Did you ever feel like an emotional junkie? Sometimes feeling like a slave to your own emotional patterns. Brain chemistry drives our emotions and the subsequent addiction to those brain chemicals can lead to repetitive and habitual behaviors that may be feeding a circle of “junk” behavior.
As we all know, HSPs commonly experience emotions in an intense way. We react to the stimulus and because of our deep processing mechanisms we reprocess and reprocess the emotion attempting to make sense of those feelings. The repetitiveness is what intensifies the emotional reaction. Within HSPs this leads us, at an unconscious level, to seek out more intense emotions, which may seem contrary to our need for moderation of emotional experiences.
What makes this happen? Emotions occur at the unconscious level and are driven by peptides released by the hypothalamus. These peptides proteins are then released into the body and attach to cells with corresponding receptors. When attached they produce a desired effect in the cell, which corresponds with a bodily function associated with that emotion. The process is largely unconscious, yet experienced and felt as feelings at the conscious level. The feelings may drive more of the same emotion, creating an addictive cycle of stimulation based on our experiences. In other words, the addiction drives the experience.
Of course, there are other brain chemicals involved, but the basic process lends itself to a model of possible addiction. It stands to reason that HSPs, more so than the general population, might be subject to this type of addiction because of their increased ability to experience sensory information and most importantly the ability to hyper-process that information.
In its simplest form it looks like this: 1) thoughts created in neurons, networked together, trigger, 2) a chemical release from the hypothalamus, peptides, which 3) release to the cells and attach at receptors on the cell creating 4) a visceral reaction, which is recognized 5) via consciousness resulting in a feeling. The emotion spoken of earlier is largely automatic and unconscious and driven by brain/body chemistry. The feeling is what we recognize consciously. It is simply emotion wrapped in thought.
Addictions by most definitions are largely automatic behaviors driven by unconscious emotion or memory or association. And the operative word here is repetition. This is why addiction is so difficult to treat and deal with consciously. The neural patterns are so reinforced that, they occur without thought. It is only when we recognize the pattern, that we can affect an interruption in the behavior.
Now how does all of this effect HSMs? Highly sensitive people are by definition people that experience sensations, feelings and emotions more intensely than the general population. Could it be that because of this ability that we as highly sensitives can become eventually more habituated or desensitized to emotion?
If the nature of emotion is largely addictive (perhaps, for survival purposes) than this addiction to emotion could lead to ever increasing need to experience more intense emotions to satisfy the addiction. The more highly charged the emotion, the more repetitive the emotion, the more likely the receiver cells will need to create more and more receptor sites to handle the incoming data; thus allowing the whole experience to grow more intense.
There is a sub group of HSPs that are sensation seekers. Sensation seekers tend to look for experiences that provide novel experiences, adventure and thrill seeking rushes, splashes into social activities that may be unconventional and are prone to boredom susceptibility. HSPs that are also sensation seekers may exhibit a less driven desire for over the top experiences, but nonetheless, need to break the monotony of HSP’s careful and cautious behavior.
Could this not include, seeking highly charged emotional sensations as a way of producing an affect high? This may be truer in HSMs, because of our cultural expectations for men, in general, to be more daring, bold and adventurous. We find ourselves taking the bait and falling into the trap of sensation seeking. Sometimes, we HSMs need not venture much further outside of our own craniums to get that rush experience. A good heartbreak can seem like bungee jumping.
Do HSPs therefore, fall in love more often and fall harder in love just for the adrenaline rush? Or do we moderate our emotions by smoothing out the intensity by avoidance, interrupting the process before intensity becomes too strong? In reverse could this lead to a state of emotional anorexia? Does being an HSP come with an automatic regulation system that prevents over-stimulation by shutting down input and requiring emotional time outs? If so, does that make us less likely to become subject to emotional addiction? Interesting to think about. Would like to hear your comments. We as a group could be emotional junkies and not even be fully consciously aware of that addiction.
To wrap up here are some thoughts on how to deal with high intensity emotions if you are an HSM:
Thanks for dropping by, until next week…
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.