Sunday, June 28, 2020

20 Years of HSP Gatherings!

A couple of days ago, I had the privilege of being part of a "Virtual Gathering" for past attendees of the HSP Gathering Retreats... on occasion of the fact that it has now been TWENTY YEARS since the first Gathering!

View from Walker Creek Ranch where early HSP
Gatherings took place
Aside from it being a fun and somewhat nostalgic experience to participate in the Zoom call — sign of our times — it was also slightly surreal and a bit of an eye-opener to realize that it has been so long

Then I reflected on the fact that it had already been five years since I read Elaine Aron's book, by the time I attended that first Gathering in 2002.

Life is filled with interesting contrasts. 

We have come a very long way since those first tentative steps we took in the late 1990's, when a handful of people reached out to each other through one of the earliest online social systems, a website called "EGroups," now long defunct.

But even while I write these words 23 years later, only a tiny percentage of the world's HSPs are aware (a) that the trait even exists and (b) that they might be one.

Time... and our lives... move on.

When I first learned about the trait — and when I went to my first HSP Gathering — the entire concept of Being An HSP was very important to me!

All these years later, my approach has mellowed considerably. I have largely put away my expounding plank, and only mention the trait occasionally when I believe my doing so will be of benefit to someone who's very obviously struggling with similar issues to mine of 25 years ago. 

Maybe that's just experience.

Turtle Pond, at Walker Creek Ranch
Oddly enough, my conviction that being Highly Sensitive is a "real thing" and has a major impact on how we experience life... is deeper than ever, and yet I am less attached to anyone caring than ever. 

Maybe that's just having grown comfortable in my skin, and not needing external validation for who I am. I know who I am. I don't need someone else to tell me, or to "make it OK" for me. I don't expect special treatment or concessions.

Sadly, my old web site "Inner Reflections" no longer exists. I say "sadly," because it had (among other things) a very heartfelt and detailed photo journal of that first HSP Gathering Retreat I went to. If you care enough to dig around, you might be able to find the pages captured on the Internet Archive.

However, I do remember clearly what a life-changing experience it was to be in a room with 30-odd people, all of whom "understood" what it was like to be in the world, feeling as we did. And that, dear friends, is a memory and feeling I will always hold near and dear!

And if the whole HSP "thing" is new to you... you might consider going to an HSP Gathering Retreat!

As always, thank you for reading!

I hope you enjoyed your visit here! HSP Notes has been published continuously since 2002, and I do this entirely as a "labor of love." However, if you feel that this site is of value to you, please consider becoming a "supporter" of HSP Notes, via my Patreon Art Account. Or support my creative endeavors by purchasing one of my hand painted stones — links in the right-hand column!

I have created a special $2 support level, being mindful that most HSPs are on a budget. Your contributions allow me the TIME to continue writing, rather than being forced to abandon the blog and use my writing time to pursue an additional outside job. Your consideration is greatly appreciated, and — as the idealist that I am — I believe the best way we can create a better world for all of us is to support each other's creative endeavors!

Sunday, January 26, 2020

The Challenge of Considering, Making and COMMITTING to Changes!

For the past few weeks, I have been thinking a lot about the direction of this blog. Specifically, I've been thinking about the idea of how to combine all the different things I do into one central location, after years of deliberately keeping separate things separate.

The entire process feels a little bit very overwhelming!

As an HSP, one of the things I have learned about myself is that I tend to spend a lot more time thinking about and ruminating than actually doing things and putting them into action.

Perhaps you recognize that, in yourself.

And so I find myself asking the inevitable question “Why is this so difficult to just DO rather than think about forever?

Is this just a struggle with excessive "conscientiousness," as many HSPs experience?

Am I a slave to perfectionism?

My reality — as I am experiencing it — is more one of feeling like I am taking a completely new direction. And not only that, I feel hesitation and a bit of anxiety about taking this new direction and committing fully to it.

