Thursday, March 29, 2018

Learning About the HSP Trait: What's the Ultimate Objective?

I went to the doctor yesterday.

Although we don't really talk much about it, my doctor knows that I am an HSP, and she respects what that entails. In the course of our conversations, we have gently agreed that "Being an HSP" is akin to what was once upon a time thought of as "being highly strung."

We don't talk much about it, though. It has become "old news."

Instead, we talk about my health. I suffer from hypertension (aka "high blood pressure"), and from years of observation, we know that my primary trigger for "hypertensive events" revolve around stress and anxiety.

Actually, I should phrase that very carefully.

You see, I don't suffer from any kind of "anxiety disorder," I simply suffer from overstimulation, HSP style. I am perfectly capable of going into the world and dealing with "whatever hardships come up," and there are few things I can't handle. My body, however, disagrees.

One of the interesting things we've learned about me is that — absent stress and the need to interface with the world — my blood pressure is actually within the "normal" range.

Yesterday, we had this conversation again, as my vitals were once again elevated. My body simply doesn't like the process of "adulting."

Alas, few of us have the luxury of simply sitting in a lawn chair, watching clouds drift by... while "the stuff of life" takes care of itself.

The Progression of HSP Self-Awareness

After the doctor's visit, I got to thinking about this whole thing called "being an HSP."

It has been 21 years and change since I first bumped into the idea. It seems to me that we go through "stages" of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

At first, it tends to be all shiny, exciting and new; we absorb everything we can read and hear; suddenly it seems like we have a natural and well-fitting explanation for why we are the way we are. Which is a marvelous thing!

Then we go through a period of learning and integrating. This often involves joining groups, going to workshops and doing something akin to "becoming an expert" on the topic, as it relates to ourselves.

Oftentimes, we slip into a state of cognitive bias — just about everything that happens is "because I am an HSP." Of course, that's probably rather inconsistent with reality, but we're looking for ways to "make the shoe fit."

After a while, we move onto "integration." We start to become more honest about the ways the trait affects our lives... and the ways it doesn't. At least... that's what happens for those who are honest with themselves; some, it seems, stay in that place where "EVERYthing happens this way because I am an HSP."

But THEN What?

Perhaps the ultimate objective of learning all we can about being an HSP is that we get to return to "just being a person."

As I look back on my doctors' visit, I came to realize that it has been several years since I have thought of myself through the lens of perception that "I am an HSP." The trait doesn't define me, it simply adds a layer of understanding to the overall picture of what it means to be me.

I understand certain things about myself, and understand which of those things happen to be a consequence of my high sensitivity, and I try to arrange my life accordingly.

In formalizing this realization last night, I also came to understand why we see "familiar faces" in online HSP groups, as well as keepers of HSP blogs and web sites suddenly "fall off the radar." They've simply gotten all they needed from their activities, and then moved on.

Think of it a but like attending University: You learn a lot, and then you get a degree and graduate. Maybe you stay on and keep learning, getting a graduate degree. But eventually you're done. And that's actually the natural order of things —if you're NOT seeing that, you run the risk of becoming "that eternal student," working on their 6th degree because they never found the courage to actually go out and be part of life, using the learning they'd experienced.

And so — aside from the fact that I occasionally teach and give workshops — I am done with "being an HSP." I have returned to simply being ME.

How about YOU? Where are YOU, on your HSP Journey of Learning? How long ago was it that you learned that there is such a thing as a "Highly Sensitive Person?" How did it change your life? Do you feel you know what you need to know, or are you still "studying?" To what degree to you find that you "identify" with being an HSP? Leave me a comment-- be part of an ongoing dialogue!

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

HSP Living: Moving Beyond the “Legacy” of Needing to Participate More

If you are an introverted HSP and reading this, chances are you encountered the following scenario when you were in school: you'd get really good grades on assignments and tests and essays you needed to hand in but if you were anything like me you'd get about a C-minus on “class participation.

I always thought there was a real irony to the fact that I was making good grades and yet I was being marked down for not “participating.”

Just what does it mean to "participate," then... if doing the work is not participation?

Of course, with 40 plus years of hindsight to my benefit, I can look back on those school days and recognize that whereas class participation wasn't part of the curriculum as such, it was being taught as a “life skill.” Or, at least, as somebody’s interpretation of a life skill.

Even as a 10-year old, I recall sitting in class and actively thinking about this “participation” thing. And I'd feel really anxious about it, because I knew I might get pulled aside for a "conference," if I didn't participate enough.

My “problem” was that — try as I might — I didn't really see any point in simply adding my voice to an already noisy environment of chittering without having much of a point to make. And the truth is, I did participate in class when I felt like I actually had something of value to contribute… which just wasn't the case if I felt like everything that needed to be said had already been said.

Maybe that's a very old or mature approach to interaction, when you're only 10 years old, but I just didn't get it. Granted, I had also been raised by parents who insisted that children shouldn't speak up unless they actually had something of value to add to the conversation.

Still, it leaves me contemplating something that has always sat uncomfortably with me: the sensation that "participants" seemed to be speaking up for no reason other than to hear their own voices! They weren't really adding anything, other than noise.

Maybe that's not very "sensitive" of me to say... what do you think?

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