Wednesday, August 21, 2013

HSPs, Sociability and Feeling Overstimulated

This past weekend (August 16th-18th) The White Light Express held its annual conference and retreat, here in Port Townsend, Washington.

I mention this because I am a central part of the organization, and thus have lots of attendant responsibilities. And this annual event find me-- as an introverted HSP-- being on the go and having to be very "public" with lots of people, for several days.

There's a common misconception that introverts-- HSP and non-HSP alike-- are "antisocial" and outright "don't like people." That's simply not not true. I actually like people very much but the act of "socializing" (especially with a large group of mostly strangers) is exhausting, for me.

To truly understand what's going on with an HSP when they declare "I really don't like crowds" is typically far less about "avoiding people" than about "avoiding overstimulation." Although the greater world has a fondness for labeling HSPs as being "shy" or "socially anxious" that characterization actually holds true in far fewer instances than most people would think.

At the end of three days of being "public" and "social," I found myself feeling quite worn out. And even though the 60-odd people in attendance at the conference's "main event" were mainly of like-kind beliefs and orientations, being in close proximity to so many "energies" for an extended period of time was draining. The only thing I really wanted to do with the Monday immediately following the conference was to sit and stare at the wall. Alas, that was not entirely possible, as there were "loose ends" to be chased and closed.

And these were nice people, many with similar interests.

Going into the event, I was already a bit "on edge" given that I was going to be teaching a 3-hour workshop on Sunday. It wasn't that I felt like I didn't know my material, or that I would have to "speak in front of people," it was again about a sense of energy drain... not simply as a result of being an introvert, but as a result of being an HSP and "aware" of other people's energies.

As HSPs, it important that we understand the underlying whys of how we get to feeling exhausted... and that we do not accept external perceptions of us to be "facts." So whenever someone is trying to offer you a "good reason" for your social interaction choices, take a step back and ask yourself whether it really "feels true." Most HSPs are really not shy, or socially anxious... they are just... HSPs.

Talk Back: Do groups of people overstimulate you? Have you ever attributed to "social anxiety" or "shyness" behaviors that might be only the result of being an HSP? Leave a comment! 

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    I hope you don't mind I linked this and commented on my board the HSP Dimension. Here is what I wrote: What I found is that the getting overwhelmed or drained doesn't come directly from all that energy, but rather how we respond to it. If there is something inside of us that dreads facing it, that fights feeling it, that fights ourselves in the process, we've put up a wall or shield and all that energy is just putting pressure on it, pushing it and exhausting us as we hold it up. The solution is to allow yourself to take it all in and feel it, then let it all flow back out as not ours. We can also simply synch up with the energy of the crowd if it is in a positive space and actually get energized or high. This is what I and a few friends of mine have found.

  2. While I appreciate your suggestion/solution for HSP's, I must disagree with your assessments of how HSP's respond to energy, Anon. Speaking for myself, a 60 year old HSP, it is that exact energy and the vibrations of large groups, which includes heighten noise levels, that overwhelms, overstimulates and exhausts me, not my dread of those things. I simply do not wish to take in and feel all that energy, noise and the vibrations of others. It is not who I am or ever will be. Listening to the waves as the gently kiss the shore is all the high I will ever want or need. Being by the ocean is the most positive space I know.

  3. I totally agree with the above reply. I'm fine for several hours, but there's an accumulative affect of visual and aural stimulation that sends me to look of a quiet place to retreat. There I MUST remain for an hour at least, just to reboot my nervous system. I even find that hearing myself talk for long periods has this negative affect, which is exacerbated in my case by total deafness in one ear and tinnitus in the head that gets louder with ambient sound. The only emotional issue for me is feeling badly that I can't have a good time like everyone else.


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