Unmasking a High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person: Customs, Borders and Boundaries

In this blog post we’re going to delve into the topic of Boundaries for HSPs by looking at;

  • how HSPs, on a cultural level, have been erroneously taught to relate to boundaries, 
  • why they’re important,
  • how to identify what aspects of life can cross our boundaries,
  • and, how to set up healthy boundaries that support you.

In the last blog post we looked at the amazing tool available to HSPs, called “Reframing”. We looked at what it is, why it’s beneficial to use this tool, and how to use the tool of reframing. The title of that post was “The Reframing Ferry Ride”.

And after my four hour ferry ride out of a jungle, and then a seven hour bus ride, I find myself standing in a Customs line at the airport in Managua, Nicaragua pondering the reasons why we, as a human species, have set up so many boundaries and borders – on land, in the sea and in our skies. Because part of me recognizes that these are collectively agreed upon constructs that we believe we’ve needed in order to function.

But another part of me recognizes that on another level, these constructs aren’t serving us anymore. Transboundary pollution is real and has been happening under the radar of our collective consciousness for quite some time.

And as the human population grows and our natural resources shrink, it’s becoming more apparent that these current constructs won’t hold up in the future. A more natural, indigenous way of “being” where we’re spiritually connected to our environment just as the indigenous peoples of our planet have always been - will not be an option, as we currently “think” it is; it will be our only choice.

But I digress.

On a personal level, when it comes to the word “boundaries”, this has been something I’ve never given much thought to. Much like how our world culture operates in terms of how our values, thoughts and beliefs are affecting our global environment. And I’d like to compare how we, as HSPs, have been taught to look at and relate to boundaries. Because it’s similar to the way our current culture operates. 

For instance, an oil spill is a good example of a crossed boundary (it affects the life in our oceans which many people depend on for food, as well as the beaches of different countries). In this example we can see the oil spill is basically a symptom of how we, in our current culture, currently go about things.

Because after the oil spill (crossed boundary) has occurred, it’s a matter of either not recognizing it happened, and if we do recognize it responding usually by covering it up (denying or ignoring it), or cleaning up what we can, (I sort of understand what I did there, it wasn’t right and I’ll try not to do it again), while at the same time ignoring the affected parties (should I make a big deal of it and formally apologize? And if so, what’s that going to cost me?), then most likely not apologizing, making reparations and changing the behavior that caused that oil spill (recognizing a belief system that didn’t respect a boundary, and then working on changing to a belief system that supports the environment - and in this case “you” are the environment).

And this has been the norm. So it isn't surprising why many people, not just HSP's, struggle with boundaries.

I bring this up because it’s important to note that this has been the norm and we learn to operate, and then do operate, according to cultural norms. And for HSPs it’s important to recognize that the cultural norm for boundaries, when we apply it to our personal lives, doesn’t work for us. We have to actually create and design our own individual culture, made up of boundaries, that supports and is supportive of us. A way of being that supports our “being”.

And this is where the good news comes in! Because I’ve been learning this is totally doable.

I’ve been learning how when we look at boundaries from a spiritual perspective - one that's connected to the natural world, how we can see how our HSP trait, (when we understand how our trait works for us), can both guide us towards a life-fulfilling a purpose, as well as allow us to create a supportive environment for ourselves that allows for incredible growth.

I’ll explain by starting with the perspective of a natural, living, organic being. Which is what we are - what all humans are. HSPs are simply a different type of species of humans. Our nervous system is more highly developed than the rest of the population and HSPs comprise approximately 15-20% of the population.

Let’s drop our anchor here for a minute to look at HSP’s from the perspective of biology.

"A genus is a taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms in biology. In the hierarchy of biological classification, genus comes above species and below family". (Wikipedia)

So, if humans are categorized into the homo genus, then HSPs would be a specific “species” of human. Now, I’m not trying to create a scientific classification here, I’m merely trying to illustrate a point.

Because while HSPs belong to the human “family”, we have a specific purpose to fulfill, just as the other 65-75% of the population does.

Now let's lift our anchor and start sailing again. Because I’d like to express what I’ve been learning about boundaries by comparing them to a similar living being that also lives and serves an important function in and on our beautiful, natural planet.

If we look at ourselves from the standpoint of a living, organic being, as part of this natural world, it'll help us shift our perspective from one of "Why am I different - because I don't want to be", to one that opens doors of gratitude, curiosity and wonder, more like - "Wow! I'm an amazing living being!"

Let's look at a coral reef, the rainforest of the sea, a living organism, comprised of many separate yet connected organisms (corals), that serves an important function and operates similarly to an HSP; it also serves as a naturally occurring boundary. HSP's have a lot in common with coral reefs.