We HSPs often struggle with change, even when it is initiated by ourselves. Even one of the items on Elaine Aron's "Sensitivity Self Test" is "Changes in my life shake me up."

To be honest, I also am experiencing an element of self-doubt. Am I doing the right thing? What will people think of me for doing this? Am I just worrying too much?

I looked at those words and then I stopped and just laughed at myself. Here I am, at 59 years of age, and I'm still having these self-doubts!

Anyway, the long and the short of what I am setting out to do differently can pretty much be summarized thusly:

The 18-year history of this blog has centered in it being a blog about “HSP stuff.

The primary change is going to be that from this point forward it will still be a blog about “HSP stuff,” but it will increasingly also be about a person simply living and navigating their life and that person just “happens to be an HSP.

And yes, some of the time I will be engaged in that dreaded thing called “self-promotion;” touching on the many projects I am involved with and inviting visitors to go check it out. But not just for commercial reasons, also to offer an insight into what "HSP Life" can look like.

As I wrote in a post a couple of years ago, perhaps the ultimate objective of learning as much as possible about being an HSP, is that we eventually arrive at a point where our lives are no longer defined by "being an HSP;" instead we incorporate the knowledge we've gained and simply return to being "a person" for whom being an HSP is simply one attribute of many in their lives.

Let's face it, I am an HSP! No denying that!

But I am also a Danish citizen, very tall, a cat lover, an artist, a husband, a writer, an editor, a stamp collector, a beachcomber, a polymath, a photographer and a whole bunch of other things!

My point?

I think we can go overboard and get so wrapped up in a place where we define every single thing we do and experience in life “in terms of being an HSP.” That is, we view ourselves as HSPs first, and as human beings, second. Frankly, I think it should be the other way around — we're human beings first, and HSPs second.

And so, it is with that in mind, that I set forth to gently keep making changes to the HSP Notes blog and website.

And it my sincere hope that you will continue to share in this journey with me!

Thank you for reading.

I hope you enjoyed your visit here! HSP Notes has been published continuously since 2002, and I do this entirely as a "labor of love." However, if you feel that this site is of value to you, please consider becoming a "supporter" of HSP Notes, via my Patreon Art Account. Or support my creative endeavors by purchasing one of my hand painted stones — links in the right-hand column!

I have created a special $2 support level, being mindful that most HSPs are on a budget. Your contributions allow me the TIME to continue writing, rather than being forced to abandon the blog and use my writing time to pursue an additional outside job. Your consideration is greatly appreciated, and — as the idealist that I am — I believe the best way we can create a better world for all of us is to support each other's creative endeavors!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

HSP Living: Be Kind, Whenever Possible!

Be kind whenever possible. It is ALWAYS possible!
~ H.H. The Dalai Lama

The above quote has been a favorite of mine for a very long time.

It resonates rather deeply with me, and I realized recently that the underlying idea has been close to my heart since childhood.

When I was a little kid — perhaps no more than 5-6 years old — I distinctly remember one of my core desires in life was for people to just be nice to each other. I just wanted people to get along.

To my considerable distress, so many people around me seemed both mean and harsh... and definitely not kind to each other. In many ways, it was the harshness and abrasiveness of the external world that ultimately inspired the (working) title for a book I have been working on for some years: "Please Don't Yell At Me!"

Even when people were not actually yelling, their very "way of being" felt very loud and invasive, and I found myself wanting to get away from it. This tendency became even more pronounced when I started school and encountered bullies, for the first time!

Of course, I must hasten to add that mere "kindness" is not an actual attribute of the HSP trait. HSPs can be kind... or not. However, what does tend to become part of an HSP's experience of life is the lingering effects left behind by those people who are not kind to us.

Because we experience everything so intensely, we also tend to experience a lack of kindness very intensely... and then we go on to remember it for a long time, regardless of whether we "want to," or not. Even when it might be well-meaning, someone saying "You just need to get OVER it!" is not very helpful. You've probably experienced that...

