Sunday, November 15, 2020

In Search of Solitude


 "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude."
-- Henry David Thoreau

Highly sensitive people, especially highly sensitive introverts, require periods of solitude to function properly. The amount (time) of solitude required differs by individual and by circumstances. It may be for an hour or it may be for a few days.

Most people around us don't understand that we need periods of solitude as much as we need food for nourishment and air to breathe. This need for solitude is not a lifestyle choice ... it's a fundamental part of our being. It's not a disorder requiring treatment or medication. It's simply a trait of our unique personality.

HSP's have an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli. As a result, our whole being needs solitude to analyze, sort out and fully process events that overstimulated us including conversations, conflicts, stress, actions of others or being subjected to an environment of chaos.

Since most highly sensitive people are also empaths, we also take on the hurts, pains, disappointments, excitement and joy of those around us. In a limited capacity, we are taking the weight of the world on our shoulders ... the good and the bad.

That's a lot to sort out and process. So, when we HSP's and highly sensitive introverts go into solitude, it is not because we don't like people ... we just need time to ourselves to recharge our core self, our thinking, and our energy to assure our mental and social health.

The core truth is that we don't do well in large groups or chaotic events. There is just too many stimuli (noise, light, people and expectations, etc.) around us that act as a funnel to a point of total internal chaos.

On the flip side, we do very well in a small group (3-6 people) of friends or family in which in-depth conversations and exchange of ideas are pursued. It's the "small talk" we fail at.

So, when one of us tells you that we some time alone, please understand that we are not pushing you aside or checking out of society. We just need some downtime to analyze, sort out and fully process events that overstimulated us. We'll be back soon.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Introvert Fun

 


The types of activities that are fun for introverts differ from those of extroverts. Fun for introverts is not the type of fun that includes high-fiving and jubilant happiness. It's rarely loud, in fact, an introvert may not even have a smile on their face. More than likely, their facial expression and demeanor will probably be showing signs of deep concentration or peacefulness.

In western societies, the concept of fun has been defined and claimed by extroverts. 

  • Fun is participating in risky behavior like skydiving or racing.
  • Fun is breaking the rules.
  • Fun is a week filled with socializing and parties. 

Extroverts need the adrenaline rush of living life at full throttle. Give your all, all the time. The need for external stimulation is just a part of their DNA.

For most introverts, fun is quiet, focused and often experienced in solitude. It's frequently determined by our surrounding environment like a park or in our backyard under a shade tree where we can concentrate and focus on our internal thoughts, plans and relationships. Other activities that are fun for introverts are:

  • Walking with a friend or spouse
  • Reading
  • Driving for several hours on a highway that isn't crowded
  • Gardening
  • Working on a puzzle
  • Going to a coffee shop with a friend to catch up and have a few laughs
  • Fishing
  • Going to a matinĂ©e at a movie theater
  • People watching at a park
  • Knitting
  • Sewing
  • Writing
  • Woodworking
  • Binge-watching your favorite TV show
  • Going to a gallery or museum 

Many introverts enjoy getting up early or going to bed late so they can enjoy the peaceful serenity in their home. Introverts don't need company to keep them entertained or mentally energized.

It's time for introverts to claim our type of fun ... the type of fun that brings us happiness, pleasure, fulfillment and a calm sense of purpose.

Let's not let others tell us we don't know how to have fun!



Sunday, November 1, 2020

Choosing Inner Peace

 


I have a real interest in politics. Unfortunately, this interest has, over several decades, added much stress and anxiety to my life. 

Though I am an American expat living in Ecuador, American politics (especially presidential elections) still affect my life because I remain an American citizen.

The presidential election in the United States this year is more contentious than I've witnessed in my 64 years. The country hasn't been this divided since the Civil War. In families all across the country, family members are at odds with each other. Brother against brother is all too common. A son's children are barred from seeing or talking with their grandparents.

As a Highly Sensitive Introvert, this hate and division, especially among families, hurts me to the core of my being. Family relationships are being destroyed. Lives are being discarded like used toilet paper.

To keep inner peace, I refuse to engage in political discussions and debates. There is nothing for me to gain by participating in a heated argument when my opponents have no intention of listening to reason, logic or common sense ... regardless of the overwhelming facts that surround us daily.

