we are.

My experience has been that standing up for our true selves, our true beliefs and the ideas and projects we truly believe in can offer tremendous healing when it comes to past hurts, even if our choices are-- perhaps-- not always welcomed in the greater sense of the term. Stated simply, the healing benefits of true authenticity outweigh the negatives of occasionally feeling like we're terribly misunderstood.

Some folks bring up the issue of self-esteem in this context... and it took me many years to understand that the core of self-esteem is the word "self." Certainly, we can't help by be influenced by the world around us... but it is SELF-esteem, not "what others think of me esteem" we're needing to develop. That was a difficult lesson for me, and I believe it is difficult for most HSPs.

In the end, though, we must stay true to what we support and believe in, if we truly wish to heal. That much needed self-esteem comes when we embrace the Inner Knowing that WE are doing "the right thing," regardless of what everyone else thinks.

So the Question of the Week becomes this: Do you stay true to what you believe in? Do you openly support the "causes" that matter to you, or do you hide them, in service of "not sticking out?" For starters, are you open about being an HSP? If "no," why are you hiding?

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