Friday, September 30, 2011

HSPs, Discomfort and Learning

It has been a while since I have written, and I am taking a little sidetrack today, to address an issue that comes up from time to time.

I have had a few emails and private messages, telling me that I seem to take HSPs to task a lot, and that I'm often critical and make (some) people feel uncomfortable with what I post.

On occasion, the feedback I get is that I'm not being "supportive" of people who are HSPs, and I am "no better" than those out in the world who tell us that we're "too sensitive" and we need to "get over it." In other words, I "should" be more sensitive and gentle with people.

I do take criticism and feedback seriously.

This feedback made me step back and ponder the entire foundation for "learning," and the process by which we grow-- as people-- regardless of whether we're Highly Sensitive, or not.

Growth is painful. Change-- REAL change-- is not only difficult, it can be painful.

Ever heard the saying "The truth will set you free... but first it'll piss you off?" Lot of truth in that statement.

What I am getting at, here... is that if you read these pages and it feels a bit like some part of what you believe in has been "attacked" somehow... sit back and consider where those feelings are coming from. Often, when something upsets us, we're actually faced with "a point of learning;" a place in our lives where we are about to look at what might be a truth about us we'd rather not look at or face.

As HSPs-- or, for that matter, as people in general-- it does not help us grow if everyone around us coddles our dysfunctions. Some would argue that it's not compassionate to tell someone the truth if that truth hurts a person... but what is really gained by allowing someone to remain eternally stuck in a cycle of pain and unhappiness?

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not advocating that we be brutal or cruel in examining the truth... just that we strive to be honest. And not allow ourselves to be complacent, or to "hide" behind platitudes. For HSPs, what this often involves is honest assessment of what it means (for each individual person) to be Highly Sensitive... and accepting and dealing with the fact that our Social Anxiety (just using this as an example-- of an actual disorder) is NOT "just part of being an HSP" so we don't get to just "write it off" as something we don't need to deal with.

Much as we perhaps would like to...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Some Important Words about Being Highly Sensitive

The title sounds very impressive and serious, doesn't it? Well, it's not... really. But it is important.
I was planning to write something this morning... but I got sidetracked by reading, instead. I think it's part of the lives of most writers that they are also voracious readers. At the end of my reading, I realized that my own words will "keep," and that I instead wanted to share the words of others, today.
I want to share two pieces of writing about being an HSP. They are both incredibly relevant, yet utterly different in style... a study in contrasts.
The first is a deeply intimate and moving blog post by my friend and fellow HSP, Ane Axford... who examines-- in a deeply personal way-- the truth of opening up to our sensitivity and to laying down our "armor" against the world. As she puts it... are we "hardy" (armor wearing) or "hearty" (open to/about our sensitivity). This is one of the best pieces of exploratory writing on being Highly Sensitive I've read in years... don't miss this one!
The second piece of writing is an article from Psychology Today-- the US' most widely read publication (Est. 1.2 million readers!) in the psychology field. Extensively quoting HSP field experts like Elaine Aron, Ted Zeff and others, the article is testament to just how far awareness of the HSP trait (as something other than "in our imagination" or "New Age hooey") has come, since 1996. This is a very "mainstream" magazine... and even though I don't necessarily agree with everything written, it keeps a very balanced and "non-pathological" perspective.
"Sense and Sensitivity" by Andrea Bartz, in Psychology Today.

As a 15-year proponent of openness about being an HSP, these two-- very different-- articles made me stop and ponder the basic questions:

Where are we? What's more, where are we, as individuals trying to figure things out in life? And where are we, as a global "community" of highly sensitive persons?

How are we doing? Have we done enough? Are we doing enough? Are we being our own (and each other's) advocates, or are we hiding our truth?

What is it we really want, as HSPs?

This time my usual "talk back" space asks you to read the articles, consider, and then leave a comment about your own experience... along with your answers/thoughts about these questions.

As always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 04, 2011

HSPs, Staying Present and Letting Go of the Past

How good are you at "Staying Present?"

I realize that "Staying Present" and "Being in THIS Moment" are currently popular buzzwords in the metaphysics, New Age and personal development fields, and I'll be the first to admit that I spent a fair amount of time considering what exactly "they" (You know, the "experts") mean, by that.

Then I considered some of the core aspects of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

We "Process Deeply."
We "Have Rich Inner Lives."
We "Pause and Reflect."
We "Spend Time Alone."
We "Experience Pain Deeply."

"Staying Present" may actually be particularly important for the Highly Sensitive Person. Why? Whereas we probably try to frame the above attributes in a positive light, truth is that they can also be a tempting "invitation" to become moody and broody. Because of the deep way we experience life and its events, there's a very fine line between merely honoring our natural sensitivities and depth... and sliding into either a dark and depressing hole, or a place of anxiety, or BOTH.

If you dwell excessively on things that happened in the past-- perhaps internally "playing a loop" of something negative that once took place, over and over... it becomes very easy to withdraw into yourself even grow depressed. Likewise, if you obsess too much over things that might happen in the future, perhaps endlessly "playing out" possible scenarios and outcomes-- from good to bad-- you can easily work yourself into a great state of anxiety. Either way, you increase the likelihood that you’ll miss everything going on around you, right NOW!

One of my favorite quotes (which was even my email signature line for several years)-- by Helen Keller-- goes like this: “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.

For years, I used it as a daily reminder to not get stuck in a place of endelessly (and needlessly) examining the "what ifs" of my life-- both past and future.

Frequently, we get fixated on the way things can be, should be, or will be someday... or could have been, should have been or might have been, somewhere in the past. But life always happens in the present. No amount of dwelling and brooding will change the past. And the future? It is always in motion, and depends almost wholly on what you choose to do right now... in the PRESENT.

I'm by no means advocating that we ignore the events of the past, nor ignore planning for the future. It's healthy-- and even wise-- to look at the past and understand, in a general sort of way, why certain things unfolded the way they did. That's simple wisdom. But once the basic understanding is there, LET IT GO! You cannot change the past, by living in it. Similarly, it's good to have a plan, and a sense of where we want to go, or be, somewhere down the road. But once that plan is in place, LET GO of the worry about the outcome. No matter how well you plan, "something" unexpected will inevitably happen; living in the future will not control its outcome. So why worry?

The opportunity to enjoy our lives exists right now.

So on this Labor Day Weekend, make time to enjoy your life, in this present moment. Take your dog for a walk. Play with your kids, or grandkids. Paint. Write a story. Sing in the shower. Go for a drive in the country. Go to a movie. Prepare a wonderful meal. Organize your sock drawer (yes, I really DID just say that!). Hug someone you love.

 Life is beautiful... but you have to be here and present to enjoy it! Happy Labor Day!

Talk Back: Are you good at "Staying Present?" Or do you have a natural tendency to dwell on the past? Or worry about the future? Have you found effective ways to not slip into a place of brooding and worrying? Please leave a comment!

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