Monday, January 25, 2010

Staying True to What Matters (part II)

I'd like to continue to explore the importance of "staying true to what matters to you," especially as it applies to HSPs.

Before I get started, though, I want to address a couple of private comments that arrived in my in-box as a result of my last post-- mostly relating to my being chided for taking the "Pink Fluffy Bunny Self-Growth Movement" to task.

If you re-read what I wrote, you'll see that I did NOT dismiss the "sweet and eternally sunny" approach to healing-- I merely suggested that it might be best suited to the neophyte, both with respect to learning about being an HSP, and subsequently entering a period of meaningful self-growth. The problem is that as the "student" advances, he or she runs an increased risk of getting "stuck" as more difficult questions-- NOT suited to being "lightfooted" over-- arise.

The second thing I'd like to say concerns the misconception that HSPs are-- by definition-- "all sweetness and light." Whereas it may make HSPs feel nice, warm and fuzzy to hold this belief about being sensitive, such an idea has little basis in truth and actually does us a great disservice... in a way it creates a false pressure to conform to something that is not real, like (for example) societal messages about "ideal body type." "Sensitive" does NOT equal "nice." Sensitive equals... well, sensitive. And I'm not even sure what the word "nice" means.

But I digress.

I believe that Staying True to What Matters is an enormously important concept. I say this not merely from personal experience, but from what I observe in those around me. On the whole, the most content people I come across are those who are pursuing their True Callings-- be it in work, in Love, spiritually, intellectually or whatever. As I said last time, HSPs are all about finding authenticity. What is also often true is that those in their Calling are willing to make certain sacrifices to BE in such a place.

Turning our backs on our authentic selves can have disastrous results. On the whole, the most depressed people I know are NOT the ones who are "drifting aimlessly," but the ones who have a good idea of "what they want most," and then erect a carefully crafted "Mountain of Reasons" why they "can't" follow their bliss.

"Yeah, that's easy for YOU to say. It's just not that simple. You have no idea how hard my life is."

"I have no idea who I am, nor any idea how I'd go about finding out.

"I can't just do that, because I have family, obligations, job, children, image, anxieties, fill in the blank."

All of the above are absolutely true! At the same time, they are also "not true," in the sense that they are ultimately excuses and rationalizations. And they tend to be firmly anchored in a world of absolutes ("Either/Or thinking") with no room for nuance, and sometimes even in a toxic pattern of compulsively "being the martyr" who wants something but "just can't HAVE it."

When you scrape beneath the surface, what often reveals itself is that we realize that we do have choices and free will, and that choices have consequences... and we're simply not willing (or ready, or we're fearful of) to face unpleasant consequences and negative feedback when we make certain choices. We're so deeply anchored in "what the world thinks about us" that we completely forget to consider what WE "think about us."

Allow me to share a favorite quote, by American writer Rita Mae Brown:

"The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you but yourself"

When you fail to respond to something your inner wisdom knows to be true, you are-- in essence-- conforming to some kind of outside influence. You are giving up your right to speak for yourself, instead allowing "the world" to speak for you.

If what you want to do is climb mountains, don't say "I can't do that!" and throw up a bunch of rationalizations. At the same time, nobody expects you to selfishly abandon your family and job and run off to climb a mountain. Instead, find a way to gradually incorporate mountain climbing into your existence. But don't lose sight of you want!

Talk Back: Do you know that there is something you truly want in life? Are you making sure it "matters" in your life? Are you making excuses and rationalizations to NOT reach for what matters most to you? What are your reasons?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Staying True to What Matters (Part I)

I was never a big follower of the "Pink Fluffy Bunny New Age Spiritual and Personal Enlightenment Movement."

Let me explain. I have been a thorough part of it, and I have learned much about the world from it. And I'd go so far as to suggest that it has definite value in the world, especially for those who are feeling fragile after being brought face-to-face with questions about the meaning of their life after some kind of massive personal crisis and meltdown. Seriously? Such are times when we can use some hand holding, affirmation, hugs and validation... and maybe sitting around saying "I'm worthy!" over and over while smelling rose essences helps lead us through the darkness.

I believe it's also an excellent "entry point" for those who are just starting to examine self-exploration and personal growth. Let's face it, when we're poking at "new territory," we probably don't want to hear someone say "Stop whining, it doesn't matter, you don't matter, get over yourself!" At least it would discourage many-- especially HSPs with easily hurt feelings-- from seeking deeper and more meaningful answers.

In the long run, though, it's my opinion that a "Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy" approach sells us a bag of goods, on the greater scale of self-development. Why? Because of a myopic tendency to take serious life problems and window dress them with pink chiffon, delicate flowers, dancing unicorns and positive affirmations... after which people "leave the scene" with the impression they are "healed," even while the original wounds fester below, unaddressed.

Over the years, a large segment of the HSP "community" has developed an unfortunate tendency to get mired down in toothless "happy making" (there are exceptions) as the path to personal growth-- but I don't feel like it serves us well. Or maybe it serves us marginally and temporarily, but without helping us make real and permanent positive changes in our lives.

In a sense, we're choosing to substitute "validation" for "healing."

Don't get me wrong, I completely understand the underlying premise: HSPs most often arrive into adult life feeling marginalized, unheard, unseen, judged and put upon (goodness knows, I did!) by a world that not only doesn't seem to "get" them, but doesn't seem to want to get them. As a result, the knee-jerk therapeutic ("helping") response swings the pendulum in the extreme opposite direction with a "Let's validate everything you say, support all your psychoses as 'normal' and heal you through never disagreeing with you" approach.

Not so good.

Instead of healing the wounds resulting from marginalization and low self-esteem, they are glossed over while we create a new set of wounds centered around a false sense of "OK-ness" that results in hurt feelings every time something doesn't turn out the way we "think it should."

Newsflash: Life doesn't turn out that way for ANYone. Rarely, anyway.

Maybe I'm pissing you off, with these words. That's OK... really, it is. I write this because I am a "concerned citizen" of the HSP community. As the year turned and it became 2010, I realized that it is my 13th year of playing this gig; my 13th year since I learned there was a neuroscientific label for the stranger aspects of "being me."

Why am I concerned?

Because it saddens me to see fellow HSPs "get stuck" in their lives. Get stuck, because they allow themselves to use a blanket "because I'm an HSP" excuse to avoid facing a myriad situations that could actually lead to a richer more fulfilling life. And... especially... situations that involve looking at some dirty, nasty and unpleasant insight and personal growth issues.

Franky? We deserve better!

HSPs are all about authenticity, and about finding deeper meaning in life. As such, we owe it to the world, and to ourselves, to stay True to what really matters to us... and as long as gloss over our deeper natures with platitudes, niceties and excessively affirmational therapies we will tend to stray from that course.

And if you think about it... usually we learn the most from those who tell us things we really would rather not hear.

More to come, on the topic of HSPs and "Staying True to What Matters."

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