Unmasking A High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person: Landing (a J-O-B)

So in the last blog post we were catching a plane leaving Nicaragua while delving into the topic of Staying Balanced and Grounded in order to receive the benefits of Dreamstate. We covered;

  • intention and self-discipline

  • gratitude

  • meditation

  • reframing

  • triggers

  • exercise

  • pH balance

To read that post you can click here.

Now that we’ve landed, we’re going to explore the topic of a J-O-B.

Because for those who are HSP / HSS, at some point in their lives, this can be challenging. At least I’ve found it to be. Again, I’m an introverted High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person.

Now I don’t mean it’s necessarily challenging to find a job, but I have found it challenging at times to enjoy some jobs, to feel a sense of challenge, satisfaction and accomplishment, all the while being able to use my creativity.

And I say “feel” because that is one of the main reasons to partake in life, to feel, to be, to experience, to discover – parts about ourselves that we previously didn’t know existed.

And in my case, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I learned I had the HSP Trait and was HSS, so up until that point I had no idea the degree to which I experienced “Life” much differently than at least 80% of the rest of the population when it came to a J-O-B. But learning I have the HSP Trait and HSS, has since made a huge difference in how I go about “Life”.

You see I always felt at odds with the idea that I was ‘supposed’ to live my life according to how others “thought” I should. In other words, climb some ladder, because like… who put the ladder there? And where is the ladder going?

The fact that it seemed I was the only one silently asking these questions seemed irrelevant – the point was I was ‘supposed’ to climb it regardless. But I never felt particularly industrious about it. Mind you, I’d met others along the way who had done as they’d been instructed, only to reach whatever the “top” meant, and then watch as they miserably climbed back down after discovering the view sucked, or stayed put and while they lived comfortably, they lived lifelessly.

But external pressures prevail for most of us when young, and even longer for some, so we tentatively climb whatever societal ladder put before us. Measuring ourselves against some invisible set of criteria that isn’t actually meant for us.

Not realizing that we’re the ones actually being given the opportunity (Life) to steer the ship - we have the power, ability and opportunity to steer our own ship.

However, it’s also been ingrained in most HSPs, as it was me, that our life purpose is to "help" others steer their ships. That in order to survive, our job is to help others. And we were taught in order to survive we had to cross boundaries in order to “help”. And make no mistake, we received this conditioning. We received this message in many verbal and non-verbal ways throughout our childhood. Something burned seemingly indelibly into us.

But, “helping” someone else, is actually something we have zero control over. That’s right amigo, zero. And by this I mean it isn't our job to conform ourselves to the point where we're not honoring who we really are and what's in our best interests.

I've noticed many HSPs, men included, are asked in many verbal and non-verbal ways to "be" something they aren't comfortable with, that isn't in line with what's healthy for them, based on what someone else supposedly "needs". 

For example, "You need to be more aggressive," is something HSP men hear a lot, when in actuality, what the person who states this is saying is, they have yet to find a way to meet an unmet need of their own.

So, for so many HSPs, others attempts to "change" them really has nothing to do with the HSP, it's all about what the other person wants or needs and how they aren't fulfilling their own needs, perhaps don't even consciously recognize this is what they're doing. But that childhood conditioning for the HSP, that "survival" way of being, will try to kick in, until we train ourselves to stop, breathe, and assess what's really going on.

Because having compassion for myself, something that comes naturally for at least 80% of the population, is something others, unlike us, have been taught is healthy and okay, (and in my estimation probably why non-HSP’s have trouble understanding HSPs and why HPSs feel misunderstood), is something I’ve noticed most HSPs struggle with at some point. I know I have.

Until we know better. Until we finally, really, can begin recognizing and appreciating how our trait works for us. That we’re wired the way we are because we’re supposed to be this way. And because of this we can create choices for ourselves. That it isn’t our job to “help” others, that we can do so in a way that works for us, but more importantly, it's our choice.

Because what’s that saying… “The teacher shows up when the student is ready to learn…”?

And we can choose to use our energy differently, in a way that’s beneficial for us primarily, and then for others.

This is where I began to see, understand and honour differences, in ways that allow for an acceptance and embracing of my own unique gifts and abilities, and developing gratitude for these differences. And to communicate it in a way that allows me to freely “Be” - unreservedly and unapologetically.

Now a big part of this process, for me, has involved creating boundaries with others. I’m going to talk about boundaries in a different way than I have previously. Here I'm talking about boundaries as a form of self-care.

Meaning, yes, I like dining alone, yes, I like going for walks alone, yes, I enjoy my own company, my own thoughts, my own imagination. That’s right amigo, I have very interesting conversations with myself and find myself in pretty good company. De nada. (I've been learning a bit of Spanish on my travels...). This is something I've become more confident in "being" with. And I'm finding the more comfortable I am with this aspect of "me", the more accepting others are of it.

It also extends to social circumstances...

