Unmasking A High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person: Chapter One - The Airport
So we’re continuing on with the D.O.E.S., an acronym for:
- Depth of Processing,
- Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness, and
- Sensory Sensitivity
And exploring what I’ve been learning about how it relates to my HSP/HSS Trait. To read the previous blog post click here. Next, we’re moving on to Overstimulation.
As a side note, while we’re on this portion of D.O.E.S. I’ve noticed, within various HSP communities, there’s an urge to lump those who are HSP/HSS as “only” experiencing HSS in relation to Overstimulation.
Saying this is like saying, “Everyone with blond hair loves licorice,” – it just isn’t so. Those who have HSP/HSS have an added layer that, just like the HSP Trait, has both its pros and its cons in each of the D.O.E.S. areas. It’s an added layer of complexity. Not more difficult, or less difficult, nor better, or worse.
And, as always, if you have similar experiences or tips you’d like to share feel free to share in the comments.
Do you find yourself exhausted when around too many people?
For this one I’d have to say yes. Again I lean more towards introversion so I renew and re-power by spending time on my own. Extroverts are the opposite, they renew and re-power by spending time around people, and then there are Ambiverts who fall in the middle of the continuum (between introversion and extroversion).
For me people are basically an energy source, (just as nature and animals are), and the emotional and psychological state of both the individual as well as collective (for me the word “collective” can refer to either a small group of people, or a community of people, or a group of people on a continent, or humanity as a whole), means I pick up on the kind of energy they’re emitting, and/or projecting, and/or pulling and/or pushing, both consciously and unconsciously.
In some instances, I can even be picking up on energy subconsciously, meaning I’m not consciously aware I’m picking up on this energy, but I’ve also learned that the degree to which I pick up on energy subconsciously is directly related to “triggering”. More about that in a bit.
I’ve noticed there’s a difference between “emitting” which is a gentler type of energy, versus projecting, pulling and/or pushing, and of course there’s varying degrees of projecting, pulling or pushing, and sometimes it can be a combination of these.
But trying to describe how I experience energy is like trying to describe something we haven’t invented words for. For instance, the Inuit people have fifty words to describe “snow”. I could create a dictionary to describe the different types of energy I’m familiar with, but basically I realize I’ve created my own internal way to quickly assemble energy/information.
The fact is, for me, energy is much more complex than what the English language and current societal and scientific norms (that I’ve encountered so far) allow for. And it’s actually much more complex than the word “energy” encompasses. It’s like saying there’s only black and white, when really there are thousands of shades of black, white and greys.
Anyways, what I’ve learned is that because my nervous system is highly tuned and picks up on a lot I’m naturally going to pick up on all this emitting, projecting, pulling and/or pushing. It isn’t a matter of “turning it off” or “tuning it out”, because it isn’t possible. I’m wired this way.
And it isn’t a matter of not caring or having compassion for others’ energy. It’s a matter of understanding the way I am, how I experience people and their energy, and what benefits me.
So it’s a matter of making an active choice on what I want to “focus” on and understanding that for me staying grounded and balanced is important. And this means prudent planning, allowing myself time to “decompress” and being mindful of how any certain energy is affecting me.
For example, while walking through the airport and before boarding the plane I’m on I experienced; the harsh fluorescent lighting while walking, (the lighting feels as if it’s biting my eyes), the overpowering smells wafting out from the various stores, my nostrils and system assaulted as I walk by the store hosting duty free perfumes, the rank smell of oily residue of fast food as I pass by a restaurant, the various smells and energies of the people I pass by when walking to the gate, and then the energy of the people standing in line with me to board the plane.
And this is what I would refer to as a relatively calm experience in relation to my environment (in terms of a public space).
Now this seems somewhat negative in terms of how my system is reacting to this environment. That doesn’t mean I’m having a negative experience. It’s simply information I can use to understand what I’m noticing, how it’s impacting me and then deciding how I want to deal with this information in a way that benefits me.
Because as much as walking through an airport isn’t necessarily an “enjoyable” experience for me, I also realize that when I’m in an environment that works well with my system, I flourish – I experience the benefits of that environment in a way that positively benefits me, more so than approximately 80% of the rest of the population.
