Tuesday, October 13, 2009

HSPs and "Changing the World"

When I find myself with a group of HSPs, one of the common topics seems to be about how we can "change the world."

Perhaps it is true of everyone that they want to change the world (in SOME way), but it seems like HSPs ponder these issues more, and more often are anchored in the sense of idealism also common to "NF" Myers-Briggs types. For many, "changing the world" is more of a compulsion, than just an interest.

I've previously written about the issue of changing the world as being an issue so large it overwhelms us, and we get stuck. But there's more to changing the world than merely directing our energies at "bite sizes" we're capable of handling. I'm talking about "the how."

Not all HSPs (in fact, relatively few) are what I'd characterize as "aggressive activists." In fact, even those who very much want to change the world have certain hesitations, and even (sometimes secretly) confess to me that they are "slightly offended" by way "out there" activism like picketing, staging protests, spray painting fur coats, chaining themselves to bulldozers and so on. We'd really like the end result, but getting there through (almost) "violent" means is often unappealing. So we get a bit stuck there... perhaps saying "I don't have the aggressive nature to do that," yet concerned that "nothing will change" unless we make some kind of major statement to the world.

Another issue that comes up occasionally is that of "principles." Sometimes people get "stuck" behind their principles. Maybe they are dedicated vegans who won't even TALK to meat eaters ("on principle")-- yet, unless they talk to said meat eaters, they cannot hope to change their ways. Maybe they consider such things as Facebook and twitter "selling out" to large corporate entities... but find it hard going to work AGAINST the system for change, rather than WITH the system for change.

Personally, I've never been much of an "activist." In fact I'm one of the ones of the mindset that many ostensible activists annoy the hell out of me because they take this very strident approach... which inadvertently portrays them negatively... and so they may have a super important message, but their presentation gets them dismissed as "freaks" and "fringe dwellers." In short, their methodology overshadows their message.

I believe one of the core necessities for greater long-term change in the world is "balance." From where I am sitting-- I believe we must be "opportunistic" as well as "idealistic;" that is, we must be willing to "use the system" and "their tools" to spread the word about our message and our values. Hence, I work with "mainstream" venues like Blogger (which is part of google), Facebook and twitter to inform people about sensitivity as a biological trait.

Of course, everyone has their own approach. My experience has been (regardless of whether you're talking to other HSPs, or the world at large) that connecting across similarities and "infiltrating from within" typically results in more lasting change than causing a ruckus with a few loud noises.

For example-- on a more personal level-- I don't carry an "I'm an HSP!" banner around, trying to "beat" the trait into people's heads. Truthfully, I have connected with and "informed" more unaware HSPs by simply leaving "The Highly Sensitive Person" out in a visible place... if a dialogue ensues (Them: "What's that you're reading?" Me: "Oh, it's a very interesting book about sensitivity as an innate biological trait. Turns out that a lot of people are simply wired to be sensitive." And then we're sometimes "off to the races." And sometimes not.), then maybe there's something there to explore further. Most people (HSP, or otherwise) respond better to invitations to subtle self-discovery, than to being beaten over the head.

Of course, that's just my opinion! Your mileage may vary....


Talk Back: Do you find yourself wanting to help change the world, but get stuck? Are you more inclined towards "aggressive activism," or "subtle influence from within?" Do you have strong principles that sometimes "get in the way" of your desire to change things? Share your experiences-- leave a comment!

1 comment:

  1. I could get on a spiel about this. I appreciate my activist friends and I usually agree with them when they're reasonable. ;) But I do feel a pressure to be like them. I have no doubt that I'll speak my mind when it matters. But I also believe small, personal choices and random acts of kindness *do* matter. The kind of activism that works from the inside out. Thanks for posting this.


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