A Blog written by a Highly Sensitive Person. Thoughts and ramblings on life as a Highly Sensitive Person in an often not so sensitive world.
Saturday, December 20, 2003
I have found it somewhat difficult to maintain this blog, I must confess. I don't know exactly why, as I continue to feel quite passionately about the task of "spreading awareness" of the HSP trait. Sometimes, I feel the challenge has most been about how to stay "on topic," how to keep up with ideas that are specific to the HSP trait. I was never particularly good at focusing. My previous attempts at blogging and having web sites were always very general and "scattered," because I have a LOT of interests.
In fact, I have started another blog, elsewhere, which is far more "general" in nature. It is called "Inner Reflections," and is on the xanga blogging site. I like it better because it is far more "interactive" than this site. In a few short weeks, I already have a much larger readership than HSP Notes.
All in all, it was a good year for me. I got to go to an HSP Gathering. I feel like I have found my "tribe," on this planet. I started building the "Inner Reflections" web site, although I have miles and miles to go. I started several "regional" HSP discussion groups on Yahoo, hoping to get more HSPs involved in knowing each other at a local level. I feel hopeful that a few people might sign up for the Texas group.
I don't normally make New Year's resolutions, although I'd like to think I'd get back to making regular contributions to this site. And perhaps, I can go to another HSP Gathering, next year.
Friday, October 24, 2003
HSPs and Woundology
But that's not what has brought me back here.
A recent discussion in one of the HSP web groups revolved around HSPs and "playing the victim." That is, turning the HSP trait into something to "hide behind" and use as an "excuse" to not participate in all manners of things.
Actually, I believe what's going on is the more subtle practice of "woundology." Maybe that sounds like a matter of semantics, but there is a difference.
Victimology is a fairly active process, in which there is an element of "woe is me, feel sorry for me, because of how I am." It's not uncommon, and is by no means limited to the world of the highly sensitive.
Woundology is more pervasive. There's usually no "feel sorry for me" aspect involved... merely a pattern of behavior in which "the wounded" chooses to live in such a way that they avoid the majority of life because of their "wound." In the case of HSPs, they avoid being active agents in their own lives, choosing not to do things "because they are sensitive." In their own minds, they are merely "honoring their sensitivity." But are they really? Sometimes, perhaps. But remarkably often, the "wound" is used to mask deeper psychological issues that aren't about sensitivity, at all.
An example might be the person who always says "no" to going out to eat with friends, or going to see a film, citing that she will "become overstimulated and have to leave." The "reason" used is sensitivity... but underneath, we find something else. Perhaps "I'm highly sensitive" is merely a "cover" to avoid looking at what is actually a case of Social Anxiety Disorder. By saying "I'm sensitive," and using the HSP trait as a "shield," the person gains not having to deal with a deeper problem.
It is not always easy to look at our "bag of goods" truthfully.
Sometimes, however, it is essential that we do so.
Sunday, September 14, 2003
Connecting Locally: Groups for HSPs
At the HSP Gathering in California, Elaine Aron spoke about the importance of HSPs connecting with other HSPs. During the interactive session after her presentation, a couple of people asked about how to meet other HSPs locally. Elaine pointed out that there's an entire chapter dedicated to HSP Discussion Groups in the back of The Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook, outlining how people might start and maintain their own local groups.
I do have the workbook, and have read this chapter-- 42 pages worth-- and found it a bit overwhelming. The idea of groups appeals to me, but I am also not sure there are enough HSPs around Austin, TX to form a local group. Texas feels like one of the least HSP-aware parts of the US.
I have also been looking at a new web site called "meetup," which seems to work as an intermediary or organizing tool for people who connect online, but want to meet in physical space. They do have a category called "Fans of Elaine Aron and Highly Sensitive Persons" but there are only 92 people listed as "interested," in the entire country. And since the group heading doesn't include the term "HSP," I'm not sure how many will find it. As usual... another great tool if your interest is "I love dogs," not so great if your interest is unusual or esoteric.
But why not online groups, in the meantime? Elaine Aron doesn't really talk much about online discussion, but why not? It seems more suitable to HSPs-- most of whom are introverts, after all. The HSP group on Yahoo has 100's of members, and so does Thomas Eldridge's HSP message board... I've been part of both for several years.
I know I'd personally feel more comfortable getting to "know" people online before meeting them. I experienced it firsthand with HSPs at the California Gathering-- several people from the Yahoo group were there, and it felt like we "knew" each other when we met.
I am thinking about starting up "local" (or "regional") HSP groups on Yahoo. I don't really relish the idea of being an "admin" of any more groups (I have a lot going on... such as trying to make a living) but I don't think anyone else is going to do it.
For now, maybe I will start with a few major cities/regions where there is above average HSP awareness-- perhaps California, the Northeast, Chicago area, Seattle/Vancouver... and see what happens. I'll post links here as I figure out how to do this.
If anybody has any suggestions on how to do this, or are looking for a group in your area, leave a comment or send me an email.
Friday, September 05, 2003
HSP Gathering October 16-19 in Litchfield, CT
See Elaine Aron's web site for more information at:
I can tell you from my personal experiences this past summer that an HSP Gathering is a very empowering and validating event-- and it's not too late to sign up for the coming event! I wish I could go, but unfortunately my finances won't allow it.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
A Strange Letdown
In recent days, I have started to feel rather "flat." Even though I still am exchanging a lot of email with people I met, the volume has slowed way down... and folks who for a moment seemed enthusiastic and outgoing seem to have gone back into hiding.
I realize that it's the feeling of having "had" something, and now I am missing it. I am not entirely sure what to do about that. I have previously met with people I first knew on the Internet, and we became friends in "real life" as well-- but this feels different, somehow. Perhaps it's because the connection and sense of "community" was so intense. And because we all seemed to get along, so well.
As I look back on those four days in June, I am once again amazed at how 30-odd people could spend so much time, so close to each other... and never have an argument or an annoyed moment.
I miss that.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
California HSP Gathering Photojournal
It seems that all my "writing bandwidth" since the Gathering has gone into both making the photo journal, as well as into the flood of correspondence between my new friends, and myself.
On top of that, Elaine Aron asked if I'd like to write an article for the "Comfort Zone" magazine, which I was also working on, until recently.
