Monday, July 16, 2007

HSPs and the struggle with Friendships

I have generally stuggled with relationship/friendship dynamics for most of my life. Of course, until I learned about the HSP trait, I pretty much believed that I "should" be able to make friend with almost anyone... and it was a puzzle to me why it always seemed so difficult, and why so many friendships I formed seemed to quickly go away.

On a very general level, it seems to me that HSPs and non-HSPs often "interpret" the same situation quite differently... and there are communication issues, even when both people have only the best of intentions. And given that there are few HSPs in the world, it generally holds true that most people we meet with will not be HSPs.

Whereas I used to have trouble even making friends (but that was on account of social anxiety, not because I'm an HSP), I now make friends rather easily. However, keeping them is rather a challenge, at least when it comes to mon-HSPs.

One observation I have-- which I have explored in some depth with an HSP "internet pen pal"-- is that I believe a lot of people are initially attracted to the depth and intensity of HSPs; but while we (well, at least I speak for myself) want that intensity to continue, for other people it's like "the novelty wears off" and they want to return to the more superficial way of living they consider their "normal." Actually, it feels like they just get tired of the intensity, and want me to "lighten up." It sort of reminds me of a saying my former therapist liked to trot out: "Opposites attract, but they don't necessarily make good bed-fellows."

Most HSPs I meet seem to be very good listeners, combined with a natural tendency towards compassion and empathy. How often have you-- as an HSP-- been told you are "really easy to talk to?" HSPs also seem to have "soft" personal boundaries.... which (at least for me) seems to combine to create this dynamic in which I feel like I gradually become someone's "therapist" rather than their friend. I grant you, I am naturally predisposed to helping those with "broken wings," so I am sure that has influenced my choices. And I know that part of friendship is about sharing "troubles," but it ends up feeling like "one-way traffic," and I find myself pondering "does everyone have this much chaos and drama in their life?" And I am sure the fact that I don't tend to say things like "take your crap and drama to someone else" (which I understand "normal" people do quite readily) also plays into the picture.

I recently realized that during the past 10 years-- about as long as I have known about the HSP trait-- virtually all the new friends I have made have been fellow HSPs. Now, that may sound a bit "exclusive," but the truth of the matter is that friends are like our chosen family. Whereas it may sound all nicely egalitarian and politically correct to choose "diversified" friends, the basic truth remains that we choose people to be with because we enjoy their company. And I happen to like the company of HSPs... and I highly recommend finding and making some HSP friends.

Maybe that sounds hard... but it needn't be. Most of my HSP friends started as friends in cyberspace that eventually turned into "real life" friends. Remember, you always have the right to make friends at a pace that "feels right" to you, and the relative slowness of the Internet often works well for HSPs.

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