A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Prem Kumar: Final question for twenty million rupees, and he's smiling. I guess you know the answer.
Jamal Malik: Do you believe it, I don't!
Prem Kumar: You don't? So you take the ten million and walk?
Jamal Malik: No. I'll play.
From Slumdog Millionaires
Why do HSPs seem to struggle with making money? Is it because of our strong spiritual sides and not understanding the spiritual foundations of money? I have written before about how difficult it is for HSPs to adopt the persona of a modern capitalist. Our thinking is not predatory, and our energy makes it difficult for us to be aggressive, without overstimulating or overwhelm. We are not creatures of capitalism, but money isn’t necessarily about capitalism either. Capitalism is an economic way of dealing with money, but it isn’t the only way.
What do we know about money? Money in its material physical form is a verifiable record accepted as payment for goods, services or debt. It is a medium of exchange, a unit of accountancy, a store of value, and a standard of deferred debt.
Money in our culture is represented by paper notes issued by the Federal Reserve Bank on behalf of the US Treasury. These notes are promissory notes to pay upon demand a certain figure of said money — we use this for exchange for goods and services. Our money system is based on fiat money, which is money not backed by a valuable commodity, like gold or silver. The government backs the money and requires it’s acceptance.
Most of us work for money so that we can live, eat, and do activities that bring us pleasure. Money can be earned and given away; it can be hoarded, invested and used to pay taxes. If you think about it, money flows from one individual to another often without the physical paper being exchanged, like an electrical current it flows, is seldom seen and is a powerful energetic.
That’s right; money is really energy. Energy can neither be created or destroyed. Countries come and go, currencies come and go, but money is always there. Money energy is really quite invisible, but the energy behind money provides the vehicle for our material creations. Without our material side, money is without use. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t take it with you, “ well, you can’t. We use money as a conduit to express our creative side. It is the spiritual currency that manifests in material form.
I like to think of money like a river. The river generally flows unimpeded from an infinite supply source of “water,” or energy. The river flows downstream where it touches all material beings, manifested spirits if you will. We are all trained early to believe that money is scarce and should be protected. We guard it, we protect it, invest it, measure and treasure it. This mentality about scarcity drives our economy and our lives.
Instead of seeing the river, we see a lake or a pond. The notion of a lake or pond promotes the idea of storage of a scarce commodity. The energy is changed from flowing to stagnant. Lakes and ponds don’t flow like a river. They serve more like a battery a place to store energy. It holds and confines the energy not allowing it to flow freely. Hence, the resource is seen as scarce and not plentiful.
I believe that we all have access to this energy as long as it is flowing. We each carry buckets, which reflects our self-worth. Some of us see ourselves as carrying large, generous buckets, others are smaller , perhaps, inferior buckets with leaks and holes. The reality is that the bucket we carry is the belief we have about the availability of money, and we are often taught this by our parents and family. For some, poverty and scarcity is an inescapable reality. They can’t see how to escape their plight.
On the other side of the spectrum, those with plenty, carry large buckets to the river. In fact, because they also believe in scarcity, they tend to channel off the river, create temporary dams, and ways to hoard the energy, to stockpile in private pools the money they are afraid will disappear on them.
But, what if the money is infinite? What if there was no scarcity? What if the supply could never run out? What then? How would that change your mind and view about money? What if you could request a bigger bucket? What if you only took out of the river what you needed, always knowing that you could go back and get more at any time? How would that affect the way you live? The choices you make. Could we not live a bolder, freer, braver life, knowing that you couldn’t run out of energy (money)?
Money is in many ways a creation of our minds, and our limitation is our mind’s limitations. This energy is not limited. Money is a representation of energy potential, can it not be abundant? Can we not do things with money, if we know that the resource is not scarce. Great things for all mankind. Great humanitarian projects that would benefit all of humanity? And at a personal level be able to live more fearlessly, able to make decisions, make mistakes and know that our mistakes are not irreversible or tied to a lifetime of hoarding our own private pool? How liberating would that be?
HSPs would be great advocates for this type of money vision. There is some substantiation for this idea in Modern Monetary Theory, an economic policy advocated by progressive economists. It is in a very brief nutshell -- a fiat system like our own current system, that subscribes to the notion that government creates the supply of money out of thin air. When it needs more money, it simply prints it, creates money and uses it. This is, of course, is oversimplified but seems to support the notion that money is like energy, it is simply channeled into notes then distributed into the population. The energy is simply transferred and allowed to flow into the economy. It moves from a position of scarcity to one of abundance.
Interestingly, banks do this all the time, by creating money via loans to customers. The money flows into the economy, and the economy grows.
Understanding a detailed picture of economics isn’t necessary, the idea is that the money supply or our river, is out there. The energy behind it is waiting to be used. It’s all in the perception. Are you a scarcity person or an abundance person?
If you adhere to scarcity principles you see: scarcity, lack, you are ultra-competitive, you hoard your money, don’t offer help to others, you are suspicious, dog eat dog, fearful, gloomy, see resources shrinking, avoid risk and fear change. If you are an abundance thinker you see: plenty, brighter horizons, you collaborate, share, help, trust, welcome competition, see growth, are positive, take risks and own change in your life. Sharp contrasts, but do you see the difference in perception? Do you realize how that perception shapes your life? It is classic reptilian thinking versus mammalian thinking, selfish survival thinking versus sharing the abundance thinking.
Can we be new advocates for abundance and not scarcity, where the limits of scarcity determine who gets money and who doesn’t? Not everyone wants to be or needs to be wealthy. The definition of wealth would certainly change. What wealth means need not be about accumulation to excess but about how much happiness we have? That would change the game entirely and free us from the power of gold.
Christopher Gardner: [after playing basket ball] Hey. Don't ever let somebody tell you... You can't do something. Not even me. All right?
Christopher: All right.
Christopher Gardner: You got a dream... You gotta protect it. People can't do somethin' themselves, they wanna tell you you can't do it. If you want somethin', go get it. Period.
From the Pursuit of Happyness
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Forrester: No thinking - that comes later. You must write your first draft with your heart. You rewrite with your head. The first key to writing is... to write, not to think!
From Finding Forrester
One of the four main attributes of Highly Sensitive People is the tendency to and the ability for deep processing. HSPs routinely process emotional and environmental content more deeply than others and dwell on a topic for a longer period of time. We HSPs are prone to deep thinking to what others may term as extreme lengths at times which requires alone and quiet time.
Sometimes this seems to be a curse – leaving those around us to question why we “overthink” things. The appearance of overthinking is true, yet, it is our nature and certainly a benefit for the most part, but can it be overdone? Can deep thinking be our worst enemy? Does deep thinking inhibit action – in effect holding us back?
HSPs do more deep thinking using parts of the brain that are associated with deep processing, and higher use of the part of the brain called the Insula – an integration tool that connects more of the brain in synchronicity. The myth that we are slower thinkers is not supported . Research shows that HSPs have stronger, faster reaction times exhibiting our faster brain processing. Our natural startle reflex would support that idea. The fact that we often process more data than Non-HSPs may give the outward appearance we process at slower rates, but in fact, we are processing more data at higher rates with more outcome options analyzed.
What is deep thinking? Is it something only intelligent, philosophical types do? Is it complex thinking? Or, is it simple thinking that is overly processed? Most deep thinkers display characteristics that seem good fits to what we consider HSP traits. They often are, introverted, observant, humorous (albeit quirky), voracious readers, forgetful, curious, planners, problem solvers, socially awkward, and independent.
A lot of the psychological studies involving deep thinking suggest that it is a part of the definition pertaining to levels of thinking. A lot of this relates to how memory works, the deeper the encoding, the deeper the processing. That makes sense, much like a hard drive on a computer stores data for later retrieval, deeper encoding makes the data available for later processing. Shallow encoding would lead to more short-term processing, which would effectively come and go quickly.
Another factor for enabling deep processing would be -- the more emotional the content, the stronger the encoding. Most HSPs are emotionally charged creatures. Much of our input would likely be highly charged and stored effectively in long-term memory, where it could be drawn and processed for longer periods. Because deep processing often involves the use of semantics; language helps to encourage the analytics of deep thinking.