And then, of course, I have been doing some regular "work," in some kind of feeble attempt to pay for all this travelling I have recently been doing. And then, of course, I am trying to save up for the East Coast Gathering, which is the next event on the calendar...
Now that I have six weeks of "distance" between myself and the Gathering, I can definitely say that HSPs are-- in the broadest sense of the word-- "my Tribe." But even so, there are certain "types" within that tribe that I felt more of a connection with... they were the rather "luminous" and especially empathic and intuitive people. "Feelers," more than "thinkers." They had a certain "softness" about them, and I got this sense that they were all in tune with... a sort of "alternate reality" that wasn't visible to the naked eye. And they definitely had their lives "together," rather than feeling like "victims" of their lives.
And I really got a feel for just how important it is for "us" to have friends and connections who are "like us." I simply can't overstate the value of that.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Feeling like an alien in my own family
I was an "alien" within my own family. I was born into a very "old"-- and old fashioned-- European family. Things were always done "a certain way," and I grew up in the spectre of the saying "Children should be seen, but not heard." As an introspective and highly sensitive child, I was OK with that.
The thing about my family-- as a group of people-- is that they are all (with the exception of this one cousin) "emotionally constipated." It is like someone has gone in and deactivated the DNA that connects them to the concept of "feeling." I mean, most of them are nice enough, and I suppose they mean well in a very "practical" sort of way. But I was never able to "connect" with any of them-- so although I grew up with a fair number of people in my life, I always felt completely alone. And, to this day, I have never been able to determine how the feeling dissociation in an entire family got to be so complete.
Personality inventories such as Myers-Briggs and the enneagram talk about "feeling" types and "thinking" types, and so forth. In my family, "non-feeling" struck me as more of a lifestyle than a personality trait. People who "felt" were viewed as weak, and occasionally as "hysterical." It was a desert wasteland for me to grow up in.
Sunday, June 22, 2003
California HSP Gathering, Afterthought
As a result of going to the Gathering, things have become less clear. For all intents and purposes, I know myself to be an Introvert. Have been, as long as I can remember.
At the Gathering, I found that my frame of reference became almost exclusively "external." I got virtually all my "energy" from the people around me. I actively sought out people, rather than solitude.Of course, I can easily associate this with the fact that I had a feeling of being "included," rather than "excluded," as I am used to. However, that experience raises so questions-- for me, anyway-- about how we define introversion vs. extraversion. To what degree does our environment push us to "falsify" our type? Am I really an HSP-extravert whose history of "negative feedback" from interactions ("The environment") has caused me to seek energy internally? Or does the "safe environment" that made me feel momentarily extraverted actually represent a "false echo," since it is-- really-- not a "real life environment?"
Thursday, June 19, 2003
California HSP Gathering recap, Part II
And so it begins, in earnest, on Friday morning. People start to feel that it really IS safe to be "authentically themselves" and they open up. And Jacquelyn is right-- we slowly become "extraverts" of a sort. I really thought I had a "thick shell" against the world. And I thought others would, too. Instead I find that we are incredibly "in touch" with ourselves-- in a matter of less than a day, all the "shields" we put up to protect us against the world are down.
A bunch of different words come to mind, but they seem hopelessly inadequate. In shamanic practice, altered states are often referred to as "non-ordinary reality"-- and that's close to how I would characterize what I experienced, except the physical body I inhabit in "ordinary reality" actually went along. I visited a "place" I had really only thought about in "conceptual" terms.
I am in a bit of a "thought daze," still running the internal "films" from those four days. I really have nothing but good to say about it-- except that it was over too soon. As for descriptors, I like the sound of "resonance." And "reciprocity." And kinship and fellowship. Acceptance. Safety. Openness. Non-judgmental. As one participant tearfully said, during the closing moments: "I have spent a lifetime giving, giving, giving-- and for the first time ever, it was reciprocated back to me." I feel a mixture of awe, joy and sadness... sadness, at the fact that I got to live 42 years before having the opportunity to experience true "connectedness" in a completely supportive and safe group setting; awe and joy at the fact that it actually did happen. Not just I, but so many of the other participants shared that same feeling, by their words and their reactions.
It was like we found "our tribe," in a world where we might have otherwise felt destined to walk all alone, and misunderstood. It was amazing to be in a group where nearly everyone "got" nearly everyone else. I expect we each took something different away from there-- having already known about being an HSP for some years, I mostly went for the purpose of finding fellowship-- and I came away with 20+ new friends. Contrast this with the fact that I am someone who might make one new friend, in a year. I have been to many seminars and retreats, but never... never... have I experienced 30+ people spending four days together without a raised voice, without power struggles, without regularly hurt feelings, without arguments and otherwise nothing but kindness and compassion. Instead of feeling "odd" and "alienated," we felt ourselves reflected back in the faces of everyone around us-- and so, the "shields" we all have grown so accustomed to wearing, as protection against our surroundings, just melted away... and underneath, a group of profoundly powerful and compassionate human beings emerged; the very best of our human species.
And for the first time in my life, I have sat with a group of men in a room where there was no "ranking," no "one-up and one-down" (I feel like I have gained a year's allotment of buzzwords!) and no male posturing-- just the honest cores of the men who were there, talking about the truths and essences of their lives. That one brings tears to my eyes. As does the overall fellowship I found-- as I said, I went to "find" the people, not to "be at a seminar," and that is precisely what I found. During the closing remarks, it was as if we all realized the enormous impact and implication of what we had just been a part of-- and emotions freely came to the surface and were released... and to all those who have been told they were "too sensitive" on account of choking up during "goodbyes," here they found only acceptance. It was all OK. And even the most timid and introverted of HSPs found the "safety" to become an active participant. "WE" are all "OK."
Elaine came and spoke on Saturday, to an extended crowd that included a number of "weekend-only commuters." I spoke to her only very briefly, although I contributed a bit to a discussion on "attachment styles." She struck me as intensely private, intensely introverted, and intensely intellectual. She was almost like a shadow that suddenly showed up, was their, and then vanished again.
