A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Socrates: Death isn't sad. The sad thing is: most people don't live at all.
From The Peaceful Warrior
I always knew that there was something different about me, always a bit more sensitive than other boys, perhaps, a bit more finicky about what I wore, what music I listened to, what movies I liked. I was a little more high brow, less rough and tumble, less crude and always a deep thinker and observer. Even then, I tried to adapt to the prevailing model for boys – the boy's code. I was good at sports, joined the boy scouts, made treehouses in the woods behind our house, got into boyhood adventures which including minor trouble. All trying to fit in. Still, I knew I was different than the other friends I had. I relished my time alone – reading, dreaming, listening to music.
Throughout most of my adult life, I learned to adapt, to fit in more and fit the typical male role model. This was at times challenging, but I knew having grown up in the Southern United States, what men were supposed to be, look like and act like. I moved to California in the late seventies and started my adult life – away from Southern rules.
I grew up in the sixties and seventies when being different or more importantly being yourself was encouraged. A time when being unique was a good thing. Non-conformance was seen as a positive. Self-image for me was always evolving, yet, somehow I was always concerned about how I measured up as a man. My sensitivity in most things tended to seem awkward to friends, girlfriends, and others. I was taller than most boys, beanpole skinny, but athletic and likable. That probably saved me from a few butt whippings or being the target of bullies.
Somewhere in the mid-nineties, I found out about Highly Sensitive People. I can’t remember the exact route I took, but somehow I found out about Elaine Aron’s book on sensitivity and sensitive people. When I read the book, my eyes opened and realized that it was about me and for me. It was life-changing. It was like being found, after years or lonely wondering in” the what am I?” wilderness.
Even later when high sensitivity was given a measure of credence, being an HSP male among HSPs seemed fine, but being an HSP among non-HSP men was different. I seemed to have more female friends than male friends, although, I did have male friends. Just a few close male friends.
Nevertheless, I still struggled with my sensitivity and my masculinity, as it was defined for me by society. I began to question how this template for being a man fit in with my internal model and feelings. The fact was I didn’t. And I knew something had to give. Now that I’m older, I have learned about the importance of being authentic and being true to oneself. I have learned to embrace my sensitivity, and I am now an advocate of the characteristics in myself and in men that have the same qualities. I’m proud to be a sensitive man, son of a sensitive man, and father and grandfather to sensitive children.
A good friend of mine, an intuitive life coach, gave me a reading once, to help me understand myself. In it, she described that my life purpose was to be an observer of life and to put these observations to paper. Later I recognized that calling had led me to write. It fits me well. A chance to think to ponder deeply, to verbalize my thoughts and opinions and do it an environment I chose.
This blog and the next I’ll delve a little more into my personal views in describing what I consider to be the positive attributes of being an HSP and talk of some of the challenges in having this trait. I’m sure others could add to the list as I will in time. This week I focus on what I consider positive HSP characteristics.
Here’s a list of things that readily come to mind – positive HSP originated traits.
I am grateful for the qualities that I now see as powerful gifts given to me via a combination of genetics and environment. I discover more qualities every year and embrace them. Please share the qualities that you feel are tied to your sensitivity in the comments below.
Next time we’ll look at the negative side of sensitivity as I see it.
Socrates: I call myself a Peaceful Warrior... because the battles we fight are on the inside
From The Peaceful Warrior
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Pee-wee: There's a lotta things about me you don't know anything about, Dottie. Things you wouldn't understand. Things you couldn't understand. Things you shouldn't understand.
Dottie: I don't understand.
Pee-wee: You don't wanna get mixed up with a guy like me. I'm a loner, Dottie. A rebel. So long, Dott.
From: Pee-wee’s Big Adventure.
The idea of thrill-seeking highly sensitive people may seem a bit out of character. The notion of nice, quiet, pensive, peace-loving individuals, taking off on wild adventures as novelty seeking daredevils just doesn’t match up with the stereotype of HSPs. Believe or not, there is a subset of HSPs, that do fit that profile and are high sensation seeking (HSS) folks or to spell it out, High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive People HSS/HSP.
Dr. Tracy Cooper reports that there is about thirty percent of the HSP population that fits this label. Most of them are male. There are four primary traits that high sensation seeking people display. One, they are thrill and adventure seekers, i.e., drawn to adrenaline-pumping risky sports and activities like mountain climbing, bungee jumping, motocross, etc. These are the kind of activities you would most expect from a daredevil. Two, they are experience seekers – looking for novel mind-bending mental sensations-- think of psychoactive substances or sensory bending experiences. Three, they display moments of disinhibition, mostly in the realm of social or sexual activities (wild parties, inebriation, or multiple sexual partners) Hence, a relaxation of social boundaries and the willingness to cross them. Finally, they are prone to boredom susceptibility, the tendency towards aversion of repetitious activity and seeking novelty as stimulation. HSS/HSP’s tend to fall mainly in the last three traits, granted, with some caveats.
In describing this trait, especially in HSPs, it might seem that we could describe this as reckless behavior, uncharacteristic of traditional HSP traits. However, because of the dual nature of HSS/HSP individuals, they tend not to be at the extremes. This duality presents many internal conflicts working both sides of the caution versus novelty endpoints. This conflict is a classic one foot on the gas, one on the brake scenario, which I suppose creates some novel forward motion, but doesn’t test the boundaries of thrill-seeking to its limits.
