sakurablossom: a ginger girl sitting on a dirt road, staring at the horizon (silence)
[personal profile] sakurablossom
In the last chapter we discussed coping strategies to deal with our overstimulating Type A society. In this chapter we will discuss specific techniques for calming the senses and coping with time pressure. In order to survive in our overstimulating world we must diligently employ techniques to calm all five senses -- hearing, touching, sight, taste, and smell. While we can't live free of stimuli, we can use specific tools to reduce the overstimulation of each of our senses.

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Calming the Senses
An entire generation has now been brought up addicted to the overstimulation of the sense organs. As an example of the increased overstimulation in our electronic age, I've noticed that some amusement parks are creating full-sensory overload activities. New 4-D theaters are offering a frenetic visual experience, theater seats that buck and roll, and even the release of strange aromas. There may be a correlation between increased stimulation and the higher number of children diagnosed with hyperactive disorders. Unfortunately, the new panacea for hyperactive children is to medicate them with powerful drugs that may create innumerable side effects. However, if these same children lived in a natural environment without electronic devices, many of the "hyperactive" children would not need to be medicated (DeGrandpre 1999).

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 35-36)
sakurablossom: pink flower petals scattered on an open book page (sprinkled between the pages)
[personal profile] sakurablossom
Sensitive Men

Sensitive men have particular challenges in aggressive Western cultures. Males are taught from an early age to act tough and not to express their emotions. According to William Pollock, the author of Real Boys, whenever boys do not conform to the "boy code" and instead show their gentleness and emotions, they are usually ostracized and humiliated (1998). Highly sensitive boys learn to deny their real selves in order to be accepted and approved by their peers. This denial can create fear, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Paul Kivel has written in his book Men's Work that boys are put into a "act like a man box," which means that they must be aggressive, tough, strong, in control, and active. According to Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, authors of Raising Cain (about protecting the emotional life of boys), if boys express emotions such as fear, anxiety, or sadness, they are seen as feminine, and the adults around them typically treat them in ways that suggest that such emotions are not normal for a boy (1999).

One highly sensitive man, Dan, told me that when he used to go to the movies with his friends as a boy, he would pretend to really enjoy the bloody and violent scenes while secretly looking away from the screen. He was always afraid that some of the other boys would see him avoiding the screen and tease him. He also shared with me that he was humiliated for not following the current sporting events when he was in junior high school. One time another boy sitting next to Dan asked him how he liked the big game and when Dan responded that he didn't know there was a game, the other boy started laughing at him and told the other boys that Dan was a nerd. Dan then decided to spend every day reading the sports page in order to feel accepted by the other boys. Dan also told me that he didn't like fighting. However, he attended martial arts lessons in order to not be physically abused by aggressive boys in high school. While most sensitive boys would not be attracted to violent sports like boxing, learning martial arts may be beneficial for some sensitive boys to learn so they won't be hurt or humiliated by violent bullies.

In our society, being sensitive is generally associated with being feminine and weak and can be quite emasculating for males. Sometimes sensitive men have internalized the false belief that there is something wrong with them because they are gentle and can't tolerate stimulation. One sensitive man told me that he was taught as a boy that he shouldn't let anything bother him. He did his best to follow a stereotypical "masculine" like style by working out every day at the gym, having a good sex life with his wife, and denying his sensitivity. However, he constantly experienced anxiety from emulating non-HSP male values.

Alex is an HSP father of a twelve-year old HSP son, Noah. Even though Alex suffered as a boy for not conforming to the boy code of acting tough, he felt animosity toward Noah whenever his son appeared weak. Noah's soft and gentle demeanor reminded Alex of how he suffered as a boy when he was teased and humiliated for his sensitivity. Even though he knew it was wrong, Alex pushed Noah to go out for the football team and pursue traditional masculine activities even though Noah had no interest in sports. Noah became traumatized when trying to compete with the other football players and quit going to practices. At his mother's urging, the family entered counseling. Once Alex began attending family counseling sessions, he realized that he was forcing his son to deny his gentleness due to an internalized self-loathing for his own sensitivity. After some time, Alex was able to accept Noah - and himself - as highly sensitive males.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 14-16)
sakurablossom: a ginger girl sitting on a dirt road, staring at the horizon (secret thoughts)
[personal profile] sakurablossom
Thank Goodness for Sensitive People

By understanding, accepting, and appreciating your sensitive nervous system and by learning practical methods to deal with your sensitivity, you will gradually be able to identify and release any internalized false beliefs that there is something inherently wrong with you. HSPs are a large minority in this society that values and thrives on overstimulation, competition, and aggression. However, in order for a society to function at an optimal level there has to be a balance between the non-HSP soldiers and chief executive officers and the mostly HSP counselors and artists.