All I can say is that I highly recommend going to a Gathering, if you ever get the chance.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
California HSP Gathering recap, Part I
The trip from Austin to California seemed filled with "signs"-- and not good ones, at that. The SuperShuttle driver was late; it turned out she was a rookie in her first week, fumbling about with maps, circling around neighborhoods. I got to put the benefit of having lived in this town for over 20 years to use, guiding us to other pickups, and showing her ways around the worst morning traffic snarls, so we did get to the airport on schedule. The first leg, from Austin to Denver, was uneventful... until we got to the gate... and just sat. Then the pilot got on the PA and announced that they were having some trouble extending the jetway, but that it would be fixed "momentarily." About 10 minutes later, he got back on and announced that a "jetway mechanic" was now on-site-- but if the problem couldn't be fixed, we'd have to be towed to a new gate... meanwhile, the clock ticks. Another 10 minutes; another announcement-- a set of stairs has been ordered, and we'll leave the plane through the left exit, and enter the terminal via the fire escape. Which we do-- and following which I am making a mad dash to the SFO flight.
Of course, just as I walk (run) up, I hear the announcement that the flight is now part of a "ground hold" in San Francisco-- the cloud cover has settled on the ground there, and we're being "held" for an hour. Both a sense of relief, but my anxiety also ratchets up a notch since Sheri-- my carpool partner-- is now going to be sitting there, waiting for me to arrive.
I am reminded that I still live in a small town. We may have an airport with the only runway in the "middle states" that's long enough to land a 747 with the space shuttle strapped on top, but nobody flies "big" planes in there. Certainly not an A340 stuffed to the gills with 370 passengers-- I am really not at home anymore, it feels more like I'm going to Europe.
We got in about an hour late, but due to a series of good breaks (sitting in the front of the plane, running into open elevators, catching the airport train right as it rolled in) I got to the car rental only 45 minutes later than expected. Then I had an argument with the counter clerk as to whether or not I could rent a car and pay with a debit card. No sign of Sheri. Sheri was my carpooling partner. A little persuasive sales technique on the counter clerk, and I'm good to go. Fortunately, Sheri has her cell phone, and calls the counter, while I am standing there-- we meet, down by the cars.
Walker Creek Ranch is about 60 miles from SFO. I am reminded of California traffic-- it takes nearly 2 1/2 hours to get there, on a Thursday afternoon. I am also reminded that 101 runs right through downtown as surface streets. I am also amazed that you can have a place so remote, so close to San Francisco-- the Apple Market (the closest grocery) is 17 miles from WCR, along narrow winding 2-lane roads through the "Golden Hills" of Northern California. It's an amazingly beautiful setting, for an HSP retreat. Sheri is a bit distressed-- she had visions of something cushier, a bit more "Club-Med-ish." It's clean, but spartan-- bathrooms down the hall; someone (turns out to be Jacquelyn, our "intrepid leader") has scratched out a paper sign that said "Women's" and hand written "Co-ed." That will be the butt of many jokes and comments, during the coming days.
And then I start meeting some of the other HSPs. There's an anticipation in the air-- a cross between a feeling of caution and openness... as if nobody can quite believe this is "for real." At 4:30, a group of us strike off for a hike to Turtle Pond-- a small lake not far from the ranch... quiet conversations start. That was the first "aha" moment for me-- everybody speaks softly; no loud voices, no in-your-face-ness. Some, like Richard, have been to all the Gatherings-- most others are here for the first time.
By dinner, 20-some people have arrived-- dinner is served in the dining hall, which is the only building on the "campus" that actually resembles a rustic Colorado cabin on steroids. In the "new tradition" of retreats, the food is superb, and in no way "institutional"-- much of it grown locally, on the ranch. "Ranch mom" Susie bids us welcome. She's actually younger than the general late-30's to 50's range of the HSPs. A group of 100 3rd graders will be leaving in the morning, so we'll have much more peace, then. She warns us to keep the doors closed, as "the skunks are very curious."
After dinner, we meet in the room where all the workshops and breakout sessions will take place. Jacquelyn Strickland bids us welcome, and outlines a bit of what we can expect, house rules, and so forth. There are only three extraverts, and she is one of them. We're asked to introduce ourselves to the group-- as often has been the case in my life, I become one of the ones tasked with getting the ball rolling. Eventually, everybody relaxes... HSPs from Canada, Alaska, Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Washington, Oregon, Colorado and Austin, TX. And a bunch from the Bay Area. We learn two things, that will set the tone for the rest of the Gathering: (1) HSPs are not timely and (2) there isn't time enough. The opening session runs so long that the next day's schedule is already being rearranged. Jacquelyn predicts that by Sunday, anyone observing us would think we were a group of extremely gregarious friends who've known each other all our lives.
(more to follow)
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
I am still trying to "process" the Gathering experience-- it was, in many ways "breathtaking." Very different from just a straight "workshop," far more like a spiritual or healing retreat. I am in a bit of a daze, really... but everything I can think of is positive; from what I learned, to the new friends made... to some profound feeling I can't quite name yet, but that goes with the sense that I have a "Tribe," out there.
I will post more, as I get my thoughts together.
Thursday, May 15, 2003
I've been stressing to the gills because my new Danish passport has been conspicuously absent-- repeated "we don't knows" from the Danish consulate, eventually replaced by "a set of applications (including mine) were misplaced and delayed." Swell. I leave on Tuesday (5/20). Another phone call today-- the missing passports have finally arrived at the consulate in Houston. Of course, if they mail it, they are required to use registered mail, which slows things down-- so now I'm looking at spending tomorrow driving 200 miles to Houston, picking up the passport, turning around and driving 200 miles back again.
This, of course, could all have been avoided if I had started on the whole process back in January (when the passport expired) rather than in March.
Meanwhile I am trying to field the regular calls from my mom who has suddenly "remembered" all the nice things she used to be able to buy in Phoenix, but which are not available in Spain. The list gets ever longer, and my suitcase gets ever fuller.
I really am leaving soon. This really is the last entry, for a while.
Saturday, May 10, 2003
HSPs and Myers-Briggs Personality Types
From my interaction/participation in HSP groups, I have periodically seen surveys done on personality type, within those groups. Of course, these have been pretty "informal" polls, and keep in ind that the number of people to respond to them might have been 200, or fewer. But still, the results have been quite "telling," at least for me...
