Thursday, April 13, 2006

Get Ready! The 2006 California HSP Gathering is just two months away!

Registration for the 2006 Annual California HSP Gathering & Retreat has now begun! The Gathering will take place on June 14th-18th, at Walker Creek Ranch in Marin County, north of San Francisco, CA.

As in previous years, Elaine Aron will give the keynote presentation; this year the topic will be:

"What's special about the HSP's brain and body-- scientific facts and theories."

In addition, there will be a number of other workshops offered, relating to various aspects of living as an HSP. However, as much as the Gatherings are an opportunity to learn, they are also an opportunity to meet and get to know other HSPs. The workshops are optional, allowing participants to "set their own pace," and there will be plenty of time to just relax in a supportive and validating environment.

Walker Creek Ranch has been the venue for several previous Gatherings, and is an HSP-friendly conference and educational facility located on 1700 fenced acres near Tomales Bay, with miles of hiking trails and opportunities to be outside in quiet natural surroundings.

If you have concerns about being an HSP and participating in a "group" event, or are merely curious about what it's like to be at a Gathering, please visit my online photojournal from the 2003 California Gathering, which also took place at Walker Creek Ranch. It will give you a good feel for both the location, as well as the "atmosphere" of an HSP Gathering.

The sooner you register the better! The conference fee is $225 until April 15th, $250 from April 16th to May 15th, and $275 thereafter. After June 1st, registration will be strictly on a "space-available" basis.

A variety of accomodations are available, ranging from "dormitory style" housing to private rooms. This year, for the first time, there will also be a "camping option," allowing you to bring your tent and sleeping bag, while having access to the central bathhouse and dining hall (11 meals, 4 nights).

For more HSP Gathering information, please visit Jacquelyn Strickland's web site. You can download a registration form online (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader), and payment can either be mailed in, or made through PayPal, a secure online payment facility that accepts "virtual checks" and credit cards. Here's a link to information about making secure online payment.

As a participant at several past HSP Gatherings, I highly recommend the experience. And yes, I am an introvert, and yes, I was very apprehensive about going to a "group thing," the first time I went. However, I fairly quickly learned that a group of HSPs is not at all like "a group," much the way our community here isn't like most other online communities.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Why is the HSP trait not better known?

I was recently asked this question, but someone who evidently thought I would know the answer, as a result of almost 10 years of "HSP awareness." The person was feeling a bit down, thinking that "nobody thinks HSPs are important," and expressed a wish that someone would get on Oprah and talk about it. I got to thinking a bit about this assertion, a couple of days ago.

On the most superficial of levels, Elaine Aron did us all a huge favor by taking this thing called "sensitivity" and removing it from the realm of "pathologies" and into the realm of a "neutral inborn trait." Personally, I am happy there is nothing "wrong" with me, and all I have to know is how to manage a trait that's sometimes a bit challenging. I can deal with that.

There's a downside to the HSP trait being classified as such, which is that because it is a "neutral trait" and NOT a "disease" or "pathology," it doesn't get the same attention a mental disorder might. Sure, we have certain "special needs," but so do people who are 6'6" tall. And they don't get a show on Oprah, either.

That's the "flip" and "easy" answer.

The term "HSP" has been around for only about a decade. Although there was research done on "hypersensitivities" and "hyperexcitabilities" in gifted individuals in the 70's (Kazimiercz Dabrowski, Elaine Aron was really the first to say "this is a natural trait, not a dysfunction." It takes a lot longer than ten years for something to gain mainstream recognition. It also takes independent research by a number of experts to confirm the original findings. The latter is currently happening both in Germany and in the Netherlands.

The good news is that awareness IS spreading. An increasing number of therapists have Elaine Aron's books on their shelves. Many people in the healing/helping professions not only know about the trait, they ARE HSPs. If you google "Highly Sensitive Person" you get over 100,000 hits. Just three years ago it was fewer than 10,000. There are counselors and life coaches who ONLY work with HSPs. There are dozens of HSP groups on the web, HSP web rings, support groups and blog rings. The annual HSP Gatherings, which started as an "experiment" in 2001, have grown to where there will now be Gatherings in four different locations this year, including the UK and Canada. When I learned about being an HSP, I found one online group with fewer than 30 members.

We are, in a sense, still the "pioneers" of this trait-- I suspect that 100 years from now the term "HSP" will raise no more eyebows than "left handed" does, today.

All we can really do be to be "good ambassadors" for what we are. And how we are. Tell those we meet who seem like they might be HSPs about the trait. Be "involved," rather than sit as passive observers. A couple of years ago, I was at a workshop on the enneagram and somehow "sensitivity" came up (not in an "HSP" context) and after mentioning the HSP book, it turned out that 6 of 30-odd people in the class had either read the book, or heard about the trait. I have three copies of the first book (because I lend it out a lot) and they were lent out and examined by a dozen people at the workshop, in the course of a week. In a receptive environment, people are grateful to have answers.

I think some HSPs get frustrated, and start directing their energies in a negative direction. Their focus becomes on getting respect and "special treatment" from a world they see as not supportive. Frankly, I think that energy could be better used to tell people who are HSPs, but don't know it as "a trait" that they are really not "nuts."

Maybe the day will come when we are on Oprah-- but in my opinion, being on Oprah would have to be all about pointing out the benefits and strengths of being an HSP, rather than reqesting "special treatment" from the world because we're sensitive. Wearing a mantle of "victimhood" will get us nowhere. And without greater awareness among those who are HSPs, but don't know it yet, we probably won't be on Oprah. The supporting numbers are simply too small. And whether Elaine would go on Oprah, if invited, I don't even know.

Thus, until that day comes, perhaps the best we can do may be to simply accept ourselves and set a good example.

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