Many of the brain areas associated with memory and depth of processing: the hippocampus, amygdala, and neocortex are areas often associated with HSP brain processing. Whether HSPs as a whole have more powerful hippocampal areas (memory) or more active amygdala (emotion) might give additional credence to the idea that we are naturally wired for this type of processing. Since the Sensory Processing Sensitivity characteristics seem to occur across species, not just humans, you have to wonder if this quality is not evolutionarily ordained and functionally important for survival.
But when does deep processing become overthinking? Overthinking is not considered to be a positive attribute. In fact, there are distinct health consequences for persistent overthinking. Two main outcomes of overthinking are rumination and worrying – both having stress consequences.
Rumination is a process where the past is relentlessly rehashed with no productive outcome. Sometimes rumination involves circular recursive logic that leaves the individual feeling helpless and hopeless. Worrying, the polar opposite of rumination involves deriving negative predictions about the future – utilizing previous unsuccessful outcomes as input.
Neither strategy leads to positive outcomes and can drive negative thought patterns deeper down. An infusion of emotions almost always energizes this exercise and can lead to anxiety, stress, and depression. If you find yourself in this loop and recognize it, then challenge your thoughts; focus on active problem-solving. Give yourself time for neutral reflection and mindfulness. Or, give yourself a consuming distraction to break the cycle and if that fails to work, seek help.
Needless to say, the consequences of overthinking are much different than deep processing. I’m not sure that deep processing can spawn overthinking, regardless of what non-HSPs may think, but it would behoove us HSPs to be mindful of where our deep processing is leading us. Overthinking can lead to real mental health issues – anxiety and depression. It certainly can inhibit the benefits of your deep processing ability causing analysis paralysis and with that added stress can contribute to sleep disturbances.
Our HSP ability to rely on deep processing of inputs is certainly one of our shining characteristics. It doesn’t’ lend us to making hasty decisions or staccato-like shotgun decision making. But our ability to deeply process and forecast outcomes is what makes us good advisors, counselors, and teachers. At some point, you have to accept your conclusions and go with them by taking action or risk treading into the realm of overthinking. Trust your gut, as an HSP your instincts are generally right, in large part due to your deep thinking capabilities.
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Morpheus: Neo, sooner or later you're going to realize just as I did that there's a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.
From The Matrix
I recently watched an old video, of the British/American philosopher, Alan Watts talking about Moksha. He relayed a story about an Indian man, a prosperous businessman that left behind the business and his family to set out into the woods to seek Moksha. Watts described Moksha as, “…at the center of Hinduism is an experience called Moksha – liberation, in which through the dissipation of the illusion that each man and woman is a separate thing in the world consisting of nothing but a collection of separate things, you discover that you are, in a way, on one level an illusion, but on another level, you are what they call self, the one Self, which is all that there is.” In simpler terms, Watts described this concept of Moksha as forsaking what is known and pursuing what is not.
Moksha in Hinduism is a term which refers to various forms of emancipation, enlightenment, liberation, and release. It could also refer to self-enlightenment, self-realization or self-knowledge. It is a part of a quadruplet of stages that Hindus strive to achieve. One of these is Dharma, the striving for a virtuous, proper life. Another is Artha, the pursuit of material prosperity, used to support oneself and family during the middle stages of life. Then there is Kama, the pursuit of sensual pleasure which certainly makes sense in a material, sensual world, and finally striving to receive Moksha – liberation.All of these interweave throughout life, I’m not sure there is a firm chronology for each stage, but Moksha would be the crowning achievement.
Moksha is the final release and emancipation of self and the realization of the true self. It seems this realization of the earthbound ego, not being the true spiritual self, in order to obtain Moksha would require the abandonment of the ego-self on a path of self-development. As we find out who we truly are, reducing our negative attributes that limit our happiness would bring us an appreciation of the qualities of love, balance, and growth. Certainly, happiness comes from within and not from the outside.
It seems that many if not most HSPs are contemplative and spiritual creatures. Our intuition and empathy bring us insights into the connectivity we all share. Our ability to intuit information from the environment, helps us understand and interpret the world around us. It would seem natural that HSPs would follow a path of self-development and spiritual growth. A walk towards Moksha.
But, what would a practical path be for a modern, Western HSP man or woman to strive for with Moksha in mind? If the true self resides within, this would seem easier for most HSPs to explore. Yet, I see more and more HSPs lost and distressed over the external world and not being able to handle the overwhelm they bear. It is often recommended that anyone walking a spiritual path seek a meditative practice.
How does that compare with what HSPs naturally do introspectively? Lets first set a definition of meditation that is not solely about mindfulness, used often in Western terms. Meditation is a quieting exercise, an effort to quell the constant bombardment of incessant internal chatter – the monkey mind. It is not a practice of drilling down to the source of thought and mining it for truth. Rather it is a quieting of the mind so that truth can bubble up from within. I like many HSPs do the opposite. We drive down thoughts to a place where they are processed under our active, watchful minds. This is not meditation. This is rumination, a deep thinking cycle; that regurgitates thought over and over; often with no productive conclusion. It may be a good analytical practice, but it’s not a spiritual one.
It seldom leads to a place of peace or liberation. It can at times, produce insights, but it also can produce discomfort and turbulence. Yet, HSPs see this as a superpower or a curse. Most of us are never taught how to harness this power, and therefore we subsequently let our minds run amok, a mental firehose thrashing about in our minds, causing us to be overwhelmed and reclusive.
This is sad because I do believe our capacity to process all of this extrasensory information if handled properly can be beneficial not only to ourselves but to the world. So what should we do?
First, I think we should learn to manage our thoughts and all that overthinking. One way to do that is to learn a meditative practice, learning to calm the mind. Learning to slow down the mind perceptually to single thread thoughts for proper processing. This is like a quarterback in football slowing down the game in his mind to see the whole field at once in front of him -- watching the play unfold in slow motion.
Good decisions can be made when one can see all the options clearly.Slowing down perception to allow the mind to bring up from within the needed direction or thought. This is like bottom-up processing. We HSPs tend to do top-down processing, which overflows the system. We get overwhelmed easily, which is our kryptonite. Avoiding overwhelm is in some ways like the Hindu achievement of Moksha. Avoiding overwhelm is liberation, letting the true self (bottom-up) override the ego (top down), which allows clarity and insight in a calm, confident way. This will allow us to focus on what matters, letting the superfluous detritus of thought slide off and out of range.
Achieving this will help us, be grateful, learn to forgive, learn what love is. It will help us to learn what we as individuals need to be happy. By finding our spiritual path; we more easily connect with others. Giving freely of ourselves, finding our right livelihood and connecting with the tribe we belong to (not necessarily family). You can then be more calmly alone with your soul, understanding your ego’s role and not being a slave to it. Recognize that you are a creative spirit in a physical body. Your job is to learn and grow and create.
Stay on the path to your own personal Moksha. Don’t be static. Continue to advance through your own personal evolution, realizing that every experience, both good and bad is an opportunity to grow.
Morpheus: This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.
From The Matrix
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Peter Klaven: So what do i do? How do i make friends?
Robbie Klaven: If you see a cool looking guy, strike up a conversation and ask him on a man date.
Peter Klaven: Ok.
Robbie Klaven: You know what i mean?
Peter Klaven: No.
Robbie Klaven: Casual lunch or after work drinks. You're not taking these boys to see The Devil Wears Prada.
Peter Klaven: Ohhhh god i love that movie. No I wont.
From I Love You, Man
Every man needs friends. Males need a network of people that can serve social purposes, act as confidantes, and as a peer feedback group, providing emotional support. Highly sensitive people often are perceived as quiet loners that draw strength from their own company. That downtime, the alone time and the time to process the day are important to all HSPs, and in the context of the HSP behavioral model, it’s a necessary health consideration.
But having a male counterpart to share with and experience life in close proximity is as important as having a partner for romance and companionship. For Highly Sensitive Males, who are typically a little different than other males, finding the right guys to hang out with might be challenging. Being an HSM means it’s important to find peers that we can identify with, and it’s important to find men who share or appreciate our unique qualities.
First, it’s important that all men have male friends who can be your touchpoint for sharing feelings, concerns, and issues. Not just for watching a football game or playing golf, or going fishing or camping or partying. Men need male bonding experiences complete with emotions.
Social interaction is critically important to men’s health and longevity. Strong social networks correlate positively with overall health and long life. You are more likely to die earlier if you remain solitary and isolated, all things considered, such as health habits, lifestyles, etc. Social isolation ranks with high blood pressure, obesity, lack of exercise, and smoking as a high health risk factor. To be blunt, the consequences of not being at least somewhat social may be heart disease, autoimmune issues, high blood pressure, and cancer. Social interaction also means lower levels of depression and anxiety.
