Western culture seems to disdain sensitivity in men. Our prevailing concept of manliness is of rugged individualism, with little or no outward display of emotion. Well, perhaps, anger is revered, as in righteous indignation, but any so called “soft emotions” are eschewed by our culture.
Men are seen as week if tears appear in public or a shimmering sunset leaves a man speechless. Any signs of tenderness or any show of depth of emotion often relegated to females is seen as unmasculine. As Dr. Tracy Cooper, psychologist and HSM says,” …American culture is steeped in a masculinity that glorifies anger, aggressive behavior, domination over women, and winning at all costs.”
I take exception to this notion that sensitivity is a weakness. In fact, I would argue that is a strength that is much needed right now in men. For just a moment, let’s throw out the words high sensitivity for men and replace it with high sensing or acute sensory perception. Both of these terms more accurately reflect what is really going on with highly sensitive people. In fact, it is officially known as sensory processing sensitivity.
Let’s imagine what is going on with HSMs on an everyday basis. Imagine if you will, a filter that sits somewhere within the brain that is allowing sensory input to reach the unconscious mind. For non-HSPs, this filter is set at a lower threshold than HSPs. It allows less data to pass through into the brain from the senses which naturally affects the parts of the brain that control emotion, fears, and behaviors. The filter trips and lets a steady but moderate about of sensory info to pass through.
In HSPs, our filter has a higher threshold and more data is allowed to pass through to the brain. Meaning more data to affect emotions and feelings and still requiring the extra associated processing needs taken to process the data. What this means is that when there is a lower filter threshold (non-HSP), there is lower sensory registration, conversely, a higher filter threshold (HSP) means higher sensory registration. In its simplest form, HSPs process more sensory information than non-HSPs. And, this is not a choice, it just happens. So stop it with the, “you need to toughen up”, or “you’re too sensitive.”
Because of this, data has to be processed and the task of doing this can be overwhelming at times. Remember this data is affecting moods, behaviors, and thoughts. These emotions may be triggered from deep within the brain and can often lead to what most non-HSPs see as moodiness in HSPs. For men, the last thing we like to be classified as is – drama queens. So, instead we bury emotions deep within ourselves, mask our feelings, and cover up our true nature. A lot gets killed in the process --feelings, intuition, and creativity and disconnection with our feelings.
Furthermore, let’s not confuse emotional hypersensitivity with highly sensing capability. They sometimes look alike but are not. High sensitivity is not a disorder. And having an HSP personality does not necessarily mean you are emotionally fragile and or dysfunctional. We do need to be aware as HSPs that we do have a highly active amygdala, a lower perceptual threshold and the tendency towards deep processing, which can condition us to be more reactive than active. It’s not just stimulus – response with us, it’s more like stimulus – rumination – response. And of course, that comes across as very un-John Waynish, in a culture that emphasizes “doing” over “just being or thinking.”
But what do all these abilities (remember, I see this as an asset) give us highly sensing men? Do these traits give us some advantages? Let’s look at a few; see if you can relate:
Because of these traits, HSPs make great advisors and counselors, outstanding long range strategists, purveyors of alternate viewpoints, champions of moral justice, the balm to aggressiveness, bastions of harmony and fluidity and vessels of meaningfulness.
With all of this said, does our culture value these traits? In short, yes and no. The traits that lead to a monetary gain will be valued most; the others will get us a pat on the head and a doleful grin but not a bonus. However, I am hopeful that society can and will change. We are in the midst of the last of what I hope is unbridled, unrestricted capitalism, an untamed romp on the dark side. I believe that we are now standing just beyond the threshold to more sane times. HSMs are going to be instrumental in the transition.
Yes, I know you fellow HSMs have been dealing with negative feedback for the entirety of your life. You’ve repressed your true nature, you’ve played the game, you’ve bucked up, strapped on, and “acted like a man”. Now it’s time to let go of all of that repressive crap. Here are some ideas on how to do that. Let’s run through the list, shall we?
Thanks for dropping by, until next week…
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.