MBTI types INFP and INFJ are the predominant types in the HSP community-- at least the online HSP communities. I can't, of course, speak to whether or not these distributions would hold for HSPs who do not use the Internet as a research, contact and participation tool. Anyway, by loose extrapolation of several polls (at different times) it seems that type INFP accounts for as many as 25-30% of online HSPs, while INFJ accounts for something on the order of 12-15%. This is certainly statistically significant, in so far as none of the other types account for more than maybe 5-6%.
It is also interesting that (to the small degree I have been able to gather this data) types INFP and INFJ predominate even more heavily in the Adult Indigo groups. It's almost a "requirement" to be an NF-type (Intuitive-Feeling) to be an Indigo.
I love the idea of being among people where these rare traits are "common" rather than an "oddity."
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
The Travelling HSP
I am, perhaps, a little different from most, in that I was "trained" to travel. My parents were constantly on the go until I was 18-- and we moved all the time. At times I felt as much at home in some airport, as I did wherever we happened to be living. Whereas there are things that can make me overload easily, travel is so second nature to me, that it causes little more anxiety for me than... maybe going to the grocery.
In general, I try to relax myself by planning what I have control over (convenient times of the day, plenty of extra time so I don't rush, pack snacks in my carry on)... and otherwise sleep through the rest. I always take several different kinds of reading material, so I have something that fits whatever mood I might be in. I always ask for a window seat so I can lean against the bulkhead and sleep. Easier said than done-- I am 6'4" tall. If there's a choice between 40 minutes and 2 hours to make a connection, I choose the the flight with the two hour connection, so I don't have to stress out and run if the flight is a bit late. If I end up having to sit and wait, I focus on relaxing. I have missed enough connecting flights through delays that I know that "the world won't end" if it happens, and I'm very familiar with the procedure of getting rescheduled, and possibly getting a (free-- airline has to pay for it) hotel room overnight.
Somehow, I am perhaps also fortunate in that I am not terribly troubled by jetlag, on transatlantic flights. And that's a blessing, because it means that I don't end up "wasting" much time with getting acclimatized to a different time zone.
Monday, May 05, 2003
This summer-- in spite of being broke-- I will be doing a lot of travelling. Some of it will be "time travelling." I will be spending a week in Spain, with my parents, in an area where I have not been since 1985, but where I lived for almost 4 years as a teen. A trip to the past. A trip to what could have been my reality. A trip to something I consciously turned my back on. Once upon a time. How will it be, now? It is the first time I will be visiting my parents since they moved from Phoenix, permanently back to Europe
Then I will be in Denmark. My roots. Even after all these years, many parts of me are more Danish than anything else. My sense of egalitarianism. My softspokenness. I've lived in the US for 22 years, but I still think of myself as Danish. Perhaps it's not so much because I am "Danish" as it is that I am "not American." Denmark gives me a strange peace. My S.O. says I change, when I am over there. Like I become more comfortable in my own skin. Like I fit in. Like my particular type of assertiveness which seems too "soft" in Texas suddenly becomes "proportionate" to my surroundings, and I become "just right," as a human being. I will be staying at my aunt's house-- an old "summerhouse" that was built in 1939 and now is a type of family "community property," used as a timeshare by about 10-15 people. I played there as a kid. It was always a treat to go spend the weekend at my aunt's house. My aunt raised me, in part, and offered me a glimpse of what "healthy love" looked like-- just enough that I know when I don't have it, and that I want it. It is neither the past, the present, nor the future-- time stops; ceases to exist; becomes immaterial when I am there.
And then I go to California, after just a few days back in Texas. That's the future. The continuation of my Journey to the Self. A step from "studying" the HSP community as an observe, to being in it, and looking for ways in which I might be able to build a (working) future as a part of it. Helping others, help themselves. Maybe it's about learning; maybe it's about fellowship; maybe it's just about finding a "place" in space and time. Maybe I am looking for "someone." A "connection."
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
HSPs and trouble with Bullies
It has taken me a great many years, and a lot of personal exploration to finally understand-- and reasonably deal with-- the bullies, manipulators and otherwise toxic people who cross my path. "Toxic" might seem like a strong word to some/many, but honestly-- if these are people who have the ability to make another person feel bad about themselves, what are they, if not toxic?
Ultimately, it is not anyone's "job" or "duty" to be what someone else thinks they should be. If someone doesn't like me "as is," then it's not anybody's fault, but merely a reflection of the fact that we are not compatible as friends, cohorts, partners, lovers, spouses, or whatever. I am reminded of a quote by Thomas Merton:
"The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them."
I think the same can be said of pretty much any relationship-- and often what needs examining is not the people, but the dynamic involved in the relationship. Not, of course, that we always have a choice in who we are spending time with-- as in co-workers. But we do have a choice of what we do with our own time. Alas, sometimes it can take a very long time before you figure out that the person you are married to/living with has a toxic personality. On top of which, what feels "toxic" to you, might not feel toxic to someone else. But we do have a right to choose.
Monday, March 10, 2003
Article: Of Giftedness, ADD, Depression, and being an HSP
In my recent "hiatus" from this forum, I have been spending some time researching connections between some things that might be of interest and relevance to many HSPs.
Looking through old threads here, I have noticed that we fairly frequently "cry out in pain" over one thing or another-- anguished screams in the night over the difficulty of it all. Most of the cries relate to feeling misunderstood, for a great number of reasons. BTW's recent posts come to mind, but there have been others. From time to time, we have discussions about depression, ADD, counseling and meds.
Like many HSPs, I have spent much of my life in a "caretaker" situation, helping others. I suppose one of the biproducts of this is that you learn a thing or two along the way.... and often a thing or two your basic psychologist/therapist doesn't pick up on.
As awareness of the HSP concept continues to spread (we've gone from fewer than 150 to more than 1100 members here, since I've been posting) I feel a growing concern that many HSPs who are being treated for (or have self-diagnosed with) "depression" or "ADD" or "Bipolar disorder" may be struggling with a mis-diagnosis on top of their already complex issues. Maybe you'll read this and say "Yeah, well, DUH!"-- but maybe not.
Bear with me for a moment, because some background is relevant here.
We have periodically touched-- albeit very briefly-- on the topics of IQ and "giftedness." However, we have all (HSPs and non-HSPs alike) been well trained that "giftedness" is not an "acceptable" topic for anyone to concern themselves with, except in passing. We tend to wring our hands and back away a bit like our dog did something nasty on the carpet.... after all, we're not "supposed to" think we're "anything" the rest of the world isn't....