Now, before I learned I was HSP/HSS I wouldn’t have had the understanding that these experiences (like walking through an airport), are within the realm of what, energetically, can have an impact on a person. I myself would’ve only described it as “catching a plane,” and I wouldn’t have realized the amount of energy my system was expending noticing everything I noticed. And “jet lagged” would’ve been how I would’ve described how I felt after landing.
But now I realize my understanding of “catching a plane” and “jet lagged” is much different than about 80% of the rest of the human population. Now I pay more attention to what I am picking up on, what I notice and what I want to focus on. Why?
Because it’s an important way for me to identify what’s happening for me and then honour myself by frequently checking in on my own energy, my body and my emotions, and adjusting what I can to help myself. Doing this also means I give myself the appropriate amount of downtime to process this information and re-energize; this is a process and for me is challenging because it requires me to understand and accept the majority of people don’t experience the world and other people’s energy the way I do - some with the HSP Trait may not even relate, we’re all different.
But what’s most empowering about what I’ve learned is; I can “choose”.
This, at first, was a foreign concept to me. Because most HSP’s are natural healers in one respect or another, and having the trait means our “normal” is having empathy for others, so the next logical step is thinking it’s our responsibility to “help”. Seems like a leap right?
But from what I’ve noticed and have been learning is; the majority of HSP’s have been raised in a family dynamic where others (who don’t have the HSP Trait) naturally “pull” at us, wanting attention, help, healing, etc., and as children we either knew or felt it was necessary to provide this in order to survive. It was part of the family dynamic. Another important factor to take into consider is the "conformity" mentality prevalent in Western culture.
Of course every person’s upbringing is different, but based on current stats it’s more likely an HSP grew up in an unhealthy home environment (in terms of understanding and being taught how to honour and work with their trait so it positively benefits both themselves and the people around them); the degrees will be varying though.
Understanding this has also been helping me in my day-to-day life, in that based on my past experiences I can see what my triggers are. Keeping in mind, what an HSP or HSP/HSS person defines as a "trigger" may (or may not) be different than someone who doesn't have the HSP or HSP/HSS Trait.
For example, when I was about nine years old I was downhill skiing with my Dad and siblings. This was actually an out-of-the-ordinary experience. Usually we’d travel to the ski hill together and once there, go off on our own to ski. I was usually skiing blue or black diamond runs on my own. But on this particular rare occasion we were all skiing together down a blue run.
At the top of the hill there was a small incline, before a set of small moguls. The incline was very small. As we were standing there, before descending, my Dad told me to go first. And I froze. I couldn’t. This ‘freezing’ hadn’t happened to me before and hasn’t happened since. But now I realize I was overwhelmed. That’s the feeling I remember. My Dad’s confused expression and impatient, “Go!” statements to me only overwhelmed me more. “I can’t”, was all I could muster as a response. After a few minutes my Dad pushed me down the small incline and I skied down it no problem.
But what I realize now is that his skiing with me acted like a trigger because it wasn't the norm, and on top of that I was picking up on his energy, his impatience (which was how he was feeling), which caused me to feel anxious about not being able to perform to his standards in the timeframe he wanted.
Now you’d expect this to be something I’d view as negative, but I don’t. There’s a lot of good information in this experience. Information I can dig into and use to my advantage in future.
For me it’s important to acknowledge events like this. Not that there’s a need to live in the past, because there isn’t, but there is a need to acknowledge what part my upbringing has had in my current relationship with myself.
And to take it further, in my case, as a child I believed it was necessary to try excel, and to do everything I possibly could to help make a situation “better” in whatever way I could. My job is to acknowledge that this expectation was placed on me without my consent, in relation to the domestic violence I witnessed regularly. It wasn’t an option to fall apart or give up or simply “not” do anything to help make the situation better in whatever way I could. And this is how my trait helped me to survive. So I needed my trait.
But at the same time my trait was used against me, in that I didn’t know I had a choice. That I could simply “not” do anything to help make someone else’s situation better and instead focus my energy elsewhere. Coming to this realization has been a huge revelation for me. And continues to be. It’s also a challenge, because as I change how I identify with and treat myself I’m also letting others know what’s acceptable for me by expressing my feelings. Telling them how I’m feeling, which, unless I felt almost forced to, I haven’t done a lot of in the past.
And I’ve decided to do this, enter this foreign territory, with the understanding that some people will be able to accept and adapt to these changes (within reason and with the understanding that my intention isn’t to try to control anyone by expressing my feelings) and some won’t, but either way; by making these changes I open the door to a new way of being, that, while foreign to me, is also highly beneficial for my well-being.
