Friday, May 07, 2010

HSPs and Defining Ourselves

"Unless you know who you ARE, how can you possibly know what you WANT?"

"Unless you know who YOU are, how can you possibly hope to know what you want in someone ELSE?"

Recently, I was tidying up in the basement, looking for some documents in old boxes, and basically being involved in "digging around in old stuff." It was also a somewhat mindless process, which "triggered"-- and then allowed for-- my walking around and "digging around in" old thinking/emotional "stuff."

I found myself feeling grateful about how many ghosts of my past have already been "processed" and neatly packed away. I think it is true of our ostensible "baggage" (to use a pop culture buzzword), that it never actually "goes away." But we do learn to incorporate it into our lives, and subsequently to be awake and cognizant of it, and perhaps to rearrange it into a small "carry-on" that stows neatly in the overhead bin, or under the seat in front of us. That said, there's a never-ending process of self-discovery, and often when you find and deal with some old "pothole," a new one seems to manifest itself.

The two phrases up top were spoken by Eli, one of my spiritual Teachers of many, many moons ago. As I suddenly recalled them, I ended up pondering the way HSPs are often predisposed to seek "external answers" to "internal troubles."

Because we are sensitive, we spend a lot of time in "reactionary mode," reacting to things that are coming from outside us. Then we internalize these things, often assigning ourselves blame for something that happened, or something someone did. Sometimes we assign blame outwardly-- someone did something TO us, and it becomes "their fault" that we have pain. Often these things cause us some kind of mental/emotional/psychic pain (which is internal, to us) and then we go off in search of external "fixes" to get rid of the pain. The second quote is a reflection of where we often do ourselves the most damage: we go in search of "someone else" through whom "our" pain will somehow go away. Often, this is a love relationship, but it can also be friendships, or jobs, or hobbies... pursued with a subtle subtext "If only I have X,Y and Z, my life will be better/perfect, and my pain will be gone."

Not so much...

"Know who you are."

I've had a lot of HSPs respond to this assertion with phrases like "Yeah, that's easy for YOU to say! I have NO idea who I am, nor do I even know how to find out."

Let me state for the record: Personal work is NOT easy.
Let me rephrase that: Personal work of sufficient depth that it leads to authentic insight, healing and lasting change is extraordinarily challenging and can be extremely painful.

I can also assure you that there is no "magic pill," and nobody is going to drive up to your front door and deliver "your perfect life," in a box from FedEx.

You may be reading this and going "Well... DUH!" but when I look around me, at the many HSPs I personally know, I see relatively little evidence that folks-- even quite "evolved" folks-- truly grok this at a deeper level.

A lot of people want to argue with me. They say "Yeah, but if I won the lottery, these problems would go away."

The only thing that would be "true" is that you would "have a lot of money"... and the SAME problems you had before winning the lottery. You would not stop being depressed, loveless, chemically sensitive, ADHD, sensory defensive and suffering from PTSD from an abusive childhood, just because your bills are paid. And you know what? If "money" were your primary issue, odds are that you'd blow through those lottery winnings, because the "underlying issue" isn't money, but the fact that you don't know how to manage money. See the problem? Trust me, on this one.

"Yeah, but if I was in a relationship instead of being alone...."

This is one of the most common "arguments" I hear from HSPs-- especially HSPs who struggle extensively with relationships. This may sound rude and insensitive, but please pause and entertain the possibility that your long string of failed relationships that you rationalize as having failed because something was always "wrong" with the other person may just have happened because YOU are an insufferable cloud of insecure clingy neediness and low self-esteem. My point being that healthy relationships are typically created by healthy people.

I believe many HSPs struggle with the issue of "who they are," because in-depth self-definition is-- ultimately-- a SELF-ish process. And we tend to be "all about OTHER people." It's not that we don't "self-examine" (because we DO, and in spades), but we tend to excessively frame said self-examination in the context of "what others think about us." Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against caring for/about others. I just have a problem when we allow others to "define us" and "create us" in an image that really doesn't match who we are, in our souls. When we allow "the world" to define us, we give away our personal power.

Those who have followed my ramblings here since their inception might remember how I struggled with the issue of going from "a paid job" to self-employment. And how I struggled with my reasoning for "moving from Texas to Washington." And how I have struggled with relationships.