Now, we can come from the opposite end of the spectrum and be "developmentally challenged," and a host of people immediately jump to our aid. Not so with giftedness. After all, it's a "positive," not a "negative."
For the purposes of this post, please understand that I am NOT talking specifically about "IQ" here, I am talking about "abilities" that somehow make a person "different" because of their insights, intuitions and talents in one or more areas.
On a very broad level, there is a pretty good support network in place for "gifted children." Likewise, there is a broad support network in place for "special needs children." But guess what? When you turn 16, 18 or 21, whatever.... the support system for the "gifted" end of the spectrum completely falls away. If you are 40 (or older) odds are there never was one, for you. At best, you were perhaps recognized as someone who could tutor those struggling in the class. Mostly, you're on your own. In fact, society penalizes you a bit with "less-than-supportive" comments such as "If you're so smart, why do you need help?"
OK, so what does this have to do with being an HSP?
The few PhDs out there actively doing research on "Adult Giftedness" (Silverman, Webb, et.al.) have found that there is an extremely strong correlation between extreme sensitivity (in childhood, and as an adult) and giftedness. Understand that while this does mean that the majority of "gifted" people are probably HSPs, it does not mean that HSPs are by definition "gifted." But there are certainly proportionately more gifted HSPs than gifted people in the general population. And much like with being HSP, 60-70% of "highly gifted" adults are introverts, vs. 25-30% of the general population.
"Gifted" adults (many of whom are HSPs, remember) have "problems" just like the rest of the world. Except they are not like the rest of the world, just like HSPs are not like the rest of the world. As a (partial, anyway) result of this, there is an alarming degree of misdiagnosis of Depression, ADD and Bipolar Disorder in gifted adults.
Someone presents for treatment with "scattered" thoughts and a hyperactive mind that's constantly thinking "crazy thoughts" all over the place, as well as hypersensitivity and hyperexitablility. So they get chemical treatment for ADD. Except..... this hyperactive mind is actually a natural consequence of giftedness and sensitivity, not a "fault" in need of "repair." Yet, with a little pharmaceutical help, a brilliant mind that actually just needed guidance is instead "put to sleep" with drugs and its gifts lost to society.
But getting back to depression. The danger with depression in the gifted (and HSP) adult is that to 99% of the psychological profession "depression is depression is depression." Thus someone who presents with "depression" is (drugged and) treated for "depression."
Sorry! Wrong! But thank you for playing.....
Many of us recognize psychological clinical depression, either from having it, or from knowing someone who has it-- or just from reading. There are a bajillion web sites that will let you self-test, or read definitions from the "Holy Book Of The DSM-IV." In general something happens in our lives that jolts us, disappoints us, and we feel like we've failed somehow, and we become depressed. Things feel bleak and hopeless, but eventually a counselor helps us find the cause, which is then localized, defined and treated, and we go about our lives, armed with new "tools," "magic pills" and a new direction.
But there are many people for whom this standard "treatment of depression" really doesn't do anything. They seek treatment, but end up feeling no improvement, leading to feeling even more as if nobody understands them, and then might even devleop a belief that the psychology profession "can't help them" because they "don't GET it." More often than not, these people are HSPs who are also highly gifted.
The "good" news is that the reason you don't feel any different as a result of the treatment you're getting... is that you're being treated for something you don't actually have.
Existential Depression is often little more than a footnote in most writings and research on depression. It's not exactly a "household concept" since it generally doesn't affect many people, except in a very fleeting and vague manner. However, it is extremely prevalent among highly gifted sensitive adults. It's pervasive, non-specific, numbing and immobolizing-- in some cases causing the sufferer to reach a very logical conclusion that it makes most sense to just kill themselves. It does not respond to drugs or "conventional" therapies for depression; it cannot be "cured," only "managed" and the appropriate "management skills" generally have to be learned through Existential Psychotherapy-- which was "Chapter 4 in college" for most therapists, but a specialty for painfully few.
I just bring this up as "food for thought" for those who struggle with Depression and/or ADD/ADHD and feel "out of step." I bring this up, because maybe all that is "wrong" with you is that you have a special brain that's actually functioning normally-- for you. I bring it up because the type of depression felt by many on this board may not be as straightforward as they think. This will by no means apply to everyone, but if it "clicks" with even one or two, this post will have been worthwhile.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
HSPs and the ADD/ADHD "Diagnosis"
The HSP trait aside.... In studying intelligence, personality types, Indigos and assorted psychology (not as a profession, mind you), for a long time.... much of my time has been spent on trying to understand the "gifted" mind.
I certainly won't deny that "ADD" is a valid concept, but I have a great deal of trouble with the general tendency of the Psychology field to automatically classify a brain the doesn't work like "Joe Sixpack's" (i.e. "average") as having a "disorder." One of the great "issues" in the Gifted and Indigo communities is "misdiagnosis"-- people with brains that seem to flit around and track 1000 tasks simultaneously and arrive at intuitive alternate solutions with no evidence of a "process" in between.... are "medicated to sleep" simply because they have difficulty "tracking" conventional thought processes (most gifted people will tell you that they "zone out" because they are already 20 steps ahead of "where we are"). Is that fair? Or reasonable?
Every time I read the words "intelligent, intuitive, bright, creative, interesting people" in the same sentence as "ADD" I tend to jump out of my chair. Maybe it's a bit of a "soapbox issue" for me (and I apologize if I come across too forcefully)-- but I always recommend (especially to parents who have kids who "seem really bright," as well as to adults) to people who have a notion that ADD might be the problem, to test for giftedness before testing for ADD.... just so you have a "context" for a possible ADD diagnosis.
A while back, I wrote about this in greater detail, at a different venue. I think I'll try to dig up that article, and post it here.
Wednesday, March 05, 2003
2003 California HSP Gathering
I have decided that I am going to go to the HSP Gathering at Walker Creek Ranch in California, in June. Originally, I wasn't going to be able to go, because the dates overlapped with a previously planned trip to Denmark to visit family. However, Jacquelyn hadn't yet cast the dates in stone, and I "whined," which (at least partially) caused the dates to be moved from late May to June 12-15.
