A Blog about Sensory Processing Sensitivity from the Worldview of a High Sensing Male
HSP’s experience deep thoughts and deep emotions that sometimes are difficult to express in common language. Because we sense the subtle nuances in our environments, there is often a problem of not having the right nomenclature to express these thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Since language is our primary means of expressing these memes, HSPs being the creative souls that they are, find novel ways to use language for describing the difficult.
It is part of our creativity that we would find ways to express ourselves with literary tools (figures of speech) such as similes and metaphors associating two or more things that are not normally related but could, by comparison, be similar. Likewise, HSPs can use poetic language to deliver nuanced information about complex concepts – a way of deciphering meaning to our complex world. Let’s look at a few of these devices.
Similes are figures of speech used to compare items using comparison words such as: like, as, so, or than. The comparisons made with similes are usually a more direct comparison and are often used much like personification (attributing human characteristics to animals or things). For example, “the fox was as crafty as a village thief.” The use of this figure of speech is straightforward, direct, and easy to follow. Similes are often used in literature and comedy, where a direct comparison may make more sense. It might be easier to use a simile in everyday speech than an elaborate or flowery metaphor to make a point. HSPs make use of this device to convey an object comparison more than deep meaning emotion.
Metaphors are used for rhetorical effect comparing things directly as well, but may provide additional clarification and subtle information at a secondary level. The word metaphor comes from Greek, meaning to transfer or carry over. That would imply meaning is passed over from target to source. from one object to the other. Sonja K. Foss describes metaphors as “nonliteral comparisons in which a word or phrase from one domain of experience is applied to another domain.”
Metaphors require more work and can be deep and beautiful or hard, simple, and clean. Metaphors can contain more emotional content, which would include the nuanced world of information HSPs sense. It adds depth and dimension to idea exchange and added strength to this business of conceptual comparison.
Often there is implied meaning beneath the metaphor, much like a layered cake, each layer adding definition related to the whole but able to stand alone if needed (by the way, that was a simile). For example, if someone was described – stormy and cold, that could mean that perhaps they are moody or destructive or unfeeling. Thus, the description carries a depth of meaning, which we might associate with a thing such as a storm. In many ways, that depth can be interpreted slightly differently by the individual sharing the information and the individual receiving the information.
This is what makes using metaphors so much fun in writing. The metaphor eases the description of the target by moving something abstract towards something more concrete. So, for example, something that is conceptual can be described in everyday terms, which are easily grasped to help explain the more challenging concept.
I enjoy a well-written metaphor. They delight the imagination and will resonate with me when I read them, as I am sure many HSPs do as well.
Other literary devices:
The repeating sounds of alliteration are sensorily soothing and, although not commonly used as much anymore, would instill a meditative feel to a written piece. Thus, it is often used in poetry, rhyme, and lyrics. Alliteration is the conspicuous repetition of consonant sounds in closely placed syllables. For example, most famously, in the nursery rhyme, “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers….” It may seem trite now, but if done well has a lyrical quality to it and has a consonant resonance.
Hyperbole is a device used to exaggerate an idea or concept. It is often used to exaggerate a grievance (“your snoring is killing me”) because it is typically so emotionally fueled. When used in comedy or satire, it is never to be taken seriously but realizing that it is an outlandish expression, it blows something out of proportion for emphasis. It is often used in advertising, poetry, and literature. We use this so often in everyday speech that we are almost unconscious of its use. HSPs may use this to express a complaint by using an over-the-top expression to convey frustration.
A euphemism is a replacement word or expression. It typically replaces an offensive or potentially offensive word or phrase with something more innocuous. It’s cleaned up language to mask often words that are considered vulgar or not to be used in polite company. Perhaps the king of the swear words is fuck, often converted to freak, frig, frick, fudge, eff, or f-word.
Euphemism can be used as understatement, substitution, metaphor, or slang. Wherever the language police congregate, you will find euphemism. Because HSPs are generally more empathetic to the sensibilities of others, we often make use of this technique to keep a conversation palatable.
Onomatopoeia is an odd-sounding word for a device used to create a word to describe the sound phonetically that something makes or to resemble that sound. We often use this when describing animal sounds or loud noises, i.e., moo, cluck, meow, bang, boom, etc. This figure of speech is used most commonly with children’s books, in comics, cartoons, and advertising. It’s great for kids, which they find fun, but generally used sparingly. It’s great to match sound with meaning, with a word.
Although not technically a figure of speech, I like using parody to lampoon something or characterize something that, although serious, can be made fun of with satire or spoofing. In written form, it has ancient roots, going back to the Greeks, but this device can be found in music, film, and poetry. This is the great friend of those who either secretly admire something or find humor in mocking something. Some of the great parodies in film are those films by Mel Brooks or Monty Python. In music, I’m thinking of Weird Al Yankovic.
When I was sixteen in Chemistry class way back yonder, I wrote a parody of Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock, called Ode to a Commode. It was written in the same style, different topic, but it was essentially a parody of a parody. “Oh, thou unheralded porcelain chair, nestled there in tiled lair….” I thought it was clever, but it is now lost forever.
It is a lazy writer’s device but may be the sincerest form of flattery in many ways. It does take some creativity to execute. Maybe the HSP sense of subtlety helps here.
Puns are great word puzzles that intelligent people like to play with groanable results. The greater the groan, the greater the achievement. It is wordplay that exploits and teases out the multiplicity of meaning that words often have and creates a humorous side effect.
They are derived in multiple ways, by using homophonic words (similar sound different meanings) within a phrase, homographic words (words that are spelled the same but have different meanings), or homonymic (words that share the same spelling and sound). The fun never stops as clever stylists mix and match and dig for the best or worst puns. George Carlin was a master at this, and on the visual side, so was Gary Larsen of the Far Side comics.
These devices are all interesting in their own right (write- pun?), make language colorful, and aid in communicating nuanced and emotional language. They are not just for writing but are useful in everyday speech.
What type of mind is required to excel with these devices? I believe an observant mind, thoughtful and deep, one that can associate word meanings with feelings and emotions. A mind that can draw on memory to help create these word associations. A mind like HSPs possess.
What type of other literary devices do you use or believe would be commonly used by HSPs to describe their world?
Please share your thoughts in the comment section.
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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.