Wednesday, April 24, 2013

HSPs, Choices and the "Chaotic" People in Our Lives

I have been spending a few days among the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona-- one of my favorite places on the planet. Although it's really a "working" vacation-- Sarah was giving a workshop here, and we had some people to see-- being away from home and familiar surroundings is always a good time to pause and reflect... and to generally think about the deeper issues in our world.

In the course of being part of the HSP community for many years, it has often struck me how often HSPs seem to become "embroiled in drama," often involving abusive, needy, usary or outright crazy people.

Bell Rock in Sedona, up close and personal
Although most vehemently will defend their own "innocence" in these chaotic relationships, it has also struck me how often chaotic and hurtful situations arise not "because of other people," but as a result of our own choices, needs and the way we feel about ourselves.

What is really going on, when we have a "chaos monger" in our lives? Why do we choose them? And I'm sorry, but NO... we're not just "innocent bystanders," at least most of the time.

There are typically two really common dynamics at play... both of which are related to our senses of self... and, by extension, dubious self-esteem.

In one scenario, an almost compulsive "need to help" drives us to-- basically-- to surround ourselves with people who need "help." Many would argue that it's "compassionate" and "the right thing" to help those who are struggling... and that's a valid point. However... there is a price to pay (overstimulation, exhaustion, frustration) for being the perpetual "caretaker" for someone who doesn't attempt to solve their own issues and expects us to be eternally accountable for their issues.

Red rocks of Sedona, AZ
Many would say "But I didn't CHOOSE these people!" and maybe that's true, in an "active" sense... as in, we don't go out there and openly advertise "I want to look after life's hopeless needy nutballs," but what does happen is that we don't start saying "no" as their obvious-- as well as subtle and subconscious-- demands start to manifest and increasingly ramp up. In the longer term... we HSPs end up "holding the bag" where someone with healthier boundaries (and less "investment" in being perceived as compassionate) would long since have said "sorry, you're a drain on my life, get lost!"

But how is it that we are actually accountable, here? Usually the problem is that we feel like we have no "personal value," aside from how it's measured by our capacity to "take care of" others... and "help them when they are troubled." In other word, we don't perceive ourselves being valuable as human beings, if we're not "caretaking." Think about it, for a moment... not on the "surface," but at its deepest level... who would you be, if you were not always taking care of your needy friend's latest crisis? Who would you be, if you were not lamenting that all your time and bandwidth was being used up, by someone else?

These are not intended as "blaming" questions... merely as a deeper line of self-inquiry.

The above, of course, is a fear based response... often learned in childhood and youth, from our families of origin who perhaps marginalized and diminished us unless we were "useful."

Closely related is a second scenario, also fear based: It is a general fear of "strong" people who have their lives together. We fear we are "small and inadequate" in their company, and that they couldn't possibly be interested in spending time with us, because their lives seem so much more successful and "together" than our own... and so we fear they would "abandon" us, once they discover the "truth" about how small and seemingly insignificant and boring our lives are. In short, we lack a sense of "worthiness," in their company.

So, when we put the two together (as sometimes happens), not only to we choose to "hang onto" people who are using us and causing us grief, but we also end up feeling afraid to choose the company of those who would actually be good for us, because we fell like we are "less than" they are.

There is not an "easy fix" here... but the road to healing and moving to a better place with ourselves starts with simple awareness of our own patterns; of the choices that are causing us grief.

What do YOU think? Do you often feel like you're surrounded by people who need to be "taken care of?" Does their presence exhaust you? Does it feel like they just have "insinuated themselves" there? Have you ever considered that you-- by your direct or indirect actions-- INVITED them to be there? Does it sometimes feel like you wish you had "more together" friends... yet you feel intimidated by people who seem to "have it all together?" Please leave a comment and share your experiences!


  1. You're absolutely right - the last two women I dated fits the description perfectly as does you reasoning of why I at some level chose to date them.
    You're also right about why not dating someone with more "value", fear stopped me from doing it.

    So spot on - I'm already aware of it and working with it :)

  2. This bit in particular seems to have come straight out of my own head:

    "It is a general fear of strong people who have their lives together. We fear we are small and inadequate in their company, and that they couldn't possibly be interested in spending time with us, because their lives seem so much more successful and together than our own..."

    There are a few couples kind of on the fringes of my usual social group that I would like to get to know better, but this fear that they're so much more together than I am is keeping me from reaching out to them more.

    Now that I'm aware of the underlying reason behind my hesitation, I'm going to try to be a little more confident in forging those connections. Thanks for the insights!

  3. Thank you for this read. It does make perfect sense to me. I too have wondered what the heck was going on here? Do I have an invisible neon sign above me that says "lookie here, needy people, here I am." I link this to my childhood and being a people pleaser and wanting approval for being a "good girl." I have actually got to the point where enough is enough. Some times you just got to get to that breaking point and say what or who is benefiting? Is it healthy for both involved? To me, when there is interaction, all should benefit in a healthy way. Not one sided, while the other is left empty and wondering why? It's not my job to save your ass. Besides, they have their own lessons to learn. How are they going to evolve if we go around doing for them, etc? And you are right- we attract what we feel about ourselves.

  4. This does describe my innate feelings almost to a "T". But a series of life lessons have begun a new path of trying to whip this chaos, and the chaos mongers, back into the flow of reality (vs. the whirl wind they create around themselves.). Needing boundaries is an understatement. I have a balanced day with time slots of dealing certain types of things, it's a loosely based thing, but other than boundaries, I have an arrangement with my spirit guides and helpers that I don't go out to people to help, unless it's live helping to move people or do something fun. If they have a problem, they have to find a way to A). contact me or come to see me B). Find a way to fit into my schedule, so when we finally get together, I get to see whether they are venting or asking advice. Then I have my own rules and limits to how I handle someone in either one of those states. If they only really want one thing, to vent say, I don't bother to go into an advise giving mode, I just use my energies to help them ground out their own energies. Ultimately their problems and issues have to be solved by themselves, we can lend an ear, help them find some clarity, but we can't make their life changes for them, and there is only so far we can go before we start wasting our own energies. The recognition of that boundary, between their choice and what we would like see for them is an important thing to begin finding as an HSP.

  5. Reading this just makes me feel sad. I feel doomed!

  6. I know it's probably not the right place to right write it, but I don't have anyone to talk about it, and I don't know what to do. I'm a brazilian 18yo girl, and I'm a hsp. I have a wonderful life, much better than I could ever ask for: loving family, the best childhood friends, a full scholarship at one of the best universities in my country and I'm very grateful for all I have, actually bad things hardly ever happen to me.
    And yet, I suffer.
    I suffer for others' feelings, I suffer for the situation of my country, I suffer for cultural oppresion, I suffer for millions of people from far away places and realities that I know that are suffering (like those living in war-zones, dying from famine, being wronged...) and the list goes on and on. It wasn't just once I found myself locked in the bathroom crying because the news on tv someone was watching too loud had just talked about another hediond crime.
    First of all, I thank you for Reading that much, it means a lot to me. Second, please post something if you know what I could do or if you're in the same situation, because I honestly don't know what to do (yes, I had a psychologist, but she couldn't help me). It's like I have no shield protecting me from others' feeling, even from people I don't know, and I can't stand all this anymore. It's way too much, and yet there seems to be no way out.

  7. really interesting, gives me a lot to think about.



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