Standing By Our Values...

It can be quite a challenge to stand by our values; our core sense of what feels right... in a world that often doesn't seem to care about such things.

When people are being buttheads and mean to us, there's often a temptation to "rise, and take the bait" and return the argument in-kind. But — as a wise person once pointed out to me — a nasty individual has far more practice at being nasty than I have!

On the other hand, I have often found that my refusal to get embroiled in a loud and overstimulating argument is perceived as a variety of generally negative things... from being passive, to being weak, to not caring, to lacking passion.

More than 90% of the time, those assertions are simply not true!

So I remind myself of a few things I have learned, along the way:

I can be enthusiastic, without yelling.
I can be passionate, without overpowering.
I can have boundaries, without being forceful.
And I can be kind, whenever possible!

Thanks for reading!

I hope you enjoyed your visit here! HSP Notes has been published continuously since 2002, and I do this entirely as a "labor of love." However, if you feel that this site is of value to you, please consider becoming a "supporter" of HSP Notes, via my Patreon Art Account. Or support my creative endeavors by purchasing one of my hand painted stones — links in the right-hand column!

I have created a special $2 support level, being mindful that most HSPs are on a budget. Your contributions allow me the TIME to continue writing, rather than being forced to abandon the blog and use my writing time to pursue an additional outside job. Your consideration is greatly appreciated, and — as the idealist that I am — I believe the best way we can create a better world for all of us is to support each other's creative endeavors!

Saturday, October 26, 2019

HSP Ramblings: Not "Overstimulated," just Tired!

Sarah and I attended an event last night.

She was a live guest on the "Strange Brau" podcast; while I had a vendor table for my painted Alchemy Stones.

The event took place at a popular local hotel; there was a pretty good crowd gathered in the hotel dining room. It's an old building from the 1890's and the quarters were pretty cramped. We found an alcove to set up our vendor table that was out of the main traffic patterns.

Recipe for "HSP overstimulation?"

Well, not exactly. I enjoyed myself — as did she — and whereas we were happy to leave and get back to the piece and quiet of our house after about six hours of being "on," neither of us felt particularly overstimulated.

This morning, however, I feel like I have "the blahs."

In other words, both my brain and spirit feel "tired," like I just attended a four-day convention of some kind. Since we are both HSPs, we were both feeling this.

The Importance of Knowing What's What

As I sit here and type these words, I am reminded of the importance of we who are Highly Sensitive to be aware of "what's what," when it comes to managing the effects of our trait.

It's easy to fall into the trap of attributing everything in our lives to "overstimulation," simply because it's a popular buzzword that tends to be closely associated with our trait. But it's not always applicable, nor accurate.

In this case, Sarah and I are — quite simply — tired. So we're taking this day more of less off, as an act of self-care.

Part of what we gain from learning how we are affected by our High Sensitivity is an awareness of what we are experiencing, rather than simply "that" we are experiencing... which is why I always encourage my fellow HSPs to really learn all they can about the HSP trait.

It's not a "label," it's a life coping tool!

Thanks for reading!

I hope you enjoyed your visit here! HSP Notes has been published continuously since 2002, and I do this entirely as a "labor of love." However, if you feel that this site is of value to you, please consider becoming a "supporter" of HSP Notes, via my Patreon Art Account

I have created a special $2 support level, being mindful that most HSPs are on a budget. Your contributions allow me the TIME to continue writing, rather than being forced to abandon the blog and use my writing time to pursue an additional outside job. Your consideration is greatly appreciated, and — as the idealist that I am — I believe the best way we can create a better world for all of us is to support each other's creative endeavors!

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Life is a Series of Constant Re-Inventions

We HSPs are generally not fond of change.

Or we may be fond of change, but still find it massively disruptive and overstimulating to deal with it.

The latter, I suppose, holds more true for HSS HSPs.

