Thursday, February 06, 2003

HSPs and Interacting with "The Other Gender"

Someone wrote to me with a question-- actually gleaned from reading Elaine Aron's "HSP Workbook"-- which went: "Why do HSPs feel especially uneasy around 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.

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