Quiet Revisited

The cover of the book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan CainJenna, my comrade in bloggery over at The Wishing Well, just published a post about Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. To my great surprise, her reaction to it was very different from mine. Since I had recommended it to her enthusiastically, I started out writing a reply in a comment, but it became way too long, so I’m publishing it here.

Wow, did we read the same book? Before I read Quiet, it had literally never crossed my mind that I was an introvert, much less an HSP (which Elaine Aron believes Susan Cain also is). I thought I was an extrovert inhibited by a tendency to isolate. I defended this, extolling the joys of solitude, as I still do. However, before I read Quiet, those joys were seriously undermined by my secret fear that solitude was an unhealthy indulgence, an escape from my shameful inability to interact “normally.” Whether it was my failure to produce extroverted bubble and bounce on command, or my persistent inclination towards behavior I had been taught was dysfunctional, I was coming up short no matter what I did. Continue reading

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Sounds of Silence

The heads of two giraffes standing close together but looking away from each other against a leafy background of treesThe irony of this warning against the perils of earbuds was too perfect to keep to myself. Certainly pouring sound in to excess has its risks. But for some of us, ear buds are the bulwark that shuts sound out. I live in my ear buds, waking, and often sleeping – on the street, in the store, on the bus, and even in my own living room. Every day, I am profoundly grateful for the refuge they provide me from a cacophonous world.

I still use the same pair of Panasonic ear buds I reviewed last fall. It’s been almost a year since I bought them, and they are going strong, despite heavy use every day, and many nights. I use them to listen to what I want to hear, but even more as armor against marauding noise that raids my private brain to obliterate my concentration. Why isn’t that a crime??

I have discovered a silent etiquette of ear buds. Putting them in can cause fellow bus riders sitting nearby to tone things down a notch, without my ever having to look their way or say a word. It’s funny how this works with people who probably would not respond well to a frown or a verbal complaint. Are they even conscious of their adjustment, or do they just react automatically because they know what it means when they put in their ear buds?

My perception of walking around in ear buds has changed radically since it first became common. I used to think people who did that were rudely disassociated from the common experience. Examining that viewpoint with more consciousness, I see it’s based on a rather extrovert-centric assumption that all people should always be ready for engagement with others at all times and in all places. Did I ever believe that? Well, if I did, I’m over it now!

 Silence is the sleep that nourishes wisdom.
Francis Bacon

Hear No Evil

Learning that I wasn’t the only noise sensitive person in the world inspired me to be a lot more proactive about avoiding stressful noise. I decided it was time for ear muffs.

Black furry ear muffs with caption - No, silly, not these. If you’re in a place with cold winters, that may conjure up fluffy images, but it turns out there is another kind. Sound reducing ear muffs are made for people who work with loud equipment, or shoot guns for fun, which explains why I never heard of them until I started reading survival tips from introverts and HSPs.
Continue reading

The Up Side of Reactivity

About 10 years ago I worked for a recruiter who stratified job candidates into “rockstars” and “b-players.” As I processed their resumés, I soon learned that distinction was more about appearances than skills.

But a polished persona wasn’t the only unwritten qualification. It was my responsibility to send out postcards to applicants’ references, asking them to rate their ex-employee on a laundry list of characteristics. “Stress resilience” was on that list. The moment I read it, I knew I’d found words for just what it was that I didn’t have much of.

Fast-forward 9 years, which I spent trying (not very successfully) to hide that “deficit” from bosses. Then I discovered I was an HSP. Continue reading

1 Step Forward, 2 Steps Back: HSP Kudos and Call-Outs

HSPs, attend. First we have this outrageously negative and misinformed post about sensitivity from a life coach and “mental health administrator,” whatever that may be. Scary to think she might be “administering” the mental health of HSPs by taking their money and telling them they aren’t trying hard enough to “get over” their obnoxious sensitivity. Hint: You can leave comments. I suggest being kind, factual and constructive, since she was none of these.

Don’t listen to bad-mouthing! You are beautiful!

Don’t listen to bad-mouthing! You are beautiful!!


Also, the Wikipedia entry on sensitivity has lately been labelled as a “fringe theory.” Admittedly, the article was not as thorough as it could’ve been, and I can only applaud Wikipedia’s general intention to improve the quality of psychology-related entries, but have they considered what the effect might be on a given population to have a category they identify with suddenly labelled “fringe”? The person who applied the designation admitted he didn’t have the time to follow up, which strikes me as highly reprehensible. I mean you, Genandrar!

Most of the criticisms of the article as it was in April, when the “fringe theories” tag was applied, have now been addressed, and I would suggest that it is past time for Wikipedia to remove that tag from the HSP entry. I would also suggest they develop a more sensitive way to improve psychology entries without dissing people. And what, pray tell, is “appropriate  weight to the mainstream view” (emphasis all mine)? With that kind of thinking, kiss innovation goodbye.

Inhale… aaaaaannnnd exhaaaale.
The universe is vast. Annoying humans are transitory.


By now, you are probably ready for this delightful post, chockful of suggestions for HSPs that are actually insightful and useful (take note, Faydra Rector):

When You Need Stillness

Love her image of the mind as a ping-pong table. I was just thinking, “this woman has got to be an HSP,” when she said she was. I do so enjoy being right :)

And on the introvert side, we have another charming post:

12 Problems Only Introverts Understand

It gives me hope that one day we might enjoy Friday dialogues like this one:

What are you doing this weekend?

I’m going to stay inside completely.

Oh, that sounds wonderful, I’m so jealous. I have to go to a party.

Oh, you poor thing. Take a hot bath and don’t call me after.


The Black Hole of Depression

scream faceRecently, a fellow HSP blogger raised the question of whether knowing one is an HSP might make depression a little easier to handle. In other words, could knowing you are an HSP help you to take a step back and become conscious of your own reactions and needs, instead of automatically acting them out? Continue reading

Alone at Christmas, Thank God

This post is for the casual acquaintance who asks about my Christmas plans. You know the one I mean. The one who looks sympathetic when I say I’ll be spending Christmas alone, and disbelieving when I say I like it that way.

Here’s what Christmas looks like to me. Continue reading