My mental and emotional health is of far greater importance than scoring a few points against my adversaries.

I learned from the 2016 presidential election what happened to me when I got involved in political discussions. While many started calmly, they always ended up in shouting matches in which all participants parted company in personal and collective turmoil. Following those blowouts, my default reaction was to go into seclusion for a few days to 'heal' and to sort things out.

I finally realized that I was the cause of the over-stimulation to my sensory system that brought the stress and anxiety to my life. 

Regardless of how strong my beliefs are, I refuse to fall back into the behavior that brought nothing but resentment, stress and anxiety to my life.

This year, I have chosen peace. Peace with those around me. Peace within myself. I've chosen inner peace instead of constant inner conflict.

----

"The reason why the world lacks unity,
and lies broken and in heaps 
is because man is disunited with himself." 
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Making the Holiday Season Bright

 


The Holiday Season in 2020 will be like no other we've seen in our lifetimes. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected each one of us if nothing more than being subjected to lockdown mitigation efforts. 

As of today, October 25th, 225,000+ have died in the U.S. from the coronavirus. Millions have lost their jobs. Even more people have seen their income take a downward spiral. Tens of millions of people are unable to meet their basic needs of food, shelter and healthcare. To make matters worse, the number of cases across the country is on the rise.

Millions of families across the nation won't be celebrating as normal this year. Families of the deceased will be grieving. There won't be any money for celebrating or giving gifts for a significant number of individuals and families this Holiday Season. 

Memories will be like salt poured on an open wound.

Empaths and Highly Sensitive People (HSP) will also be deeply affected. Because empaths and HSPs physically, mentally and emotionally feel the pain of others, this year's Holiday Season will be especially difficult.

As a Highly Sensitive Introvert, I am already experiencing emotional periods of empathy, anxiousness and anger. One of the conclusions I have come to already is that we empaths and highly sensitive people cannot allow our empathy to become depression. We must maintain balance in our lives. We cannot lock ourselves away in hopes of limiting the empathetic pain we feel. 

Since this is our 'default' reaction to the pain, we need to realize that this kind of pain will not be overcome with long periods of solitude. Rather, we need to move beyond empathy and move toward compassion.

Empathy is a passive response. Compassion is an active response.

During this Holiday Season we need to engage in activities that will ease the pain of those we share the pain with. When it is within our ability to help someone who is suffering, we must do what we can to lessen that pain.

This is the only way we will eliminate the pain we feel as an empath and a highly sensitive person. Doing this shifts our focus on helping those in need instead of our feelings. There are many ways to help those who are grieving or are in a very real financial bind.

For those grieving:

  • Stay in touch to see how they are coping
  • Ask what you can do to help them
  • Provide words of comfort and encouragement
  • Provide the names and phone numbers of professionals that can help them through this difficult time. Offer to make the call for them. Take them to their first appointment.
For those in a financial bind:
  • If you are able, provide financial assistance ... not as a loan but as a gift.
  • Provide a bag or two of groceries
  • Anonymously pay a utility bill or two
  • Offer to babysit for a day so that person can have a "recuperation day' to do some personal errands or to recharge their physical and emotional batteries
  • Offer to run some errands for them
  • Help them search for money-making opportunities
I know from experience the healing power of helping others. It turns your tears of empathy into tears of happiness.

"If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
― Dalai Lama XIV



Thursday, October 22, 2020

Introverts vs Extroverts: Differences in Physiology

 


Introverts (Including Highly Sensitive Introverts)

Introverts walk around with lots of thoughts. They often have an ongoing dialogue with themselves. Since this is such a familiar experience, they may not realize that other minds work in different ways. Some introverts aren’t even aware that they think so much, or that they need time for ideas or solutions to “pop” into their heads. They need to reach back into long-term memory to locate information. This requires reflection time without pressure. They also need to give themselves physical space to let their feelings and impressions bubble up. During REM sleep or while dreaming, this pathway integrates daily experiences and stores them in long-term memory, where they are filed in many areas of the brain. Introverts are in a constant distilling process that requires lots of “innergy.”