This means I will be coming back from Denmark on June 8th (complete with jet-lag from a 23 hour journey), and then will turn around and fly to San Francisco at the crack of dawn on June 12th.
There is something mildly unnerving about making this decision-- after all, I am choosing to go spend time with a voluntarilygroup of strangers.
Sunday, February 16, 2003
HSPs and Attachment Style
At my roots, I have a "mixed attachment style"-- which Elaine Aron actually told me is "a plus"-- so I suppose it is all in how you frame it. I know that "preoccupied" represents what I learned from my parents (perhaps with a dash of "fearful avoidant" thrown in)-- this was the result of growing up with two people who were far to busy tending to their own agenda to deal with a kid. Which is not to say that I was "lacking" in anything, except "emotional nourishment." My folks travelled extensively, and even when they were home, they were very busy being "glamorous." My father was a Narcissist who didn't even like children; my mother was a co-dependent social climber, alternately drowning her sorrows with prescription drugs and alcohol, and seeking the emotional intimacy her husband couldn't give her, from her child.
But whenever my parents were away, I was in the company of a loving and supportive elderly aunt with whom I experienced a "secure" attachment style. It was completely OK for me to "be me," sensitivity and all. As such, I know how both sides of the fence "feel," and that evidently makes me "wiser," somehow. Intellectually, I can grasp that-- I know what "healthy love" feels like.
That doesn't mean that I have made smart choices, however. On some strange "compartmentalized" level, I seem to have had "secure" relationships with friends, but something quite different with "love partners," probably helped along by the fact that each time I have "attached" has also coincided with periods of my life where I had chronically low self-esteem. So I "chose" people who had not the slightest ability to fill my emotional needs-- except in the context of me being an "unhealthy" person, playing the insecure-avoidant-fearful script learned from my parents. But then I would start to work on myself, only to wake up and wonder "what am I DOING here?" and "How did I GET here?"
A thing I came face-to-face with a few months ago was that I have never been "single, available and looking" at those times of my life when I was the most "together" and mentally stable, feeling good about who I was (poor relationships, notwithstanding)-- my relationships have all started in periods of deep distress, darkness and confusion, when I was feeling "not worthy" and trying to "earn approval."
And what kind of person do you think might find that attractive? Sorry, no prizes for getting the right answer....
Most of the above is "past tense," however. These days I am pretty close to having worked into a state of mind where I am capable of recognizing and choosing a "secure" attachment style-- but I am still in a relationship that was originally based on my having a "preoccupied style," so how that's going to play out, I don't know.
Thursday, February 06, 2003
HSPs and Interacting with "The Other Gender"
Whoa! Hold the phone! I read this, and it struck me as a horrendously incorrect generalization. At least for me. I am not "uneasy" around the other gender-- in fact, I am more uneasy around my own gender. 90% of my friends are (and have historically been) women-- and that's a conscious choice, based on the fact that I simply get along better with women.
Of course, what I just wrote was pure "reaction" to that question-- now I need to actually think about the deeper implications of the question...
OK. So now that my blood pressure has found a normal level again.... I realized, as I read, that I have fairly thoroughly divorced myself from cultural stereotypes. Which is not to say that I am not conscious of them, nor that I don't see the truth in them, nor that I don't see a certain "value" (from the standpoint of understanding) in many of them. Maybe it's just something that comes with age-- I distinctly remember feeling much more frustrated-- and even angry-- when I would try to deal with the difference between how I felt-- inside-- and how I felt "forced" to act in my efforts to "fit in." Now I am far more comfortable with just letting the world think whatever it wants to. Elaine uses the word "unmanly" (w.r.t. HS Men) a number of times in her books-- and I can't remember the last time I thought of myself in those terms.... early 30's perhaps?
Most of us have discovered the HSP-trait fairly recently, at least relative to our overall lives. For me, it was maybe 5 years ago-- for many, it has been even more recent. Given our median age (most people start self-inquiry no sooner than their early 30's) , that represents just a small fragment of our lives. Knowing that we're HSPs helps us explain stuff. But most of all, it helps us "come to terms" with ourselves. Perhaps to "make peace" with ourselves. It offers us a "name" for something we've been aware of for a long time. However, it is really just one piece of a much greater puzzle.
When I found Elaine's book, it was eyeopening. But I had already been through the process of making peace with the idea that I was a "strange outsider," on account of a different "trait" called "giftedness." Independently of Elaine Aron, researchers have long known that as many as 70% of gifted adults are introverts, and display high/hyper sensitivity, and can be deeply empathic. Giftedness is a nebulous thing, and I won't go into definitions-- I just wanted to share three points. (1) When I found out I was an HSP, I was already at peace with being part of a "weird minority" (to the tune of less than 1% of the population), a minority that had "high sensitivity" as a core trait, and (2) The reason I say I "confuse myself" is that I can read the HSP book and feel a connection-- yet I am not genuinely sure where/if "being an HSP" ends and "being gifted" begins. I'm not sure it's relevant even. (3) I am (very likely) something people refer to as an "Indigo." Whereas many are familiar with this term in the context of children, Indigo Adults-- especially of my age-- are quite rare. And where all Indigos's are almost certainly HSPs, not all HSPs are Indigos. But I'm just being conscious of the fact that I may be attributing things to HSP-ism that nothing to DO with HSP-ism.
I don't like the terms "gifted" and "IQ," by the way. Every time I use them (in the context of myself) it feels like I am bragging, and I hate that. But denying it is a bit like pretending you're not 6'6"-- when you are 6'6"..... and it makes as little sense as "faking" not being an HSP.
I have wandered way off my original line of thinking, however.
Elaine Aron-- when talking about the "unease" HSPs often feel around the other gender-- likes to attribute it to a form of "Love Shyness." Love-shyness.... I relate, but I don't. I am not love-shy; I am highly at ease. However, now comes some of the stuff I don't often talk about-- and I find it difficult to talk about.
To me, it feels more like my "methodology" with the opposite gender has been wrong-- or at least misinterpreted. Or has resulted in the "wrong" kind of connection. Maybe that's my "failure." I always try to get to know someone "inside" first-- and once there's a well-established "connection," then intimacy (physical and otherwise) can come into the picture. Now, many women say they actually want this from men. But this is perhaps where a dose of "sexism" comes into the mix....