Coral reefs provide a buffer, protecting our coasts from waves, storms, and floods. Corals form barriers to protect the shoreline from waves and storms. The coral reef structure buffers shorelines against waves, storms and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage, and erosion.1

Coral reefs also provide homes to incredible amounts of life that support a healthy, global environment. Coral reefs are also very responsive to their environment. An increase in temperature of only 2 degrees has a huge impact on a coral reef. 

And this is where HSPs have a lot in common with coral reefs.

We have access to our natural senses to a higher degree, due to a highly developed nervous system; more developed than the majority of the population. And when we look at our senses from this perspective we can recognize that in order for them to operate in a healthy, productive way - they require attention, feeding, care and a supportive environment (which includes supportive, balanced relationships).

So similar to a certain type of coral (a specific sense you have), which makes up a coral reef (you're whole being), this picture could represent your sense of smell and/or taste. Many HPSs have incredibly accurate taste buds, and are excellent wine tasters and chefs. They're able to discern a multitude of spices at once, and recognize the layers of complexity with respect to flavours and textures.

 Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

This might be your sense of hearing. Many HSPs have acute hearing and are gifted musicians, creating a buffet of alternating chords and sounds that make us feel; enlivened, melancholy, and passionate - sometimes all at once, and sometimes they take us on a journey, riding these waves of feelings. 

 Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

This might be your sense of sight. Many HSPs are gifted artists, evoking thoughts and emotions through visual art that are sometimes both symbiotic and separate at the same time, allowing us to appreciate the conflicting emotions it brings up for us, in that we can experience both at the same time. And some HSPs are gifted computer programmers, able to pick out patterns easily.

 Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

This might be your your sense of feeling. Many HSPs are gifted with the ability to pick up on energies; the energies of plants, animals, individuals and collectives of plants, animals and individuals. A good example of this is a Horse Whisperer, who use their gifts to create a relationship with the horse that allows them to empower the horse, while at the same time creating a productive, healthy, symbiotic relationship with the horse - without using force.

 Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

And so on, with all of your senses. Many of which haven't been "labelled" yet, in my opinion. And each of these senses (or corals) contribute to the whole, forming a coral reef; just as all of your senses contribute to your whole being. Like in this picture - a picture of the Great Barrier Reef.

 Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

And what's incredibly cool is that every HSP is unique, just like each coral in a coral reef is unique. Some HSPs experience the sense complexities of sight and smell, but not feeling, some may only experience the complexities of taste. And some HSP's are also HSP/HSS, as I am, and are more curious and willing to seek unique experiences to learn, grow and understand.

So you can see how important it is for us to recognize and understand that it's up to us to ensure our whole being is being supported by our environment; and our environment is comprised of air, food, water, plant and animal life, and other humans.

For HSPs, when we aren't aware of how our HSP Trait works for us, which can then help us begin taking care of our senses - we can begin feeling stressed, much like this picture where the coral's environment is causing it stress. We can clearly see here that global warming is causing the temperature of the water to rise, which is causing the coral reef to react by withdrawing its sensing abilities (which are connected to its feeding habits), which causes the coral reef to starve, (which shows itself to us by the bleaching), and to then to die - no longer a healthy, contributing organism to a healthy planet.

 Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

So if we compare our natural bodies to a coral reef we can understand how important our environment is, and how our senses react to our environment, and affect our well-being. How we, as HSPs, need to look at what factors are affecting our senses and how this can or is causing us stress.

Because similar to a coral reef, HSPs respond to their environment. If an HSPs environment is stressed, there will be stress responses, ways our bodies and minds will alert us that something is wrong - something needs to be adjusted or changed.

And when we're experiencing symptoms that are prolonged, that we either don't consciously recognize, or ignore, there will be stress responses, ways our bodies and minds will alert us that something is wrong.  Words we use to describe this can be;

  • depression,
  • sleeplessness,
  • anxiety,
  • feeling isolated,
  • and feeling overwhelmed,

to name a few.

But basically, our system is overloaded and responding to stress. And what we need to do next is figure out the ways we can create a healthy environment for ourselves.

How we do this falls into a few different categories;

  • how we care for our bodies,
  • how we care for our minds,
  • how we support ourselves financially,
  • what we spend our time on or doing,
  • how much time and energy we give to relationships,
  • who we have a relationship with, and
  • what type of relationship we have with ourselves.

Because sometimes we can unknowingly be crossing our own boundaries by not understanding, recognizing, or listening to what's supportive and healthy for us.

And sometimes other people are crossing our boundaries. As an aside, I've noticed my body sometimes communicates this to me. For instance, I've gotten a pain in my neck or butt when it feels to me like someone is literally being a pain in my neck or butt. Then I need to figure out "who" that person is, which doesn't take too long, and how I want to go about dealing with both the physical symptom and the perceived "problem" person. Because, as I've learned, "problems" aren't a problem, they're simply an opportunity to grow. And in many cases I've found I haven't been clear about my own boundaries with others, so they aren't clear and subsequently cross one of my boundaries.