Common Physiological Behaviors of Introverts

  • Reduce eye contact when speaking to focus on collecting words and thoughts; increase eye contact when listening to take in information
  • Surprise others with their wealth of information
  • Shy away from too much attention or focus
  • Appear glazed, dazed, or zoned out when stressed, tired, or in groups
  • May start talking in the middle of a well—might stumble around when explaining their job or temporarily forget a word they want to use
  • May think they told you something when they just have thought it
  • Clearer about ideas, thoughts, and feelings after sleeping on them
  • May not be aware of their thoughts unless they write or talk about them
  • May have trouble getting motivated or moving, might appear lazy
  • May be slow to react under stress
  • May have a calm or reserved manner; may walk, talk, or eat slowly
  • May need to regulate protein intake and body temperature
  • Must have breaks to restore energy


Extroverts

Extroverts are alert for sensory and emotional input. When they get stimuli, they can answer quickly because the pathway is rapid and responsive. Their short-term memory is on the tip of their tongue, so while the introvert is still waiting for a word, the extrovert has spit out several. Extroverts need more input to keep their feedback loop working. Their system alerts the sympathetic nervous system, which is designed to take action without too much thinking.

Common Physiological Behaviors of Extroverts

  • Crave outside stimulation; dislike being alone too long
  • Increase eye contact when speaking to take in others’ reactions; decrease eye contact when listening to notice what’s happening in the environment
  • Enjoy talking—and be skilled at it; feel energized by attention or the limelight
  • Shoot from the lip, and talk more than listen
  • Have a good short-term memory that allows quick thinking
  • Do well on timed tests or under pressure
  • Feel invigorated by discussion, novelty, experiences
  • Make social chitchat easily and fluidly
  • Act quickly under stress
  • Enjoy moving their bodies and exercising
  • Have high energy levels, not need to eat as often
  • Be uncomfortable if they have nothing to do
  • Slow down or burn out in mid-life
In addition to the above, the behaviors of introverts and extroverts depend on whether they are primarily “right-brained” or “left-brained”. Each half of the mature brain has its strengths and weaknesses, its own style of processing information and unique skills.


Right-brained tendencies

  • Be playful in solving problems
  • Respond to events with emotion
  • Interpret body language easily
  • Have a good sense of humor
  • Process information subjectively
  • Improvise
  • Use metaphors and analogies when describing something
  • Deal with several problems at once
  • Use hands a lot in conversation
  • Notice patterns and think in pictures
  • See solutions as approximate and evolving
  • Not realize all that you know


Left-brained tendencies

  • Analyze pros and cons before when describing something
  • Think in terms of right and wrong; good and bad
  • Process experiences objectively
  • Be keenly aware of time
  • Proceed one step at a time
  • Not pick up social cues easily
  • Like to categorize
  • Be idea-oriented
  • Be comfortable with words and numbers
  • Seek exact solutions


Play to Your Strengths
Introverts

It is important for introverts to know their brain dominance to understand themselves better. Left-brained introverts may be more comfortable living life as an introvert. They may have fewer social needs, so they may not be as conflicted over spending time alone. Often they are more verbal and logical than right-brained introverts, so they are able to succeed better at school, work, and in meetings. Many engineers, accountants, and computer jocks fit this profile. Since these individuals notice they are different.

Right-brained introverts have numerous talents, but many of them are difficult to translate into traditional job skills. They are creative and may seem eccentric or curious to others. The term starving artists was coined for these folks.

Since right-brained introverts feel more emotions and see the big picture, they may feel quite sensitive about their differentness.

Information Source: The Introvert Advantage by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy.D.

Website Source: Perspectives on Life

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

HSP or Introvert?

 


In recent months I have been struggling with the identities (labels) of Highly Sensitive People (HSP) and Introverts. Which one am I? Am I both? If I’m both, what is the correct label for me?

I have been using the label of Highly Sensitive Introvert. Is this correct? I don’t know because I’m still unable to make clear practical distinctions between the two labels because both groups share many common traits. Additionally, of the four online tests I’ve taken; I score very high on being an HSP and an introvert. By the way, my Briggs-Myers personality type is ISFJ (introverted, sensing, feeling, judging.)

