Do we live in a sick society?

For it is non-conformity which creates the new, exposes the flaws of the old, and helps push a society toward better frontiers.”

Highly sensitive people may weigh cultural conditioning less than in less sensitive people. We know this from one research study that measured the level of influence that culture, which we should define here as an entirely arbitrarily constructed set of ideas, beliefs, and values specific to a time and place, exerted in the decision making process. HSPs, indeed, did seem to weigh cultural conditioning to make certain choices less than in less sensitive people. But does that mean we are necessarily non-conformists?

HSPs may be conformists or non-conformists because no two HSPs are alike and do not share backgrounds, or even cultural beliefs. Having a trait like Sensory Processing Sensitivity simply implies that we have the four core aspects of SPS:

– More elaborate processing of experience in the mind
– Tendency toward overstimulation in certain highly individualized situations (again, no two HSPs are alike)
– High empathy and a broader emotional range
– A sensitivity to subtle cues that others overlook or miss

How we embody high sensitivity is certainly deeply influenced by the particular society that we live in. In the US, the culture is decidedly conformist yet, ironically, prizes the non-conformist. We are simultaneously expected to utterly conform to work culture, political culture (no matter how exaggerated and gross), religious culture (a total institution with no form of tolerance for questions), and regional variations in culture. Yet, many HSPs and, especially HSS/HSPs, feel a drive towards non-conformity that removes the “blinders” most people willingly wear.

Adapting to a sick society produces sickness…at times of social instability the greater our conformity the more our mind will act like a mirror and reflect the chaos of society back within.”

If we espouse all of the same “beliefs” that others so vocally project we have given up our ability to think, to reason, and to craft new ways of being that may be better suited to new times and circumstances. Staying the same simply because “that’s how things have always been” is a dramatically poor excuse to not think, to not innovate or envision new ways of being and doing that may be better for the greatest number of people. In the current climate, we see huge cultural shifts taking place that expose those who are the mirror, reflecting the sickness of our society, and those who reject the mirror. If we see anything, it is the degree to which the human mind is limited by its own laziness and desire for stability.

High sensation seeking highly sensitive people may be most likely to imagine how society may evolve and change, given that sensation seeking as a trait prizes novelty, new experiences, a displeasure with the mundane, coupled with a willingness to cross or break cultural boundaries. Linking that up with deep sensitivity we have a person who is perhaps well suited to adaptation and change, since it is already their way of life.

The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal…they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”

My point in presenting this discussion of normalcy is to bring into question the definition of true mental health. Too often, we highly sensitive people feel that something is “wrong with us” and that we are unable to simply be like everyone else. But to be like everyone else is to be a conformist who is rigid and inflexible to changing circumstances. Your mental structures are more flexible and allow for both disintegrations at times and reformulations. That is, if you are in touch with your true nature and do not allow the culture to bash you into conformity.

Acknowledging here that not everyone is strong-willed or driven to the same degree to resist conformity, we can still benefit from understanding that what is normal may also actually be “sick” and that the social utility of conformity has led us to mass delusions of what it means to be “normal.”

As quiet leaders in society HSPs and HSS/HSPs have a unique opportunity and responsibility to invent the new in ways that move everyone toward greater equality, opportunities for growth and development, and “real” humanity that does not take its cues from thinking that is rooted in non-thinking, non-rationality, non-morality, and unfairness.

How will you invent the new?

Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul Audiobook!

My new book, Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul, is now available as an audiobook on Amazon, Audible, and iTunes! I think you’ll really enjoy the narrator for this one, as well as the book. There is much to learn for both men and women as I explore this vitally important and timely topic.


Walking for HSPs

Have you “rediscovered” walking during the pandemic? Many more people are out in the sun and fresh air than ever before because they finally feel the need to move and be outside. I’ve always been a walker of the sort described in this article, the type who doesn’t do it for intense, insane workouts. My walking practice is more about the aspect of simple movement, calming the mind, and allowing my body to do what it is evolved to do: walk.

There is a slight boost in mood that is always welcome and I often feel physically stronger at the end of a walk, though I’m only doing 30-40 minutes, it is a brisk pace. We HSPs need to move our bodies more and derive the myriad of benefits from this totally free and easy activity. We spend far too much time inside our own minds and not enough in our bodies. Sounds strange right? But consider that when we are moving we become keenly aware of our capability to walk and the easy way it flows. We strengthen all of our bodily systems, very importantly for sedentary people, the cardiovascular system.

“The American Heart Association calls for able-bodied adults to engage in brisk walking for at least 30 minutes five days per week. In a report that included findings from multiple well done studies, researchers found that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31% cut the risk of dying by 32%. These benefits were equally robust in men and women. Protection was evident even at distances of just 5½ miles per week and at a pace as casual as about 2 miles per hour. The people who walked longer distances, walked at a faster pace, or both enjoyed the greatest protection.

