A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High-Sensing Male
Several years back, I remember a call for the government to form a department of peace. What surprised me was that this has occurred throughout the history of the United States, very often due to a recent war or during a military conflict. This movement started as far back as 1793 by Dr. Benjamin Rush, a founding father, and Quaker clergyman. Other notable attempts have been introduced by esteemed congresspeople such as Everett Dirksen (late 40s), Senator Vance Harke (late 60s), Dennis Kucinich in 2001, and most recently, Barbara Lee in 2013. In addition, many celebrities have attached their names to this movement, including Walter Cronkite, Marianne Williamson, Willie Nelson, Yoko Ono, and Joaquin Phoenix.
Invariably, these initiatives don’t pass into law, likely because of a strong military-industrial complex lobby and a continuing jingoistic American public. Nevertheless, these attempts to at least study conflict and conflict resolution, teach peaceful negotiation, and learn via science ways to arbitrate disagreements would have great merit in a time where there are implacable schisms in almost every imaginable area – religious, political, social, business and any national discussion. It is frustrating to note that in an age that has produced AI, we don’t have the common sense to navigate our disagreements.
The History of Peace Movements
To study peace, it might be useful to define what the objective might be. What is peace? You might simply describe peace as a quality of a society, nation, group, or individual operating harmoniously. It could include a lack of hostility, safety and recognition, equality and fairness, and an absence of war or agitated conflict. This is not a static state of bliss but an active state of negotiation, compromise, and mutual respect. Our word peace has roots in the Hebrew Shalom, meaning safety, welfare, prosperity, security, good fortune, and friendliness.
Over the years, various attempts in the US to create sustainable peace movements have often failed when presented to the government -even if the idea is wildly popular, as was the case in the early 2000s leading up to American involvement with Iraq, post 911. But then, despite the presence of 10 million marchers, the government was oblivious and marched on to war.
Does that make the attempts at a peace movement futile? On the contrary, they serve as a balancing point to militarization and a counterweight to knee-jerk military action. In some ways, they can provide a bargaining chip to ensure some just peace is implemented, albeit post-conflict.
Emerson and Thoreau were part of an earlier peace movement spurred by the Mexican-American War. Thoreau even wrote an essay on civil disobedience, which inspired both Tolstoy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Quakers, a religious group where peace is a foundational element to their belief systems, have played important roles in peace movement history in the US. Even the woman who wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic, Julia Ward Howe, decried the use of war to settle disagreements and the loss of husbands, fathers, and sons to the destruction of war.
William James, the father of American psychology, extolled the value of maintaining political unity and civic virtue without war or the threat of war. Yet, none of this was enough. Even with all of the notable figures supporting peace, America entered the twentieth century only to witness the bloodiest century in the history of humanity. Two world wars, countless regional and geo-political conflicts, and no sign that humans had evolved to such an extent as to prevent wars.
We Need to Learn How to Do Conflict Resolution
So what is missing? If you polled most people around the world, the vast majority would wish for a world where peace was the norm. So why can’t we get there? The desire is there, perhaps, even the will, but how do we do this?
I question if there can be a world free of conflict, but at least we can have a world free of war. The solution is to find and promote powerful and effective conflict-resolution tools. What would help is a concerted cross-discipline scientific study on the elements of peace and the art of conflict resolution—evidence-based, practical tools for avoiding escalated conflict and ways to diffuse disputes that lead to war quickly.
This will not be a magic formula but will build over time a body of knowledge that can serve as inputs to educational programs for schools, research material for perpetual studies on peace, and encourage something like a peace propaganda movement that extolls the virtues of peace and the sanctity of life.
We must train our children and people to find inner peace. This can be done without religious attachments and kept objective with scientific validation. By socializing this ideology of peace first, over time, a generation of children will be taught the finer points of conflict resolution and how to maintain inner peace in the face of stress and distress. This will promote conflict studies, a foundation for propagating peace studies programs throughout universities and think tanks. This effort may take several generations of exposure to take root firmly.