In my research over the last several weeks, I have re-read 7 books on Highly Sensitive People and introverts. Guess what? Surprisingly, I learned more about my high sensitivity from reading the books on introverts. To be honest though, there are for more books written about introverts than there are about HSPs. Listed below are some reasons why there is confusion: 

  • 15-20% of the American population are HSPs
  • 30-50% of the American population are introverts
  • 70% of American HSPs are introverts
So, this means that some people are an HSP and an introvert. Note that there are far more introverts than HSPs. It also means that 30% of all American HSPs are extroverts. It’s also obviously true that not all introverts are HSPs. 

HSPs and high reactive introverts share some common triggers that overstimulate our central nervous systems. Some of the most common are:
  • Crowds
  • Chaos
  • Loud or constant noise
  • Bright lights
  • Phone calls
  • Unexpected visitors
  • Interruptions while we are working
  • Constant and/or loud talking
  • Small talk
  • Tardiness
  • Someone looking over our shoulder when we are working
  • Deadlines
  • People not respecting our personal space
  • People not respecting our natural sensitivities
  • Aggressively assertive, loud, in-your-face extroversion
  • Unstructured environments
  • The absence of order, schedules and routines 

Sophia Dempling, author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World introduces the possibility that HSPs may actually be a segment of the much larger introvert community. This concept mutualizes both groups and provides a foundational platform for our shared traits while acknowledging respective differences. Without a doubt, more research and clinical studies are needed in this area before any scientific determination can be made.

The single largest commonality among HSPs and introverts is that most people rarely understand us and our natural psychological and behavioral traits. Our quietness unnerves them to the point that many don’t trust us. They think we are always up to some covert mischief or that we despise them. 

In western societies, after all, extroversion is highly admired and richly rewarded. It’s the perception of most extroverts that it’s unnatural for HSPs and introverts to be so quiet and reserved. Most extroverts readily judge us as being antisocial because we aren’t partying every weekend or socializing with friends or family several times a week.

Extroverts fail to recognize that highly sensitive people and introverts are not antisocial, we just prefer to socialize with another close friend or two rather than having meaningless chit-chat with many people in a chaotic and noisy group setting. Our senses become so overwhelmed with the chaos and noise that many of us just shut down until we get a chance to process what’s going on around us and to recharge our psychological energy with some solitude.

HSPs and introverts don’t dislike people. We just dislike being around many people at once or for an extended period of time. There is too much disorder, too many people talking at once, too many ill-mannered, back-slapping extroverts with their unwanted noses in our affairs, and too much fake niceties. These social environments and behaviors literally makes us ill … physically, mentally and emotionally. This is our nature.

There isn’t anything wrong or broken with HSPs and introverts. We don’t need fixed. We don’t need to be mocked. We don’t deserve to be disliked. We just need to treated and recognized fairly. All through history every empire has needed warriors. They also needed the thinkers for their ability to think through the consequences of any action. Extroverts have always been the warriors … people of action. Introverts have been the successful thinkers and planners. Societies need both.

Personally, because I exhibit so many shared traits between HSPs and introverts; I’m just going to start telling others (and only when needed) that I’m a highly sensitive introvert.

Gee, I’m glad that’s settled … for the moment anyway.

Introduction



Imagine you lived 63 years of your life knowing you are different from most people around you but not knowing why.  Furthermore, this difference caused misunderstandings and conflicts between you and your family, friends and coworkers. 

This has been my life.

It wasn't until several months ago when I was researching my empathetic and sympathetic nature that I learned I was a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). The more I learned about HSPs, the more I realized that I was also an introvert. This means I am a Highly Sensitive Introvert. I will expand on this in greater detail in future posts.

The purpose of this blog is to share my experiences -- the good and the bad -- as I learn more about being a Highly Sensitive Introvert. After reading 7 books over the last several weeks, I have learned a lot about myself that I never understood before.

I hope you find my posts informative, useful and funny at times.

Thank you for visiting my blog. If you have any questions or comments as I go down this path of learning and sharing my experiences, please use the comment section to share them.



In Search of Solitude

  "I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude." -- Henry David Thoreau Highly sensitive people, especia...