Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Pervasiveness of Abuse: Denial of Voice

In one of the HSP groups on Yahoo, one conversation has recently been going on the topic of abuse-- most specifically, verbal and emotional abuse.

Based on talking to 100's (maybe 1000's?) of HSPs via email over the past decade, and from message boards and listservs and online communities, as well as from Gatherings and workshops... it seems to be a sad fact that an alarming number of HSPs end up being part of an emotionally/verbally abusive dynamic I can best describe as "denial of voice."

It may be that everyone who has something "a little different" about them (HSP or not) is subject to having their reality questioned by the mainstream, but with the typical HSPs' soft spoken and accommodating demeanor, they seem more likely to have their voice "walked on" by dominant (but usually insecure) personalities. In isolated incidents it might not really constitute "abuse," but as a pattern in primary relationships/friendships it quickly does cross over into abuse. Invalidating someone because you feel threatened by their not thinking like you is-- at the very LEAST-- a form of bullying. Bullying as a long term pattern is abusive.

I was raised with this pattern, and have become rather "intimately familiar" with it, as I worked through my large "valise" of old baggage. My typical memory of childhood would be making statements like "Mom, the label in my shirt is scratchy," and getting responses like "Oh, what absolute nonsense! You can't feel a thing;" or if I expressed sadness over some roadkilled animal at the side of the road my dad might say "Rubbish! People don't feel sad over such things." Quite literally, your voice is "denied." And in the process, you gain a feeling of being "defective." For me, it became my "truth" (false, rather than my Authentic Truth) as I reached adulthood that my feelings had "no value." Thus, I "learned" to not HAVE feelings.

Most people don't recognize this type of dynamic as "something" because it doesn't look abusive... there's no yelling, and to most people it just looks like "friendly bantering" between spouses/family members. In fact, most mental health professionals (except emotional abuse specialists) will semi-brush it aside and say stuff like "You just need some assertiveness training." Useful as that may be (and I certainly don't deny that it has its place), fighting fire with fire doesn't actually remove the fire. The situation is generally self-perpetuating, because the abuser paints themselves the "victim" of someone's hypersensitivity.

Abuse is wrong, no matter what form it takes.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Newcomers to the realm of High Sensitivity

It always delights me when I come across a "new" HSP on my travels.

Of course, we've all been the way we are since birth, so "new" is a relative term. In this case, I mean this as a person who talks about their life and I recognize that they simply must be an HSP. And with a bit of quiet explanation, I can help them see that all the pain, and all the feeling like a misfit doesn't mean there's something "wrong" with them.

An elderly gentleman-- who has since passed away-- once told me that a good goal for living was to "Leave the world a better place for us having been here." Although he was no HSP, those words made a lot of sense... and, in a way, they seem very fitting of the social consciousness often found among HSPs.

As I have pointed out before, we tend to get trapped with the idea that the "improvement" we owe the world must be very large. Which, in fact, is not true at all. Just talking to this one person, and explaining to them what the HSP trait is, and how it might affect their life, does make a difference. And so, everytime you welcome a "newcomer" to the concept of being highly sensitive, you are making the world a better place.

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