Thursday, September 26, 2013

Looking Back: Life Always Seemed "Louder" Than Me

Do you ever stop and look backwards, trying to spot "early points" in your life at which it became obvious that you were an HSP?

Much of the early "evidence" from my own life is largely anecdotal: I was supposedly a quiet kid; I was supposedly not interested in "establishing territory" with other kids; my mother would tell other people that I was "very sensitive;" as a baby I'd evidently sit quietly in my playpen and "observe" quietly. But these are not my memories... they are "stories."

My own first memories that hint at my being a highly sensitive child arise from the sense I quickly developed that everything in the world; in my surroundings seemed "more" than me: People, activities, places... the WORLD... felt bigger, louder, rougher, more violent than I... just more "everything."

It felt so strange... and scary, at the same time.

Why did adults need to YELL so much? Maybe they weren't exactly yelling, but their voices were so often raised, even when they were communicating with someone (including me) who was right next to them. It didn't make sense.

Why were kids-- the kids in the neighborhood I was sent out to play with-- so LOUD? Sometimes it felt like they just wanted to "make noise, for noise's sake." Whether it was that obnoxious kid down the street who was forever blowing his English policeman's whistle, or "that dangerous boy" in first grade who would use almost any excuse to set off firecrackers... why all the NOISE? And some would just sit there and scream, like they just wanted to hear the sound of their own voice. It hurt my ears...

Why did the other boys always want to FIGHT? Simply "playing" seemed to be sustainable for only a few minutes before someone felt the need to "have a fight." I do remember soon getting labeled a "sissy" because I didn't want to fight with people. My lack of "fighting spirit" was immediately labeled as "being afraid." Nobody seemed able to grasp that I simply didn't want to.

I was probably somewhere in the range of six to eight years old when I first became aware that it seemed like people had a certain "energy" around them. At the time, I couldn't really associate anything "intelligent" with feeling the energies and moods of others... so I thought of them in terms of shapes and everyday objects.

Most kids... well, at least most boys... felt either like "chainsaws" or "jackhammers" to me: they were scarily LOUD, and "unpredictably dangerous and destructive." Girls were generally "softer" and not so scary (which is why I generally preferred their company)... they felt more like "bee hives;" typically a soft pleasant buzz, but they could become "screaming and deadly," sometimes at a moment's notice.

Adults were a little different. Most men were like tractors or heavy trucks: noisy, often to the point of drowning out all other sound; powerful... and occasionally stinky. Some (like my father) felt more like "thunderstorms;" much of the time they were impressive clouds drifting around... but they could "explode" into something truly scary and deafening, when I least expected it. Adult women were-- on the whole-- the least scary and overwhelming persons in my life... many seemed "soft" and fairly "quiet" so I felt less "on edge" in their company and less like I just wanted to go hide somewhere. The thing that mostly scared me a little was that there were some who seemed like... like they were trying to "pull the life out of me" so (I presume) they could make it their own. Of course, as a child had had no concept of such things as "energy vampires" or people trying to get unconditional love from others "by proxy."

As I felt all these "energies" around me... I gradually "learned" that my best strategy to avoid getting buffeted and hurt by them was to practice the fine art of Not Being Noticed. It's evidently something I became quite good at, because even as a 50-something, 6'4" adult male, I still seem able to move through space (the house, outdoors, whatever) in such a way that people don't even notice that I am there... and it actually scares the hell out them that I seem able to suddenly "appear" (or DIS-appear) next to them, without a sound.

As a kid, I learned how to intuit when something "bad" was about to happen, because the "energy" would be changing (building up), so I would either "leave the scene" or learn to change what I was doing in such a way that whatever seemed to be "boiling up" would simmer down again... and the impending "explosion of loudness" would be avoided.

When I look back on those days-- now with 45 years of hindsight-- I can see that it was here I started to lose my sense of self, because I put so much effort into "adapting myself" in whatever way I could, so as to avoid "loud explosions," that anything I personally wanted to do or say was pushed into the background.