The upshot of all of this social interaction is the support network that humans need contributes to overall wellbeing and contributes to health. We are pack animals. Social connection is a fundamental human characteristic. Under stressful conditions, it even aids in emotional recovery, which benefits the body.
The key to good social interaction is allowing a certain degree of vulnerability for social bonding to take place. The recognition that one can’t always do it alone is a difficult concept for some men and often prevents them from attaching themselves to other males. Their fear is that they will be perceived as dependent and weak. Ironically, the more social interaction, the more oxytocin is released to create the bonds, which in turn produces a certain resiliency to stressors in the environment. The very thing men need is to be able to bond to others to make them stronger.
It’s also important for HSMs to bond with non-HSP men, this is a networking opportunity to reach out to the other side and interact. Mutual influence is a good thing. It’s also a good opportunity for educating other men about what sensitivity really means and correcting the perjorative narrative about what it doesn’t mean, i.e., weakness, frailty, emasculating. There then would be more opportunities for teaching other men how to express feelings in a meaningful way and for teaching non-HSP males in the finer points of raising HSM sons.
Men natively interact with other men, based in large part on social conventions and activities like sports, fraternities, veteran’s groups and competitive venues, which are more active than intimate, more casual than deep, more transactional than emotional and more side by side than face to face. Perhaps, some of the lack of attachment comes from a homophobic fear of close connection with another male. This often gets discussed in the recent spate of Bromance movies, which seem to have replaced the older genre buddy movie.
Recent notions becoming radicalized by extreme male groups promote fearfulness about the increased feminization of men. Modeling female like friendships between men fly in the face of western traditional male values. Yet, male bonding is simply the actualization of a human social interconnection that leads to the formation of personal relationships between males. Perhaps, the more recognized ideal of camaraderie suggested in the military, of bonding under mutually egregious conditions, make it more palatable for some men to embrace this concept. Nevertheless, all men need allies.
The male bonding dynamic has been observed and studied for years, yet culturally we struggle with this idea of the need for male bonding at an intimate and emotional level. Are men really solitary creatures? When given the opportunity, would they prefer to go it alone? Are men less communicative and only band together for tribal and communal purposes? Is this trait amplified in HSP males? Do HSP males have more difficulty in bonding with other men?
Because HSMs are different and know our differences -- by associating with other males, do those differences stand out and make us uncomfortable? Do HSP men find it easier to bond/ befriend females for close personal friendships just for the intimate emotional contact?
How do we overcome this? Why is it imperative for HSP males to form a “bro” network? While there is nothing inherently wrong with males having platonic friendships with females, the age-old question posed by the movie When Harry Met Sally, suggests that true friendship, without the romantic element, is nearly impossible to achieve between males and females. These types of relationships have been studied, and that question has been asked, “Can men and women have non-sexual friendships?”
What we have learned is that men and women have somewhat opposite views on platonic relationships. Surprisingly, the men tend to screw this up, more than the women. Men overrate romantic involvement in platonic relationships more so than women. Women, once it’s established that the relationship is platonic there is not a romantic shift seen in the female friend, whereas, the male begins to drift into a more romantic appraisal of the relationship more often. This, of course, leads to more complications and if there is an incongruity in the assessment of the relationship may end the friendship in disappointment.
Perhaps this is because men are less familiar with forming close personal, non-sexual relationships, and when presented with an attractive female friend, the dictates of sexual attraction blur the lines between friendship and something else. Interestingly, there are others studies that suggest certain intimidation of males, when around women. In one particular study, men appeared to be cognitively impaired in doing a mental task, when they were told they were being observed by a female. Perhaps, there was more pressure, when trying to please the female observer, but the point being that men find it difficult to be more relaxed and themselves, when around females.
Now, of course, this doesn’t mean that men and women cannot or should not be friends. I have many female friends, where the relationship is platonic, and the boundaries of interaction are very clear. Some of these friendships have been spawned from failed romantic attempts, but now, have found a comfortable and rightful place in each of our lives as friendships. The overall view, however, is that men can often be more comfortable and open with male friends and it is this openness that promotes well-being and should be encouraged.
So, how to build your bro network? Reaching out is important, even when it’s uncomfortable. It’s important to have a confidante this is the same sex as yourself. It helps in my mind, to promote the yang energy within your psyche. It is important, however, to find those men that are supportive of your nature and appreciate your insights and intuition. Perhaps, to begin, we need to find like-minded HSP males. This isn’t just about joining online groups but keeping your eye out for men that share HSP characteristics. Some may be the same age; some may be younger or older, so it may require the stretching of your normal social circles. Engage them in conversation and let the process of getting acquainted be organic.
Once established with some HSP bros, then reach out to other men, those that share a common value or activity and allow friendships to grow. Be discerning for sure, but don’t make the mistake of picking only friends that are exactly like you. Growth takes place when we expand our outreach. Consider them to be like your council of advisors, your board of directors, people that you trust and will give you honest and useful feedback. I like the way the author Napoleon Hill described his coterie of advisors as his Mastermind. Your bro network can serve a similar function but in a more intimate and emotional way. For most HSM’s I suspect that a few good friends are all that is needed, so this shouldn’t be a ponderous task, but maybe a lifelong endeavor.
On a personal note, I recently reconnected with an old high school friend. We were the best of friends back in the day. When we reunited a few months ago, we literally picked up where we left off forty years ago. It’s been a great experience to have him back in my life. While we were sharing, I told him about my blog and about the characteristics of highly sensitive people. After some quick evaluation, we determined he was an HSP, too. Amazing. No wonder we have been such great friends and allies.
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Gordon Gekko: The richest one percent of this country owns half our country's wealth, five trillion dollars. One third of that comes from hard work, two thirds comes from inheritance, interest on interest accumulating to widows and idiot sons and what I do, stock and real estate speculation. It's bullshit. You got ninety percent of the American public out there with little or no net worth. I create nothing. I own. We make the rules, pal. The news, war, peace, famine, upheaval, the price per paper clip. We pick that rabbit out of the hat while everybody sits out there wondering how the hell we did it. Now you're not naive enough to think we're living in a democracy, are you buddy? It's the free market. And you're a part of it. You've got that killer instinct. Stick around pal, I've still got a lot to teach you.
From Wall Street
A fairly recent article in the Washington Post highlighted a study that suggested that wealthy people tend to be more immoral, unethical and less empathetic than people who don’t have great wealth. Recent studies support this hypothesis. Wealthy people are more likely to cheat on taxes, on spouses, shoplift (really?), and cheat at games of chance. They even give less a proportion of income than poorer folks do.
Are rich folks inherently like this and does this make them more likely to become rich because of the entitled attitude? Power effects behavior and money brings power. Studies show that wealthy individuals feel above the law. The power of money strips people of inhibition increases risk taking and risky behavior and feelings of entitlement and invulnerability. People with money are more likely to follow and execute on their desires, because they have the means to do so and that sometimes means acting unethically and immorally.
What types of characteristics do many of the wealthy have that lead them into this deficit of empathy and scruples? Interestingly, evidence of psychopathology is four times greater in the ranks of CEOs than in the general population. Presumably, these CEOs, are representative of wealthy, entitled types. The similar traits they share with psychopaths are quite alarming. There is a definite lack of empathy in their interactions with others.
One could say that this is just dispassionate business their practicing, however, could we assume that at some point simple human kindness would prevail? Apparently not. It seems reasonable that wealthy individuals would have massive egos with all that power and would exhibit behavior such as self-centeredness, self-promotion and a die-hard strategy of vanquishing competition. In order to accomplish this, these individuals often display a superficial charm and élan that is manipulative and endgame oriented. The ends justify the means and with that comes lack of remorse at their mercilessness and machinations over others.
Selfishness, coupled with unethical behavior and a tendency towards easy boredom, lead those at the top to often live on the edge: lying, cheating and stealing their way to success.
With increased power comes increased feelings of entitlement and a separation of sorts of the privileged ego from those in subordinate roles. It’s difficult to determine if power and wealth corrupt the ego or if the corrupt rise to powerful and wealthy stations in life. I suspect that both apply.
