A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
Sensitivity in men is often criticized, sometimes by well-meaning but misinformed individuals and sometimes from those who have a distorted view of what constitutes masculinity. Boys are often socialized not to be sensitive or to play their sensitivity down. This causes many young men to shy away from the acceptance of their sensitive traits. When telling others, especially other men, about your sensitivity, you will find you that you will have to defend yourself against criticism. I listed a few of the more common areas you will find yourself having to defend and how you might approach this defense.
# 1 – Not Being Tough Enough – Premise: Because of your sensitivity, you are not seen as being tough enough. What does tough enough mean anyway? This overused criticism of sensitive men is often used to put HSMs in a category that is decidedly non-masculine. Being tough means the ability to handle difficult and trying situations stoically and without emotion. Fine. But, to do so under all circumstances is rather stupid. Emotion is a human trait and one in which suppression is counterproductive.
What is the hidden message behind this criticism? For one, sensitivity is seen as a weakness in men. Any man that displays emotion freely or is intuitive or nurturing is seen as being effeminate and thus non-masculine. It is a form of emotional suppression in men and an attempt at subjugation to an archaic man code.
Defense: Emotion is a human quality, unless you have transcended your humanity, you will experience and show emotion regularly. Suppressing emotional expression is harmful to humans, and therefore unhealthy and unproductive. The notion that men are to always be in control, unemotional, and never wrong is not acknowledging that we all have our weaknesses. Not seeing weaknesses-- is a weakness. Allowing emotional expression has an evolutionary purpose, and therefore is a good thing. Doing so does not make you weak, effeminate, or untough.
#2 – Taking Criticism – Premise: Not being able to take criticism makes you weak and wimpy. HSPs have a rough time with criticism, especially if it is personal and unconstructive. We take personal criticism to heart mainly because we are thoughtful and conscientious creatures. However, criticism is a natural part of life; it is a feedback mechanism that, when done correctly, can be constructive and useful to help us grow. When receiving criticism, we need to evaluate and compare the criticism, evaluate it for valuable nuggets, and compare the criticism to useful criticism we have received in the past. Learning to accept constructive criticism, however painful, is a path to personal growth. Consider the source of the criticism and note whether they have your best interest at heart. If it does not appear constructive, reject it, and realize that there may be another agenda at play.
Defense: We HSMs have a right to reject unsupportive or destructive criticism, personal attacks, and insults. At some point, we have the right to push back. We need to learn to distance emotionally from the attacker and not assimilate the negative emotion. By not accepting the destructive criticism, we are rejecting the attacker, depriving them of the paltry emotional benefit of momentary dominance.
#3 – Toxic Masculinity – Premise: Because of your sensitivity, you are not man enough, and therefore are subject to dominance by other Toxic Masculines (TM). Current adherence to the toxic masculinity culture that pervades our society has become a social disease. Look around, it is everywhere, in social media, sports, politics, business, and entertainment. Reject that definition of masculinity and don’t incorporate that into your self-image. Toxic men will look to single you out and subordinate you, either through intimidation or faux dominance. They will challenge your masculinity and try to call you out as a lesser man. Don’t take the bait.
These TMs are the ones who are insecure and have doubts about their masculinity, which often can be traced to early learned development models, typically from a dysfunctional parent. It does not matter their station in life, corporate robber baron, elite athlete, bullying boss, or authoritarian leader; they will all have this underlying insecurity. There is nothing inherently superior about them over you.
Defense: Masculinity is a culturally defined characteristic. You are a man by biological definition. You can define your gender role. Masculinity can be many things: strong, protective, assertive, or nurturing, compassionate, and emotional. All these traits are human. Don’t allow TMs to define who you are. Strive to be human first. You owe no allegiance to an ill-fitting definition of masculinity. You do owe it to yourself to be yourself. Stand and be resolute.
#4 – Sensitivity – Premise: We HSMs are often criticized for being too sensitive, which generally translates into too emotional. Some men are emotion averse. They see emotion as a bad and fickle thing, especially in men. Sensitivity is a multi-faceted trait. It’s not just about emotion but equally about the quality of sensory processing and the depth at which it is processed internally. This spurs insights, intuition, compassion, and yes, emotion. Modern men are evolving, our roles are expanding, and some of the long-held roles men have held sacred are now being challenged or shared with females.
We should look at these old models for men and rethink them, considering our current times. I do believe that we are moving towards more androgynous times, which by my definition is that we all males and females should strive to be more human, less gender-specific, and more in line with our personal preferences.
Defense: Explore your insights. You have great intuition due to your sensitivity. This is a gift. We can nuance more sensory information from the environment, and that makes us valuable. Externalize more of your insights. Allow your depth of processing to bring you creative ideas and solutions. The world values sensitive creation from adroit thinking and the crafting of novel ideas. Realize it takes a lot of diversity to make a healthy world. You are part of that.
#5 –Focus on the Positive Aspects (see the good qualities) – Premise: See your sensitivity as a positive, define it as such and share that with others. This is a proactive step and one that doesn’t require defensive posturing. Remain adaptable to fit uncomfortable situations, yet, never abandon your core values. Highlight with others your empathy and compassion. Be patient with those that don’t understand the complexity of sensitivity. Use humor and gentle kindness to make your points; all humans respond to that. Finally, show and be awareness for others that criticize you. Criticism often comes from a place of fear and misunderstanding. Be the light.
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.