Saturday, April 17, 2010

HSP Comfort Zones and Who We Are

I have been thinking, recently, about the notion of "Comfort Zones" and who we are, inside and outside our comfort zones.

Much has been written in the popular press-- and especially in self-help books-- about the need to "push the envelope" and "step outside our comfort zone" but I feel increasingly compelled to examine this notion, in the specific context of being an HSP.

Where does "complacency" and "learned (self-imposed) helplessness" end, and simply "managing our energy in a self-caring way" begin? I can certainly see how always choosing to stay safe might lead to stagnation, but isn't it also true that much of our greatest creative output happens when we're "in our (comfort) zone?"

A while back, I was talking to a friend about comfort zones and knowing where we are OK and "within limits," and where we're not. Personally, I'm an introvert, and definitely do not possess the well-documented "thrill seeker" gene. Many would consider me rather reclusive and not particularly people-oriented. I'd agree with that assessment-- the psychic energy of crowds can be very exhausting, so I tend to avoid them. That said, I do like people, and I am not socially anxious or avoidant-- it's just that my preference is for spending my time with one person at a time, and I give myself permission to be quite selective about who gets my energy.

My point being, I have certain "limits." My choice of limited social interaction is not a thinly veiled cover for social anxiety, shyness or some other kind of avoidance-- it's a response to the fact that being "on" in a group of ten people for six hours is absolutely and totally exhausting to me. What I would like to add to that statement, is that I may actually have a really good time, with those ten people... that's not what's in question..

I feel that when we consider "Comfort Zones," especially as HSPs, we must pause to consider the deeper "whys" that draw us to staying in them. Staying within our comfort zone because we are fearful of leaving it is a very different situation from choosing to mostly stay in it because experience has taught us that it's simply wise self-management.

There are those who would argue that we can "train ourselves" to overcome things that are difficult for us. Sure. I can also train myself to hit myself in the head with a ball peen hammer every morning... but why would I want to? What are our motivations? Simply pushing outside our comfort zones "for its own sake" is just plain idiocy, and surely almost as toxic as feeling trapped inside by fear. To use a simple metaphor, if you know you're going to throw up every time you ride a rollercoaster, don't keep riding rollercoasters just because "it's outside your comfort zone!"

It should also be remembered that comfort zones are not a "one size fits all" proposition. Although it's a nice ideal-- heavily perpetuated by the "New Age" movement-- that we are all one and the same, the truth of our lives in this three-dimensional plane of existence is that we are NOT all equal, and NOT all the same. We may be the same in the eyes of Spirit, but not in terms of biology! Let's just start with the very fact that we are sitting here, and have "differentiated ourselves" as HSPs. What could be a clearer statement that "we are not the same" than that?

Anyway, to conclude this train of thought, I believe we must pause and question not so much the "that" we have Comfort Zones, but the "why" being in them. A Comfort Zone is a healthy self-preserving space which shouldn't be regarded negatively unless we become pathological about never leaving it.

Talk Back: How aware are you of your Comfort Zones? When you are completely honest with yourself, do you use them as a way to retreat from (or avoid) life, or just as a safe haven that gives you the strength to make "excursions?" Do you feel like you are in balance, with your "in" and "out" time?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

HSPs and the delicate exercise of “Jumping to Conclusions.”

As HSPs, I think we sometimes just “read too much” into situations. Last month, I wrote a bit about "taking things too personally." This explores a related issue.

Most of us are empaths, and certainly intuitives. Many are somewhat to very psychic, even. I'm suggesting we sometimes become/are so dependent on intuition and “vibes” and feelings and hunches that we run the risk of reading everything that’s “between the lines,” while completely ignoring the actual WORDS of the message.

What exactly do I mean?

Let me offer a fictional example:

We’re in a conversation with Bob, and he says “I just LOVE the color blue!

We’re wearing a green sweater, and “extrapolate” from Bob’s statement and the fact that he seems a little tense and doesn't make eye contact that he “hates green.” And that his declaration of love for the color blue, combined with the fact that he didn’t also give accolades to green, is actually a latently hostile statement that he can’t stand our green sweater.


Let’s examine this, for a moment. Bob simply stated that he loves blue. No more, no less. We may accurately have picked up his fidgety vibe, but failed to know that he had a big fight with his wife earlier and was avoiding eye-contact to try to avoid a conversation in which he'd have to confess that he'd been the guilty one in causing the fight. I think it behooves to not lose sight of what was really said in a dialogue, and not to assume that some disaster or slight was intended, until we actually have clear evidence of it.

Furthermore, if we often “catch ourselves” assuming malicious intent in seemingly harmless messages, there’s actually an invitation there to examine our own “baggage,” to look at why we believe people are “out to get us.” We might also look at the deeper question of why we rather selfishly believe other people's neutral statements are actually about us. I have observed this kind of "persecution complex" in a number of HSP web groups, where someone will interpret a completely neutral message as "hate mail," after which a huge brou-ha-ha ensues.

To use a saying my Beloved often uses: "Sometimes crows eating crawfish are JUST crows eating crawfish."

To add my own commentary... situations such as the above tend to not just be about "being highly sensitive" but about deeper issues inviting further exploration.

Talk Back: So… have you caught yourself “jumping to conclusions?” And later finding out it was to your detriment? Or does it not apply to you? Have you ever been in this pattern? If you were, and moved past it, what was helpful to you in moving on?

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