Rich kids or kids of entitled families tend to be indoctrinated early in life to their entitled thinking. Yet, with the entitlement comes enormous pressure to succeed and excel at all things. Pressure comes from the parents, teachers, coaches, and peers and is relentless. Many parents value success over personal decency and kindness. Relationships suffer as a result, and fewer intimate relationships form increasing a sense of isolation and lack of empathy towards others. This bad start at home leads to instances of crime, drug and alcohol abuse to combat the stress. The privileged status is a protected status and gives the child a feeling of invulnerability to repercussions. Thus, the pattern begins.
I often wonder if the drive to wealth is a predatory instinct, more reptilian and less mammalian in nature. The love of material things and the love of the hunt may be two different things, but they often seemed to be paired together. Acquisition and accumulation have no inherent utility value for the super wealthy, as they generally have more than is necessary to exist and live a comfortable if not opulent life.
You would think at some level, that a feeling of satiety would set in, and that increased wealth would produce a bloating of sorts. Like carrying more weight than is comfortable. But there is a type of narcissistic drive in sequestering all the toys in the room into your own private toy box, that depicts metaphorically a small child mentality that says, “ love me now, I have more than you, I’m better than you.” These narcissistic wealthy have a self-centered agenda that sucks the life out of the world around them, making them feel omnipotent and imperial. We are seeing a resurgence of this today, as wealth consolidates to those at the top.
I realize that this is not true of all wealthy individuals. And it’s easy to generalize evil characteristics to all rich folks. Maybe a little sour grapes here. Perhaps, it's more recognizable in the Nouveau Riche, who tend to be more conspicuous with their money. The established wealthy are less conspicuous and harder to observe. They like the cloak of their wealth, which hides them from public view, but nonetheless, makes them even more prone to their machinations without public scrutiny. The traits that garnered their wealth were no doubt, present in their progenitors. Maintaining and preserving wealth is a much different game than acquisition and accumulation, but the same characteristics would be useful for both.
Contrast that with the natures of highly sensitive people. Are we the naturally the antithesis of those that strive for wealth? Is it harder for HSPs to acquire wealth because we lack the predator qualities needed to advance above and beyond the common? Do our traits of empathy and kindness, which we often wear like weights, prevent us from taking the necessary steps to rise above in matters of money and wealth?
Making money is fundamentally about taking the money out of someone’s pocket and putting it in yours. Of course, you could argue for the barter model, but we live in a society where upward mobility requires one to go beyond simple tit for tat trading and focus on exploiting profits. This takes cunning and somewhat of a killer instinct. Cue the language of business. This sordidness is just not what HSPs are largely about.
Most HSPs are less likely to be interested in the troubles of making money and acquiring wealth. High wage work is exhausting and can tax the HSPs’ systems. HSPs tend to be focused on nonmaterial matters, spirituality, and quiet, contemplative endeavors. This would suggest that we do not have the fundamental characteristics of our personalities to become the kind of entrepreneurial or capitalist types that are driven by financial success.
Would that explain why HSPs are less likely to be wealthy or powerful people? Do we not have the chops to be financially adept? Is it possible for us, who enjoy creature comforts, and are HSPs, to override or reprogram our HSP nature in a thoughtful way and still acquire wealth or at least succeed financially? Or, maybe, I’m wrong, maybe it’s just not that important to most HSPs.
I think it might be of interest to more HSPs if it could be managed within our HSP framework. Part of the aversion for many of us may be fear or dread of some of the draconian measures used by the wealthy to become rich. For the average HSP or for the average person, there are a couple of ways I can think of off the top of my head to approach this. Certainly, this is not exhaustive.
One, you adapt yourself to the system using HSP characteristics instead of predatory ones. This requires some skill acquisition and a willingness to push some boundaries but doesn’t’ require you to sell yourself out. The second is longer term, broader and even more fundamental. That is changing the way you play the system, working a different angle and being creative.
In the first strategy, one must adopt some of the positive characteristics of wealthy individuals. Creating a positive and optimistic outlook means modifying the overthinking quality most HSPs possess. It might mean abandoning the uber-cautious attitude HSPs tend towards and employing calculated, optimistic risks (business development, investments or employment opportunities).
Perpetuating a strong ability for resilience is necessary, not just for wealth but for life. Adaptability and recovery are traits that can be learned and are key to surviving in wealth-building. HSPs could actually be quite good at this, because of our capacity for rumination and review of our experiences. Learn to remove the powerful emotions, and this leaves raw experience, which can be reframed and repurposed with new vigor, and sent back out into the world.
Staying connected and developing the skill of networking helps build social capital. To assuage the urge not to socialize, HSPs can do this like Ninjas. Develop a purpose for networking with a clear objective. Laser in on the target individuals that will provide value, and reach out to them. Of course with our HSP nature, we also should look to reciprocate the value gained. This keeps our empathy quotient high and makes us good people to network with.
Firing up a passion for objectives, without flaming out is important. Passion is fuel, and burns brightly and quickly, use it wisely. Make sure you stock up with fuel before you go out to face the world – exercise, sleep , diet, and meditation, will aid in moderating your passion against your energy stores.
Learning and practicing good financial habits are necessary to maintain what you gain. Let your innate conscientiousness and attention to detail prevail.
Finally, express and show gratitude for success, learning from mentors and showing empathy, compassion, and appreciation for all that aid you.
The second system is more about changing how you play the system than changing you. This system would be to use your HSP characteristics to create a value proposition, and then let the market multiply it for you. You need not start a business per se or become a capitalist to do this. Many artists, authors, and musicians have employed this method.
My best example would be to create an artistic product or creation. For example, write a book. The idea of writing a book is the type of task that an HSP would be likely most comfortable with. Expression of thought, quiet time to write, creating an imaginary world, or expounding an idea, and then letting it go into the world to seek its fortune. This is a solitary task, done once. Your intellectual property then is sold, by various means, then replicated for distribution, whether in print or in electronic format. The scale is up to you – large or small. Paying you over and over for a single effort. Not everyone is going to have the success of J.K. Rowling, a famous HSP, but, yet a decent life could be made with this model.
The economies of doing this allow you to multiply the effect of your work, without draining you. You have played the system to your strength. Yes, I know, granted it must sell, granted that you have to do some promotion work, but the idea is to use the multiplier effect in a single endeavor, a very HSP kind of thing. Maximum efficiency, with minimum effort. My point is that making money is not inherently evil or greedy. If you can produce something of value and sell it, the world can beat a path to your door.
Money is power, but its also energy and energy potential. Energy is a neutral force, neither good or evil. It can be used both ways — the beholder of the energy colors the result of using that energy. Money is like the genie in the bottle; it merely does what you command it to. Money can be used for a lot of positive things in life. And HSPs would be good stewards of large sources of money. In an upcoming blog, I will be talking about our presuppositions of money – either scarcity or abundance. It may surprise you to learn that all rich people don’t think in terms of abundance. It makes a difference. More on that later.
Maybe money isn’t your thing after all. If so, perhaps, you are the luckiest of us all. Live simply, with what the Universe has given you, work on spiritual matters and rest in your thoughts. As for me, I’m going to work on the money proposition. I think we can turn this thing around. I’ll let you know how I do.
Gordon Gekko: The point is ladies and gentlemen that greed, for lack of a better word, is good.
From Wall Street
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Chuck Noland: We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up, and... knew she had to let me go. I added it up and knew that I had... lost her. 'cos I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where it was going to happen. So... I made a rope, and I went up to the summit, to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course. You know me. And the weight of the log snapped the limb of the tree, so I-I - , I couldn't even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over *nothing*. And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass... And I've lost her all over again. I'm so sad that I don't have Kelly. But I'm so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?
From Cast Away
I think it’s about time we HSPs and in particular HSMs stop complaining about our sensitivities and start living with it and learning from it, exploiting the advantages and looking for best strategies to thrive within the framework of Sensory Processing Sensitivity. That may sound harsh, but, as men, we need to explore our options on how we can best deal with SPS and then take that knowledge and share it with our HSM brothers and young men and boys. We might even consider sharing it with our non-HSP male counterparts to help them explore other aspects of their personalities they probably have veered away from.
I have talked a lot about our culture’s boy and man code, toxic masculinity and living our own protective denial about who we are and covering up our differences. The world, for now, may not get us-- our moods, the tendency towards overwhelm, the depth of processing emotions and stuff, that many label “over-thinking,” --because this all spells drama to outsiders. Drama in familiar parlance is any kind of intense emotion that doesn’t fit the circumstance according to the labeler.