And this is ground-breaking for me. Based on my observations, a lot of HSP’s struggle with putting themselves first. Because I was taught that in order to survive I need to give my attention to others and to conform, so moving away from this way of “being” and moving towards what’s a healthy balance for me, has been challenging, but so far, for me, the efforts I’ve expended in this area have been well worth it.
I’ll add that as I’ve slowly been moving into this new way of “being”, I’ve been experiencing others saying things to me like, “You’re being selfish,” and other similar statements. This is normal. When you pull your energy back and towards yourself people notice, and naturally they’ll want you to return to the old dynamic.
Change isn’t easy, but if your intention is to honour yourself and others in a way that brings you happiness and peace, you have to work at it. The thing is if you do it in such a way that honours how they feel, hopefully they’ll understand your intention is to bring a better version of you to the relationship; understanding that your intention is to honour what their spiritual lessons are, what they came here to learn - even if it means letting them go.
Again, I’m moving forward knowing this is a process, it doesn’t happen overnight, nothing worthwhile does. But this process also allows me to incorporate the spiritual practice of compassion and acceptance. Because it can be difficult to accept that people you care about and/or love aren’t able to accept and grow with you; but at the same time, we’re all here to evolve and grow and doing this in a way that’s compassionate for others as well as myself means I move forward with no expectations and acceptance for whatever will be.
This also allows me to begin stepping into the understanding that I’d unknowingly been using my HSP Trait in “survival mode” because that’s the only way of “being” I knew, but this way of being wasn’t serving me. It’s like - how can you know what it feels like to swim if you’ve never gone swimming? So how could I know how to “not” use my HSP Trait in survival mode?
So as I’ve begun the process of realizing that it’s my choice in how I use my HSP/HSS Trait, that I don’t need to use my trait in “survival mode”, I begin realizing how many choices I have when deciding how much energy to give to a group of people, a person or a situation, and look at how I can do things differently, in a way that makes me happy. Keeping in mind, any healthy relationship is a balance of give and take where honesty, compromise, growth and positivity are fostered.
This has been leading to more realizations too. By realizing I have the ability to “choose” means I can also practice the art of controlling what I want to “pick up on”, by choosing the types of energy I want to experience, in the form of people.
So putting boundaries on “who” I spend time with, the “amount and level of energy I give that relationship” and “how many” people I spend time with; is important. Both in terms of the quality of energy I give that relationship as well as the actual clock time I spend with them.
I say “practice the art of controlling what I want to pick up on” because this is an art form for me that’s about noticing and then determining how much attention I choose to give.
Again, not giving attention does not equal withholding compassion. I can give and have compassion for an individual or group of individuals but detach from their energy; and therefore actively choose where I expend my own energy.
Previously I didn’t know this was an option. And I made a lot of mistakes along the way to arrive where I am. And I hope I’m not done learning. But also, don’t get me wrong, everything that has happened so far has happened for a reason. I truly believe that. Everything I’ve put my energy into has been more than worth it and I’d change nothing even if I could.
Because it’s given me so much information about myself and how my trait is so much a part of me, information that allows me to deepen my sense of spirituality by practicing self-acceptance, self-compassion and forgiveness and a way forward that allows me to experiment with “being” in a different way that feels good to me.
Which leads to how my HSS relates to this topic.
As a teenager my HSS caused me to try to understand the perspectives of various different people within the “groups” in school. The “heads”, the “geeks”, the “popular” and other various “clicks”, because I was curious about what made each one different from the other. Because “were they really so different?” and if so, why?
Why is the M.O. of my HSS. Like a two-year-old who endlessly, repeatedly asks the question. What I now realize is that my HSS was being triggered by my environment, all the people. At one point I took a few courses by correspondence and this worked really well for me. But again, no one else I knew did this and it wasn’t encouraged to learn this way, so I thought something was wrong with me, and after a few months returned to a public school environment.
But my HSS didn’t kick in to the degree it that it did until my mid-thirties, when a series of violent events triggered my HSS. The important word here is “trigger”. For me violent acts can act like a trigger and can incite my HSS to go into overdrive. I may deal with the violence in a calm way, but it triggers my HSS.
