Thursday, January 24, 2013

The HSP Journey To Understanding

A short while ago, I was browsing recent posts on a large and active HSP forum on Facebook. I was both amazed and moved by the vast array of questions, comments and experiences shared there.

As I kept reading-- and would occasionally come across a "pointed" opinion or two, it occurred to me that "where we are" on our individual journeys not only matters, but is extremely important.

In a group the size I was looking at-- almost 2000 fellow highly sensitive people-- some will have learned that they are this thing called "an HSP" just yesterday... while others might have been among the very first to pick up a copy of Elaine Aron's "The Highly Sensitive Person" when it was published, in 1996.

I was part of the web's very first group of HSPs, back in the early days. We thought it was "amazing" that there were a couple of dozen of us! Imagine that! Today there are groups and forums-- multiples of them-- with more than 2000 members.

But belonging to that first group doesn't "make me" anything... other than "an HSP." Having an old dog-eared copy of "The Highly Sensitive Person" from the first printing doesn't "make me" anything... other than "an HSP." Having kept this blog for over ten years doesn't "make me" anything... other than "an HSP with a blog."

And yet? It is extremely important for me to always stay mindful of the fact whereas I don't have "the answers," I have spent 15+ years asking "the questions." And it's my responsibility to not roll my eyes and grow impatient when someone asks a question I have already heard 3,000 times. And I must remember that I don't have THE answers... only MY answers.

I see many questions about "what is" and "what is not" part of being an HSP... and I am reminded that not only will our experiences differ based on how long we've been working on integrating the trait into our daily lives... they will differ based on who we are, as individuals. My fellow HSPs think/believe different things about what it means to be Highly Sensitive.

Are some "facts?" Sure.
Are some "opinions and theories?" Sure.
Are some "wishful thinking?" Sure.
Are some "just plain wrong?" Sure.

But asking questions and seeking answers represent the central part of the "journey to ourselves." I may be able to share information, but I can't teach wisdom... actual wisdom comes from within the student.

Much as we sometimes tend to think otherwise, let us not lose sight of the fact that HSPs are "unique and different people" just like everyone else in the world. The assumption that others are going to be "just like us" for no reason other than their also being HSPs is... well... not only wrong, but potentially hurtful, because it throws boxes and limitations around people. We may have similar interests... or not. We may have similar tastes... or not. We may have similar preferences... or not.

Last-- but not least-- I'd encourage those who have been "playing this gig for a long time" to sometimes pause and remember how they felt, when they'd just learned there was such a thing as a "highly sensitive person." And keep that feeling front and center, when evaluating whether or not to send off a "snappy" or impatient response to someone asking a simple question about the trait... for the first time.

It's all good. And it's all part of learning and being who we are...

Talk Back! Where are you, on your journey of exploring what it means to be an HSP? Are you learning things that surprised you?  Share your experience-- leave a comment!

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Saturday, January 19, 2013

HSP Living: In defense of Comfort Zones

I've probably spent entirely too much of my life being involved in the "conscious community," the self-development industry and so-called "self-improvement."

That said, it seems to be a major part of most HSPs' lives. As a highly sensitive person, I am just drawn to these fields-- I'm just fascinated by the workings of the human species-- and if you're an HSP, you probably are, too.

Depending on one's perspective, I am alternately "blessed"-- or "cursed"-- with a brain that's equally content to meander around in the "right-brained" universe of creativity, intuitive leaps of faith and the abstract as it is taking a cruise in the "left-brained" world of numbers, logic and "the facts of life."

Bottom line: I really like studying vast amounts of data and extrapolating unexpected trends and patterns.

But I am digressing.
Let's just leave it at "I look at a LOT of this stuff."

Most people who have spent any time at all looking to "improve" themselves, or "find balance," or "find inner peace," or just trying to understand themselves will have run into the popular maxim that in order to develop yourself and "go anywhere" you simply must work outside your comfort zones.

In a sense, I feel that "comfort zones" have been given a really bad rap by mainstream psychology and self-improvement experts as the domain of the apathetic and unconscious; those who don't "care enough" to truly make themselves stronger and better.

But the more I think about it... the less I like this idea that our comfort zones are automatically judged, labeled and then executed as "the bad guy" in the greater equation of our evolving lives. And for the HSP, I believe comfort zones are actually an essential part of our well-being. And, let's face it, Elaine Aron (author of "The Highly Sensitive Person") even calls her own newsletter for HSPs "The Comfort Zone."