They don’t get our quiet ways, sometimes think we are conspiring against them. They never understand our need to process to infinity and beyond on what they usually consider trivial matters, until, of course, they need to pick our brains on advice for one of their vexing problems. When you consider it, work, relationships, friendships, activities, social life – all are impacted by our high sensitivity and how we deal and cope.
Nothing about our living goes unaffected by our SPS trait. Part of the overwhelms of life for most of us comes from not having effective coping skills to deal with the extra sensitivity. This is consternating for us HSP adults but is profoundly confusing for HSP kids. Many parents of HSP kids, some of which are not themselves HSPs are confused, embarrassed, frustrated and sometimes plain angry with their HSP offspring. They struggle because they don’t know of, or can teach the coping skills these children need.
Although I am grateful at the growing acknowledgment and work about SPS from the likes of Dr. Elaine Aron, Dr. Tracy Cooper, Dr. Ted Zeff, and many others, we are far from universal awareness and understanding about how to cope, strategize, raise and bring up healthy HSP children.
As many of us adults acknowledge our shortcomings or the lack of tools to help in this undertaking, we as HSPs must all band together to share our insights and teach each other those coping skills that have worked for us as individuals and to share the experiences we have had that might be useful to parents, teachers, and others that interface with HSP children.
This is true especially for HSP boys that are not only up against one size fits all societal norms for masculine expectancy but the general bias against HSPs as a whole. This is hard for young HSP boys, because not only do they not match up with what is expected from most boys, but are often sensitive about this disparity. This disconnect contributes to self-esteem and self-confidence issues that will affect them as men and as adults. So what do we do?
Let me talk first about some of our tendencies when confronting life’s conflicts. Our instincts generally lead us always to go within, retreat or isolate when we reach these obstacles. It just seems normal for us to withdraw at the first sign of resistance. We almost universally process in this way, or some close variant. For HSPs this may be to allow for more processing or rumination on the issue or for soothing purposes. To quiet down, rest on the problem. Yes, we all nod in an agreement that this is a good thing, but is it always a good strategy? For sure, it is a natural strategy for HSPs, no one has to teach an HSP to do this, but following our natural tendencies – does this make for best practices? Could it lead to passivity, inaction, and avoidance?
I think about this a lot when I contemplate the idea of teaching proactive coaching strategies to young HSP men or boys. I often ask myself – what could have been taught to me as a boy, that would have made my life better, more fulfilling and instilled a higher degree of confidence in my ability to navigate the world. Instead, like many highly sensitive men, I just figured out on my own by trial and error, a cobbled together strategy.
What we need are tools to teach ourselves and our young men how to take our gifts and our challenges as HSPs and use them to better ourselves and for that matter, the world. These tools would instill confidence and teach us how to use our unique voices. We could stand to learn more precise skills to regulate our emotions or how to throttle them when they are overwhelming or inappropriate. We need to learn how to communicate our needs to others, without sounding whiny or complaining.
There should be a method that would be equivalent to mental aikido when we are attacked or feel that way, that would allow us to calmly use our opponent's negativity to flow through us, as opposed to draining us or hurting us. This could be a method to protect us. We need to understand our dark selves, too, those moods that might arise from negative upbringings or from other’s insensitive treatment and learn to show love to all those that don’t understand us. Most importantly, we need to learn the fundamentals of self-love, how to find and nurture it within ourselves.
We need good roadmaps for finding our best career options and accelerate the proliferation of good tools for HSPs for identifying the HSP trait early on, either by testing (thanks Dr. Aron) or by trained observation. We need to cultivate how to guide our young HSP children towards careers that would allow them to prosper and thrive, helping them to get in touch with their life spark (read: passion) and show them how to map it out into an awesome life.
We need career coaches and counselors to provide career “clouds,” which are general guidelines for options for broad occupation categories that HSPs can match to their individual personalities and characteristics. We need to match our young ones to mentors that can help them at schools and medical facilities, that understand them, and can encourage them in ways that stimulate HSPs in gentle ways.
As an HSP male, I can’t emphasize enough, how important it is to identify and outreach HSP boys early on in life. A great deal of their socialization as males takes place early in life, from both males and females. Self-esteem and self-confidence begin here, and no one, HSP or not, is born with the means to self-confidence. It is all learned.
Some of the coping strategies out there from a variety of sources, speak to the special needs of HSPs without really talking about the proactive tools approach. It’s almost a stimulus => response approach, that is most often offered. Nevertheless, not criticizing these approaches, they are coming from great sources, but still seem lacking in providing a walk out the door and into life approach, which anticipates challenges and provides a means to let life flow through us. I do believe as SPS gathers more research these tools will appear.
Now, I am going to share a broad stroke of these ideas, a sampling of the advice for HSP coping. More detail can be found by linking on the references. In addition, at the end of the article, I have listed a few of the essential HSP books, that every HSM should have on their bookshelves or on their Kindles.
Most authorities on HSPs speak to the need for HSP emotional regulation. This is very important. Like most HSPs, no one ever taught me about how to deal with the onslaught of heavy emotion I would deal with in my life. It’s easy to get addicted to the highs and lows, and without a good strategy, the roller coaster analogy really begins to take shape in your life. Dr. Aron speaks of acceptance of your feelings, being with them, realizing they are transient and will pass. She advocates remaining hopeful, realizing you can cope and with practice can receive the experience that allows you to feel that you are in control. This is the mindful thought sculpting approach many therapists utilize. She acknowledges that body matters are important too, such as sleep, diet, and exercise. How and where you spend your time will aid in dealing with overwhelm so keep matters of association and isolation in mind.
Dr. Ted Zeff talks about raising HSP boys, in a gentle way, acknowledging their nature, being extra cautious to be mindful of bullying in and around their lives, and being cautious about placing them unprepared in stressful circumstances, where they may be humiliated or overly embarrassed. He emphasizes the importance of a strong, leader male – a father figure to guide them in finding their way. This is imperative to HSP boys to receive recognition from a respected male to aid them in developing confidence in themselves. HSP boys need to be engaged in physical activities that will help them be physically fit. Many HSP boys lack a positive body image and exercise and movement are key to improving that image.
HSP boys need help in developing critical thinking skills to abate the tendency towards runaway emotions. A great skill for young men, HSP or not, is to learn meditation skills for relaxation and to increase mind calming. We need to teach them to regulate self-criticism, which often takes an emotional tone. We often suffer from recursive intrusive thinking. Critical thinking coupled with mindfulness and self-awareness can help tremendously here.
I envision here a kind of Shaolin priest training program that balances both body and mind. For those of you who remember, the TV show, Kung-Fu, offers the character Kwai Chang Caine, who is a sensitive, spiritual and thoughtful man who walks with mindfulness and confidence in the world and I think a kind of cool role model for HSP boys.
All of these activities should have a goal of increased self-esteem, via awareness and use of a variety of tools, many of which, are free, and only need to be taught. Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or tapping is a great example of one of the tools. I would also recommend working with a therapist that knows EMDR (a tool that releases unconscious material quickly) or that offers some type of neurofeedback training. I personally, use Neuroptimal, to help calm my mind and build resiliency.
All of this advice suggests some of the tools that, although not necessarily developed for HSPs, can be modified or adapted to be used for HSPs. We do need to stop treating SPS as if it were a disease. It's not. I am not above my own advice. I am still struggling with the idea of this trait as being a gift at times. I often let unknowing, sometimes well-meaning people frame my experience as being a liability or that I must make draconian changes in my personality. We all need to start looking at ways /strategies for being more proactive with our trait. Getting out from underneath the confusion about the trait, examining what’s good about it, and teaching ourselves and others how we can best use it to thrive makes sense now.
I would welcome hearing about strategies that you may have tried to aid yourself in your life. Good or bad, they all bear mentioning.
Chuck Noland: [to Wilson] We might just make it. Did that thought ever cross your brain? Well, regardless, I would rather take my chance out there on the ocean than to stay here and die on this shithole island, spending the rest of my life talking...
Chuck Noland: ...TO A GODDAMN VOLLEYBALL!
From Cast Away
Books You Must Have or Read:
Dr. Tracy Cooper – Thrive!