I have been absent from these pages, for a while...

Once again — at age 58 — I find myself in the process of "reinventing myself."

As my three readers might remember, I have spent most of my adult life engaged in some form of self-employment. This is generally a really good "fit" for HSPs... we get to do things largely on our own terms, which typically includes creating a work-life that allows us to keep the lid somewhat on overstimulation, and at least manage it.

Of course, even when things are working quite well, change happens.

In this case, I am facing the reality that two of my four home-based micro businesses that have been sustaining us for the past decade+ have been in steady decline for some years — one due to an aging and dying primary demographic, the other due to competition from inexpensive alternatives in S.E. Asia — and we have reached a place (financially) where steadily increasing costs of living have overtaken steadily declining income.

So much for being in your "peak earning years" during your 50s!

There is always a "tipping point" in these situations... very minor events set a much larger action in motion. In our case, it was our homeowner's insurance. The renewal policy for the same insurance coverage we've had for six years arrived. Normally, the premiums have been ticking up 2-3% a year, which is bearable. This year, however, the monthly payments jumped from $108.50 to $132.17, an increase of 21.8%.

We all know that inflation is only about 2-3% a year, so what gives? Well, our home "turned 40" this year, which means being part of a different "risk pool."

Meanwhile, the fact that the "equation" is no longer working means not only that changes have to happen, but that the overstimulation is ramping up again. Well... it has already been that way for a while. Being perpetually late on your bills is stressful and overstimulating.

"Stuff Should be Free!" is Bogus!

Bit of a side track here, for a moment:

It's a nice piece of idealism to suggest that we should do things simply because it's the right thing to do, but until the supermarket thinks it's "the right thing to do" to give me my food for free, I'm not convinced. 

Much as I'd love for it to be real, we do not live in a "Star Trek Universe!"

Certainly, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't do things for each other and help each other out; what I am talking about here applies on a larger scale. I am talking about things we continuously bring to the world that most people find to be "of value," and yet we are never compensated for them. Ultimately... there is no reciprocity!

I am also well aware that simply "Being A Good Person" is not a marketable commodity. Whereas people might appreciate our "goodness" we aren't going to get paid for it.

Not so long ago, I was having a conversation with a spiritual teacher who opined that you should never give away that which you have the most talent at. 

I can assure you that most "starving artists" don't want to starve; they are starving because other people keep insisting that they should do their art "purely for the love of it," and give them lots of pats on their backs for their amazing creativity, yet the moment they put a price tag on that art those same people instead start judging and accuse the artists of "Selling Out."

I agree with my spiritual friend that such a line of reasoning is not only hypocrisy, but also garbage.

Anyway, now I am reinventing myself... again

And so, I am also kicking life back into this HSP Notes blog, which — after all — remains the oldest chronicle of my journey through understanding this "sensitivity" thing in existence. I started this in 2002, five years after reading Elaine Aron's first book. Hundreds of blog posts over a 17-year period chronicle experiences, insights, lessons and the journey, itself.

I stopped, for a while, because I quite simply couldn't justify spending the time I spent here... without compensation. I had to spend that time doing something income producing. I also was working with a couple of other projects — and a different blog.

More about those, later.

Cha- Cha- Cha- Changes...

As I go back to writing more frequent articles about life as it intersects with being a Highly Sensitive Person, I will also be changing how this blog works, a little.

For some time, I have had limited advertising as well as some Amazon product links here... but these have gradually become less and less capable of producing more than a few cents, so they are going to go away over the next few months.

One of the things I have been increasingly involved with is the principle of "Voluntaryism."

To clarify, Voluntaryism is NOT the same thing as Volunteering. Voluntaryism is more economic in nature, and centers around the idea that things are basically free, but if a "recipient" believes that what they are getting "has value" — either to them, or to the greater community — there is a "payment system" in place that allows those recipients (or readers, or beneficiaries) to voluntarily compensate whoever created the thing of value.