And how this manifested for me was I strove to understand the “why’s” of the violence, which has been part of my spiritual journey. Now this was good in that I began the process of learning a lot about; my environment, energies, how the type of foods I was eating were impacting me, how consciousness works for me, and how these things impact my perception of “reality”, as well learning a ton of spiritual lessons that led me to eventually learn I had the HSP/HSS Trait.
And it’s changed how I interact with my physical world. I do as much as I can to give energy to what supports my well-being as well as the well-being of my environment. But in order to learn all of this, I had to agree to step into realms unknown to me, to begin a journey with the understanding that what I thought I knew when starting out - was going to change. And it has. And it continues to.
But at the time it was somewhat discombobulating in that the triggering led to me indiscriminately begin zooming around checking out all kinds of people and their energies; wanting to know “why”.
As a side note, I’ve noticed there’s a lot of information “out there” about narcissists currently. I don’t recognize or allow for terms like this. I believe every human being is on a spiritual journey here and we’re here to learn. Some people may agree with this and some may not. But for those that do they’ll understand that spiritual lessons are rarely easy, and aren’t supposed to be.
Because how are you supposed to know you’ve reached the top of the mountain if it wasn’t a mountain? If you’re trying to learn compassion, forgiveness, and acceptance in this lifetime, the spiritual lessons will show up in the form of circumstances and people. As far as I can tell there’s too much of a black and white, victim and perpetrator mentality going on in Western culture, that detracts and undermines the incredible wealth of deeper, richer spiritual growth and understandings; the understanding that energetically we have so much power to individually and collectively positively affect and shape our world.
If anything, giving energy to this black and white mentality is merely a marker for how much consciousness work we, as a human species, need to do spiritually in order to recognize our own energetic power, and engage in the more difficult work of consciously deciding to “be” more compassionate towards ourselves first, and then others.
But I digress. Back to what I’ve been learning about my HSS when it was being triggered by violent events – this showed me that my HSS, my curiosity, was triggered and depending on the intensity of the trigger, can become so intense that it can cause me to ignore my own needs, and my need for balance.
Now why is this helpful information? Well, going forward I know I can use my trait when I first meet someone to tune into their energy, and determine how spiritually evolved they are, meaning how much compassion they have for themselves. The less able they are, at this time, to do this the more likely it is they’ll resort to a lower energetic form of communication (ie., using negative words or physical violence), which, for me, is a trigger for my HSS.
So if I don’t want my HSS triggered all I need to do is acknowledge, accept, and have compassion for where this person is spiritually, but understand that my job is to focus on my own growth and evolution.
Because by having compassion for them I’ve demonstrated to the universe/God/The Light, that I’ve learned this spiritual lesson. So that spiritual lesson doesn’t require my energy or attention. Sounds easy right? Not so much. But well, well worth it.
So all my experiences so far have been incredibly helpful, although difficult to learn at the time, because it allowed me to grow spiritually, in that I learned a lot about the human condition and myself; and my level of compassion for myself and others continues to grow.
And it also gave me more information. It gave me the understanding that how I was using my HSP/HSS Trait wasn’t serving me. For example, now I know that in the past when my HSS was triggered, the answer to one question inevitably led to another question and combined with my previous “survival” mode of “being”, caused me to try to “fix” situations I had no control over, that were beyond the scope of what I’m comfortable with, or comfortable giving energy to, that weren’t healthy for me.
Bearing in mind “healthy” is a subjective word. For me it feels like I’ve been experiencing an increasingly healthy state of being in relation to the “outside” world for a relatively short period of time, essentially since I learned I’m HSP/HSS about a year and a half ago, and a lot of this has hinged on my willingness and ability to begin the process of applying changes that work with my HSP/HSS Trait.
To make these changes in my life in slow, steady measures, based on what I’ve been learning. However, my belief is that my “inner” world has been healthy and will continue to be, as long as I continue honouring my spiritual journey.
This is something I believe isn’t really addressed or stressed enough. The degree that my HSP/HSS Trait has given me such a spiritually rich experience of life.
It’s given me the gift of making choices that evolve my soul, and also to be incredibly thankful for the opportunity to evolve and grow, with the understanding that growth may sometimes appear or be painful, but I’ve also been given the gift, ability and choice to heal, appreciate and be thankful for all I’ve learned so far. And look forward to learning more.
Does life often seem too fast, too bright, too loud?