Bear with me-- this is going to be a gross generality. In the greater context of "all men," where "all men" try to "cop a feel" on the first date (if they are interested in their date, that is) I surmise that perhaps my approach is interpreted as "not interested" in "that" sort of way. Leaving me (historically) in a strange world where I have "non-sexual relationships with sexual women" and "sexual relationships with NON-sexual women." Phrased a little differently... I have managed to "marry" the women I should have been purely platonic friends with, and been "just friends" with the women I could have had a "physical love" relationship with, as well as an intellectual/emotional relationship. And I am inclined to think that Sensitivity has had a direct influence on this outcome in my life.
And to get back to the original question, perhaps the "outside view" of this could be seen as "unease" around the other gender.
I'll conclude this with a sort of "side-bar comment." Very closely related to this concept of love-shyness, some years ago I was part of a study group at Georgia State University where a couple of psychology professors were studying a phenomenon called "Involuntary Celibacy." (Desiring intimacy, but not having any-- whether you're in a relationship, or not) It's noteworthy that "InCel's" and "MarCel's" (married, and involuntarily celibate) were also likely to come from unhappy childhoods, and to be sensitive/highly sensitive. What Elaine fails to mention about the love-shy trait is that people thus afflicted are probably (just a strong hunch) also far more likely to suffer from depression, diseases and mental illness. I believe human beings crave connection, and a lack of connection negatively impacts our health-- both mentally and physically.
Saturday, February 01, 2003
HSPs and the problem of "Soft Boundaries"
I believe "boundaries" can be a place where people-- and especially we HSPs and people of a helpful compassionate nature-- easily can end up in "razor's edge" situations. Where does "supportive" end, and "healthy boundaries" begin? I had to learn boundaries from the ground up (At great expense, my therapist thanks me!) because I was raised in a family where having boundaries of any sort was viewed as "inconsiderate."
One of the things I had to learn in setting boundaries was not merely to be willing to clearly state my needs, but also to not "overlay" myself on other people. I had to learn how to be "sorry" without being "causally responsible." Indeed, I was sorry when my girlfriend hit her shin on the park bench-- but I was also not responsible for it. I didn't put the bench down in her way, and I didn't force her to go to the park, against her will. In fact, I was 3 miles away. Although until I was about 32, I made myself responsible for EVERYthing-- maybe I "could" have "made her" not go to the park, had I "known" that there was going to be a bench. As HSPs, and empaths, I think it's easy to take on the troubles of the world-- but there's a big difference between being "supportive of" and "responsible for" someone else's distress. A "boundary" we must learn, as part of not getting overwhelmed. I continue to struggle with it.....
The other thing I had to learn, was how to use the word "no." Again, my childhood/youth model was that saying "no" to someone's request was both self-centered and rude. When I was a young adult, this turned me into an unhealthy person who could only say "no" as part of a final explosion of pent-up rage and frustration. It took me a very long time to learn that "no" is better used as a tool to not reach the "point of explosion," in the first place. Corny as it might sound, I had to practice saying "no" to myself, in the mirror. Eventually I did learn to pose the internal question "Do I want to do this, or am I just feeling obligated?" The biggest problem with not being able to say "no" is that you quickly lose your humanity-- you end up becoming a "human DOING," rather than a "human BEING."
For me, the most difficult thing hasn't really been learning to say "no," or developing healthy boundaries. I has been dealing with the environmental effect of change-- how to deal with other people's reactions. After all, you have friends/acquaintances who are used to a particular paradigm for your behavior-- and suddenly you become like a "different person." Very confusing. And it also has a way of "flushing out" and bringing into question (usuary) relationships that were originally formed on a less than healthy basis.
Tuesday, January 28, 2003
The Power of Place, revisited
A bluff, deep in the woods in Denmark, near where our summer house was. The pebbly beach at Deception Pass, north end of Whidbey Island, Washington state. A particular bend in a tiny road called Croft Lane in the village of Croyde, North Devon, UK. A small roundabout with a small red brick house on the south-east side, in the Blue Ridge neighborhood of NE Seattle, WA. (don't ask, no idea, but it was for sale once-- only just under 1000 square feet). The gardens in front of the UBC Museum of Anthropology in Vancouver, BC. Mt.Tabor Park in Portland, OR. Pike Place Market, also in Seattle-- for some reason, the feeling gets strongest the closer I get to the "Y" where Pike Place joins Western Ave. (Beats me, I don't even live in Seattle, 2000 miles away, actually) I can visualize, smell and feel each of these places, pretty much at all times. There are other places which are now gone; which I can never return to, but they still exist more vividly than the "real" places I walk every day.
The strongest feeling I can ever remember having towards a place happened the first time I drove out of Sea-Tac (Seattle) airport and headed up towards the city. I can't even begin to describe it... it was like "seeing life" for the first time. I bawled out loud at the intensity of it; like someone might do whenthey see their first tree after being locked in isolation for 30 years. This wasn't anything "pretty"-- this was a crowded "spur" freeway leading out to Interstate 5. There was absolutely NO logical reason; I was overtaken by something inside. I dunno. I just don't. But it happens every time I pass that spot.
I speculate that maybe a parallel "shadow image," "echo" or a reincarnated part of my spirit from an earlier lifetime may be connected to some of these places. This was especially true with the airport incident. I know that sounds way out in la-la land, but I can't think of it any other way.
Interestingly enough, there are also places that just never feel "right," no matter how often I go back, or how long I live there. For example, I've lived in Austin for nearly 20 years, and there is no place here that moves me to anything beyond "indifference." Florida-- have never felt comfortable there. Pretty much all of the Eastern Seaboard.
Wednesday, January 15, 2003
HSPs as "Easy Targets" for Abusive Behavior
I think those in need of healing intuitively seek out healers. Whether we necessarily believe it, I think we HSPs are natural healers of troubled souls/psyches. My guess is that's how come many HSPs end up in couseling-like and teaching fields. The trouble comes to us when the toxic people get to be "partners," rather than "clients." The troubles we are trying to heal suddenly get to be very close.
