A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High-Sensing Male
Total words 1326, Time to read: 5 minutes 34 seconds
Note: Romantic love can be one of humans' most enjoyable and satisfying experiences. However, navigation to that end is often fraught with challenges and pitfalls. I believe HSPs are naturally more romantic or at least drawn to matters of the heart, and yet, we don't always reach our objective: to love and be loved. High emotion for us often seems to be leavened with naivety and idealization. It may be the price we pay for being so intensely emotional. We love more deeply, and sometimes we hurt more profoundly. Learning to be present in our emotions may help.
In the complex landscape of love and relationships, idealizing love interests can be a tempting pitfall for Highly Sensitive Men (HSP). This blog explores the alluring world of idealization and its dangers, contrasting it with the key to healthier love expectations.
The Allure of Idealizing Love Interests
Why HSP Men Are Prone to Idealizing Love Interests
Highly Sensitive Men possess a heightened emotional awareness, which can make them more susceptible to idealizing love interests. Research has shown that HSP individuals often have deeper emotional experiences and are more likely to attach intense emotions to people they are attracted to (Aron & Aron, 1997). But we know that.
The Allure of Creating a Perfect Image
Creating an idealized image of a love interest is appealing because it provides a temporary escape from the complexities and imperfections of real life. It also plays right into our fantasies about love, sometimes deviating from reality. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Fletcher et al., 1999) suggests that idealization can be a form of self-protection, shielding individuals from potential disappointments. And yet, we are the co-creators of that gambit and the authors of possible heartbreak.
Dangers of Idealizing Love Interests
Idealizing love interests often leads to unrealistic emotional attachment. Research (Birnbaum, 2019) highlights how this emotional intensity can lead to heightened anxiety, jealousy, and a fear of rejection, resulting in emotional upset. It's as if we are stirring our emotional cauldron. I once wrote that I sometimes believe that HSPs are addicted to emotion. We complain about the highs and lows even while we position ourselves for emotional rollercoasters. Our search for the emotional charge stimulates us with emotional current.
Unfulfilled or Unhealthy Love Relationships
Idealization can lead to rushing into relationships, ignoring red flags or incompatibilities. Individuals who idealize their partners may find themselves in relationships marked by poor communication and unrealistic expectations. When translated into an emotional interaction, our unrealistic expectations may hit a wall surrounding our love interest, preventing real love from prospering. We immediately jump the shark diving into the emotional pool and immediately release rational and critical thought from the process. Can you imagine anything going wrong here?
The Risk of Embarrassment
Building excessively high expectations that may not be met can lead to embarrassment. Fletcher et al., 2001 found that idealization often results in disillusionment when reality falls short of the imagined perfection. Running the risk of showing your hand too soon in the buildup of a relationship can often lead to awkward moments, which may expose your miscalculations and interpretations of your love interest's gestures. Nothing is more sad or embarrassing than unrequited love or misinterpretation of a potential lover's offering of friendship.
Idealizing love interests can lead to patterns of misjudgment, clouding one's perception and making it difficult to read the signs of affection or disinterest accurately. A study in the Journal of Research in Personality (Reis et al., 2015) indicates that individuals who idealize their partners are more likely to misinterpret their actions and intentions. Seeking love in all the wrong places leads to frustration, sometimes anger, and compounds feelings of loneliness. Seeing love where there is none, expecting that your HSP observation and awareness skills are always accurate, and failing to properly test your assumptions as you get to know a potential lover leads to disappointment.
Disappointment and Heartbreak
The ultimate consequence of idealization is disappointment and heartbreak. Pistole & Roberts, 2018 found that idealization was linked to higher levels of relationship dissatisfaction and breakups. It kind of supports the notion of a hopeless romantic, in love with the high created by the chase but unprepared for the disappointing trough of rejection.
Healthy Love Expectations
Getting to Know Someone Slowly
Research in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships (O'Sullivan et al., 2018) suggests that taking time to understand a potential partner leads to more successful and satisfying relationships. Building a strong foundation is essential for long-term happiness. Slow wins the race, but our idealization of romantic love stories, often seen within a TV or movie timeframe of two hours or less (read: Immediate gratification), makes us believe that love happens with lightning speed. Getting to know anyone takes time - months or even years. Idealization in love is like a match tip: burns bright, lights up the room for a second, then flames out, leaving nothing but the acrid smell of smoke. Not built to last.
Addressing loneliness without idealizing someone is crucial for HSP men. Loneliness is the HSP two-edged sword. We crave our private time, but at some point, we recognize our social selves need to be fed. What better connection for an HSP to enter than an intimate one-on-one relationship? Often, we have less experience than other outgoing individuals in making these bonds. We often fail to field test our social theories and make naïve assumptions about other's responses to us. Yet, we must. Practice is in the doing. Research published in Health Psychology (Cacioppo et al., 2006) indicates that finding ways to connect with friends, engage in hobbies, and create a fulfilling life outside of a romantic relationship is important for overall well-being. Building the skills that many of us lack.