Accordingly, I have decided that some of the more elaborate and research-based posts here will become available only through voluntary subscriptions to a Patreon account. This Patreon account will also serve as the "front end" for my efforts of putting together a book I announced long ago entitled "Please Don't Yell At Me! An HSP's Journey," which I have partly written, but never finished.

Those who are willing to "co-sponsor" my efforts (basically, allowing me to spend time writing, rather than being at work during those few hours a week, making a living), would be helping me not only make the book possible, but they would end up having "prepaid" for their own copy, when published. Hopefully, it will be a win-win situation.

And no worries, we are talking about a monthly commitment of probably less than you pay for a cup of coffee or tea at your local coffee shop! And, again, it will be voluntary... but hopefully it will make you feel like you are doing a "right thing" for the HSP community, as well!

I am simply trying to make some things — things that are important to me, and to quite a few other people — functionally possible, in the context of my life.

Stay tuned for more frequent updates, as the process unfolds! At this point, I'm looking to have the whole redesign and new direction operational by June 30th.

Thanks for reading!

I want to hear from you! I grew up in the era of "social blogging," and I believe blogs should be interactive, like mini message boards. Thus, your comments, feedback, ideas and thoughts are always welcome here, and I will do my best to respond, as well!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Learning About the HSP Trait: What's the Ultimate Objective?

I went to the doctor yesterday.

Although we don't really talk much about it, my doctor knows that I am an HSP, and she respects what that entails. In the course of our conversations, we have gently agreed that "Being an HSP" is akin to what was once upon a time thought of as "being highly strung."

We don't talk much about it, though. It has become "old news."

Instead, we talk about my health. I suffer from hypertension (aka "high blood pressure"), and from years of observation, we know that my primary trigger for "hypertensive events" revolve around stress and anxiety.

Actually, I should phrase that very carefully.

You see, I don't suffer from any kind of "anxiety disorder," I simply suffer from overstimulation, HSP style. I am perfectly capable of going into the world and dealing with "whatever hardships come up," and there are few things I can't handle. My body, however, disagrees.

One of the interesting things we've learned about me is that — absent stress and the need to interface with the world — my blood pressure is actually within the "normal" range.

Yesterday, we had this conversation again, as my vitals were once again elevated. My body simply doesn't like the process of "adulting."

Alas, few of us have the luxury of simply sitting in a lawn chair, watching clouds drift by... while "the stuff of life" takes care of itself.

The Progression of HSP Self-Awareness

After the doctor's visit, I got to thinking about this whole thing called "being an HSP."

It has been 21 years and change since I first bumped into the idea. It seems to me that we go through "stages" of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

At first, it tends to be all shiny, exciting and new; we absorb everything we can read and hear; suddenly it seems like we have a natural and well-fitting explanation for why we are the way we are. Which is a marvelous thing!

Then we go through a period of learning and integrating. This often involves joining groups, going to workshops and doing something akin to "becoming an expert" on the topic, as it relates to ourselves.

Oftentimes, we slip into a state of cognitive bias — just about everything that happens is "because I am an HSP." Of course, that's probably rather inconsistent with reality, but we're looking for ways to "make the shoe fit."

After a while, we move onto "integration." We start to become more honest about the ways the trait affects our lives... and the ways it doesn't. At least... that's what happens for those who are honest with themselves; some, it seems, stay in that place where "EVERYthing happens this way because I am an HSP."

But THEN What?

Perhaps the ultimate objective of learning all we can about being an HSP is that we get to return to "just being a person."

As I look back on my doctors' visit, I came to realize that it has been several years since I have thought of myself through the lens of perception that "I am an HSP." The trait doesn't define me, it simply adds a layer of understanding to the overall picture of what it means to be me.

I understand certain things about myself, and understand which of those things happen to be a consequence of my high sensitivity, and I try to arrange my life accordingly.