Dr. Elaine Aron –Highly Sensitive Person
Dr. Ted Zeff – Strong Sensitive Boy
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Clarence: You see, George, you've really had a wonderful life. Don't you see what a mistake it would be to throw it away?
George Bailey: Dear Father in heaven, I'm not a praying man, but if you're up there and you can hear me
George Bailey: show me the way... show me the way.
From: It’s a Wonderful Life
Lately, I’ve been talking about the intense feelings that HSPs can have. Part of that is developing healthy coping skills in dealing with these strong feelings. Men, especially in this country have been socialized to suppress their feelings in order to appear more “manly.” Yet, contrary to all evidence, suppressing feelings is not healthy at all. In fact, it may be contributing to the leading cause of suicide among middle-aged and older men.
It had me thinking that there could be an intersection between some men, who are HSP, that are also older and have been socialized to keep feelings under wrap that may be contributing to an unhealthy sense of hopelessness or helplessness. Learned helplessness is a learned behavior to act or behave helplessly even when there is power to change the harmful or unpleasant circumstance. This behavior contributes to depression and depression, in turn, contributes to suicide.
Depression is the leading cause of suicide. With ten percent of the population reporting feelings of sadness, six percent reporting feelings of hopelessness and five percent reporting a sense of worthlessness, it can easily seem like these factors are contributing to our nation’s depression epidemic. Women are more likely to be sad than men and singles more so than those that are partnered. Women have a two to one ratio for depression in most developing countries, although research shows that men and women have comparable levels of depression, but express it differently.
Nevertheless, men’s suicide rates are higher than women. In spite of the fact that 70% of suicides are caused by the wide umbrella of depression and that women report higher incidences of depression, actual suicides are a staggering 4: 1 in favor of men. This rate of suicide in men increases with age.
It’s worth noting, yet not surprising, that men seldom seek help for depression. Women are more likely to seek help. Women tend to ruminate on depression, holding it inward, whereas men tend to act (externalize) depression with drink and risky behavior. Suicide rates are higher with men over 50. Interestingly, low population states show higher suicide rates as do military personnel, LGBTQ communities and those suffering in chronic pain.
There is some genetic tendency toward suicidal behavior, i.e., the Hemingways. Whether there is genetics at play or that this is learned behavior seems debatable. Edwin Schneidman, a noted psychologist, proposed a suicide model in which the victims tend towards unbearable psychological pain, isolation and a persistent perception that death is the only solution. Of course, there are other contributing factors – loneliness, bullying, discrimination, and separation from family, especially men as non-custodial parents. The upshot of all of this is that depression, helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness contribute to feelings which might lead to suicide. And, men who are desperate are often the ones who act on this.
And what about us highly sensitive people?Would it seem HSPs, and in particular, highly sensitive men, are any more likely to reach that tipping point, born out of desperation? Is there any evidence that would suggest that due to intense emotional processing, and or with the added factor of additional mental health issues, that HSMs are at a higher risk for suicide?
According to Dr. Tracy Cooper, HSPs are prone to depressive and anxious thinking due to a more elaborate depth of processing in their thinking. This thinking can lead to bouts of depression and sadness. But does that put HSMs at more risk of suicidal behavior? In Dr. Cooper’s blog, he references Dr. Thomas Joiner who has reformulated the major causes of suicide for predictive purposes. These causes are framed to highlight the weighted burden men often experience when helplessness and hopelessness set in. It is many ways a reflection of the unrealistic expectations men often shoulder in silence.
Dr. Joiner’s list of criteria consists of the following: 1) a sense of not belonging or being alone, possibly because men often fear ridicule or shame for sharing feelings considered unmanly, 2) a sense of not contributing or of being a burden. In our current economic climate, men can feel as though they do not contribute as much financially as in previous eras creating a sense of guilt, and 3) finally, Dr. Joiner suggests that one must have the capability for suicide, the will to die, to override the evolutionary urge to survive, and the willingness to act. Even as research shows that the suicidal intention is transient and fleeting, there may be that moment in time, as Dr. Elaine Aron says, that the thought, played with, becomes an accidental action, and one breaches the portal of death.
Dr. Aron, speaking specifically to HSPs shows some optimism for the HSP population in regard to suicide. She suggests because of the HSP depth of processing of feelings, our sometimes rampant perfectionism, the fact that HSPs are often bullied because of our uniqueness, and at some level can build a fed up attitude we harbor towards our sensitivity, causes that would otherwise turn others towards dark depression. This may be thwarted in HSPs due to our natural empathy, caution and willingness to think things through before acting. This may keep HSPs from following through on such a permanent and drastic measure.
Yet, I wonder, does Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS), the prominent trait of HSPs, create opportunities for HSPs to experience difficulties in processing deep-seeded or highly emotional trauma, i.e., PTSD? Conversely are HSPs any better suited to handle the emotional overwhelm , something that we routinely experience, and are we more likely to share the deep, dark feelings with others? Do HSPs, perhaps, more so than the general population seek out help, including highly sensitive men, when needed to avert something catastrophic like suicide. I have not been able to find specific research supporting this, but feel comfortable assuming there is some degree of truth to that.
What could be a soft crack in the above resilience hypothesis of sensitive men, might be where HSM men over sixty suffering traits suggested by Dr. Joiner, who may not be aware of their SPS traits and may labor with archaic male role models. Regardless of their awareness of their sensitivity, and by that, I mean acceptance of it, they may hold their feelings in private to seem more masculine and yet suffer deeply within and not connect with others. As research has shown, if they had been raised in negative environments as children, the overall effect could be compounded. With negative copings skills and low self-esteem, this could dovetail quickly into a serious situation.
While acknowledging the seriousness of talk about suicide, which may seem like attention seeking behavior, you cannot assume that the individual is not capable of the act. If you know of someone that is showing these behaviors listed below, or if you are displaying these, get help immediately:
Suicide is always a failed strategy in lieu of better coping skills. A fatalistic approach to life is a failure to comprehend, the value of every life. It is failed thinking, spurred by deep and often unconscious programming, the result of unfortunate learning or experiences. These can be remedied with professional help. Seek out help if you are even contemplating suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.
In recent times, we have just witnessed two high profile over 60 males who committed suicide. Robin Williams suffered from Lewy Body Dementia, a disease that causes multiple perplexing physical and psychological problems. The net result of confusion, helplessness, and depression led to his actions. I suspect that Mr. Williams was an HSP, but I have no way of verifying that. He was a thoughtful, sensitive, and gentle man-- that could easily be observed. I can’t imagine his suffering, the consternation of watching his world crumble before him and dealing with those complex feelings of helplessness. Like many, I do miss his brilliance and his talent.
Anthony Bourdain was suffering from depression, according to accounts, with a reported desire to die. Yet, he shouldered a “strong man” mentality, never asking for help. He suffered in many ways, alone, as many men do. Suicide is largely a male problem. Without knowing him, despite his caustic and street tough exterior, I suspect he was at his core a gentle, thoughtful man. His support of the #MeToo movement would suggest great empathy. I will also, miss his lusty appreciation of great food and great culture and his dry wit.
Perhaps, as we begin to redefine what maleness means, we can open doors to those who unwittingly lock themselves behind the dungeon doors of an old archaic definition of masculinity. We are not stoics; we are not Spartans, nor Samurai – death by the blade or poison or violent leaps is not an honorable death. Our wrongful thoughts and concepts, fueled by emotion kill us. They can be changed but must be brought to the surface. By coming clean with our deepest emotions, we can then define who we are and what we wish to be. Let the movement begin.
Clarence: Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?
From: It’s a Wonderful Life
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Clementine: You don't tell me things, Joel. I'm an open book. I tell you everything... every damn embarrassing thing. You don't trust me.
Joel: Constantly talking isn't necessarily communicating.
Clementine: I don't do that. I want to know you.
Clementine: I don't constantly talk! Jesus! People have to share things, Joel...
Clementine: That's what intimacy is. I'm really pissed that you said that to me!
Joel: I'm sorry... I just, my life isn't that interesting.
Clementine: I want to read some of those journals you're constantly scribbling in. What do you write in there if you don't have any thoughts or passions or... love?
From: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
One of the main characteristics associated with Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a propensity for emotional overwhelm. This applies to both male and female HSPs. Overwhelm is the tidal wave of emotion HSPs experience when bombarded with highly charged sensations or feelings. Emotional overwhelm is a state of being brought on by intense emotion that is difficult to manage and can have effects on thinking and functioning.
