Special Note: I’m writing this on Thanksgiving Day. I have much to be thankful for, but wanted to mention that I am especially thankful that my oldest son survived a horrific automobile accident on election evening and is going to make a full recovery. I am truly blessed. There will be no blog next week, as I will be in Texas for the funeral of my stepdad who passed last Friday. He was a WWII veteran, a proud and honorable man. He will be missed, God speed, sir.
Disappointment, hurt feelings, crushing blows and heartbreak.
As sensitive men, our negative feelings seemed to hurt more, feel heavier and last longer. It is a unique and peculiar burden we bear. The depth of feeling has been documented with fMRI scans of HSPs. It is not just imagination, it’s real. We have a tendency to get stuck in our feelings, looking for perfection in ourselves or, perhaps, it’s just in our nature to seek the ultimate truth through feeling.
These deep insights mean sometimes we have deep hurts, disappointments or emotional blows that are difficult to get over. Bouncing back from these deep emotions can be challenging for HSMs in a world where men are expected to deflect pain, angst and worries as if they were trifling matters. It doesn’t help that many HSMs are perfectionists and can compound this longevity of feeling, by beating ourselves up with self-criticism for not being more resilient.
How HSPs deal with deep emotions differently.
I do brain training for a living. I work with a special type of neurofeedback software that allows the brain to become aware of emotionally troubling patterns, based upon the EEG feedback the software receives. When the brain is processing this deep emotional stuff, we often can observe a great deal of activity around 3-5 hz, which we refer to as dirty theta. Since theta is on the lower end of the monitored brainwave activity, this supports the old saying that “stuff rolls downhill.” This deeply felt, deeply processed emotional baggage, often lies below conscious awareness. The brain training helps the brain to become more aware of these patterns to help de-energize them.
With HSPs, we tend to process more deeply our emotional stuff and I imagine that a lot of that rolls downhill to that particular “area” in dirty theta. Compound the situation with the fact that HSPs are more empathic creatures and you now have situations where we are not only processing our own deep emotions but carry the load of others around us as well. We share their ‘dirty theta’, absorbing like a sponge the emotional energy of others. This becomes overwhelm by empathy. And because we are processing more deeply these emotions and more completely, we can easily get stuck, sometimes in endless loops of analysis and processing for longer periods of time than most people do.
Can the non-HSP world really understand how much we hurt?
The answer is mixed on this. Yes, there are those in the non-HSP world that will understand why we process emotion and will be great allies and sympathetic to our tendency to hold on to emotional hurt, pain, rejections, etc. But my guess is that the world largely sees this characteristic in HSMs and HSPs and considers it to be borderline neurotic and/or at least obsessive.
Hearing “get over yourself”, “your too sensitive”, “don’t be a wuss”, instills a since of guilt and shame especially for male HSPs, who in spite of their intentions to get over things, just can’t help processing and reprocessing that hurt, pain or heartbreak. And because HSMS don’t readily practice non-HSP means of distraction, such as externalizing our feelings or pain, and redirecting into some socially acceptable, yet temporary fix, like going out on a bender, we naturally shoulder inwardly the pain, replaying and cross examining, what we did wrong.
Targets on our backs.
This self-flagellation can create low self-esteem in HSMs. Low self-esteem creates a perfect environment to attract the wrong element into our lives. Bullies and narcissists flock to those who they perceive to be weak, and HSMs with low self-esteem can certainly appear to lack confidence and strength to the outside world. It kicks in some kind of reptilian survival function in bullies and they react to manipulate and exploit this perceived weakness in others.
This is not only important for HSM boys to be aware of, but as adult HSMs the manipulation and traps abound at work, at home, in love and in society. It’s as if we have a target on our backs. Feeling too much, too deeply, makes us seem weak and ineffectual to those would take advantage of our caring, deep hearts. There are always those in an insensitive world that seem to want to impatiently bully the sensitive ones, to their own subjugation.
But, isn’t our strength really in this perceived weakness? Don’t we have something they sorely lack? A depth of feeling beyond their shallow emotional range, an ability to be authenticate in our feeling and the courage to show with it and go with it, beyond their capacity to feel. Aren’t they really just jealous of our broad canvas and deep hues of emotion, which allows us to paint the tapestry, sometimes tortured, of our complex feelings? As we behold and labor over ever stroke of our brush upon the canvas of our feelings.
Living through the deep cuts, flowing through the emotion.
Authenticity is our kryptonite to a bullying, insensitive world. Remaining genuine to our feelings, however, complex and deep, allowing them to flow through us, is exactly what we were designed to do and to be. Why hide what we are, why shun our true selves? Trying to be another version of masculinity, the manufactured Hollywood version of manhood, is not us.
Remember there are real world health consequences to suppressing our natural flow of emotion that will stress our systems, our bodies and minds to a breaking point. Don’t fall into that trap. And when I say emotions, I mean all of them: joy, sorrow, pain, ecstasy, passion, hurt in all its forms, anger, disgust – hold nothing back. Not even tears. Tears were not created for the benefit of the manufacturer of Kleenex, they are natures emotional cleansing fluid. So cry, dammit.
Even as men and yes, especially as men, we need to model to our children and to the world, what it means to be authenticate and real with our feelings, our perceptions and our insights. In a world, with muddled instincts, with clouded emotions, with a lack of vision and clarity everywhere, our insights as HSMs are sorely needed now. We need to lead, but lead in our uniquely HSM way. Not to dominate, but to share, instruct, guide and counsel a world that yearns for that balance, that harmony, that depth of feeling. And certainly there is some adapting we have to do for the world, but adaptation does not mean abdication of our true selves, our true roles.
The strength of deep feeling, when emotion is a shield.
Although, I am convinced that deep feeling is a strength and can yield some amazing insights, sometimes the negative feelings can be too much. It’s important to make sure that as HSMs we validate in some way our emotions, check them with an outside observer – a friend, a family member or trusted other. I know for myself, it’s easy to run wild with emotion and let my over analytical brain create and compound issues, without any external validation. This can help calm and teach your HSP mind to settle down when things get overwhelming.
You can be assured that the emotion regardless of how inundating it may seem it, too, will pass in time. Letting it flow over you, knowing you won’t drown with these emotional waves is key to staying true to who you are. Reject any notions of self-destruction within your thoughts, being overly self-critical, not only sets you up as a target, but can serve as fodder for self-berating thinking. Know there is always hope, and surround yourself with hopeful, helpful people, people you trust, who accept you for being you. Your emotional self is in reality your shield. Let it protect you, let it guide you.
On a side note: Something I have been thinking about a lot lately is how to create a message for employers that HSPs can be some of the most imaginative and creative employees they have. The need to foster an environment where HSPs thrive is important to getting the most from your HSP staff. HSMs have many drivers in the work place, but I see a simple model of how using these natural drivers would aid HSMs to create novel and unique solutions to work problems. In theme with our message about deep emotions these drivers come naturally to us.
First, our attention to detail and observation skills create an awareness about our environment that others might miss. This awareness spurs our creativity and intuition that helps in creating novel solutions. These novel solutions create passion in the HSP which aids in driving towards a solution and its installation. You see, all of these steps, require deep emotional processing. Again, a strength. I’ll have more on this later.
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.