Day after the election: What am I feeling right now?
It’s midday, the morning after one of the most important presidential elections in US history. My team lost and I'm full of conflicting emotions. Normally, when one of my sports team loses, I go through a period of anger, mourning, resentment, much like a spoiled child. But then time passes and, better faculties prevail and I move towards acceptance and homeostasis.
Today feels different, a sinking feeling not only for the loss of my candidate, but a much greater fear for the country and subsequently the world. This is like getting hit in the gut by one of your friends, unexpected and shocking. It’s like dropping over, with wind knocked out of you, and you wait anxiously for that moment of breathlessness to cease and air to rush back into your lungs again. It’s hollow and empty. I know the air will come back, but as I wait, there is that moment when you think: what if it doesn’t?
This week’s blog was to have been about dealing with difficult emotions, perhaps, a nod to moodiness, or the perception of moodiness. And i wonder, is it more common in HSMs? How often have HSMs been described as moody guys, or a drama kings because we show more emotion, or react more emotionally than most men do. Sometimes emotions roll out quickly for us and are difficult to mask-- almost automatically the emotional reaction is present.
With most guys anger is the dominant visible emotion. But what about showing shock, fear, joy or sorrow? And when you do, do you shutdown, withdraw or cover up difficult emotions. Is it a sign of weakness to show fear, sadness, or surprise? Is it less manly? Does context matter, or is it all about bucking up and remaining stoic no matter the situation.
Are difficult mood swings moodiness?
My difficult emotions are hurt, shock and surprise. For example, when a conversation is going along at a measured pace with a friend, family member or love interest and suddenly the timbre of the conversation changes abruptly and gets unexpectedly tense; I almost go into a state of shock and confusion.
Some people claim I shut down or become moody. My mood does change, but mostly without my conscious awareness. It might even take some time to recover and re-balance afterwards. However, during that moody stage, I am sometimes completely withdrawn as thoughts race through my mind, wondering what went wrong and what did I say. This state of mind makes me a lousy debater and in the heat of an argument, almost defenseless.
Is this moodiness? What makes up the “Moody Guy” syndrome? Is this something I really have control of, or is it operating at the speed of unconscious thought? Is this reactionary thinking or a protective response?
So much of mood, is impacted by biochemical elements. Since so much of moodiness is predicated by anxiety, and anxiety affects neurochemistry, which in turn triggers behavioral shifts (moods), is this just a rapid fire physiological reaction to mind impacting stress? And as an HSP male am I more prone to this because of my enhanced sensory make up? Lots of questions few answers.
Some people would argue that it has shared characteristics with bi-polar disorder. Sometimes the mood shifts have a similar intensity as bi-polar shifts, but the duration, especially for me is not nearly as pronounced. It can be over fairly quickly; still the impact is clear and immediate. To the person I am interacting with it can be very confusing.
Now before the alarms go off, the instances of this happening are not as frequent as you might imagine, and although the intensity seems severe, it is more likely to be considered as moderate or even mild. As I get older, I am also learning to moderate these feelings and observe them as they occur.
Often, men don’t seem to have the hormonal card to play with extreme moods, but lately I have been learning of the male version of PMS, referred to as Irritable Male Syndrome or IMS. Many men, especially older men, report lower testosterone levels as they age. There is some evidence that lower testosterone effects mood in men. This could cause some men to show grumpiness, anger or other outwardly focused emotions as their testosterone levels drop. In fact, it might even increase sensitivity, anxiety and frustration. Sound familiar, HSM brothers?
Other factors might include drops in the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin, which can affect how we feel. This is often affected by diet. Stressors in life, stress associated with male identity, including what it means to be a man in the twenty-first century, all can contribute to changes in mood for men. I suspect this might be amplified for HSMs.
What’s so difficult about sharing these feelings?
These mood changes sometimes, especially, for HSMs are difficult to share. As noted before, the emotions are not often ones that are easily expressed or accepted as emotions men express easily, which can make it difficult for others to understand or accept. I wonder if keeping this under wraps is a function of a learned response or some innate trait that is characteristic of HSMs. Nevertheless, this can be difficult to express and can make us seem moody and overly dramatic to other men and especially to women who may find it a turnoff to be around man this moody.
Why moodiness is seen as such a negative trait.
If you go to online dating sites, one of the most common characteristics listed by potential partners is the desire to avoid “drama” in relationships. I have never quite figured that out yet, because everyone’s definition of drama is different. For some, the slightest element of negative emotion sends them running for cover, while others extreme emotion is what drives them away.
Regardless, real drama is based on life, and life, like it or not is full of emotion. The term drama too me is a turn off. Anything resembling moodiness, conjures up negativity in many people and they like to avoid it at all costs. What I have observed is that those who are most attuned to moodiness, are the ones who generally are the most moody, yet can’t see it themselves. It’s a classic projection scenario.
Perhaps, the prevailing attitude is that moody people are not in control of their negatives emotions. I realize that in some cases this is true, but in other cases there’s more than what appears on the surface. The confusion may be that moodiness and say, bi-polar are often misunderstood to be the same things. Perhaps, someone from the judging person’s past, had other personality issues, bi-polar, or borderline personality disorder and now everyone with the appearance of moodiness is now a sick puppy, to be avoided at all costs.
Especially for men the externalization of these difficult moods is not considered desirable. A man that shows these tendencies shows a certain finickiness and similarity to a type of hormonal driven emotion that is often attributed to PMS and to negative feminine moodiness. Well, guys can have this too. Combine that with the emotional processing capabilities of HSM males and well, moodiness happens.
How to deal with temperamental emotional swings.
I think the main thing here is to try and be mindful of what is happening within in your own head. So much of the emotional reaction is automatic and unconscious. Nevertheless, thoughts are associated with those feelings, so putting a “thought-catcher” to examine them carefully will help slow down the runaway train. This is a trained response and not one that is native to most of us HSMs. It requires attention and focus and repetition. We often want to run with our wild emotions, but sometimes need to train them instead. Attention, capture, examine and release.
Get clear on what moodiness is for you. Don’t confuse needing downtime as being moody. As an HSP you need that time to recharge. You will always need that time and you will not be able to change that part of you. Accept that about yourself. Then there are the physical things, sleep, diet, exercise and in your quiet time, a meditative practice of your choosing will help. For men, get your testosterone levels checked. It’s important for a number of health reasons, not just for your emotions. And as always, if this gets too stressful, too difficult, too overwhelming…get help.
Is this native to HSM(P)s?
I don’t know that there is any study out there that says if you are an HSP you will be a moody person. From my own experience, that seems to be the case. However, we are all different, coming from different backgrounds, different genetic heritage and different environments and that can affect your mileage on this.
As more studies are done with HSPs, as we learn more, there will be a greater understanding of the complexity of highly sensing people. For now, expect to be labeled as moody at times, depends largely on the crowd you are associated with.
Looking for the right people to be with.
Finally, I think as an HSP and an HSM, it is important to be selective in who you hang out with. Your inner circle should understand you and your traits and accept them for what they are. This doesn’t mean being around only HSPs, but rather those people who see you for the special person you are and understand at times to them you might be challenging. But as I once told an ex-girlfriend, the same guy that you complain about mood swings and being too sensitive, is the same guy that writes you beautiful love poems and buys you flowers for no reason. It’s all part of the package.
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.