I belong to a wonderful support group for people with my personality quirk (I guess that’s what you’d call it, if you weren’t me). I’ve blogged about the subject before – how I am a Highly Sensitive Person, and I don’t mean someone who has cries because you look at me wrong. Being an HSP is much deeper than that. I can’t begin to explain it in the short amount of words I am allotting myself for this particular post, but I hope you follow the links back to my original posts and read what I wrote in 2009 on the subject. Or, you can hop over to Elaine Aron’s website: The Highly Sensitive Person.
This post is dedicated to answering a question posed to me by one of the other members of the group: “What are your go-to defenses?”
I LIKE ME. I’m not always pleased with me (I berate myself to death when I make a faux pas, when I screw up at work, when I hurt someone’s feelings inadvertently, and when I have embarrassed my children by being too assertive in front of them) but I recognize that those are feelings nearly all human beings, who are not either sociopaths or psychopaths, feel. (Should a comma be there? Or parenthesis? or a dash?)
REALIZE YOU ARE NORMAL. Yes, you are an HSP – but beyond that label, you are normal. You’re not so odd that you are noticeably different. You feel emotional hurt a little deeper (maybe), but you are not abnormal in that you feel emotional hurt. I know a lot of non-HSPs that feel sorry for themselves over emotional hurts. You can make a big deal about it, but the best deal to make out of it is
FORGIVENESS. Forgive whoever hurt you and forgive yourself. That doesn’t mean you become a doormat. Trust me, no one calls *me* a doormat. I just learned to step back and try to look at a situation from another person’s perspective. Well, yeah. He was dead wrong and I told him off. So – now I need to move into forgiving him for being such a jerk and I need to forgive me for losing my temper and acting like a raging bull. Yes, I was right – but does that make me the better person when I lost my temper? NO.
LOSE YOUR TEMPER. Nobody tells you this. It’s all about holding it in and being too nice. Well, sometimes, you need to turn around and tell the 7th grade bully off. “Just because you’re a bitch doesn’t mean I have to take it.”
Oh, yeah, I did that. I was 4’4″ and I don’t know how many pounds. She already looked like an adult and was overweight. Fat. She was surrounded by her friends who were the “popular” girls. I don’t remember what she said to me. I was in the company of my best friend, Trudi, who was pretty, had boobs, and no one made fun of. And that girl said something to me that made me mad. For the first time in my life, I turned around and said something back. I made it a direct hit. AIM. FIRE. Don’t regret (or at least, don’t do it to a degree that you lose your edge).
I’ve never regretted that salvo.
BE ASSERTIVE. I can overdo this. Learn a little moderation. I remember a manager who accused me of some sort of in-office gossip. I walked into his office, asked if he could talk, closed the door, and thought about my body language as I sat down. I wanted him to know 1) I was innocent and 2) I was not taking this B.S. I asked him, “Who said I said <whatever>? If you can’t provide me that, then you have to admit that it is all falsified. Speak to me.” Not in a nice tone.
KNOW WHEN TO CUT YOUR LOSSES. You have to know when to back down, walk away, turn your back. Some issues are not worth your time, energy, emotions. Walk away. If you can’t walk away at that precise moment, start making plans to walk away. Tell no one but your most trusted friends (I don’t even tell them, but I have very few inner circle people).
Rejected? MOVE ON. My childhood best friend moved on to a new circle of friends. We were tight. She now has a very different inner circle. I miss her. But I know that I also moved on to a new circle of friends. She misses the me that I was. Accept and move on. Forgive. You can still love someone and they don’t have to be your bestie.
ADMIT YOU ARE SENSITIVE. The trick is knowing when to tell people and when not. You just have to learn when to cut your losses.
For me, I learned I was an HSP when a fire alarm malfunctioned at work. The loud screaming alarm one time was unnerving. But after an hour of random fire alarms at decibels not meant for the human ear, I was melting into a puddle on the floor. I couldn’t function. I did not know what an HSP was at that time, but I went to my boss and (crying) told her I could no longer function. My nerves were jangled. I was a mess. I needed to take the rest of the day off and hide under the covers in my bed at home.
My boss was actually understanding (and I hope yours is, too). I called my husband to pick me up and then spent the waiting time in a nearby book store. I found Elaine Aron’s book on the bookshelf while I waited and read most of it before my husband picked me up. I suddenly had a name for who I am. I am not shy in trying to explain myself to people.
Some people and some bosses will never get it. Cut your losses. I’m doing that right now. It’s taken me two years of very careful planning and searching, but I am cutting my losses. If my current employer can’t get it, my next employer will. It’s a loss you take – and you take it for the benefit.
DON’T WATCH THE NEWS. I actually had an argument with my father-in-law over this. I was pregnant with my first baby when my father-in-law lived with us. He insisted on watching the news at dinner time. I walked out of the room when they showed a dead person on the screen, blood flowing onto the street. This was about 1984. I refused to watch the news. My father-in-law was offended and made some stupid smart remark. I chose my battle and simply walked away.
CHOOSE YOUR BATTLES. This is parenting advice as much as it is HSP advice. Choose what battle you want to engage in. Is it worth it in the long run? With my F-I-L, no. I walked away. End of subject. He doesn’t even remember. Me, I remember everything. But I chose my battle & did not engage. We’re on good terms (although I would not willingly live with him again, which my husband understands).
My brother once took me to a casino-like play house after a grueling three weeks of trying to handle my father’s estate. I just wanted to crawl under the rug. My brother -bless the extrovert- needed to connect with noise and family. We were in Reno and all the extended family was invited. I ended up sitting alone at a table in the midst of the casino-like noise, lights, sounds. We ate crappy pizza. People flowed in and out of the scenario: my ex-sister in law, my niece, my niece’s children, my brother, my youngest and her then-boyfriend. I ZONED.
Find a place in your head to ZONE. Create a safe place to go to. You can smile & engage with people, but in your head – in your SAFE PLACE – you are zoned. It’s OK. No one needs to know. Understand that time is finite and you WILL get through this. On the other side of this, you can bury your head under a pillow and cry, zone, sleep – whatever. But to endure this, KNOW that you have a safe place.
I think I have covered my “go-to” defense mechanisms. I’d LOVE to have feed back from fellow HSP’s. What are your “go-to” mechanisms or do you have any at all? I sense that I am lucky in that I have developed defenses. Remember: a defense is only effective if you know it is a defense. You have to always remember that the bottom line is this: you are an HSP and THAT is ALL RIGHT.
Being an HSP is ALL RIGHT. You are actually NORMAL. Breathe in/breathe out and remind yourself: you are NORMAL (for a certain demographic and to hell with the rest)