Now, we probably ALL struggle with these at various times... but just where do our struggles lead us? My realization, last week, was that my overall "personal growth paradigm" has changed, over the past ten years. It has changed from "recognizing that something was wrong, and seeking something different," to "recognizing that something was wrong, pausing to examine what would be right, and then focusing purely on seeking IT."

Phrased a little differently, it was a subtle shift from "running away from" (what I didn't like) to "running towards" (what I did like).

It's easy to recognize "pain."
It's easy to recognize "fear."
It's easy to realize that we "don't like it."
It's relatively easy to "run away" from it.
"Running away" is generally "reactive."
"Reacting" does not require us to know ourselves well.
To "run towards" joy, gratitude, pleasure and Love, we must first know ourselves.
What gives us Joy?
What leads to gratitude?
What gives us pleasure?
What does Love feel like?
"Running towards" is generally "responsive."
It asks us to be Aware, and to be Mindful.
It asks us to look forward towards something we have consciously identified, and we feel safe in doing so, because our path is not shaped by concern about a demon gaining on us, from behind.

In the course of the change process, I have also given up most of my dependence on external factors and people, as determinants in what I do. That is, I hear what (advice) others have to offer, but I don't so much let it rule me as if it were "superior to my own inner knowing." And it's NOT easy when you encounter situations where almost everyone, and almost ALL "conventional advice" says "You can't DO that!"

There have been many and diverse steps in this process. Maybe you'll recognize some of them in a global sense-- either as a "been there, done that" reminder, or as a realization that you really need to examine them because you're actually "stuck," even though you may be afraid to admit that.

Some examples:

I "redefined" WORK. Multiple times.

I went from having "a job" to working as a contractor (You shouldn't do that! It's risky! You have bills!), then I went from contract work to being self-employed, at home (You can't do that! 90% of the self-employed fail! You have bills and obligations, and people who depend on you!).

I "redefined" work, again.

I went from doing something people perceived as "real" (technical writing, online test design) to "playing with my hobbies." I trade in rare stamps for stamp collectors, and I am a beach comber, selling "found objects" to 100s of jewelers, artists and crafts people around the world (That's not a REAL job! With your talents, you should be doing something more important! You can't make a living, doing that!).

What I do for a living, today, bears little resemblance to what 99% of the population would consider "working."

I redefined "success."

I largely abandoned the whole issue that "success" somehow is about "stuff" and what we have. Success, for me, amounts to primarily having a roof over my head, utilities paid, food on the table, a high-speed Internet connection, a working vehicle, money enough for travel and books and Love in my life. I was never happy because I had an expensive new car. I was never happy as a result of wearing a $2000 "status" watch. These were trinkets other people (and society) told me "should" make me happy... I also brought some "consistency" to my thinking. If I'm going to "preach" importance of living a sustainable life with a small carbon footprint, I must LIVE that life, not just TALK about it.

I should insert, here, that I absolutely am not advocating some kind of ascetic lifestyle. Far from it! Money is a nifty thing, and having some makes life a lot easier to live, and there's absolutely no shame in liking to have a cushion in your bank account and the ability to buy a $100 dinner when you feel like it. Feeling worthy of having-- and embracing-- financial comfort and being ruled by a driving need to accumulate material wealth are two very different things.

As HSPs we're highly intuitive and empathic and even psychic. We have these amazing "inner barometers of truth" that are right, 95% of the time. And yet? So often we assign far more value and importance to the words, advice and "wisdom" of people "outside us" who-- by their own admission-- "don't understand" who we are!


Nobody "owes" you anything. The only person who "owes" you, is YOU. What you get from others-- lovely as it may be-- is a "bonus," not an "entitlement." The Universe doesn't "owe" you a good job, true love or kind and just treatment. These are things you choose or create for yourself. Life doesn't "happen TO you," you "MAKE" life happen.

"Defining" ourselves is an inherently SELF-ish process. We aren't who other people tell us we are. Our self-definition doesn't have to make sense to other people, it has to make sense to US.

Talk Back: Do you know who you really are? Do you know what you really want? Do your definitions come from yourself, or from others? Do you feel awkward/worried that your true self would be misunderstood? Or have you completely embraced it?

1 comment:

  1. Peter, I find your thoughts and challenges (to the typical HSP ways of thinking) to be invaluable. Thank you so much for your balanced approach.


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