As an adult HSP, noise sensitivity remains on of my primary sensitivities. I just don't do LOUD well. I am personally not loud, and I don't like loud things... from jet engines and chain saws to high volume stereos and night clubs. LOUD makes me feel like someone is actively beating the side of my head with a wooden board, taking particular "care" to hit my eardrums every time.

People sometimes ask me if my noise sensitivity has gotten less with age... and the answer is "no." What has gotten better is my ability to understand and manage my exposure to noise, and the overwhelming effect it has. What has also gotten better is my ability to accept "being in discomfort" for measured and finite periods of time.

Talk Back! What are some of YOUR early memories hinting at you being highly sensitive? What do YOU remember (as opposed to what you've "been told") about your early life as an HSP? It doesn't have to be "noise" of course-- I just happen to most strongly remember that the world was LOUD. Please leave a comment and share your experience!

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  1. I remember hating the "Three Stooges" because of all the hitting and ear twisting" I remember being shy, and quiet, I remember loving to be outdoors. I remember telling my mother "Mommy that's a bad man" and being invalidated (a common occurrence) and being right. I remember LOVING to read and learn, and i do not remember NO knowing how to read. I remember loving to cook and knowing what to add to a dish-- cinnamon in a stew when foodies did not exist.

    I remember wondering how people could hurt each other so terribly and vowing NEVER to be that way.

    NONE of this was told to me nor was I ever acknowledged for it. Only in the last 2-3 years do I see how it all fits. God bless Elaine Aron. (and you. Peter!)

  2. I have memories since I was about 2 and a half. I remember being very self-conscious since a very early age. Thinking about how it was like to be myself, and about how I couldn't remember existing before I was born.
    I remember practicing to say my words right, and not understanding why some of my 3-4 year schoolmates almost didn't know how to speak.
    I also remember being very sensitive to criticism. I remember my first day at preschool (I was about to turn 3), and feeling very embarrassed when I made a small mistake. I was always trying to please everyone: parents, teachers, friends. I craved harmony. I now understand that this may have been the result of being so utterly aware of everyone's expectations and feelings.
    I remember being afraid of the train when it passed by (it was almost too intense for me to bear), because it was so big and loud.
    I only enjoyed the beautiful cartoons with pandas and flowers and didn't like watching cartoons with anything ugly or violent.
    I learned to read before going to school and I was in love with books since I can remember. I was known for hiding with my books for hours, while on holidays.
    I always felt different, but I was able to mingle well until adolescence. I remember a happy childhood, where I was mostly allowed to be who I was. In adolescence, however, things got uglier...!

  3. Peter:

    Thanks so much for sharing this post. I've recently become aware of being an HSP and finally it explains why I couldn't fit into the mainstream way of engaging with life. I especially resonate with your comment "I gradually "learned" that my best strategy to avoid getting buffeted and hurt by them was to practice the fine art of Not Being Noticed."

    I'm choosing to find the blessings in being an HSP and to not see it as a negative. I will check out Elaine Aron's book to begin to understand how I can live with this experience and use it to bless others as well.


    Andrea Scott

  4. The world would have been a frightening place for me as a child, were it not for my imaginary world.

  5. My earliest memories (2-4 yo) are of the quietness and tranquility of our house. My siblings are much older and were at school, my Dad at work, and so it was just me and my introvert Mom much of the time. I don't remember her playing or interacting with me much, other than snack time, but it was pleasant and quiet and safe.

    When I was four, Mom went back to work and I went to school. That's when the rug got pulled out from under me. From then on, I was out in the world - and the world is LOUD. I very much related to everything you wrote, as noise is one of my biggest sensitivities. Just the language you used - bigger, louder, rougher...unpredictable, dangerous and destructive...noise, yelling, fighting - yes! Kids were the worst, but adults weren't much better. Fourth of July celebrations were horrible (didn't I know I was supposed to be having fun?!) Sensing tension was a biggie, too.

