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. The E-book is and soft cover of the book is available now on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Bookbaby.com. Please enjoy this free preview of the book.
From Chapter 8 – Struggles of Being an HSM
Being too Sensitive in a Macho World
“Son, are you a man or a mouse?” My dad delivered these few words to me every time I got a bit too weepy as a little boy. Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, it was not wise for little boys to show too many traits of emotional sensitivity. Might look like a sissy, if you know what I mean. So, my father would chide me with this little question, and I would abruptly stop my sensitive ways and buck up and act like the little man I was supposed to be.
As the years went by, I began to shield myself from this type of criticism by trying to live the manly life I was taught to live. But it always felt a bit disingenuous and inauthentic. The older I got, the more I began to realize that I was no less a man because I could feel deep emotion, get in touch with my inner core, and freely express the emotion within. When I began to read about the highly sensitive personality type, I felt vindicated and liberated. Dr. Elaine Aron gets a lifetime achievement award from me. And I’m sure a lot of HSMs feel the same way.
When I first started researching this topic, I was looking for male sensitivity and found that the first page or two of the search was focused on penile sensitivity. Interesting, but not what I had in mind. But I suppose there is some metaphorical tie-in too obtuse for me to elaborate on.
Is there a sensitivity spectrum within HSMs? Are some HSMs more sensitive than others, more prone to emotional display or sensory overload, than say, other HSMs? I, for one, believe there is some truth to this. I mean, after all, we are all individuals, and science accounts for individual differences.
We may have the same predisposition for an active amygdala, but perhaps the signals get muffled more so in some than others. Maybe there is some broad gradation starting with a threshold HSM, who is lowest on the scale of HSM sensitivity, a moderate HSM that straddles the wide middle, and a high HSM, one bordering on hypersensitivity. This could explain some of the diversity in HSM capacity and expression of that sensitivity. I know all HSMs are not what the general population would peg high sensitivity to be.
Of course, no one is better or worse than the other, just a way to stratify further the traits of HSPs. This might explain why some HSMs weep at sad movies, while others just get the obligatory lump in the throat and wet eyes. In any case, regardless of where you fall on the spectrum, if you are an HSM, you are a man with fully functioning tear ducts. Be proud of that.
This still remains about sensing capability, our high capacity to sense our world. It’s the inputs that affect us so. Sensitivity is the reaction to that sensing, and perhaps this sets us apart from our non-HSP fellows. So whether it is sights, sounds, smell, taste, or touch, or even the unconscious sense of intuition, we are always sensing deeply. And it will always affect us deeply. And, yes, we react sensitively and passionately. Yet we HSMs are still men; we are simply broadening the masculine definition.
Fitting into a world that values machismo, the hyper-male, and toughness is always going to be a struggle for HSMs. The ridiculous focus on aggressive and dominant behavior, which is often seen as the epitome of masculinity in our culture, naturally divorces the American male from the emotions that are native to all humans. In other words, you are no longer a male unless you reflect a set of traits that are better suited for 10,000 B.C. than the twenty-first century.
You can see this in our militaristic, warrior archetype that is reflected throughout our society in board rooms, bedrooms, and now bathrooms. We are still fighting imaginary wars every day at work, at home, and play. Even some women have adapted to this model to succeed in this dysfunctional paradigm.
Our world is very troubled. The political discourse these last few years, the racial divides, the wars, the poverty, and all the detritus that swirls around this world, makes me think there has never been a better time for HSPs and HSMs to find our place in this world. It’s a time that is ripe for a shift away from the machismo politics of the Reagan Republican brand and back to a more compassionate, empathetic form of government.
If this shift fails to take hold, I fear we are heading for a dark place as a culture and as a people. The HSP is often the canary in the mineshaft. Pay attention, world. We are uncomfortable in this manufactured male macho world that generally insecure and paranoid males have created. We HSMs need to assert ourselves in a distinct HSM way and penetrate the corporate ranks, the world of politics, religion, art, and journalism and serve as new role models for men everywhere. It is our sensing nature that will help change this world, and as men, we can help reshape the balance of things. We need to do something challenging for us—stand out.
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.