In formalizing this realization last night, I also came to understand why we see "familiar faces" in online HSP groups, as well as keepers of HSP blogs and web sites suddenly "fall off the radar." They've simply gotten all they needed from their activities, and then moved on.

Think of it a but like attending University: You learn a lot, and then you get a degree and graduate. Maybe you stay on and keep learning, getting a graduate degree. But eventually you're done. And that's actually the natural order of things —if you're NOT seeing that, you run the risk of becoming "that eternal student," working on their 6th degree because they never found the courage to actually go out and be part of life, using the learning they'd experienced.

And so — aside from the fact that I occasionally teach and give workshops — I am done with "being an HSP." I have returned to simply being ME.

How about YOU? Where are YOU, on your HSP Journey of Learning? How long ago was it that you learned that there is such a thing as a "Highly Sensitive Person?" How did it change your life? Do you feel you know what you need to know, or are you still "studying?" To what degree to you find that you "identify" with being an HSP? Leave me a comment-- be part of an ongoing dialogue!

If you enjoyed this article, please consider sharing with others through social media, your own blog, or your Facebook feed! Thank you!

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

"Make America Great Again"... and other illusions

A while back, I had this notion that I was going to write a meaningful post-election article about how to navigate a turbulent and uncertain world, especially if you're an HSP. It seemed like a good idea at the time... because many folks presented as deeply distressed and lost at the end of a very "noisy" Presidential election year here in the US.

As time passed, I started realizing that I felt "stuck," so the article progressed into becoming a "Thanksgiving Message," then a "Holiday Message" and ultimately a "New Year's Message." And still, I remained stuck. For some reason, I didn't really have any words-- let alone words of wisdom-- to share. 

A quick side note: I should hurry to add that this is not a political post... and it was never intended to be. It's a human post.

All other things aside, it was not until earlier today-- when a photo of Donald Trump from the campaigning days rolled across my Facebook feed-- that I understood why words had been failing me, and why so many people I know had been feeling strangely immobilized and unmotivated for the past few months.

"Make America Great Again!"

If you live in the US or follow the news, it's almost inevitable that you've seen this campaign slogan, regardless of which side of the political fence you sit on. 

"Make America Great... AGAIN!"

The words made me pause for a moment to remember how often I-- and many people-- tend to look backwards during periods where we feel under extreme duress, stress, disappointment and uncertainty. Sometimes this inclination arises as a result of loss-- a loved one dies, a relationship ends, we lose our job, our beloved pet passes, our core beliefs are rocked-- so we seek some kind of emotional "anchor" in the chaos we feel. At other times, we perceive our lives to be so uncertain that we focus on a solid memory simply because it is known, and the known affords us at least the illusion of control where we otherwise feel like we have none.

It's a natural thing we do. Regardless of whether we consider ourselves "forward looking" or prone to nostalgia, it is psychologically easier to recall feelings and events that have actually happened than to imagine feelings and events that are yet to be.. or maybe not to be. The tangible and recorded past outweighs the uncertain and ambiguous future. There's nothing wrong with that... it simply is.

But here's the rub: there is no recreating the past. This type of escape is merely an illusion. The cold reality is that the past only exists in our memories... because neither we, nor our environmental reality, exists today as it existed ten, twenty, fifty years ago. 

The "Good Old Days" are an abstraction. What's more, we tend to look back through a selective filter of positivity... we remember our favorite dog wagging his tail, not the three years where he peed on the floor twice a week.

Looking back may offer a moment of comfort, but it's not only fleeting, it's nothing more than a thin veil over a present reality that's not about to disappear.

I am originally from Europe and grew up there until moving to the US in 1981. That said, my parents lived in Phoenix, Arizona for many years, before going back "home" in 2002. 

Not long after they left the US, I went to visit them in the south of Spain where I spent my teen years. Having not been there in some 20 years, I went "time traveling," with the vague hope-- a longing-- of somehow "re-feeling" moments from my past. It was a difficult time in my life and I was perhaps trying to "run away." 