A Department of Peace (perhaps named differently) would be the focal point of all government efforts to promote conflict resolution and non-military solutions to conflict.
In the interim, we would need to develop programs that would work with military leaders to quickly de-escalate armed conflicts and bring parties to the negotiation table. At some point in the future, even this could be eliminated.
Is There Any Hope for This?
All of this sounds great, but is it likely to happen? Considering the present conditions, we live in, with the great polarization within humanity, the enormous investment we have in the military, the influence of the military-industrial complex, and the glorification of war in popular media, this seems unlikely.
But, unless we take significant steps towards a peaceful world, I fear humanity is in grave danger. Unfortunately, we often forget we are but one nuclear war away from the annihilation of humanity. This must change.
We need to understand at a deep level what causes aggression. Is it fear, is it greed, or is it ego-based dynamics? What insecurity drives us to this insanity? How can we prevent conflict if we don’t understand the root of conflict and the subsequent emotional overreaction? We spend trillions of dollars on war, so why not earmark millions to study peace?
Part of maintaining peace is finding ways of negotiation that do not produce zero-sum outcomes. Negotiation need not be about one side winning as the other loses. Instead, we have to develop objective negotiation methods that consider all sides. Producing compromised yet fair results mean going the extra mile to keep the peace.
We must emphasize cooperation and not always make life a merciless competition. We work better if we cooperate because collaboration is about raising all ships.
We need to focus through education and practice-- not just rhetoric, on encouraging a kinder, gentler world. The stakes are too high not to try.
And remember, pacifism is not passivity. Resigning to the archaic notion that there are just wars and that they are inevitable is simply a self-fulfilling prophecy. We must reach a point for us to evolve to reject war and the disturbance of the peace. As John Lennon famously sang, “Give peace a chance.” A department of peace would be a good start.
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High-Sensing Male
Well, it's the first of the year again. Many people start trotting out new year's resolutions at this time of year – new year, new you. Many folks, including many HSPs reach out to get help from coaches and therapists. Therapists are licensed health professionals who must undergo extensive training and education to become counselors. Coaching is a much newer profession and is not nearly as regulated as psychotherapy. The focus of this article is on the selection of a coach.
The entire bar into the coaching profession is actually pretty low. This is not to say that there aren't many good and effective coaches out there. They may not have all the credentials you might hope for, but the impetus is on you, as the consumer, to vet them. Some coaches have great credentials – an accreditation from ICF or CoachU or programs certified by these bodies. However, life can be a great teacher, experience creates wisdom (sometimes), and this has to be considered as well, and there aren't any certifications for that. In sum, even with degrees and credentials that do not necessarily make the coach perfect for you, armed with this knowledge, you start on a sure footing.
Coaching can be quite an investment in yourself; like any self-help activity, results are very seldom guaranteed. It can also be pricey. Admittedly, I have been somewhat skeptical of the coaching ideology since I first came in contact with it in the late 90s. I have in the past worked with both coaches and therapists and have had mixed results with both. The coaching field has evolved over the years, often bringing about hybrid coaches/therapists or coaches with more specialized coaching techniques that produce outstanding results. It's an evolving field and will, at some point, become regulated.
My experiences could be somewhat biased, but I think it is very important for everyone to do their due diligence. With you doing your homework, you can feel better about investing sums of money in coaching. So let's look at some things you might want to look for.
What is a life coach? The Basics
A life coach is a type of professional that helps people achieve goals and objectives to gain greater life fulfillment. Coaches can help you clarify and quantify your goals and help with strategies to overcome obstacles using your talents and skills.
There are many life coaches, from career, business, financial, health, spiritual, and of course, generic life coaching. For HSPs, there are now many individuals devoted to supporting HSPs in life decisions, most of whom are HSP themselves.
