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 1 - What … me, Sensitive? :
Growing up, I knew I was different. I was different from all the other boys in the neighborhood. I was taller, skinnier, and more sensitive. Yeah, sensitive. At the time I didn’t know what sensitivity was all about. Growing up in South Carolina in the fifties and sixties, the profile for boys was rough-and-tumble, getting dirty, getting into fights, and letting all criticism roll right off your back.
The last thing I wanted to be was a sensitive boy.
Back then, every boy was subject to the code: boys were expected to be little men. They had to be tough, unemotional, and above all, not like little girls.
It was easy to fail this code if you were a sensitive type. I saw things differently; I experienced life through a different lens and filter than most boys. It was harder for me to “just get over” life’s bumps and bruises. I took them to heart and ruminated ferociously the mistakes I made, whether real or imagined. I felt alone most of the time, the only boy in a family of girls. My father was distant and somewhat disaffected. He was an HSP (a highly sensitive person) himself but didn’t know it. I don’t know whether he was trying to whip me into code or if he knew it would be easier for me if I simply conformed. Eventually, I got the message and created a self-image through sports.
I was a fairly good athlete, rangy and quick, but not with supreme athletic ability. It was enough to make me slightly above average. This went over well with my male friends. I knew this because I was generally picked in the top five for things like kickball, softball, and especially basketball. Being tall made it easy not to be missed for early selection. You can’t teach tall.
I loved football but hated the contact. My dad played football in high school. He was voted most athletic in the school, so there was some pressure for me to be athletic, although I admit, it wasn’t a fanatical expectation. I put more pressure on myself than anyone. This was a proving ground. This was a way I could prove I was a man.
Before high school, there were Dixie Youth Baseball and Pop Warner football. I never was talented enough or motivated enough to play baseball. That was a miss on my part. Wearing your baseball cap on game day to school was a sign that you had arrived as a little man.
I tried out later for Pop Warner, and the coaches pretty much sealed my fate. They must have been ex-Marine Corp drill instructors because they wore our butts out in the first practice. Kids were falling out all over the field. I was one of them. I was beyond sore. The pain was excruciating, and I knew that football was probably not for me.
Back then, there was no organized basketball for kids, so I just played around the neighborhood. We developed our own neighborhood teams and played other kids in the surrounding neighborhoods. Games could last all night, and best of all, there were no coaches to screw it up for us. I didn’t mind contact, and that was a good thing as I was generally picked to play center. As my skills improved, respect began to come.
I was on the eighth-grade team for a brief time but hated the coach. He yelled constantly; sometimes, I thought, simply to yell. I didn’t like that. He was an ass. I quit the team, even as the varsity coach, a neighbor, was talking to me about moving me up to the high school team. This is a place where being sensitive really hurt me. I got nervous about the “promotion” to varsity and was overwhelmed with fear. I quit before my basketball career could begin, succumbing to my fears.
This continued throughout high school. I had trouble with relationships. On the one hand, I was a pretty shy guy in the public eye, but quite gregarious around close friends. It was difficult for me to ask girls out on dates. I was like most teenage boys, pretty awkward with talking to the opposite sex. Not like the more popular boys who seemed to have a personality trait that made them calm and debonair. I assumed it was a lack of masculine magnetism on my part. Again, another place I failed to meet the boy/man code. Of course, it never helped my cause to always be in pursuit of girls who had no interest in me.
I got used to dealing with a lot of emotional highs and lows, the angst of adolescence. For the most part, I dealt with it alone. The feelings I had didn’t seem manly enough to discuss with my parents or friends. I learned to be my own best friend.
As I got into the upper grades of high school, I started underachieving. I was an honor student up until my junior year of high school when I met my first crush, a senior girl, in yearbook staff. She was different. This was the early seventies, and by all definitions she was a hippie chick. I was from a conservative and devoutly Christian family. Our meeting was like the meeting of matter and anti-matter, and it changed my world. Everything I had learned to that point, I never questioned. I may not have liked it, but I was not positioned to oppose the values that I had been brought up with. She opened my mind to a new way of looking at things, and I began my long journey to accepting and embracing who I was.
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.