As a matter of fact, if there were more HSPs, we would probably live in a healthier world, with less war, environmental devastation, and terrorism. It is the HSP whose sensitivity helps create restrictions on smoking, pollution, and noise. However, it's important to note that there are very compassionate and kind non-HSPs and rude and insensitive HSPs. As a matter of fact, my non-HSP dad was one of the most considerate and caring people that I've ever known.

While most non-HSPs are kindhearted, the aggressive traits of non-HSPs are exalted in the media in most societies. Some of the non-HSP chief executive officers of the major corporations have severely damaged the planet with indiscriminate oil drilling, clear cutting of forests, and pollution of the environment. The highly sensitive person has an important mission, which is to serve as a balance to the more aggressive behavior of some of the non-HSPs who advocate a less than nurturing policy toward humans, animals, and Mother Nature. Although you may have been told that you are too sensitive, the truth is that the proliferation of insensitive values has created a world on the brink of disaster, and our only hope for saving the planet is by being sensitive and kind toward all sentient beings.

Although our trait can be challenging, some of the marvelous benefits of being an HSP may include the following: We are conscientious and have the capacity to deeply appreciate beauty, art, and music. We can also really appreciate delicious food, due to our sensitive taste buds, our sensitive sense of smell helps us deeply enjoy aromatic, natural scents, such as flowers. We are intuitive and tend to have deep spiritual experiences. We will notice potential danger, such as immediately feeling a tick crawling on our skin, sooner than non-HSPs. We are very aware of safety issues and will be the first one to know how to exit a building in case of an emergency. We are concerned about the humane treatment of animals. We tend to be kind, compassionate, and understanding, making us natural counselors, teachers, and healers. We have an enthusiasm for life and thus can experience love and joy more deeply than non-HSPs, if we aren't feeling overwhelmed.

The majority, non-HSP culture sometimes negatively judges our sensitivity. The HSP is a minority in all societies, which usually favor the majority non-HSPs (Aron 1996). You may be occasionally told by non-HSPs that there is something wrong with you when you express the need for quiet time or when you're feeling overwhelmed at work or taking care of your duties at home. Being judged for having a finely tuned nervous system is like discriminating against people based on the color of their skin, religion, or national origin. Like other minority groups, it's important that we strive to educate the general population about our sensitive nervous system, accept our sensitvity, and learn ways to cope in the majority non-HSP culture.

While you don't have to demonstrate, carrying placards that read "Sensitivity Power!" (you probably couldn't tolerate the noise and stimulation of a demonstration anyway), it would be beneficial to learn ways to raise your self-esteem. By reading books on HSPs (Elaine Aron's The Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook is a magnificent way to reframe your childhood in light of your sensitivity), attending individual therapy or HSP groups or classes to understand your trait, and employing many of the suggestions in this book you, will improve your self-esteem. Develop new friendships with other HSPs and try not to spend time with judgmental non-HSPs who make you feel flawed. It's also very important not to compare yourself or try to compete with non-HSPs.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 9-11)
sakurablossom: girl laying in bed while reading a book, comfy (reading)
[personal profile] sakurablossom
Societal Values and Sensitivity

In the last ten to twenty years there has been more acceptance of sensitivity and some wonderful improvements in societal values. Although most men have been brought up to act tough and repress emotions, many progressive men now feel that sensitivity is a positive characteristic. In recent years the media has been featuring many stories about the relationship between stress-related diseases and intense work environments, giving people the opportunity to question whether working under severe pressure is worth harming their health.

While there is now a subculture of progressive people who accept sensitivity as a cherished value for both men and women, over-stimulation in our society has increased at an alarming rate. A popular song in the 60s was the innocent I Want to Hold Your Hand, while today the accepted raucous music is frequently filled with lyrics of swearing and violence. One of the worst offenses in school a generation ago was cutting classes, while now there are security guards and metal detectors at many urban schools to prevent school shootings.

In the 1950s there were three or four television stations, while today we are inundated with up to one thousand stations broadcasting a multitude of shows saturated with graphic sex and gratuitous violence. The home telephone has been replaced by millions of cell phones ubiquitous to modern society, creating a cacophony of clamor throughout the world. Recently I was hiking on top of a magnificent mountain peak in Colorado, enjoying the peaceful and spectacular natural setting when a man charged by me screaming into his cell phone, "I told you to sell the stock."