One thing to remember is that a life coach is not a therapist. With that said, many therapists are now moving to the coaching field, so ex-therapists are now becoming life coaches. In my opinion, this gives those individuals a distinct advantage – they can recognize mental health issues vs. coaching issues and make that differentiation. They are also skilled in working with clients and have learned to listen to them and offer help. Hence, these hybrid coaches can wear different hats. But, many life coaches don't have that background. If you select a life coach with a therapist background, I suggest you discuss this with them before you begin the engagement. There may be local, state, or national rules about what services they can provide while wearing the coaching hat.
One of the great benefits of using a life coach is to have an objective point of view, especially in areas where you are stuck. The coach's insights might make the difference in whether you progress through the obstacles or remain stuck in the mud. If you experience success with a coach, you can likely translate the investment you made with them into financial success, which justifies the cost. Having a more successful and satisfying life working with someone who sees your abilities and helps translate them into demonstrable and measurable goals is very rewarding.
One of the greatest benefits of working with a life coach is accountability and having someone hold you responsible for the goals you set. This can be very motivating and may be the push you need to break through.
There have been studies showing the effectiveness of coaching in reducing procrastination, improving self-efficacy, and showing improvement in organization settings for functional improvements. However, like many things in life, success is more likely if the right coach meets the right client and both are motivated.
Coaching and HSPs
Since many therapists out there still do not understand the HSP trait, nor have any training in supporting HSPs or discounting the trait, be even more cautious working with coaches. As stated earlier, many HSP coaches are out there now, many of whom have therapeutic backgrounds and are HSP themselves. And they can cover the same diverse coaching landscape that non-HSP coaches do. My advice is to focus on HSP coaches. I think you will find the experience is much more positive working with someone who understands you.
Dr. Elaine Aron's website, www.hsperson.com, has a page devoted to HSP coaches. She only accepts those on the list certified by ICF and at a professional level. She offers a few caveats for selecting a potential coach, and I suggest you check this out.
If you choose to use a coach, especially a non-HSP coach, because of their reputation or because they have a specific specialty that you need help with, make sure they understand your trait and use your intuition about whether to go forward. That's an individual decision based on your needs and how well you can work with someone who may misunderstand you or your trait. To be fair, there are many coaches out there that are non-HSP that can still be very effective for you. Educate them on your HSP characteristics.
Tips and Cautions
I would say the number one thing is to know what you want. What are your goals and objectives? Are they demonstrable and measurable? What are your time limits for achieving your goals? Are you focused, specific, or somewhat hazy and need help deciphering your goals? You are at a distinct advantage if you know what your goals are. You may not know how to get there, but at least you know the destination.
Interview at least three coaches to determine their style and the rapport you have with them, and get your specific questions about them answered. Many coaches will give a free 20-30 minute interview to get you comfortable. If they don't offer this, then walk. I feel this interview is so important; it should not be bypassed because you must invest your money to vet them. Of course, I get the whole thing about monetizing every minute for a coach. Still, if you can't allow a potential client to interview you for a few minutes, I don't think I'd want to work with them, especially if you are going to invest a sizable amount of your money with them.
Confirm their credentials. Ask them about certifications, experience, education, and client successes. Then, you can judge where you think they fit in with your needs.
And manage your expectations. Coaches aren't miracle workers, so don't expect immediate results. This process requires patience, work, and diligence, most of it on your part. Make sure you and your coach have rapport. And finally, do a cost/benefit analysis to justify any high-cost fees. Some high fees are justified, but the benefit better damn well be there. And only you can determine that.
I know many HSP coaches and am meeting more as I continue down this path. They are all excellent people and thoughtful and purposeful coaches. Yes, it is indeed a wide-open field, but with some diligence on your part and knowing what you want, I think you can find a good coach to help you with whatever needs you have. Good luck with your search.
Bill Allen currently lives in Lutz, Florida. He previously lived 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.