A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
For the next eight to ten weeks, I am going to be providing excerpts from my upcoming book, Confessions of a Sensitive Man, An Unconditional Defense of Sensitive Men. I am anticipating a release date on Amazon, et.al., sometime in late September. Please enjoy this free preview of the book.
From Chapter 2 – What Defines a Sensitive Man? :
Embracing our Eccentricities
We are a peculiar bunch, we HSPs. Some might even say we are a bit eccentric. This is especially true for Highly Sensitive Males. We HSMs are a small percentage of a small percentage of the human population, and we don’t meet, for the most part, the stereotypes of the modern western male. But … eccentric?
Dictionary.com[i] defines eccentric as adj.: deviating from the recognized or customary character, practice, etc., irregular erratic, peculiar, odd. Noun: A person who has an unusual, peculiar, or odd personality, set of beliefs, or behavior patterns. The word has its roots from the (Medieval Latin) eccentricus and from the Greek ekkentr(os), which is to be out of the center. It is used in geometry and astronomy to describe something that is out of center or not concentric. In other words, something that lies on the outside.
Eccentricity is often tolerated or even revered in those who are very wealthy or are celebrities. Their odd ways and behaviors can become fashionable among the masses, and are sometimes talked about as if these eccentrics are geniuses or acceptable outliers. In that regard, eccentricity can be a favorable quality, making one a leader or a trendsetter by walking a different path.
But what makes us HSMs seem eccentric to others? Is it the emotional aspects of our personalities, our broad accepting worldview, or our internal conflicts about our masculinity? What about our aversion to overstimulation, the hermitic deep processing of our experiences, or the masculine/feminine polarity that many HSM men wrestle with? Are we too moody, too quiet, too sensitive to criticism, too introverted? We can be too empathetic, too observational, and too persnickety to environmental changes, but are we that different? Do we appear to the outside world to be outliers, strange, hard to figure out, and hard to live with? In some cases, do people want to throw up their hands and give up on us because we are too much work?
But does that make us eccentric? Maybe. Eccentricity, also known as quirkiness, is not necessarily a maladaptive behavior. But, yes, we can be a bit off-center from mainstream personalities and behaviors. Many HSPs have intellectual giftedness and curiosity, and a propensity for original and creative thought. We see things differently via our peculiar and unique perceptive lens. But are we eccentric?
The psychologist David Meeks states that eccentrics are less prone to mental illness than the general population.[ii] Doesn’t that seem odd? Perhaps if you look at some of the other defining characteristics of eccentrics, it makes more sense. Eccentrics have an enduring propensity for non-conformity, are creative (sound familiar?), have a strongly motivated curiosity (and I would add observational skills), an enduring sense of differentness, and embrace this wonderful idealism that drives them to want to make the world a better place to live. Besides, eccentrics are intelligent, outspoken, and have a quirky, mischievous sense of humor. With that battery of personality characteristics, it seems eccentrics are well armed for survival in uncertain times, does it not?
Because we HSPs have increased awareness and sensitivity to our environment and we process very deeply and thoughtfully, it makes sense that to the majority of the non-HSP world we may seem to be a bit different. And what about our tendency toward overwhelm—how we can so easily be affected by others’ moods or emotions, then retreat to our voluntary isolation, our emotional caves. We are prone to unrealistic perfectionism at times, which sometimes causes us to live out of sync with our environment and the people around us. So with our enhanced qualities of sensory detail, nuanced expression, and meaning, our emotional awareness, which leads us to greater empathy and an expression of creativity, can we not be seen as eccentric?
Think about this: the following people have been associated with the quality of high sensitivity or Sensory Processing Sensitivity:[iii] Woody Allen, Steve Martin, Orson Welles, Edgar Allan Poe, Salvador Dali, Picasso, Stephen Spielberg, George Lucas, Nicole Kidman, Katherine Hepburn, John Lennon, Elton John, Alanis Morissette, Neil Young, and Dolly Parton. And my personal favorite, Robin Williams. That’s a pretty quirky bunch, wouldn’t you say?
Eccentric … well, yes, in a lot of ways. But they turned that eccentricity into beautiful art. They are beloved by millions. And perhaps their sensitivity played heavily into their creative process. For some, it might have been a way to mask and protect themselves; for others, it might have been a way to reach out and find common ground with the world. But for all of them, they risked being called eccentric to rise above criticism and be themselves.
So, if we HSPs are that quirky, strange, or weird, what do we do about it? Is some eccentricity good for HSPs? I mean, is eccentricity really simply being different? But wait, we are different. We already know that. Instead, how do we embrace our eccentricity, so we can stop worrying about what others think about us? Should we promote and socialize our uniqueness? As people learn more about our nature, our personality, our SPS secret, maybe will they better understand us, and with that, begin to normalize us.
Here are some things to think about concerning our “eccentricity”:
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.