For me realizing that what others consider “normal” when looking from this from the perspective of “life seeming too fast, too bright and/or too loud” means I have to recognize that my “normal” or what’s good for my system isn’t the same as what others consider “normal”.
This is empowering because it means I can creatively make choices and adjustments wherever I need to, to make my world as HSP/HSS friendly as possible. This also means advocating for myself. For example, when I was working in an office environment where the fluorescent lighting was giving me headaches I asked for the bulbs to be changed above my desk to a bulb that wasn’t harsh (so a CFL bulb). I didn’t know I had the HSP/HSS Trait at the time, I just knew the fluorescent lighting was giving me headaches. And I rarely get headaches.
Something else a fellow HSP shared with me that has been super awesome is there’s an App called f.lux that will adjust your computer lighting automatically. This I love. It means I now read a lot more on my computer.
I can also do things like take a nap when I need to; without feeling like something is odd about wanting or needing to do this. I do remember doing this when I worked full time for a printing company, a particularly loud environment. Oftentimes I’d go to the First Aid room, a closed room, and rest for half of my sixty minute lunch break. Again, I didn’t know I had the HSP/HSS Trait, I only knew that I needed this time and space for myself. The few people I told about this looked at me oddly though, asking if I wasn’t sleeping well at night, which I was, I just needed the extra downtime, the time away from all the “busyness”.
I also notice when a person is too loud for me. Not to say they’re loud at all, because I experience people’s energy, so they may be soft spoken but they’re "energy" may scream, so I experience them in a way that is too loud for me. I also notice when noise is too loud for me, it could be music or people talking or laughing.
That isn’t to say I notice these things all the time. There are times when I don’t register loud music or people, especially when I’m concentrating on something. So it’s hard to gauge and requires that I closely monitor myself, my system. Because sometimes I don’t notice and then hours later realize that the loud person, people or music has been added stimulation that my system isn’t benefiting from, and that I’m free to make a choice that benefits me.
For me, busy malls and places where there’s a lot of people and noise are something I, for the most part, avoid. And when I do spend time in them, it isn’t for long periods of time. From what I’m learning this is a common reaction most HSP’s have to loud, busy environments.
As a side note, for me, I recognize that I have a tendency to note what I call “sensing the herding mentality”. Which means I’m acutely aware of how sudden, unexpected events that could occur in a large, people-busy setting, means that incidents of trampling and other things can happen. Most people react badly to unforeseen or jarring circumstances.
One of the benefits of my HSP Trait is it allows me, for the most part, to deal with highly charged or unusual circumstances in a mostly calm way. But that doesn’t mean I have to put myself in situations where that can occur, on a regular basis.
And I’ve been learning that it’s my responsibility to honour how I’m thinking and feeling, and I know that the quality of my interactions with others will depend largely on how I honour myself and my trait. So spending say, six hours in a loud, busy environment isn’t going to do me or anyone else any good. So knowing my limits helps me to increase my overall life satisfaction and level of peace and happiness.
Now again, here’s where things get a bit more complicated with HSS. I can get bored when things are too calm. Too relaxed. I like learning and if I’m not learning I feel bored. So I have to find a balance between being overstimulated but not feeling bored.
So this is how I'm currently navigating this; I pay careful attention to the type of work environments I decide to spend time in, I study something that interests me, I write, and when I travel I travel to places that are relatively tourist-free. I like discovering places where I can immerse myself in a natural environment I haven’t experienced before and I’m interested in the current culture of the foreign (to me) destination.
Now in each of these areas I’m interested in there can be times where because I’m so interested in these activities I have to monitor how my system is responding. And based on this information I either pull back, reduce what I’m learning, who I’m spending time with or around; and otherwise adjust my schedule to allow for balance. Again, practicing mindfulness and checking in with and on myself.
The thing about this is, this balance can and will change; so I can’t become attached to it.
I compare it to surfing a sea wave, a wave that will eventually flow up onto the shore and then back out again to the sea. Life is like the sea and I’m the surfer (by the way surfing is on my bucket list, I haven’t tried this yet!).
And it hinges on my ability to develop inner strength while at the same time being flexible, allowing myself to ride the waves without feeling like, or getting, pulled under. And if I do find myself pulled under, it’s about staying calm and getting to the surface again. I just keep experimenting, trying, learning and practicing. More and more I find myself surfing the waves with ease, making adjustments as I go and being flexible enough to make these changes.
