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!

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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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