Odds are she wouldn't do that, if she thought we should avoid comfort zones.

For many HSPs, this perhaps isn't exactly new news. But given our broad-based interest in self-improvement, we're none-the-less surrounded by the constant meta-message that in order to "better ourselves" we must live outside our comfort zones. It feels both conflicting and counter-productive to me.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that falling into a complacent and apathetic stupor is not a good thing-- for HSPs, or for anyone else, for that matter. But I also believe there is such thing as finding happiness and contentment within our comfort zones... in a healthy and balanced sort of way. I have spent many years "working on myself" and as part of that, creating a comfort zone that fits me... and I am very happy here, thank you very much!

And maybe that's the key: "Happy." My comfort zone was an "active creation," not a place where I passively ended up in order to hide, or out of fear of life and the world.

Ultimately, it's all about finding your niche of happiness and contentment; about finding balance. If you like where you are, in your comfort zone, why is it you'd need to go somewhere else, to look for something else?

Talk Back! Do you have a distinct comfort zone? Do you feel like you "spend too much time" in your comfort zone? Who tells you that? Do people tell you you need to move "outside your comfort zone? Are you in a comfort zone because you feel "at home" there, OR because you are fearful of being outside it? Share your experience-- leave a comment!

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Friday, January 11, 2013

HSPs and Work: The "Art" of Making a Living

Recently, I have been thinking (and writing) a lot about how we work, as HSPs. It's a complex issue, but one we pretty much all deal with.

When you're highly sensitive, you typically face a whole set of "issues" in work contexts; issues that are different enough from those faced by the rest of the world that most people don't "get it" when certain things cause us distress in work situations.

Often it boils down to other people not understanding why we are "bothered" by certain things-- the lighting, or noise, or people flowing in and out of our office or cubicle. At the same time, some people wonder why we "care" about some of the things we do; why we can't just "let things go" and simply be happy that we are "getting a pay check."

Work for the Highly Sensitive Person can be a delicate balancing act
Rather than just regurgitate (at considerable length...) what I have concluded about HSPs and working, I'd like to instead point you to three articles I ended up writing about this tricky subject, along with one written by fellow HSP writer Grace Kerina for the HSP Health web site. Each link will send you to another web site (perfectly safe, I promise!) where the articles are published. I hope you will get something useful from them!

Article One explores the nature of the many struggles we face in conventional work situations. It focuses on "identifying the issues" and talks a bit about how and why these are issues for HSPs. It is simply called "Work and the Highly Sensitive Person."

Article Two is a fairly in-depth look at what often turns out to be the "best answer" for the Highly Sensitive Person, when it comes to working... namely, Self-Employment. For some HSPs, self-employment is something they naturally reach for, knowing it's how they can best manifest their work ambitions. For others, it's more of a "defensive" strategy to get away from the drudgery of a "corporate" job. "The Highly Sensitive Person and Self-employment" takes a long-- and not always glamorous-- look at the ways working for your self can be both rewarding and challenging for HSPs.

Article Three examines the concept of pursuing our "true Calling" at work. You may have heard of the concept of having a "calling," but what does it really mean? But how do you identify it? And how do you turn something you truly love and thrive at doing into a profession? "Work and the Highly Sensitive Person: Identifying Your Calling" takes a deeper look at the issue of Callings-- what they are, how we identify them, and how we can develop them into an actual profession.

Grace Kerina's article about HSPs and work consists partly of sharing her own path to becoming a self-employed HSP and partly offers helpful suggestions on things to consider, when it comes to figuring out how we might pursue self-employment, as HSPs. Entitled "Highly Self Employed," it is definitely worth a read!

I realize that's a lot of reading, and I hope it doesn't feel too overwhelming! However, this is a very important topic, with many different facets to consider. If it seems like it might take a lot of time to get through, why not bookmark this page and come back for a later read?

Some of this information (but not all!) is also available in Barrie Jaeger's excellent book "Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person," which I highly recommend. If you're and HSP who's baffled, distressed, concerned or otherwise in a state of flux in your work life, DO please consider buying and reading her book for some more valuable insight about HSPs and work. Here's a nifty link-- why not do it right NOW?

I would also love to read your comments and feedback about YOUR work experience as an HSP! Please leave a comment in the "comments" area.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

HSP Groups... Learning What We Must Learn... and Moving On

One of my writing colleagues-- long time fellow HSP blogger Helen Elizabeth (aka "HSP Writer")-- announced in a post a couple of days ago that the time had come for her to stop writing about the HSP experience, as seen through her eyes. 