Do you require alone time to re-focus?
Definintely. As I’ve mentioned I lean towards introversion and for me alone time is a necessity. Before I knew I had the HSP/HSS Trait I used to feel like there was something wrong me for wanting and needing this. Now I don’t. I also respect that this is something I need. It isn’t a “nice to have” or “if I have time” type of thing. It’s a priority and I make it a priority to ensure I’m scheduling as much alone time as I need. This is in direct contradiction to the “busy-ness” mentality of the world I live in, so I have to be particularly aware of this. That others tend to base their worth on how "busy" they are. And that that is their perspective, view of life.
And this has a lot to do with how I honour and have compassion for myself. There’s a difference between “having alone time” and “feeling lonely” too. For me I can easily spend 90% of my time alone and not feel lonely, that’s just how my system works. I also recognize that for me, spending time alone to re-focus, allows me to delve into how I’m feeling, what feelings I’m processing and what area of spiritual growth I’m working on.
But, I realize for a lot of people this would make them feel out of touch with humanity and lonely. So it’s out of confusion, concern, and not understanding how my trait works for me that some will ask me, “Are you okay?”, “Is anything wrong?”, etc.
How you handle these well-meaning questions is up to you. For me, I thank them for their concern and depending on the person and our relationship I decide if I’ll go into more detail.
As a side note, before I learned I was HSP/HSS I’d gone on a couple of solitary nature retreats for three or four days at a time. I really enjoyed these experiences. I didn’t know anyone else who did this though, so I wasn’t sure why I enjoyed these experiences so much or why I felt pulled to go on these retreats.
I also found that when I told friends or family about it they didn’t respond with the same enthusiasm I had. Mostly they responded with confusion and/or concern. “Why would you do something like that?”, “Weren’t you afraid?”, etc. Which, in retrospect, is understandable. At the time I took it as a criticism. But now I understand their response and have appreciation for their confusion and concern.
Now with regard to my HSS I have to again make sure I’m creating a balance.
Because while I require a great deal of alone time, I also recognize I have the ability to focus on one thing, usually what I consider a “problem”, at a high level with high intensity for long periods of time. But, why would I do this?
Because I realize now, I get a certain “high” from it. If I’m trying to figure something out and focusing on it in great detail for a long time, the act of focusing can, for me, actually show up like an “addiction”. The addiction being the “focusing”. This was so weird for me to realize. Because I associate the word addiction with things like alcohol, drugs, shopping, sex, etc. I don’t associate it with focusing. So it was surprising to me to discover this. Nevertheless, it is what it is and my HSS needs to be monitored and kept in check.
So how do I balance this? Well, for now I don’t allow myself to focus on one thing for extended periods of time. So, if I’m working on or focusing on something for anywhere from two to three hours (depending on the level of focus I’m giving it), I stop and do something else. Mindfulness is key and allows me to monitor myself and give myself the balance I enjoy.
Typical break-type things I’ll do to break the focus is paint or colour for a few hours (while not thinking about what I was focusing on previously), meditate (empty my mind), go for a walk, take some pictures with my camera, clean, cook, visit with a friend, watch an interesting movie or comedy, or read. Basically I make myself de-focus by engaging in something else I enjoy. Why?
Because it’s super important for me to not allow my HSS to take over when I’m spending alone time re-focusing. So being aware that my HSS can show up for me in an addictive way with regard to “focusing” helps me create more balance in my day-to-day life; more importantly in my relationship with myself and then with others.
Are you flustered by rapid deadlines, high pressure or intense competition?
For this one I lean towards answering “yes”.
The best way I can describe how my HSP/HSS trait works for me as relates to being “flustered by rapid deadlines, high pressure or intense competition” is to relate a story from my childhood.
I was in grade six and my friend asked me to join her softball team. I hadn’t played softball before. It was an all girls’ recreational team and her Mom’s boyfriend would be the “Coach”. It sounded like it would be fun so I went for it and tried out for the team and was subsequently placed in the shortstop position.
Now, our Coach was a very competitive, voluble Coach and he would frequently yell at us, during practices and games. It wasn’t a positive, encouraging-type of yelling but more a frustrated, angry type of yelling. We weren’t really sure why it was so important that we win every game but we did try. For me though, it actually had a detrimental effect. I did poorly all season, not catching what were fairly easy hits and either striking out when up to bat, or getting walked. Plus, it wasn’t enjoyable and I didn’t have that much fun.