Thank you for inviting me, I appreciate it! I can’t attend your weekend soiree for the whole weekend, what part or parts of it are important to you and I’ll make every effort to try to meet you halfway. And, I’m not available to work a 40 hour work week, in what way can I contribute so I’m able to have a healthy life-work balance and you can meet your deadline? No, I can’t listen or help you with your problem at this moment, our relationship is important to me though, so would two days from now after dinner be a good time for you?

Yes, this has been a process. A marvelously messy process!

This is a whole new way of being. A way of being where I honour myself. And it was a new concept to me. And as with anything, practice makes it easier.

At first I felt awkward, (yes, selfish even), was even called selfish from those who weren't expecting this change. But, then I felt more comfortable and now I’m becoming even more comfortable. Again, this is a process requiring patience and self-compassion.

And so far, I will say that on my journey to learn I had HSP / HSS, I experienced quite a few people who weren't too happy about the choices I was making, but I'd previously had quite a bit of practice mastering the art of disappointing and upsetting people. And being okay with the fact that some people just won't like me. De nada. Because practicing self-care means I create my Life in a way that feels good for me. Surround myself with people interested in healthy, positive, balanced relationships.

Again, from what I’ve noticed, because I know I’m not alone, the majority of HSP / HSS were originally taught in order to survive we were to cross boundaries freely in order to “help” others, but in effect, I’ve learned the opposite proves true.

Go figure.

Now I’m no different than anyone else. In high school, like everyone else, I was given the standard tests to find out what vocation would be best suited for me. My results pointed to lawyer or psychologist. Thing is, neither one of these vocations interested me in the slightest. Nor did they take into account my HSP Trait and HSS and how D.O.E.S. worked for me.

For more on my explorations around the D.O.E.S. acronym (Depth of Processing, Overstimulation, Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness and Sensory Sensitivity)  you can click the links.

I can clearly see now when I look back, why it didn’t matter how much a company offered me monetarily - if the work wasn’t interesting, or challenging, if I wasn’t allowed to solve creative puzzles? I didn’t accept or if I did, I didn't stay long. In fact, the longest I stayed at a company was three years. And those were under excellent circumstances where I was treated very well and had had opportunities to work on creative projects. But in the end I left because it was time. I was offered two raises while I was giving my two week notice. But it was just the right time for me to move on. I felt it and never regretted the decision, much as I enjoyed my work there and felt appreciated and valued.

But what I noticed most over time is how my HSP Trait works in terms of patterns and synchronicities. Somehow I’m able to see, notice and place puzzle pieces together, without consciously knowing I’m doing this. And then come up with creative solutions that either save time, increase performance, increase morale, save money and sometimes a combination of all of these.

And so I experimented. Throughout my life I worked at many types of jobs. All the while receiving a lot of negative feedback from others about how often I changed jobs. This, I've learned, is a knee-jerk reaction others have to those who live differently. For them it causes them to question how they're living their life. So, not mine to own.

And doing this gave me knowledge and fuel to understand more about myself, what I value, the type of environments I do well in, how I like to work, the type of people I work well with, what type of work-life balance “works” for me, and what my gifts are.

And by the time I learned I had the HSP Trait and HSS, I had a lifetime of experiences to draw from, to compare and to identify where I experience the most “life” satisfaction.

For me, this turned out to be where I was able to use my depth of processing to uncover the layers of a process, and then use creativity to identify possible solutions on my own, and then talking with others, making modifications to the solution(s), and then together, as a group, working as one to identify the best ways forward and taking steps to accomplish our project goals.

And if there were setbacks? Our goal wasn’t to find someone to blame, it was to jump into it with anticipation, (a puzzle!) and identify a process we’d not uncovered yet, find out how it fit into the whole and tweak our overall process.

I realized there have been times in my working life where I’ve experienced this, this project-based, group-solution-oriented approach. Two of them have been working for companies where I was given the support needed to carry out these projects. Where my Manager had an open door policy, for when I needed to “discuss” viable ideas and alternatives, where I had a great team to work with, where I was given “room” to move around and breathe and provided with the tools and resources needed to carry out the solutions. Where I was given the freedom to freely ask questions and then given time to identify what other, deeper questions needed to be asked.

Other times have been where I’ve done this in a volunteer environment and also when I’ve met someone running a business with a team, who I ended up working with for a time.

Of course, at no time during my life did I realize I was processing information on a deeper level. Instead, I simply figured that anyone else with the same set of questions, and the same information at their disposal would come to the same conclusions, and/or solutions. Again, no idea I had HSP / HSS.

What didn’t occur to me though, was that I was free to create these opportunities in my own life. In creative ways.

For fun.

Yup. Fun.

Where I can make the choice to direct my energies in a way that feels good for me, using a Life / Balance type model that works for my HSS/HSP. That’s what I’m calling it anyways. A Life / Balance model for me means I don’t put everything I have into my J-O-B, not healthy for me and not balanced. I've done it before and I end up feeling frazzled. I make every effort to ensure that I’m giving myself the healthiest balance of work, fun, play, alone time, and time with others.