Thirty or forty years ago most people shopped at small neighborhood stores and had a personal relationship with the storeowner or clerk. In most urban environments, virtually all mom-and-pop stores have been replaced by gigantic, impersonal corporations, which could be called "Stimulation Depot" or "Noise R Us." You have to fight with hordes of other shoppers as you desperately search for bargains amongst thousands of items or wander around trying to find assistance from the few overwhelmed and underpaid clerks. Given this intense level of stimulation, you can understand why HSPs often find shopping nowadays an emotionally exhausting experience. I remember seeing one cartoon that depicted a young woman shopping for toothpaste. She became overwhelmed when trying to choose from a multitude of toothpaste brands: anticavity, fluoride, no fluoride, antigingivitis, extra whitener, gel, striped, antistain for smokers, protection for gums, 15 percent savings on large, 20 percent savings on extra large. After reviewing the multitude of products to choose from, she felt so overwhelmed that she went home to lie down from exhaustion.

Age is a factor in determining our sensitivity to stimuli. Children and older people are more deeply affected by overstimulation. Since children haven't yet developed the capacity to express themselves, they frequently react intensely. (For more information about highly sensitive children read The Highly Sensitive Child by Dr. Elaine Aron, in which she succinctly describes the unique challenges of raising sensitive children). As teenagers and young adults, HSPs have a higher tolerance for overstimulation. Some HSP teenagers usually can even tolerate listening to loud music and partying to all hours of the night. As you age, your capacity for stimulation decreases, and it's common for many middle-aged HSPs to go to bed early and avoid going out too much. However, you always need to find a balance between too much and too little stimulation. After the age of sixty-five, your ability to tolerate stimuli is further diminished.

Since most countries value aggressive behavior, adjusting to non-HSP values is challenging for the sensitive person in most societies. The HSP's adjustment is dependent on the culture in which they were raised. In a study of Canadian and Chinese school children, it was found that in Canada highly sensitive children were the least liked and respected, while in China sensitive children were the most popular (Aron 2002). I had a foreign exchange student from Thailand who lived with me for a year. Tone was a sixteen-year old sensitive, gentle boy when he came to the United States. He told me that the Thai people value kindness and gentleness. Most Thai people speak and walk softly and are perhaps the gentlest people in the world. When I observed him talking with his Thai friends, I noticed that they would speak in soft, melodic voices. It was very difficult for Tone to adjust to an aggressive American high school environment, where tough and bellicose behavior in males was valued while gentleness and sensitivity was considered a flaw. Tone learned to deny his sensitivity and tried to become more assertive in order to survive in the non-HSP Western culture.

Countries vary regarding how much stimulation their citizens are exposed to. One study indicated that the Dutch keep their infants calmer than Americans, who generally expose their babies to more stimulation (Aron 2002). In India, children are brought up with a great deal of stimulation, making it challenging for the HSP. However, even sensitive people in India become more habituated to hearing incessant noise. I interviewed a highly sensitive man from India who had lived in the United States for five years. Ramesh reported that the longer that he stayed in America, the more acculturated he became to the comparatively quiet atmosphere, and it was difficult for him when he visited India. However, since he was raised in an extremely noisy environment, he told me that he eventually adapts to the overstimulation of his native country, and after some time the excessive noise doesn't bother him so much.

While HSPs who are raised in overstimulating environments can cope more easily with excessive stimuli, sensitive people brought up in less stimulating societies have a more difficult time adapting. A highly sensitive American woman told me about a spiritual tour of India that she attended with both Westerners and Indians, and her story illustrated how Americans need their quiet space. She said that the Indian and American women slept on the floor in two different large rooms. In one room all the Indian women slept together in one corner touching each other, like a litter of puppies, while all the American women slept exactly three feet apart from each other in the other room.

Likewise, if an HSP from rural Montana moved to Manhattan, she would become easily overwhelmed by the assault on her senses. In the opposite case, sensitive people who have become habituated to urban overstimulation may have difficulty adjusting to a quiet, rural environment. When I lived in the bucolic Sierra Mountains in California, I had a friend who worked in downtown San Francisco visit me for the weekend. The lack of stimulation made him anxious, and he wanted to go to the nearest town, thirty minutes away. One HSP student who lives in a noisy urban neighborhood told me that she had trouble sleeping due to the quiet on a recent visit to the country.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 6-9)

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May 2012

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