It was then I came to understand that "The Past" is not an actual thing, not a place, not a person, not an event... but simply a basket of feelings attached to a moment in time. I stood under the same trees in front of the house where we lived and looked at the same mountains across the same riverbed... and yet felt nothing. I sat in the bar where I had my first beer and drank the same kind of beer... and felt nothing. I stood on the beach where I sought solitude with my teenage angst... and felt nothing.

Well, not exactly "nothing.

What I felt was emptiness. Disappointment. The same feeling you have when your favorite coffee mug shatters and you realize you will never have it again, even if you replace it with an identical one. The past may look rosy, but we can never go back.

Something similar happened at a different time, years later, when my parents passed away. And at an earlier time when my beloved aunt-- who helped raise me-- passed away. Both times, I looked for points in my past where things seemed... simpler; less painful; less confusing.

In each case, the memories were intact, but the attempt to recreate something "that once was" felt flat and colorless... because the person originally having the experience in real time no longer existed

Bringing this back to current reality in the USA, I find myself feeling for all those people in down-and-out coal country who voted for Donald Trump with dreams of looking back to an easier time when jobs were plentiful and their lives did not eternally center on where their next meal will come from. I realize that their past time of relative comfort cannot exist again because neither the society nor the people they are now are who they were then.

We can't make things anything "again." We can't unlearn what we already know to be true.

Even when we make our late mother's apple pie exactly as she did, it will never be exactly the same because the original circumstances cannot exist outside our memories.

So, regardless of whether you're a liberal who longs be in in the days of Obama or Bill Clinton, or a conservative longing for the "good old days" of the 1950's... the past for which you wax nostalgic (and perhaps make your choices based on?) cannot and will not ever exist again.

All we have is now... this present moment... and the future we can co-create by stringing together the most meaningful series of "present moments" we can come up with. Sure, our choices can be informed by our past... but there is only now as far as actually living our lives go. 

So, if you feel stuck and spend  lot of time on "if only" thinking, it's time to let it go and find the strength to get up and create a new set of memories to look back on, from some future time... 

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 05, 2016

"... When the World Overwhelms You."

I realized, this morning, that it has been almost 20 years since I first came across Elaine Aron's book "The Highly Sensitive Person."

As I pulled out my ancient dog-eared copy, I also remembered that it was less the actual title than the byline "How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You" that I related deeply to.

"... When the World Overwhelms You."

Part of me wants to say that I have felt overwhelmed by the world since birth... but I don't know that, for sure. But I do remember that the sense of overwhelm was in full flow when I started first grade and every day felt... exhausting.

As of late, I have not been writing much, not contributing much to the HSP "dialogue" for the very simple reason that the world has been overwhelming me.

In fact, I'd submit that the world has been "overwhelming me" on a full-time basis for about 4-5 years, now. Before that, the overwhelm was more "sporadic and periodic."

Don't misunderstand me, here. I am not trying to start a "wah-wah pity party" here, I am merely observing reality as I am experiencing it, in a non-attached Buddhist sort of way.

Nonetheless, my current state of mind leaves me pondering the question "Have I changed... or has the world changed?"

They (whoever "they" may be...) say that our sensitivities heighten as we age. I am not sure I agree entirely with that. It seems more likely to me that as we age we become more self aware, and thus more capable of recognizing that we are experiencing an extension of our innate sensitivity, rather than attributing our turmoil (or whatever we're feeling) to something else.

So that leaves "the world."

Thanks in large part to technology, I have no doubt the world is eternally "speeding up." Stated a little differently, the volume of stimuli-- information, news, activities, entertainment, obligations and so on-- increases every year. Meanwhile, a great many people-- at least here in the USA-- are experiencing that they need to spend ever more time and effort to merely "swim in place," financially, socially, functionally, psychologically and so on.