But, during the season, whenever I’d get together with a few friends from my team and we’d go to the field on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon to practice hitting and catching, I’d hit the ball way out there, and catch pop flies and grounders with ease. And afterwards I wondered why I didn’t do this when I was playing when Coach was there.
I began noticing the only difference was that I didn’t care when I was practicing with friends, we were just having fun and fun was the objective. And it was about this same time when we were nearing the end of the season. And this was when I decided to experiment with “not caring” about what the outcome (of the game) would be. And that game I hit three homeruns and caught two pop flies and a grounder in one inning. I exceeded any expectations I had; because I didn’t have any.
Coach was shocked and yelled at me accusingly (as if I'd been withholding something) – “Why didn’t you play like that all season?!”
But what I learned was, someone else’s high or unrealistic expectations, competitiveness and intensity affected my ability to both have fun and participate in a productive way.
And I noticed that throughout my life, there was a correlation to how long I stayed at a company to how the company operated.
So if the company valued competition and encouraged competition among employees, I didn’t tend to stay at the company very long. Not because I don't like healthy competition, but I found that most have an unhealthy outlook on competition (as opposed to a fun way to encourage one another to push our limits), and would resort to less than admirable ways to “win”, using gossip, or other negative behaviour to try to win. And I didn’t see the point of it, if we worked for the same company, we were on the same team, not on opposite teams – so it didn’t make sense to me.
And when the company used the idea that “we have to be better than X company”, their competition, I didn’t understand that either. Because to me, we could only be the best company we could be, trying to cut costs where we could, increase productivity where we could, come up with creative ideas to do things in a way that offered a different product or experience for the customer. I think healthy, fun competition is great, but I’ve noticed there’s a fine line that can get crossed when competition turns from healthy to unhealthy.
When it comes to high pressure, I’m able to deal with a fair amount of it, but if I have a Manager or Supervisor that micromanages me – it doesn’t work. I can deal with high pressure but only for short periods of time, and if it’s for long periods of time it affects my well-being.
And as long as I have the resources and time to meet a goal, along with a trusting relationship with my Supervisor where I can go to them to check in or ask questions when I need to – I meet the goal. But if the Manager or Supervisor doesn’t give me the time, resources or space to do my job, I don’t typically stay very long.
Now, how does this work with my HSS?
Basically HSS causes me to be curious, to investigate and try new things, experiment. So, like softball, if I haven’t played it, I’ll try it. But I’ve learned to investigate more beforehand and to try to avoid experiences that also include “rapid deadlines, high pressure or intense deadlines” in “team” environments because I don’t do well in these circumstances – just like the softball team experience. But if the team environment is one that values creativity and community over intense competition then I’ll thrive in that environment.
But also, my HSS will cause me to try different types of ways to push my own boundaries. See how much high pressure I’m able to work with, see if I’m able to push my limits with respect to rapid deadlines.
This is counter-intuitive to what my HSP trait is showing me. So, on the one hand my HSP trait is showing me the ways in which I work best, but my HSS is urging me to test those limits, to see what the limit is. For example, with high pressure I'll try to see if I put myself under high pressure for “X” amount of time – will I adjust and will that be my new normal? Or, not? Or, will it help me learn something else that will be helpful for me?
So again, I have to be mindful of how my HSS is showing up for me in any given circumstance and know that I have to be aware of what’s healthy for me, accepting my limits and knowing that those limits are helping me navigate my choices in a way that’s showing me what works for me.
What I’m noticing now is how I’m honouring my HSP/HSS Trait. I’m putting myself in environments and situations where creativity is fostered and encouraged and I’m creating opportunities to spend more time with other people who are also creative; where we’re working towards a common goal. And I’m finding this highly rewarding!
There’s a certain symbiotic energy that occurs within a group of creatives; a flow, that allows for incredible ways to move forward towards the goal, where everyone’s input is valued and appreciated. In a setting like this there’s a natural understanding, knowing and belief in the process of creating that will lead to attaining the goal. And we get to have fun while we’re doing it!
And that’s it for Overstimulation. The next blog post we’ll be exploring Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness and what I’ve been learning about it as it relates to my HSP/HSS Trait. As always I'd love to hear your comments so leave it below.