Maybe we're uncomfortable sending away someone who seems to be in need. Someone who has an "inner wound." Even if that inner wound can damage us, if we stand too close to it, for too long. Maybe they sense that we can "heal" them, on some level-- and seek us out. However we may experience and internalize our feelings-- people with personality disturbances rarely look at us (or anyone else, for that matter) and think: "Here, let me HURT this person." They are looking for someone who will just "accept" them... (their paradigm).. and maybe the difference is that non-HSPs have boundaries that automatically reject the "damaged" personality.
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Being "In The World" and Working Hard
I guess I have more or less told society that it can have its BS... and that my inner peace is about me being happy, not about them being happy because they feel like they can "safely approve" of my activities. Maybe it sounds somewhat egocentric, and not very HSP-like.... but I guess I am not into being society's doormat, on some weird level.
So I am not "getting it together and getting tough" in this economy... instead finding peace with the idea that there is still lots of "fat" in my lifestyle that I don't really need. Because, ultimately, I don't want to be a tough, competitive person. I don't believe in "getting ahead" by being on your toes... on someone else's toes.
I don't speak from some nihilistic "because I don't have it, I don't need it" perspective. I've owned a business, had stress, made a six-figure income.... and have decided I didn't like who I became, as a person. The world's perceptions of what I "should" be doing to be a "success" laid on my skin like an oily film... polluting my "self," and leaving me with an "empty" feeling. What's that expression? "Hollow victory?"
I "quit" and became a writer. Struggling? Sure. A friend of mine quit a high profile engineering job with a local Fortune-500 company-- now she's self-employed and has a pet sitting service. She feeds her "need" to (a) make people's lives easier and (b) cultivates her love of animals. She has created her own reality.
Saturday, January 11, 2003
Sidetrack: Ideas for these Blog Entries
So I was thinking that it might be a good idea to take some of my "more noteworthy" posts I send to the various HSP listservs, or post on the "big" HSP Community messageboard, and turn them into blog posts here. Not only would it create a collection of "relevant" topics, it would also enable me to gather up all my best writings and ideas on the HSP topic... in one place.
It doesn't mean that I won't occasionally come up with "original" material here.
Not sure why I am writing this, now-- as I don't think anyone has ever read these pages.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
HSPs, Introversion and Meeting People
Having said, it may surprise you to know that in my 10+ years of being online, I have met in excess of 100 people, face-to-face, whom I originally "met" through some kind of Internet connection. "How is that POSSIBLE?" you might ask. For starters, let's not forget that this adds up to only about 10 people a year, and many of them were met as part of a group. My point, however, is that 90+% of these encounters have been very positive and non-overwhelming experiences.
I have met an occasional introvert who didn't mind (and even liked) groups-- as long as the group interaction was of a finite period of time, and not too long. In certain circumstances-- which I'll get to-- I belong to that latter group. There's an interesting dynamic, when you get predominately introverts together in a group setting-- they'll find a "comfort zone" very quickly-- usually meaning that a group (for example) of 12 introverts will pair up into six one-on-one conversations-- maybe changing partners, now and then. 12 extraverts would be more likely to have one big free-for-all.
Of course, there are also extraverted HSPs-- but this entry is not about you. But I didn't want you to think that I thought all HSPs are introverts.
But back to how this introverted HSP could go about voluntarily meeting so many people.
There is no parallel in our daily lives that compares to what it is like to "meet" a group of people "you already know" from some kind of online connection. Meeting a group of people (HSPs, for example) you have been emailing with for 6 months or more is completely different from going to a support group (of strangers) you signed up for at the local health center. When you do meet in person, there is a strange camraderie I cannot really describe. Although you are meeting for the "first" time, these people are not "strangers;" and not only are they "not strangers," they are people (thanks to the strange sense of closeness this medium gives us) you have probably shared more openly of your life with than the majority of your "real" friends.
I have been to a total of 7 "group gatherings" which were based on some "common interest." All have been highly positive experiences; I have made some wonderful friends in the process. It seems to me that when you get together (as a group) around a "common bond" it doesn't feel like you're "in a group." It feels like you're in a supportive and non-judgmental meeting of dear friends.
Although I have only been to one "event" that was based on the HSP trait as the "common factor," this meeting of HSPs was no different. And Dr. Aron writes of the importance of HSPs making friends with other HSPs-- so the effort is well worth it.
Saturday, January 04, 2003
HSPs and Unhealthy Relationships
I was married to a Borderline personality for 13 years. I will certainly say that it was a "learning experience." I am well beyond being mad as *&$*#, and can now say that "everything happens for a reason." Thanks to her, I got more seriously involved in psychology, and was forced to take a long hard look at the reality of myself and my upbringing. But the 13 years really should only have been 6 or 7. In some ways, that marriage should never have happened, in the first place.
As HSPs, we tend to be empaths-- and I think many of us are drawn to the pain some people have in their lives. Unfortunately some of us have early life models that draw us to the "unhealthy" versions of sharing our healing touch. One of the things I learned in post-divorce counseling (and through self-study) is that there is really nothing wrong with wanting to help people. But you don't have to be married to (or in a relationship with) those people whose lives seem to be a perpetual mess. However, it's not always easy-- I know I have an almost uncanny "radar" when it comes to finding what I have come to call "woman improvement projects."
Maybe that sounds arrogant, on some level-- like I consider myself some kind of "superior being." Well, I don't. The desire to "help" those in need doesn't automatically mean that the helper is "all that."
However, it should be a warning sign when you find yourself drawn into some situation where the person is sad because "they have never had a good relationship" and "all men/women misunderstand me" and "if someone would only give me a chance." RUN for the hills! There is usually a reason why these people "have never had a good relationship:" They are destructive/self-destructive, and people who "misunderstood" them and left them in the past did so because they are impossible to live with. There's usually a reason why these people might be 40 years old and "have never been interested enough in a job to stay there more than 6 months," and have a history of chronic firings/unemployment-- and lament that they are always broke. Those may sound like harsh words... and indeed there may be a "diamond in the rough" somewhere, and I do feel genuinely sorry for that "diamond".... but are you really ready to "shoot yourself in the foot" 20 times before you welcome that person who "needs" your nurturing powers in a healthy way?
Personally, I am very tired of narcissistic chaos-mongers who eat up all my energy while offering very little in return-- because they are too "damaged" to share healthy love.
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