When I sit with that and contemplate it, it feels like I have less and less time to process more and more stuff. I am simply like an hourglass-- I process a fairly constant volume of stimuli well, but if more and more sand gets poured in the top half, the narrow opening can never "clear" the inflow. As an HSP, that leaves me feeling overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, it also seems like there is a lot of pervasive "time thievery" going on, these days... and I have to admit that this time thievery contributes significantly to my current feeling of overwhelm. I'll try to explain, and maybe you can relate.

For example, it's one thing that there was a controversial election that seems to have polarized this country. It's also a thing that there's a standoff over a pipeline in North Dakota and there's naturally a flood of attendant news. I can deal with that.

But now the new "time thief" is this whole concept of "fake news." Not only are there endless news stories, but now I have to spend additional time trying to determine whether any given story really IS a news story, or just some sensationalist clickbait created by a couple of profiteering vagrants who find it amusing to watch other people fall into a chaotic frenzy. IF (and that's an important question, here in our modern world) I want to remain a truly informed citizen, a five minute news story has now become a 15-minute research project.

But my day didn't become 24 hours and 10 minutes long to accommodate the new paradigm.

And so, the world overwhelms me... which is also a somewhat long-winded explanation for the repeated question I often get as to why I don't write anymore.

Of course, well meaning folks tell me I should turn it off and simplify my life... but isn't the whole ignoring it and sticking our heads in the sand with the excuse that "we can't deal with it" precisely part the the problem that created this whole mess? And how can you hope to make the world a better place if you're tuning it out?

Aside from which, how do you simplify a life that has already-- out of functional necessity-- been trimmed to the bare bones? I'm sorry, but living in a tent in the woods is not going to reduce my overstimulation... I like indoor plumbing and a bed! Of COURse there are lots of people who are "far worse off" than I am, but comparing our situation to the lowest common denominator doesn't fix the problem, it merely creates a greater pool of discontent... a sort of "misery loves company" circle jerk. I'm sorry, but that's not the world I'm looking to live in.

So how do we "thrive" when the world overwhelms us?

As of this moment, I am not entirely clear on that, but it somehow will involve a reiteration of a process I last went through in my mid-30's, when I abandoned working in the mainstream and became self-employed... which wasn't just about changing how I worked, but about changing how I lived, removing the expectations and trappings of "corporate life."

With 20 years of "creative independence" under my belt another revision now seems due, as I sit with the reality that I am not exactly thriving... I am surviving and getting by. I may have more "psychic income and wealth" than ever before, but the supermarket and electric company does not accept that currency in consideration of groceries and power. Which ends up creating a sort of inner dissonance which is another contributing factor to the overwhelm... if I am spending 70 hours a week in the business of simply maintaining, there's little left over to pursue other interests.

What is clear to me is that Being A Highly Sensitive Person is merely a piece of information about who I am. Whereas it influences and affects how I experience and interact with the world around me, it's not "a thing," in and of itself. It doesn't "do" anything. It doesn't "entitle" me to anything, nor does it make me "special" in some cosmic way most people give a rat's ass about. I am still a Human Being who needs to negotiate life, just like everyone else. Go to work, make dinner, pet the cat, take out the garbage, pay the bills. I am primarily a Human Being... who happens to be a Highly Sensitive Person.

In closing, I am considering that this is perhaps the natural "end point" in the journey of understanding ourselves, as HSPs. We start as "confused humans" who then learn we are HSPs; there's relief. Nothing "wrong" with us. We learn. We take on the "label" and adjust. We become wise in the ways of our sensitivity. And then we go back to simply being human, with an additional body of helpful knowledge.

Stay tuned for more ramblings; as I wrote a while back, I have let a number of my web sites and blogs quietly pass on... as a result of which, this will now double as both an "HSP" and a "personal" blog space. But not to worry, I'll still post the more inflammatory political and social commentary elsewhere!

Feel free to leave a comment!

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