Negative Emotions Are Key to Well-Being

Hah, I knew it! In this Scientific American article, a psychotherapist discusses the benefits of “negative” emotions, and the risks of repressing them. Maybe we should stop calling them “negative” and instead refer to them as transformative. What’s that you say – “transformative” could apply to all emotions? Exactly.

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Stages

My life has been in crisis for the past 2 – or is it 3? – weeks. Time is elongated, and the last time things were “normal” seems like a long, long time ago.

I knew my animal companions were getting on in years, and could not live forever, but I shoved that awareness to the back of my mind, because I couldn’t conceive of how to live with losing them. It’s been getting harder to ignore since a scare earlier this year, and now it may be unexpectedly upon me. And I still don’t know how.

Caretaking animals is not so very different from caretaking humans. Sometimes, all you can do is keep them clean and warm and dry, but it’s worth doing. After a day at the vet with one cat, I came home to find another hiding under the bed. It’s been almost 36 hours since she would eat anything, and she is a walking (or rather, stumbling) skeleton already. There is nothing left to do for her if she won’t eat. Continue reading

Unabated Breath

A cartoon of lungs, with the words "sometmes it's OK if the only thing you did today was breathe."This cartoon by Yumi Sakugawa caught my attention for two reasons. First, it affirms my introvert/HSP/recovering depressive need for downtime.

But the second reason is something I’ve been wrestling with for several weeks now. I’ve become aware that a lot of my abdominal muscles live in a constant state of contraction. This is so automatic that I’m utterly unconscious of it most of the time. Even when I turn my attention to those muscles, it’s hard to figure out how to relax them. And the minute I start thinking about something else, they revert to their habitual contraction again.

The contracting is complex. There are at least three different areas involved, and if I try to relax them in the wrong order, the first group contracts again when I relax the second.

One set of muscles is around my waistline, and sucks my abdomen in under my diaphragm. You know, into the space where air is supposed to go when you breathe deeply? I have often noticed that I had trouble taking deep breaths during exercise or yoga. Now I realize it was because I was fighting against the inflexible girdle of my own muscles. What impact has constant under-oxygenation for all those decades had on my physical and mental health?? Continue reading

A Sensitive Subject

That would be me. Sensitive: The Untold Story was fine. I would buy it and show it to people, which I think is what it’s for. I am still processing it (naturally!) and will have more to say about it later.

Photo of an inspirational wall plaque with the message "Don't let anyone EVER dull your sparkle."As for the premiere, nobody paid any attention to the dress code, as far as I could see. Guests arrived in everything from jeans to red carpet attire. I dressed for comfort more than display, and was glad I did. Several times during the discussion that followed the film, Elaine Aron advised HSPs to “do what you need to do” to take care of yourself, regardless of what people say, so that’s all good.

I’m still disgruntled that we were told how to dress. A reminder not to wear scents would’ve been a lot more useful. I had to change my seat due to a woman doused in so much perfume that it gave me an instant headache from 4 rows away. And then I felt bad about doing so, because she was also there alone, looking uncomfortable, and I didn’t want her to feel rejected!

I surveyed the crowd and tried to determine if there was anything different about it. This was hampered by the fact that I don’t have much basis for comparison, as I avoid crowds assiduously. Maybe there was a little more automatic consideration of others. Conversations were animated, but not loud. And only a very small handful of people came alone. Other than that, I couldn’t really tell I was in a roomful of HSPs. I’ll have to work on my sensitividar.

I recognize my fear was exacerbated by being an HSP. I knew it while I was I writing my last post, but that didn’t reduce my anxiety one iota!

As someone who has benefited so greatly from Elaine Aron’s work, I felt I was not being entirely nice to raise class issues in that post. I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings. Yet, the issue is a valid one, so would it be fair to myself not to raise it, out of fear of offending or swimming against the tide? Fair vs. nice, always a challenge!

Ultimately, I let the critique stand, along with the fear, as an example of HSP thinking. Aron knows this thinking all too well, so I think she will understand. She is, after all, a psychologist!

There are a couple of other things going on with me lately that I haven’t written about yet due to the impending premiere. I’ll talk about them in upcoming posts.

Better Judgment

Judgment card from Goddess Tarot deck, showing Queen Gwenhwyfar extending a short sword above the head of a kneeling manEver since a youthful epiphany, during which it occurred to me that someone else’s internal experience might be notably different from my own, I have believed I had an above-average consciousness of that insight.

Lately, I’m not so sure. As I explore the 42 personality traits of the Clifton Strengths system, I become increasingly aware of just how broad and deep the variation in personal perception and reaction is. And the more aware of it I become, the more I realize just how judgmental I am. Too often, I assume everyone thinks and feels as I do, and if their behavior is not what I think should be consistent with that, I disapprove.

Why do I do this, I asked myself? After pondering, I came to see that judgment is a form of whistling in the dark. There’s probably a better way to make peace with the perpetual unknowability of everybody else’s private landscape, but I haven’t found it yet.

HSPs are often credited with a gift for perceptiveness. Well, maybe. There have been many occasions throughout my life when feelings and motivations that were glaringly obvious to me were completely invisible to others (sometimes even to the people who were having them).

Thought bubble with blurry words insideBut there have also been times when I was wildly, completely wrong about what was going on (like thinking I was an extrovert for the first 53 years of my life). Deep engagement may show us more, but it also means stronger reactions, and strong reactions are not necessarily a friend to accurate perception.

Maybe the intermittent nature of this gift is part of the problem. Because some people are transparent to me some of the time, it’s more threatening when someone isn’t.

But maybe it’s just my particular history that makes me nervous around people who are opaque. I saw what my family didn’t want to admit, so I was told I was crazy at regular intervals throughout my childhood. As a result, I’m never quite sure how much to trust my own perceptions.

That’s damned uncomfortable for me, but since I am, in fact, NOT 100% accurate in my perceptions (or even close) it keeps me humble (relatively), which probably makes me a more pleasant person to be around!

There’s another factor, which I’m becoming more conscious of lately. My preference to hang out with myself alone most of the time inevitably restricts the amount of feedback that is available to me about other people’s thoughts and feelings. Now that I have a better understanding of who I am most compatible with and why, maybe that will evolve over time.

I’ve had occasions lately to discover who my friends are (and aren’t), details of which I’ll save for another post. Maybe having more interactions with people who are demonstrably in my corner will one day make me braver in the face of those whose intentions are unknown.