One of the things that often shows up on lists of HSP characteristics is saying yes to things you don’t actually want to do. My theory is that we go into instant overwhelm when faced with a choice between displeasing ourselves or displeasing another person. Saying yes becomes a panic-stricken release valve to resolve the immediate stress. We feel good about ourselves, and the other person is also happy. Until we have to fulfill, or renege on, our promises, that is.
If you have a lot of trouble with this, here are a couple of videos you may find useful. The first one encourages us, among other things, to take a page from the introvert book (even if you’re an extrovert), and make our default answer “I’ll think about it,” rather than “yes.”
I’m paying close attention to my reactions and their progressions now that I know I’m a high sensory processor. Looking back, I’ve had a number of insights throughout my life that addressed one or another aspect of being HSP, though I didn’t know that at the time. These insights often had tremendous impact when I first realized them, but after awhile I stopped believing in them, because I was still trying to be something I’m not, and they felt like excuses, or in some other way were overruled by a concept of “normal” that never had, and never could, fit me.
One of these brilliant flashes was about the way boundaries and focus are two different views of the same thing. You can look at what you are attending to, or what you aren’t attending to, but either way, there’s a line between them, which is the important part.
This next video, Why Smart People Underperform And What To Do About It, discusses that. The boundaried goal-setting particularly attracted my attention (HSP list-love, no doubt).
I’m feeling much more centered in my understanding of myself these days, though I have a lot of unanswered questions. Financially, I’m squeaking by, but often feel there aren’t enough hours in the week – and it’s a 30-hour week! So what’s the problem? Is the work, though vastly more meaningful and reflective of my values than most of the jobs I’ve had, still not close enough to my passion to hold my interest?
I might be able to answer that question better if I had a clue about what my passion is. I don’t. Or at least, not a decisive one.
According to Marianne Cantwell of Free Range Humans, we all have one talent that’s so natural to us, we may have difficulty recognizing it in ourself. She recommends asking others to tell us what it is (which is all very well for extroverts like herself, but not much help to introverts who don’t socialize very much). My interests are many and varied, and I have to take turns giving them my attention, because I can’t do them all at once. I’ve tried to find one uniting factor in them that might illuminate the essence of me, but so far, obsessive pattern-searcher though I may be (could that be it?), I haven’t found one.
Barrie Jaeger, in her book Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person, divides work into categories: “drudgery” (needs no explanation), “craft” (aligns with your values and/or practical needs, but you wouldn’t do it, or at least not as much, if you weren’t getting paid – describes my current job), and “calling,” which seems to be the fulfillment of the same core ability/inclination that Cantwell talks about.
So maybe my struggles with my job are a matter of insufficient “calling” content? But then again, maybe it has nothing to do with that, but is more about understanding and managing my HSP energy cycles and reaction to stimuli.
One thing that’s become obvious is that my stress level over an unpleasant stimulus can go from zero to unbearable in a matter of seconds. This is particularly noticeable with noise, temperature, and bad air. I’ve learned to jump up immediately as soon as I notice discomfort, and do whatever I can to reduce it, because in about 30 seconds, it’s going to be a PROBLEM. This causes a lot of interruptions to my HSP deep engagement, which is pretty jarring in itself, but it’s worse if I wait until it’s bothering me a LOT.
I’m slowly building my HSP survival kit. I’ve got quite a collection of ambient and nature noise mp3s, which can really help my mood while blocking out minor and distant noise. I use foam earplugs for near and intrusive noise, but they aren’t really up to the job. If anyone can recommend a better sound elimination tool that’s cheap (under $20), portable and comfortable, I’m all ears :)
I’ve also learned to keep no-prep food on hand – fruit, yogurt, sunflower seeds, hard boiled eggs, carrots, even beverages can take the edge off my hunger. I enjoy cooking a whole lot more if I eat something small first, so I don’t feel rushed to get the meal made NOW.
I’ve started discussing some of the new understandings I’ve reached about myself in a small, but public way. I don’t try to explain what it means to be an HSP – that’s a big topic. But I do say outloud that working 30 hours a week seems like a lot to me, because I know I’m not the only one, and someone out there who never heard of high sensory processing sensitivity needs to hear that from a person who is unapologetic about it.
That was a really HSP thing to say, wasn’t it :)