"There comes a point in any creative endeavor, writing project, or stretch of life's journey when you run out of things to say," she wrote, as one of the primary reasons for packing it in.

Her words offered some eloquent insight into answering a question I frequently encounter in a many of the online HSP groups, forums and mailing lists. Often, someone (usually a fairly recent arrival) will ask "why so-and-so isn't posting anymore," typically referring to a long-time member who has contributed a wealth of insight and information to that community. Normally a variety of answers are offered up, ranging from "they are very busy," to "oh, they got married and moved to a different state." Often... nobody really knows, for sure.

Rarely does anyone stop to consider the possibility that the person in question has simply learned what they joined the group to learn, in the first place... and so it was simply time for them to move on. In online groups a strong sense of community often develops, as a result of which we often lose sight of the fact that many seek out such groups as part of learning about the HSP trait, and what it means in the greater context of our personal experience. Although the group may have considerable social aspects, we forget that group membership is perhaps a little like attending university: at some point we do graduate, and move on. And just like university, we reach a point with our group membership where it just doesn't make sense to linger, any longer.

And so, long-time group members either take their leave, or simply fade away... not because they "don't like the group anymore" or because "someone said something to upset them," but simply because they learned what came to to group to learn.

It's not "personal," it part of the natural cycle of our lives.

Some might point to the fact that some people remain active group members "forever" and continue to contribute to the group. In a sense, the university analogy continues to hold true: some "never leave," because they are called to teach. However, these teachers tend to be a tiny minority, rather than the norm.

Those who leave serve as an important reminder-- or "lesson"-- to us all that life is a constant process of change, and that those who leave our virtual places of learning are as much to be congratulated on their "graduation" as they are to "missed and cried over" for their departure. After all, they found success, in getting what they came for!

Whereas I shall miss "HSP Writer's" words in the blogosphere, it also makes me really happy to know that she found what she was looking for...

Talk Back! Do you recognize when you are "done" with something-- project, group, relationship-- and must move on? Or do you tend to linger too long? Do you find leavetaking difficult-- even if there is a natural "breakpoint?" Share your experience-- leave a comment!

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Thursday, January 03, 2013

HSPs, Resolutions, Plans... and Letting Go

Happy New Year to all!

A new year is upon us, and for many that means making plans and thinking about "what we want to accomplish" during the next 12 months. I am not a big fan of formal "New Year's Resolutions" (they too often seem to lead to failure, followed by needless feeling bad about ourselves-- something we HSPs do NOT need!), but I do like the idea of thinking about "things I'd like to happen" during the new year.

For the vast majority of people, plans for the new year tend to involve things we want to do, or accomplish, or add to our lives. Maybe we want to get in shape, or spend more time with our friends, or get involved in some activity, or volunteer at a shelter.

However, when was the last time you paused to consider what in your life you need to LET GO of?

I am a big advocate of "simplicity," and believe that "keeping things simple" can be a major part of keeping an "even keel" in life, when you are a highly sensitive person. We tend to wrestle with managing our tendency to become overstimulated... and these feelings of overwhelm often arise because we just have too many things going on.

Part of the HSP trait is a tendency to be extremely conscientious-- which is definitely a positive characteristic. However, it becomes a bit of a problem when it translates into us becoming "loyal to a fault," as a result of which we stay involves in projects, or attached to people or ideas we should long since have walked away from. Unfortunately, it is a common thing for HSPs to "hang on" and "give one more chance" to things we'd be much better off not having in our lives.

So having plans to "add" something new (and hopefully improved!) to our lives is fine and laudable, however, we owe it to ourselves to pause and "take stock," and consider whether we need to remove-- or "let go of"-- something already in our lives that's not serving us, anymore. In other words, instead of just adding our new plans to the general mix of our lives, we have to "make room" for them, first!

It's not always an easy process to let go. Often we have strong attachments to our "involvements" and setting them free tends to feel like we are "failing," somehow. But we must consider that what we "cling to" sometimes is directly in the way of our own progress. And-- if the "letting go" impacts people-- we must find ways to accept that we "can't make everyone happy, all the time." Alas, sometimes the only way forward... is to leave something behind!

Talk Back! Do you make New Year's Resolutions? Are there things you would "like" to do or change, in 2013? Are there things in your life you realize you could "let go" of, and be happier? Is it difficult to let go of things or people or ideas, even if they don't help you or make your life better? Share your experience-- leave a comment!

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