Watching for Red Flags or Disinterest
We tend to be good at observational details. However, projecting externally strong emotions doesn't always allow us to be objective. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (Fletcher & Simpson, 2017) shows that paying attention to red flags and addressing incompatibilities early can lead to more stable and satisfying relationships. It is important to know your relationship's red flags. More importantly, you must know what action to take when a red flag appears. Failure to do so, from my personal experience, is a failed strategy. And, wallpapering those red flags with idealization does not make them disappear.
Avoiding Direct Conversation and Truthfulness
It is important to emphasize the importance of open and honest communication in relationships. Addressing concerns and initiating difficult conversations is vital to foster understanding and connection. Better sooner than later. In love, we often try to present our best selves and may avoid addressing pitfalls in the relationship that may stand out, even in the very beginning. By not committing too early, we can be cautious and let the slow reveal occur without pressure and pumped-up expectations.
Knowing When to Move Forward
Recognizing when a relationship is progressing positively and taking things at a comfortable pace is vital. Individuals in balanced and healthy relationships tend to be more satisfied and content. Perhaps formulating milestones for yourself and between you and your partner can make the thousand-mile journey seem more palatable. Each milestone may correspond with an emotional release correlating with a growing love and commitment. Not to be robotic in this endeavor, but present and aware of the relationship as it is at a point in time.
Idealizing love interests may seem enticing, but it often leads to emotional upset, unfulfilled relationships, embarrassment, misreading signs, and heartbreak. Highly Sensitive Men can find a more fulfilling path by adopting healthier love expectations, building strong foundations, managing loneliness, staying vigilant for red flags, communicating openly, and recognizing when to move forward. By embracing a balanced and realistic perspective, HSP men can forge happier, more authentic relationships, ultimately leading to a more satisfying love life.
A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High-Sensing Male
Total words 1483, Time to read: 6 minutes 14 seconds
Note: The other day, I was watching a Turner Classic Movies docu-drama about the life of Elvis Aron Presley. As I watched his life story unfold, I began to see familiar patterns, patterns that suggested that Elvis may have been a highly sensitive man. Although I don't know the intricate details of his life, I would be willing to go out on a limb and say that Elvis may have been an HSM. Prior to watching this movie, I never really thought of Elvis in this light, but now – I'm not so sure. My grandmother, also a Pressley (note the different spelling), always told us that we were distant relatives of the "King." I have yet to validate that, but one of Elvis's favorite sandwiches was peanut butter and banana. My grandmother also loved them, too. Coincidence?
Elvis as an HSM?
Elvis Presley, the cultural icon, was a legendary musician and possibly a highly sensitive man. When we think of Elvis Presley, we typically associate him with his legendary status as a musician and rock and roll legend. However, beneath the fame and charisma, there are indications that Elvis may have been a highly sensitive man. This adds a unique dimension to understanding his personality and behavior, shedding light on the internal experiences that influenced his actions and choices.
In this article, we will explore various facets of Elvis Presley's life and personality that strongly suggest he may have been a highly sensitive person. By examining his deep emotional connections, need for approval, empathy and generosity, and other aspects of his life, we aim to provide insights into how high sensitivity may have influenced his experiences and actions.
Elvis's Love for His Family, Especially His Mother
Elvis's relationship with his mother, Gladys, was characterized by a profound emotional connection. He often spoke of his deep love and attachment to her, and their bond was evident throughout his life. This closeness exceeded the typical parent-child relationship, suggesting an emotional intensity common among highly sensitive individuals.
This profound attachment may indicate his high sensitivity, as HSPs often form intense bonds. Highly sensitive people tend to form deep and emotionally rich connections with loved ones, often experiencing these relationships more profoundly than others. Elvis's exceptional connection with his mother aligns with this pattern, suggesting that he may have had the heightened emotional sensitivity characteristic of HSPs.
The early passing of his mother significantly impacted Elvis, shaping his emotional landscape. The loss of his mother at an early age had a lasting impact on Elvis. Such a loss can be particularly challenging for highly sensitive individuals, as they often feel emotions more intensely. Elvis's sensitivity likely intensified the grief and sadness he experienced, molding his emotional persona and influencing his choices and behavior throughout his life.
The Need for Approval
Throughout his life, Elvis Presley displayed a consistent and pervasive need for validation and approval from others. This need was not limited to any specific stage of his career or personal life. Still, it seemed a fundamental aspect of his personality—this desire for approval manifested in various ways, from stage performances to interactions with those around him. Highly sensitive individuals like Elvis often seek validation as they are acutely attuned to the emotions and opinions of others.