    Now that I know about high sensitivities, I can re-frame a lot of those memories and see that it probably wasn't as out of control and 'unsafe' as it seemed, but it was far from an ideal environment for an introverted HSP. Like you, I learned the best strategy for survival was to not be seen and still fall into that way of being in certain company and situations.

  6. I remember, at five, throwing a tantrum about an Easter dress my mom bought for me. I didn't want to wear it because it had a built in slip made of netting. Once my mother cut out the netting, I loved the dress and wore it for several years. My older siblings always told me I was difficult.

  7. Nice one Peter. I'm only walking on the path of trying to see HSP as a blessing.. It always made me feel too much and experience too much detail,etc. I have early memories of being a child in someone who was 10 years olders' car and being the one to advise them that driven with a dirty windscreen is dangerous.. Comments, peoples energies and noise all effect me greatly and I've been overwhelmed by it for many years... looking towards substances sometime to numb my overly sensitive nature and to try and just BE in the moment sometimes. I'm now only searching for a way to use this and learn more about this and have been pointed in the direction of Dr Elaine Aron, hoping to learn more from her. Much love to everyone,

  8. Peter
    Thanks for this informative blog. I just discovered I am NOT flawed within the last week (55 years old!). How liberating it is. For me my "noise" is pain. It is my highest sensory. My father inflicted so much pain upon me trying to "fix" me, and this feeling of being flawed was reinforced throughout my life. Men are just not supposed to be so sensitive! And so much of the pain has been self induced. Mostly in trying to be normal and accepted. When I tried to meet levelly with a non-HSP in conflict (which in itself is wrong), I inflicted more pain on myself then on them. I have within the last year established "house rules" (boundaries) to prevent the negative from entering my space: NO Disrespect, NO Conflict, NO Hate, NO Anger, NO Bitterness allowed. I have tuned my karma to fully positive and I seem to project a tremendous energy to others. I do love this and I am changing my perspective from being an introvert by nature to understanding the dynamics of being a HSP. I feel confident that I am creating a safe reality for myself, one that is not hiding under a rock per say, from the 80 + % of those that do not have a similiar gift...
    peace, love and karma

  9. Always feeling left out and never average or normal. Never wanting people to touch me or not being able to be around certan "loud" people but craving to be around others. Hours of playing by myself, reading or just wandering around in nature. Being so comfortable with my own space and myself. Finding it so hard to conform to social standards and accept the opinions of others. Accused of being picky and difficult even sulky. Feeling overwhelmed in crowds or busy places. Not being able to see something right in front of me. Easily confused in other peoples energy. Sometimes I feel like an energy vampire at how I can drain people around me causing me to shun people. At times I feel like a social misfit and cannot understand what people see in me. Why some seem to be obsessed at being around me. I just open my mouth to change my feet.
    At the age of 44 I have found out that I missed out on most of my life by trying to be what I'm no,t always knowing that something was wrong. Not with me but with the world around me. I have decided to remember who I am and just be me. Then I found this blog and suddenly it is like a sign that I am on the right path and the universe is telling me I am moving in the right direction. All the help I need will be sent to me when I am ready to accept it. Thank you for the information. I intend to find my soul mate and am making my soul ready. Only then will it attract the right person at the right time. I have complete faith in letting it all go and expecting the unexpected. Here's to letting go..... Again thank you for coming to me at the right time. A great change is in the air and is happening all around us. A massive feeling of excitement is building up in me and at times it is unbearable. I know that big things are happening and I fully intend to be a part of them. I am striving to be fully alive. I have decided to live. I AM...