For most HSS/HSPs, high sensation seeking is about the novelty of the experience. Changing the landscape for a new view seems a bit more modest and a controlled method of allowing for a taste of what might seem dangerous, without risking life or limb. We HSPs tend to have a more pronounced Behavioral Inhibition System. Thus brakes get applied when the ride gets too dangerous. Although some of this behavior does border on impulsivity (taken from my own experience), it is not unguided by a more cautious retracting or overriding behavior reigning in, when the drift is too uncomfortable.
What is the balance between walking the high wire and resting safely in the net? How much and what type of sensation is necessary to overtake the underlying boredom of being quiet and reflective? Since most HSPs are introverted, seems a far cry from living in the cocoon of the internal world, which is already being bombarded by a greater amount of sensory data. Why fetch more sensation, even when bored, if the idea is to overstimulate?
It seems almost a cruel hoax to possess these two opposing characteristics. One pushing inward, one pulling outward, one processing experience, one seeking experience, teasing the limits of an already sensitive system. Can this sensation seeking be controlled; throttled pleasure, with none of the irresponsibility of reckless and dangerous impulse? It seems at times to be like an unconscious draw to seek overstimulation, an addiction to adrenaline, however modest, only to offset quickly with reflection and solitude.
And, what of this cycle? To what extreme can it go? Are some of us HSPs, sensation seekers, walking as it were without a net? Making bad decisions, knowing the consequences, yet yielding to some inner drive for increased sensation. Like diving headlong into a freezing pool, only to jump out and run back inside by the crackling fire. An odd balance of fire and ice, throttling between the two, just enough to keep the fire hot and the ice cold.
Can any of this be self-destructive? Is the impulsivity of taking risks for the novel sensation balanced by a keen sense of risk perception? Are HSS/HSPs more likely to access the reward/gamble ratio and to step out of a typical HSP cautionary personality to seek novel experiences, just to keep from being bored? The answer is yes and no. Perhaps, there is a deeper drive to create, that motivates seeking out novel experience to be able to fashion something new and useful. The motivator is boredom; the outcome is creativity with reward and stimulation.
With a third of the HSP population showing this trait of novelty seeking – it certainly would explain the high level of creativity the emerges from the HSP community. To be creative, one must be willing to seek new ways of looking at things, to put parts together in unusual ways and to be willing to risk criticism for your creations. The reward of success is a big rush of dopamine for having braved and crafted one’s indulgences. The added splash of adrenaline doesn’t hurt either.
How do you tell if you are an HSS/HSP? Yes, there is a test for that, too. Dr. Elaine Aron has constructed a test that was designed for HSPs to determine if you are a high sensation seeking individual. Here’s the link: https://hsperson.com/test/high-sensation-seeking-test/ .
I scored high enough on the test to be considered an HSS/HSP.
My experiences as an HSS/HSP follow a familiar pattern. Always seeking some secure situation, a job, a marriage, a relationship, a life, then abruptly leaving, almost at a whim, when boredom kicks in. Then being lost for a period, seeking, looking sometimes recklessly, then finding a new novel situation to anchor me. Only to leave again, a drifter on the run. Sometimes, doing stupid things or taking risky gambles, zigging and zagging off the path gets added in the mix, then getting comfortable for stretches. Then, again, boredom sets in, creating changes that have consequences and require remediation.
The boredom is not what you might think of as boredom. It’s unsettling, restless, not like a little kid or a too bright child unable to find the creative ability to stay active. It’s like an internal clock that says, “enough, time to move on.” A prompting, a calling to change venues. I hardly understand it, others never understand it. A neutral, unemotional epiphany that says it’s time to seek other sensations.
I’d like to think that this process is all trending upward, a giant learning process, like climbing the tread of larger than life wheel. But, who knows? In the end, it is always looking for that balance between boredom and overstimulation. A good, and sensitive man, who sometimes makes perplexing decisions.
Ray Kinsella: I'm 36 years old, I love my family, I love baseball, and I'm about to become a farmer. But until I heard the voice, I'd never done a crazy thing in my whole life.
From: Field of Dreams.
Just wanted to send out a brief post letting you know that I have not quit writing the blog. I have been busy pursuing some new interests including one love interest. Tied up in a long distance relationship and shuttling back and forth between East Texas and New Orleans, I have been lately consumed with matters of the heart and planning for a new future in Louisiana.
Life has taken me on a strange and wondrous path in the last eighteen months, but I have been growing and learning and will start sharing again soon my new insights on the blog.
For those who have “liked” this blog on Facebook, I appreciate and value your readership and support. Please know that I will be delivering more blog articles soon on a regular basis. And, please do share your thoughts with me on either Facebook at The Sensitive Man site or directly on the blog. Your feedback is important --let your voice be heard.
In the coming months I will be writing on the following topics and more: Following the Path with a Heart, Taking and Receiving Criticism, On Living a Life of Naivete, HSPs and Arguments, Embracing Our Eccentricities, Dating Choices, The Androgynous Scale, and much more.
When new articles come out there will be notices on Facebook and Twitter. Please share them with your family, friends and fellow sensitives and to the rest of the eighty percent who are not HSPs, but surely now them and love them.
Until next time...keep feeling.
Bill Allen lives in Bend, Oregon. He is a certified hypnotist and brain training coach at BrainPilots.com. He believes that male sensitivity is not so rare, but it can be confounding for most males living in a culture of masculine insensitivity which teaches boys and men to disconnect from their feelings and emotions. His intent is to use this blog to chronicle his personal journey and share with others.