Common causes of emotional overwhelm are relationship issues, underlying physical and mental conditions, career demands, financial difficulties, unexpected life transitions, loss of a loved one, sleep deprivation, trauma, and poor diet. This can sometimes lead to depression, anxiety, anger, panic, and guilt.
Dr. Elaine Aron points out that emotional overwhelm is a key characteristic of the HSP personality trait. One of her strategies to highly sensitive people in dealing with overwhelm is the idea of emotional regulation. Emotional regulation can be a conscious or unconscious behavior that influences what emotions we have when we have them and how we experience and express them. The importance of this tactic should not be lost on most HSPs. It’s no secret that negative feelings last longer for highly sensitive people.
Dr. Aron recommends emotional regulation follow acceptance of feelings and not being ashamed of having these feelings. It is her suggestion to HSPs to believe that they can cope with their feelings, equally as well as others do. This helps prevent the feeling of helplessness when overwhelm kicks in. She urges the recognition to trust that these feelings will not last and to assure that there is always hope that eventually you can do something to ameliorate strong emotions.
Psychologists refer to feelings as affect. Affect includes feelings and mood. Emotions tend to be briefer than moods. Emotions are more specific , precipitated by a situation or event, whereas moods are broader and have a tendency to linger beyond the triggering events. Feelings are measured by a scale of high or low pleasure and high or low activation. An example might be, anxiety with a low pleasure rating, but a high activation score.
There is some variability in the ability of people to regulate emotion. We all could use this approach at times. Some generally accepted strategies are changing our thoughts, reappraisal – thinking about different things, distraction – doing something different and surface acting (change expressions) or conversely deep acting (regulating feelings). Developing coping skills is important when dealing with overwhelming emotions. However, it is not the same as emotional regulation, although, coping does involve the use of emotional regulation among other actions.
Regulating feelings is not easy or straightforward. There is some automatic regulation that does take place using unconscious learned behavior. For example, a lot of our social behaviors are learned and acted upon without much thought. And, we all know that feelings can be contagious, so others can affect our emotions by simple proximity. For HSPs self-control of emotions can be an exhausting exercise.
Emotional culture and emotional exhaustion are correlated. Those cultures that favor an institutional approach to emotional regulation tend to express more stress and emotional exhaustion. These cultures provide more pressure for cultural norms and conformity. The United States is one such culture. Emotional exhaustion, also known as burnout, creates a chronic state of physical and emotional depletion resulting from excessive environmental and internal demands. This can lead to numerous health issues and can be mentally debilitating.
Stress releases cortisol into the body, and immune systems can be suppressed during stressful times leading to disease and systems shut down in the body. This is not good for HSPs or anyone for that matter. And, although this happens to all humans, HSPs are particularly vulnerable. It is just our nature to process emotions at such a high rate, with a higher influx of sensory information, creating a perfect storm for overwhelm, both emotionally and physically.
Does that make HSPs hypersensitive or prone to histrionic personality disorder (read: you’re getting hysterical)? Some people may think that, but actually, hypersensitivity, a part of Sensory Processing Disorder (not Sensory Processing Sensitivity), is about unusually high reactions to sensory stimulus. This can be a single sense or multiple senses, and in and of itself can be debilitating. Histrionic personality disorder (hysterical), a condition that occurs mostly in women is an excessive expression of emotion used to drive attention seeking behavior. A manipulative behavior typically learned early in life and manifesting in young adulthood. Neither of these should be confused with emotional overwhelm or as causes for emotional overwhelm in HSPs.
For most HSPs shutting down and getting away to solitude is the most typical response. But, is this always practical? At work or in public emotional self-regulation is an expected cultural norm. In fact, one definition of emotional regulation espouses dealing with life experiences with socially acceptable levels of emotion, modifying, evaluating and moderating reactions via extrinsic and intrinsic means. General advice from most authorities leans towards an exercise in thought sculpting these eruptive emotions to control the response.
But can this be controlled like a tap? Can it be throttled down situationally? Or do we only have the ability to control the aftermath? What are the warning signs, signals that help warn of an impending dam blast of emotion? Should the focus rather be on moderating the emotions or modulating them? As I am using the terms, moderating is more about changing emotions as they arise, whereas, modulating would focus on controlling emotions at the source.
Moderation techniques would include the thought sculpting mentioned previously or simply as Dr. Aron suggests waiting and allowing the emotional wave to subside and then sharing with a trusted confidant. By sharing, the emotion is released of additional internal processing by talking it through. There is an interesting process model for emotional regulation, which includes a feedback loop to repeat the process if necessary. It consists of four components, 1) the situation or event, 2) giving attention to the situation, 3) appraising, evaluating and interpreting the situation, and 4) formulating a response – then if necessary looping back to the beginning.
Some additional strategies with this method would include, remove yourself from the situation, modifying the situation, redirecting your attention from the situation, cognitive change, and moderating the response to fit the situation.
Modulation techniques would be those techniques that mostly focus on relaxation strategies to gear the nervous system to a state of emotional calm and training the brain to respond to highly emotional situations in a calmer manner. It is in many ways, training the brain to stay calm under fire. Some of these techniques I have been advocating in other blog posts. They include autogenic training, bio/neurofeedback, deep breathing exercises, hypnotherapy, guided imagery, progressive muscle relaxation, exercise, massage, yoga, Qigong, meditation, EFT, prayer or intention training. All of these methods help by creating internal peace and calm as a steady state. This does not prevent emotional events from triggering familiar responses, but rather helps the experiencer return to a calmer state faster.
Yes, there are actions you can take to prevent or ameliorate emotional overwhelm, but they do involve practice and control. It may be best to find one that best fits you and then stick with it. Overtime, with repeated effort, it will help in some ways rewire your brain for handling intense emotion.
Here are some further suggestions:
Clementine: I apply my personality in a paste.
From: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Charlie: I know who you are, Sam. I know I'm quiet... and, and I know I should speak more. But if you knew the things that were in my head most of the time, you'd know what it really meant. How, how much we're alike, and how we've been through the same things... and you're not small. You're beautiful.
From: The Perks of Being a Wallflower.
Does high sensitivity produce high insecurity in HSP males? With all that extra processing power, the more intense the emoting, the greater likelihood of high level meltdowns, and when faced with the outside world’s response or pressures, wouldn’t it make sense that with a feedback loop like that, that insecurity would flourish?
Are highly sensitive males more likely to be insecure than the larger non-HSP male population? The elements of being an HSP-- high sensitivity, deep mental processing, overwhelm and emotional reactivity might seem on the surface to contribute to insecurity, especially in HSP boys. Overstimulation, overthinking, presenting emotionally as less than the ideal masculine in dealing with emotions does not inherently lead to feelings of insecurity and lack of self-esteem. It seems other factors are more important than simply how we process emotions.
Environment plays a greater role in providing the feedback necessary from parents and friends that would reinforce feelings of insecurity and low self-esteem. In other words, there is no genetic predisposition for insecurity. Insecurity is learned. If there is a tendency towards insecurity in HSP males, then that is a product of nurture and not nature. Studies suggest that when HSPs are raised in nurturing homes with understanding and supportive parents – they thrive. Conversely, as you might expect, in opposite conditions, they respond more negatively than less sensitive kids.
Where, then, does insecurity come from? There is a multitude of sources from which the seeds of insecurity are sown. As stated earlier, parental figures play an enormous shaping role in developing a child’s self-concept. Disapproving authority figures, uninvolved and disinterested caregivers, bullying parents all send the wrong types of messages to sensitive young minds. Without the benefit of adult size mental filters, kids naturally process this feedback as is and take the negative message to heart. When later in life, academic, athletic or more serious traumatic events present themselves as challenges, rigid beliefs from childhood, which have never been challenged become set. The insecure child becomes an insecure adult. Social media serves to confirm these beliefs: “I am not worthy.”
Does this become a lifelong affliction? Like cement, once set, does it become immutable? The impacts are quite clear. Low self-esteem, insecurity, and low confidence affect every aspect of life. From career choices to mate selection, academics, sports, sex performance, income potential , you name it, they all are impacted. And for men,the question of how you are viewed as a man.
The self-comparison game starts early, and so begins the insecurity. Current examples, have to include social media, where comparisons run rampant, and the unreality of reality weighs in for review. Everyone is doing better than the insecure eye would see. Filter this through the HSP lens, and you see amplification through greater self-talk, constant comparison processing, overreaching emotionally, and stoking the fires that will one day consume the fragile ego.