    1. I just realized that I am an HSP. I always felt different and never felt like I belonged. I can relate to your post.

  10. What a remarkable gift this blog is - thank you so much! I discovered within the past few years that i am a empath/HSP and with this information i am learning how to find the gifts in who i am instead of always feeling lost, and trying to fit in, etc. I look forward to reading more of your posts. Be well, Joan

  11. Thanks Peter,
    I'm highly sensitive, empathic to a fault, chronic people pleaser, to wit, directionless, lost and struggling to harness my talents.
    Your blog, along with other resources is alerting me to the fact that I am not burdened, rather, gifted.
    I'm 45, mother to two and still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
    I know one thing...that cabin in the woods, all alone, surrounded by nature is featuring heavily in my plans.

  12. Thank you sooooo much <3 I cannot express hw much this has helped me. Crying just knowing I am not alone

  13. I do believe I am one of you.
    I remember feeling physical pain at the onset of fall, when the leaves fell from the trees and nature looked so forlorn. I remember being four or five and sobbing during church because the organ music was so loud and sad and mournful. I would cry when I heard mourning doves calling in the mornings, or a dramatic song on one of our children's programs.
    My mother says (and I remember) I was terribly hard to dress because I was so sensitive to fabrics, seams, wrinkles, sleeves, itchiness or anything in the least constrictive.
    I still have vivid nightmares about movies I saw as a child that 'traumatized' me - and they weren't at all traumatizing to anyone else. My brothers would tell me, 'it's not REAL!' but it IS real to me. Always has been.
    I can't read the news because it is so desolating to see the cruelty in the world. People don't understand. They think I am weak or snobbish for not wanting to see other people's pain, but that's not true. They can read it, be upset, then walk away. I can never walk away, others' pain haunts me and knowing that I can do nothing to stop it makes the agony all the greater.
    I was often teased as a child and teen for my 'unrelenting bleeding heart'.
    I am adaptable in the extreme and find that at 25, a wife and mother, I have very little idea who The Real Me is. I am painfully conscientious and constantly mortified.
    I'm glad I found this...

  14. I remember mostly the abuse of power by adults. I will never forget that and until today it scares me to see it still happens with so many children all over the globe. I'm from Belgium and highsensitive(52)Thx for this blog.

  15. What I remember is the happiness of being out in the nature, often also talking to the nature, as everything has a soul. I remember also that I was an observer, who could just stand and looking at others doing things and absolutly forget myselves. When I was at my grandparents place I loved to make new inventions of cardboard and paper and when naming my stuffed animals I always make names no one had heard about. I also make a original name of my cousin, which I think my family had a lot of fun with. Walking in the wood, I used to disapear off the beaten path, calling it shortcuts, still I used tree times longer time than the others. This is something of it, and I am very clad so many wants to chair their experiences on this honest blog, it is so nice to read. And excuse my english....

  16. The way some clothes felt rubbing against my body, doing it to myself masochistically just to get a reaction of goosebumps.even thinking about it would make them come The feel of dirt or something chalky, grainy on my hands still bothers me to this day but back then it was almost unbearable, sheer goosebumps once more. Loudness was always a big one (even i was pretty loud myself sometimes) loud men were always scary, loud random noises too. Apparently I cried hysterically during the fireworks when I was 4. They still sound like artillery going off to me. Loud heavy noisy music too until recently; I'm growing more accustomed to that even if it drains me pretty quickly. Fluorescent lights will always bother me, they make me feel sickly and gross. School was always awful right from the start. my explosive temper got me into trouble right away, I was reacting to all the dumb kids who knew how to wind me up, i really started repressing and hiding all the emotions as much as i could starting at 5 after seeing what trouble you could get into for overloading then lashing out in frustration. People are the hardest of all.

    I mean you just can't show this stuff to people if you're a guy, I'm very careful to appear as quiet and composed in public as i can even if underneath its a storm of mood swings. The volume is cranked for everything and life has always been a struggle dealing with my inner space. Its tiresome and humiliating.

    Everything about this society is too much, too fast too loud too dumb.


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