Seeking and Acceptance
On Being Gifted
The Gifted Adult
Blessing or Curse?
Shyness & Introversion
On Personality Types
On Psychology, etc.
Counseling & Therapy
Choosing a Therapist
On Life, in General
Dreams & Wishes
Putting it All Together
A Journal, of Sorts
Dedications & Thanks
A Gallery of Links
Seeking, Finding and Accepting your HSP-ness
All content Copyright ©1995-2012 Peter Messerschmidt & Inner Reflections. All Rights Reserved.
Discovering, understanding and coming to terms with the idea that you're an HSP doesn't always happen overnight.
The description "Seeking and Acceptance" could perhaps be more accurately phrased as "From Seeking to Acceptance," since there were actually several phases to this particular part of my personal journey towards finding out "Who I Really Am." However, the process wasn't always linear in nature, and sometimes it felt like I was moving backwards, rather than forwards. How you get to the end point doesn't matter, so much as staying awake and open minded during your explorations.
The early stages of my journey-- when I first started exploring reasons why "I felt so different"-- happened long before I had any awareness of "High Sensitivity" as an innate trait. And it was actually as a result of my research on Gifted Adults that I first considered the possibility that "Sensitivity" might offer part of the explanation for why I had such difficulty feeling "normal" in the world.
In studying the connection between intelligence and introversion, I repeatedly came across studies showing that as person's IQ/intelligence went up, so did the likelihood that this person would display symptoms of heightened (or "Hyper") sensitivity. Similarly, I came across the phrase "hyperexcitability," which (in retrospect) seems remarkably similar to what is described as "overstimulation" in the context of HSPs.
Whereas this was interesting to me, I didn't pay too much attention to it, at the time. I felt like I had been offered a partial explanation, but no real answers on how it would affect my interaction with the world.
I had been "seeking," and now I had "found" an explanation and accounting for why my life seemed to have been dominated by a rather substantial number of difficulties-- difficulties that didn't always seem like "difficulties" to other people. As I read "The Highly Sensitive Person," I had a long series of "aha moments," as I repeatedly related to Dr. Aron's words-- almost as if she knew me as well as I did! Yet, I also had some rather mixed feelings.
Most of these mixed feelings centered around-- on one hand-- a great sense of relief and happiness that I had found a giant "puzzle piece" in my search for self-identity but-- on the other hand-- coming face to face with an increasingly irrefutable fact: I was a "Highly Sensitive MAN," perceived by many as the antithesis of the "social ideal" for the male gender.
Since I had already spent a fair amount of time "Looking for Myself," I also spent quite a while-- more than a year-- thinking about just how the HSP trait fit into my life. I didn't want to fall into the "trap" that catches many people: You discover a new "label/identity" that really seems to "fit" you, and you then embrace it as "the explanation for everything" (good and bad) in your life. I believe that if you "become your label," you are actually erecting a barrier between yourself and growth, rather than facilitating it. The HSP trait is merely a way to help us understand ourselves-- think of it as a piece of useful narrative about part of who we are-- not a self-identity.
For me, it became a matter of sorting out where "being an HSP" ended, and being an introvert began. And was the "Sensitivity" of Giftedness the same as the "Sensitivity" of being an HSP? And did the fact that I had once battled Avoidant Personality Disorder (AvPD) influence my thinking and self-diagnosis? Was I confusing being an HSP with general low self-esteem, embracing it as a way to "avoid" self-growth?
In retrospect, I think "acceptance" of the HSP-trait, and of being a Highly Sensitive Man (HSM), came more easily to me because I had already been through the process of "accepting" my Introversion and my Giftedness. As such, I understood that "HSP" and "HSM" were merely two more helpful explanations, and not some "definition" of how my life was going to be. I was still basically "me," but now I had more extensive information about just what "me" really meant.
Even so, "acceptance" wasn't just automatic. For a while, I was tempted to "ignore" what I had found; I was tempted to find ways to "treat" my sensitivity; I was tempted to "pretend" that I wasn't sensitive.
My motivation for "keeping it quiet" for a while was the noisy "stereotypical feedback" from society: Phrases such as "Sensitive men never get ahead, and are used and walked all over," and "Women want real men, and have no respect for sensitive men." I figured it would be less painful to just continue "faking it," than to admit to something that might leave me the butt of jokes-- and "dateless"-- for all eternity.
However, my negative perceptions were temporary as I was able to draw on some of my past research and knowledge to "get over myself" and instead find the ability to make peace with-- and even embrace-- being a male HSP. I think the two KEY factors that lead me to acceptance were, first, re-reading C.G.Jung's thoughts on "falsification of type" and the mental health risk associated with not being "true to yourself;" and second, reading "What You Can Change & What You Can't" by Martin Seligman, Ph.D. Whether I liked it, or not, an "HSP-Male" or "HSM" was what I "was"-- and I could either ignore it and be unhappy, or try to make the most of it. I opted for the latter, and am happy to say it was the right choice.
The Highly Sensitive Person is a "MUST read" for anyone who believes they are-- or might be-- an HSP.
I also found "What You Can Change & What You Can't" to be a very useful source of information.