Elvis's relentless pursuit of approval left a trail of examples in both his professional and personal spheres. In his career, he was known for constantly striving to outdo himself, driven by a desire to please his audience and critics. He sought recognition through awards, accolades, and record-breaking performances. Even in his personal life, he yearned for approval, often attempting to make those around him happy by indulging their desires or gifting them with extravagant presents. This persistent pursuit of approval is a hallmark of highly sensitive individuals who place great importance on external validation.
By their very nature, highly sensitive individuals tend to be deeply attuned to the opinions and emotions of those around them. They may internalize criticism more profoundly and seek to avoid rejection or disapproval. This heightened sensitivity to others' views likely contributed to Elvis's constant need for approval. The fear of disappointing others or falling short of expectations can be an emotional burden for HSPs, motivating them to seek validation and acceptance in various aspects of their lives.
Empathy and Generosity
Elvis Presley's empathy and generosity were defining features of his character. He genuinely cared about the well-being of others and was often moved by the plight of those less fortunate. This genuine empathy was not a facade but a deeply ingrained part of his personality that influenced his actions throughout his life.
One of Elvis's most striking examples of empathy and generosity was his habit of gifting expensive items, such as Cadillacs, to random people. These acts of kindness were not calculated; rather, they were spontaneous expressions of his sensitivity to the needs and desires of others. He often gave these gifts to those who had touched him emotionally or whom he believed could benefit from them.
Elvis's acts of generosity manifested his heightened sensitivity to the emotions and desires of those in his orbit. He could sense when people were in need or deeply moved, and he responded with genuine compassion. This level of sensitivity is a common trait among highly sensitive individuals, who often can empathize with and connect emotionally to others. Elvis's actions are a powerful example of how sensitivity can be channeled into acts of kindness and generosity.
Coping with Overwhelm and Stress
Elvis Presley's rise to fame brought immense pressure and stress. As a highly sensitive individual, he may have experienced this stress more acutely than others. To cope with the overwhelming demands of his career, he turned to drugs, a pattern that is not uncommon among highly sensitive people, especially celebrities or those under intense pressure to perform. The intensity of emotions and the constant exposure to the spotlight can often drive HSPs towards maladaptive coping mechanisms.
Highly sensitive individuals often experience stress more profoundly. Their heightened emotional responses can make it challenging to manage stress effectively. Elvis's sensitivity may have amplified the stressors in his life, contributing to his struggles with addiction. This highlights the importance of recognizing and addressing the unique stressors that HSPs face.
Elvis's experiences underscore the significance of developing healthier coping strategies for highly sensitive individuals. Recognizing one's sensitivity and seeking healthier outlets for managing stress, such as mindfulness, therapy, or creative expression, can be crucial in preventing detrimental coping mechanisms like addiction.
Genuine Humility Amidst Fame
Despite being a global superstar, Elvis's humility was a remarkable aspect of his personality. His ability to remain grounded and approachable suggests that his sensitivity played a role in this humility. Highly sensitive individuals often have a deep capacity for empathy and connecting with others, which can lead to a more humble outlook on their achievements.
Elvis's sensitivity likely contributed to his ability to connect profoundly with people. His humility may have stemmed from his genuine concern for others and his awareness of their feelings. This ability to connect deeply with others can be a hallmark of highly sensitive individuals and can lead to a greater sense of humility.
Humility can be an invaluable trait for highly sensitive individuals navigating success. It allows them to maintain authentic connections with others and helps counterbalance the potential for overwhelming stress and approval-seeking behaviors. Recognizing and nurturing this trait can lead to a more balanced and fulfilling life for HSPs.
The Unawareness of His Sensitivity
Many highly sensitive individuals are unaware of their sensitivity, and Elvis may have been among them. HSPs often grow up in environments where their sensitivity is not understood or acknowledged, challenging self-awareness.
Lack of self-awareness can lead to challenges for HSPs. They may struggle to understand their emotional reactions and coping mechanisms, hindering personal growth and well-being. Recognizing the importance of self-awareness is vital for HSPs to harness their sensitivity positively.
Self-awareness is a cornerstone of effectively managing high sensitivity. When HSPs understand their unique traits, they can develop coping strategies that align with their needs. It allows them to navigate life's challenges more effectively and make choices that support their emotional well-being.
Lessons for Highly Sensitive Men
Elvis Presley's life offers several valuable lessons for highly sensitive men. His experiences highlight the importance of recognizing and embracing one's sensitivity, seeking healthier coping mechanisms for stress, nurturing humility amidst success, and fostering self-awareness to navigate life more effectively.
Highly sensitive men can benefit from Elvis's example by seeking support, practicing mindfulness, developing healthier coping strategies, and embracing their sensitivity as a gift rather than a burden, leading to more fulfilling lives.
Encouraging self-awareness and seeking support when necessary are essential for highly sensitive men. It's important to recognize that sensitivity is a unique and valuable trait that can lead to a fulfilling and meaningful life when understood and managed effectively.
And in the immortal words of Elvis, "thank you very much".
Bill Allen currently 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.