Having unclear boundaries is another way we cross our own boundaries and also where we can experience symptoms like this;

  • unhealthy eating and/or drinking habits,
  • unhealthy relationships,
  • a schedule that doesn't allow for us to decompress (and so we're constantly overstimulated resulting in stress symptoms),
  • a lifestyle that doesn't allow us time to process,
  • a lifestyle that doesn't allow for daily exercise,
  • an unhealthy work/family/fun/you balance.

And these are the ways we can cross our own boundaries by having unclear boundaries.

Now here's the important point - to know what doesn't work for us that's been the cause of the stress symptom(s) we're experiencing. Because most of us have been operating from a "norm" that just isn't meant for us. A non-HSPs norm is at best uncomfortable for an HSP, and at worst, a disaster.

But if you have nothing to compare it to, it can be incredibly difficult to understand what the heck it means to "have healthy boundaries", or what that looks like when applied to our own lives.

I didn't grow up in a family where I learned healthy boundaries, or in a culture that demonstrates healthy boundaries, so I didn't learn what they looked or felt like. So I had no idea what the word "boundaries" meant in terms of providing myself with a healthy environment.

Which is what I began learning about when I began coordinating and facilitating HSP Discussion Groups, and why I created HSP Trait Transformation™.

Because I began learning how to play with the element of time, energy and boundaries; in terms of who and what I give my energy to, the different levels of energy I can choose to give any given situation, person or group of people, or indeed if I'm going to allow my energy to be expended at all, and how to do this while at the same time creating a healthy environment for myself - with one of my focuses being on the element of "time" itself.

Because HSP Trait Transformation™ Discussion Groups have a "time" element to them - no one person gets to "hog the stage" so to speak. There's a structure in place to ensure that everyone has an equal amount of time.

And this is a great way for HSPs to learn about healthy boundaries, because oftentimes we "feel" the pull from others who want, or appear to need, our time. And they "hog the stage". And, like I said, sometimes we can be doing this to ourselves, without understanding that we're doing this. And when it comes to someone else "hogging the stage" we need to ask ourselves - are they? Or, are we allowing them to - because we've unknowingly allowed them to "cross a boundary"?

Because if we aren't coming from a place of understanding what a healthy boundary looks and feels like for us - how are we going to be able to adequately assess this and begin looking at ways to create and develop healthy boundaries that work for us in our own lives? Based on what I've noticed so far, most of us aren't taught how to do this, and we haven't had a positive role model.

And this is why we first need to experience what an organic, natural, balanced, give and take exchange of energy looks and feels like. We see it in nature all the time, but in order for HSPs to creatively design their own lives in a way that's supportive and healthy for us; we first need to experience a taste of it. And only then do we have something to accurately measure with and against what we've experienced previously, which can then allow us to begin structuring and creating our lives in a way that's supportive for us.

Another way we learn about boundaries in HSP Trait Transformation™ is by rotating the roles of facilitator and timekeeper. In this way we detach from our "role" and allow someone else to take the responsibility of that role. We begin to appreciate what it's like to receive the gift of others taking the responsibility of that role for us, just as we felt what it was like to hold that responsibility for the group when it was our turn. We begin experiencing what it feels like to be a part of a "balanced environment".

Going through these exercises in HSP Trait Transformation™ allows us, in our own time, to begin recognizing when we're taking on too much responsibility for others in our own lives, in our relationships and in our jobs, where we're doing the majority of the heavy lifting. So experiencing the difference in a safe environment with the same group of people allows us to process this information in a way that's both interesting and refreshing.

These are only a few examples of what and how we learn about boundaries in HSP Trait Transformation™, but you get the general idea. 

I have to say, I'm incredibly thankful for what I've learned so far, and what I continue to learn. Because it's been helping me apply what I've been learning, in small steps, in my everyday life, in ways that allow me to grow into "doing" and "being" in a way that's supportive of my HSP Trait and of my whole being. A way that allows me to honour myself and others, and a way to become more spiritually connected to this multiverse we call Life.

And it will look and feel differently for each HSP, depending on;

  • where they are in their own understandings and journey of how their HSP Trait works for them,
  • to what degree they have the HSP Trait,
  • and if they grew up in a supportive environment.

It’s an amazing journey of self-discovery and transformation. Of understanding and appreciating how incredibly complex and creative we are. And why not?

Because when we realize that we are indeed, both a product and a part of the natural world; just like a coral reef - then our ability to create a thriving environment for ourselves means we can set our sails for whatever beautiful, wild, mysterious destination we choose.

 Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

Screenshot taken from movie "Chasing Coral" on Netflix

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post as much as I have in creating it, and as always I love hearing your comments and questions.

In the meantime, the line has been moving and I’ve cleared customs and am now sitting in my seat as the plane begins to lift off. We’ll be airborne soon. Which reminds me of flying and in my dreams I’ve flown, both with wings and without. So the next blog post we’re going to delve into "Flying, Dreams and States of Consciousness".