What can we surmise that the arc of this behavior will lead to? Is it a dark trap? Do insecure people self-sabotage to minimalize overstimulating experiences? Does this ultimately lead to withdrawal, overcompensation and self-loathing? At what point do insecure men believe there is a point of no return?Then, using insecurity as a crutch, they elicit sympathy from everyone that will listen.
People who lack self-confidence, learn early to seek approval externally. They moderate and lower positive expectations and naturally deflect compliments. Yet, somehow lack of self-confidence is not all pervasive in an individual’s personality, although it may seem that way. It’s not dependent on actual abilities, but the focus is rather on unrealistic expectations set by parents and authority figures transferred as beliefs in the individual.
Many assumptions that the insecure individual possess are: 1) that they must be loved and approved by every important person in their lives, 2) be thoroughly competent and high achieving in all aspects of their lives, and 3) their focus is always on past performance, not present or future potentials. Their thoughts are permeated with all or nothing thinking, often seeing the dark side of situations, magnifying the negative. Further, with their uncritical acceptance of runaway emotions as truth, overemphasizing “shoulds,” self-labeling, and seeing challenges through the prevailing belief of inadequacy and incompetence, they perpetuate their own self-myth.
Is it any wonder that emotional insecurity ensues. That feeling of general unease or nervousness that may be triggered by external factors, resulting in feelings of not being worthy of love, an inadequate and worthless human being.
It’s a slippery slope from childhood to manhood, an upward climb with unsteady footing for those unsure of themselves. When you’re not getting the feedback you deserve, you need, you crave the impacts are real. It’s all learned and the process, I dare say, intensifies when you are an HSP. Everything gets amplified, the internal voices are louder, the uncorrected logic, fueled by emotion, cuts a broader, wider path in your self-esteem. Who knows how prevalent it is in HSMs? We don’t all have parents that get us. How many fathers’ likely see beyond their own expectations and see their sons as the budding man, still malleable, like fresh, soft clay ready to be molded into it’s strongest, best form.
How do we prevent this from developing in our HSP boys? How do we gently bring them along, not making them dependent, yet lighting that flame of courage, independence, and self-love that will empower them throughout their lives? We, as parents, need to give the positive spin on HSP characteristics and yet instill confidence in them as people, as men, even being different men that are sometimes swimming against the cultural tide.
We need to show what a healthy, masculine role model would be like. Help them to be confident in their inherent qualities. Help them become emotionally strong men, teaching them to express the full range of human emotion. Teach them to avoid the dark trap of insecurity. Teach them confidence and self-assurance, sans the arrogance, overconfidence, and bravado of small minded men. That confidence will allow the HSP traits to grow and flourish without heavy internal conflicts. Healthier boys, make healthier men.
Here are six things that will help our HSP boys:
Aibileen Clark: You is kind. You is smart. You is important.
From: The Help.
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
The French have a term, L’Appel Du Vide, the call of the void, to describe that intrusive call to oblivion, of self-destruction or of jumping impulsively into the abyss, that we all experience from time to time. The moment happens to most of us, in a split second, standing near a ledge, or driving in a car, wherein we contemplate cutting across the line into oncoming traffic. It is like Carlos Castaneda’s ideology of death stalking us, tempting us with a moment, where we are dared to chase the reaper. A snap inner voice that says “Jump!” and for a split second, our minds drift over into the call to nothingness. A single moment of distraction, an alternate reality, and then just as suddenly back to normalcy, with a deep sigh.
We HSPs live a lot of our lives inside of our heads. Many of our self-concepts come from the conclusions we have drawn from our own deep analysis and deep processing. Many times we don’t validate those conclusions externally, because of our sensitivity to criticism and our fragile egos. We make ourselves subject to deep hurt when our carefully considered assumptions are proven wrong by expressing them to others. Deep processing does not always mean correct conclusions. In fact, I would argue that many of our conclusions are off the mark, like computer code stuck in an endless loop.
At times this can create a bit of an existential crisis with us, causing doubt about who we are, what we are and, thoughts on the possible need to construct a new model within our egos. A very conscientious individual can be severely rattled when confronted with logical holes in their reasoning or in their emotional position.
And, at that moment, does this create a metaphorical moment of L’appel du vide? You have to love the French for taking a very serious matter and give it an élan that only they can do. L’appel du vide is not always about taking the plunge, it is though a split second of resignation, passing quickly, offering a moment of liberation at the thought of no longer existing. We briefly escape our existence, jumping headlong into a dark nothingness, where we can abandon, our emotions and our hurt. Here, when our peaceful place of refuge lets us down, we can flash think into a nonexistence.
Of course, quickly we flash back to reality, shocked for the moment that the idea of nonexistence was presented in front of us. A fantasy suicide of sorts, that never happens.
Is this real? Does this scenario happen to HSPs? Are we subject to the un petite l’appel du vide thoughts? Or are we more practical, suffer the insults, process heavily, then pop our little heads out of the hole again, no worse for the wear? Suicidal ideation, fleeting thoughts, role-playing or incompletion of actually ending it all, is not so uncommon. But, it is a serious matter. Nearly four percent of adult Americans report having these moments. The underlying causes often come from mood disorders, depression or simply by feeling alone, abandoned or the stress of life. But, what I am speaking of here, is not that.
These moments of existential crisis, a moment when the individual questions if their life has meaning, purpose or value, may lead one to conjure an l’appel du vide moment. More often popping up as a spontaneous subconscious thought. Could heavy, deep processing of a bad decision, or wrong conclusion, lead one to doubt oneself or to provide too many options to choose from, lead to this same internal crisis?
Is this just a miscalculation? Can overprocessing of highly energized emotional input cause us HSPs to over calculate causing an internal crisis? Dr. Elaine Aron acknowledges to our deep processing cycles with the acronym, D.O.E.S. The D represents the HSP depth of processing, that deep contemplation of what others might see as minutiae. The O stands for overstimulation, a common characteristic of HSPs, our world of overwhelm. The E is for emotional reactivity, our energizing quality, and finally, the S is for seeing the subtle or our high marking sensitivity. Now granted all of these qualities have and can be seen as positive in many ways, bringing us the ability to be intuitive, empathetic, cautious and careful planners. But, can too much processing be a two-edged sword?
Sometimes the pain is the lesson. Suffering through deep processing should eventually lead to some type of action, but with HSPs not always is there follow through. A constant churn of revisiting, rethinking and reevaluating conclusions may not be a great strategy for solutions. Even with our need for solitude, alone time, silent reflection – in the end, a decision or action is needed. Too much solitude can lead to a distortion of perception, increased anxiety and perhaps sensory illusions.
When a computer program goes into an endless loop, it follows the code, regardless of the flaw and loops back endlessly to the beginning, only to start again. It wastes computer time and resources, perhaps generating needless output, yet never concluding. When confronted with painful reality are HSPs subject to endless loop processing?
Then, does inaction lead us to those moments of l’appel du vide? Does our deep processing lead us to wish we could let go of the processing cycle? Do we fall into an endless loop, not deciding, not concluding, but caught, lost in too much information – and in our imaginations, staring blithely through a rain-soaked windshield at the oncoming traffic ahead and flashing a moment of nonexistence for a respite?
So, what do we do? Follow up the deep processing with some type of action. Don’t get caught in the whirlpool, getting sucked down into the vortex of overthinking. Don’t let frustration get you down, heads up, keep looking to break the trend of over processing. And, if that moment of l’appel du vide comes into conscious awareness – consider it rather as a leap of faith. Yes, process as we do, but at some point face the uncomfortableness and take action to resolve. You’ll never know if you are right or wrong until you expose your thinking to the outside. Take the leap into the void of uncertainty but leave the leap from the cliff alone.
Note: Suicide is a serious matter. If you are having recurring suicidal thoughts, please seek immediate help from a medical or mental health professional. The gist of this article was to take the French concept of “the call of the void” and use it in a metaphorical way, describing a brief mental escape. L’appel du vide in this context was also used to mean responding to the call as a mental leap of faith or better yet, taking a calculated risk towards positive action, expressed as leaping into the unknown. Breaking the habit of overthinking is probably a good thing, but don’t abandon careful, considerate deep evaluation. Consider it carefully, as I know you will.
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.