Doing this means turning down things. But taking things out of the equation means the door to other opportunities opens. Choices. Balance.

Sometimes that’s meant I turn down an offer to work an 80 hour work week, didn’t matter what the monetary offer was, no way was I going to throw myself off balance. How I value my own peace and happiness has no price and can’t be bought.

It’s meant that I’ve needed to learn, understand, accept and value that, as an HSS HSP, the typical work-life balance that 80% of the population adhere to, won’t work for me. That, as a creative, I’m free to create opportunities for myself that help me work with my trait, instead of trying to fit into a mold that wasn’t made for me. That it’s okay to be wired differently. And it’s not only okay, it’s important I honour what I need.

It means I create and choose fun, creative projects I want to work / play with and if that project involves others, I carefully choose who it is I’m going to spend time with (because it’s important to me we have a similar set of values and goals), while working on creative projects together.

A big part of this J-O-B mindset shift has also come about because I’ve been;

  • exploring how D.O.E.S. works for me in terms of my HSS/HSP,

  • learning and practicing healing exercises like “re-framing”,

  • exploring and experimenting with setting healthy boundaries,

  • exploring how different ways of self-care impact my overall well-being (meditation, eating healthy, exercise, people I interact with, where I choose to spend my time, what I choose to spend my time thinking about (which is essentially about what I call "thought energy"), and practicing gratitude,

  • and, exploring and identifying what does and doesn’t belong to me using helpful tools like “projection”.

These tools have helped me begin understanding how to practice self-care in a way that works for me, open myself to the awareness that Life is supposed to be an ongoing process of "healing", and identifying what belongs to me and what doesn’t - this lightens the load considerably.

Kinda like the difference between a huge dump truck, a Belaz 75710, and a Tonka dump truck, ya know?

It’s helped me with the messy process of re-creating my life in a way that feels good for me.

So for those of you who are HSS/HSP, know that if you take a job, it isn’t a big deal if you leave because the workplace isn’t providing you with the opportunities you need to grow, learn and exercise your creativity. You are entitled to provide yourself with a healthy work environment, and healthy work environments are about growth and contribute to your overall sense of well-being.

If you’re struggling with this, try being as objective as you possibly can, talk with a few other, balanced HSPs about it, and see if there’s a way you can make it work – look for solutions. In some cases, you’ll be able to find workable solutions. Shoot – in some cases you might already work for yourself! And maybe the solution is to fire yourself for awhile. Either way? Don’t worry about it. Finding the right balance for yourself will be a process that requires patience and self-compassion. Be kind to yourself.

And know that at any time you’re free to create hobbies that interest you creatively. In fact, having creative hobbies will fuel ideas for other parts of your life. Because that’s how I’ve noticed things have been working for me. It actually isn’t compartmentalized, there is a flow that lies between work and play.

These are some of the reasons why I’m so incredibly grateful to have learned I'm HSS/HSP.

Because it’s led to my understanding that while my HSS/HSP Trait is an incredible asset, if I don’t respect, observe, accept, heal, notice, monitor and at times, when I need to, manage it – it will cause me discomfort. Not that that’s the end of the world. Because it isn’t. But it will feel like that. And if I don't want to feel like that it's my responsibility is to recognize how my body feels, how my Soul feels, what I’m noticing, when I need downtime, when I need creative time, when I need playtime, when I need supportive friends and/or family, and when I need to reflect.

So in invite you to delve into how D.O.E.S. works for you, how your HSS shows up for you, how your unique skills and abilities have shown up for you in either your work or play, how using your creativity combined with your skills and abilities has made you feel and see if there's ways you can incorporate more of that into  your Life. Your enjoyment of Life.

Update: As synchronicity would have it the book, "Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career" by Dr. Tracy Cooper, has entered my sphere and I'm currently reading it. It also speaks to the High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person. I'm on page 57, but already I highly recommend this book.

Which leads to what I’m deeming to be my last blog post for this book.

Reflection.

Because reflection for me is closely linked to my sense of spirituality. And my spirituality, my spiritual growth, is closely tied to why I do what I do. It is a part of myself that I kept closely hidden and guarded for many years. A part of myself that I’ve been given the opportunity to resurrect - because that was part of the process, part of the journey of becoming.

And to a great extent a lot of it had to be about the process of chaos and destruction, of burning, before that could happen. Blindly I had to intuitively follow the path of chaos and destruction because that's where the path was leading. Without knowing that this destruction had to happen, before the process of growth could occur.

Before I could place the seed, me, in nutrient rich ash, so that I could begin to grow in a healthy way, watering myself with self-love and self-compassion, while allowing the sun to shine self-forgiveness and self-acceptance. To grow. And so I encourage you.

Keep learning and let your Shine On.