The cardiovascular benefits of walking are biologically plausible; like other forms of regular moderate exercise, walking improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation, and mental stress. And if cardiac protection and a lower death rate are not enough to get you moving, consider that walking and other moderate exercise programs also help protect against dementia, peripheral artery disease, obesity, diabetes, depression, colon cancer, and even erectile dysfunction. ”

Walking, as a free exercise that we can do that will reduce stress, help us maintain a healthy weight, increase our cardiovascular strength and efficiency, while simultaneously immersing us in nature (if we walk in natural areas) is the perfect exercise anyone can do, including HSPs. Obviously, walk within your limitations and don’t push yourself too hard but it is generally okay to “pick up the pace” a bit more when you find yourself slacking off.

You will need a good pair of shoes that are built for real walking, not casual shoes that will surely cause blisters or discomfort. Also pay careful attention to staying hydrated when it is hot outside and bundle up in layers when it is cold. It’s always possible to remove a layer but you can’t put one on if you don’t have it. HSPs should view a walking practice as a serious and dedicated part of their overall self-care practice. The benefits to our physical and mental health are tremendous and cost nothing.

Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul

Kindle cover 5 2020

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

thrive coverThrill: the High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Kindle cover 2019…/walking-popularity-comeback……/walking-your-steps-to-heal…

Master or Slave to our Thinking?

Too often we are slaves to our own thinking and unable to effectively manage or control how we think, what we, think about, or whether that thinking is productive. Highly sensitive people are perpetual overthinkers as part of their trait, sensory processing sensitivity, and many fall into the same category as the rest of humanity who have never truly considered whether they are the master or slave to their thinking.

Many HSPs are troubled by too many thoughts, processing for what feels like too long, and by the intense feelings and emotions that are provoked by events that do not seem to warrant such overreactions. Learning to manage our often voluminous thoughts and thinking processes can help free us up from the cycle of non-productive thinking that often leads to the aversive state rumination. Once we enter a negative mind state we are only harming ourselves, since HSPs do far worse than less sensitive people in negative environments, even those we create ourselves.

The value of an education can be obtained through a university degree for sure, but may also be gained from one’s freely chosen self-study. As a higher education professional I can tell you that just because students enter a degree program does not mean that they are prepared in any way to think, to reason, or to even consider how their thinking might be improved over time. I help people learn to improve their thinking, and actions, by working to introduce them to critical thinking and creative thinking as a necessary combination that is always present but usually undervalued.

HSPs hold no special claim to being better thinkers than less sensitive people and we all need to work on improving our thinking, both, critically and creatively in order to become productive and fairminded thinkers. Becoming rational and creative thinkers is not born into us, we don’t arrive with these skill sets in place, we have to learn them and improve our ability to use them over a lifetime. It’s far easier to not practice real rational or creative thinking, the default is much simpler but leaves us wallowing in a self-centered world where we are only able to see out from the inside and never able to consider broader realities of others.

The true value of an education should be in opening you up to the possibilities that become inherent when we embrace and embody critical and creative thinking, combined with ethics and intellectual humility. I have worked with enough students over the years to know that when people really engage with examining how they think, with an eye towards improving it over time, they find their lives to be transformed in enlightening and inspiring ways.

It’s not enough to just be a “deep” thinker, we must become fairminded critical creative thinkers who practice such thinking with the goal of improving it over time so we gradually become masters of our own minds.

Empowering The Sensitive Male Soul

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Reinventing Yourself: It may be time to hit the reset button–here’s how it’s done

“Can you solve a problem for more than one side of an industry?”

With all of the turbulence brought on by the pandemic, many of us are forced to confront mind-states that are suddenly out of date or otherwise unworkable. I’ve seen interviews with small businesses where owners bemoan their sudden lack of business but fail to appreciate that reality has squarely slapped them and their business model down for the count. When we fail to appreciate that times have shifted and we must shift along with them we open ourselves up to failures on more than one front.

If you own a small business, it’s likely that you understand what it means to adapt, improvise, and overcome but do you really appreciate innovation and the entrepreneurial and disruptive nature of real change? A small business has to remain nimble and able to pivot as times catch up and overtake what was formerly a stable business model. I’ve seen many that have adapted very quickly, particularly restaurants that have to serve orders in some fashion in order to have a business at all. Others have shifted how they deliver services or products and now are considering the longer term implications of this new approach.

With no end in sight for the pandemic and the seismic shift it has brought to our professional and personal lives, it is incumbent on us to be proactive in anticipating how we need to reinvent ourselves or our business models. Highly sensitive people are quite intuitive but learning to paid heed to that intuition and use rational and creative thinking to bring that idea to fruition takes practice and development of those capacities. Intuition is the harbinger of what you may need to do, not the way to get there.

This strategy of personal and professional reinvention is especially relevant and poignant for those of us who are HSS/HSPs (high sensation seeking highly sensitive people). Our collective need for novelty, new experiences, thrill seeking, when coupled with boredom susceptibility and dis-inhibition, predisposes us to a cycle of continual reinvention throughout life. For HSS/HSPs, reinvention is a way of life, or at least a fact of life that we may be far more comfortable with than HSPs, who may seek structure, predictability, or lack of significant change to avoid overstimulation or anxiety.

The HSS/HSP breaks through the walls of fear as the need to reinvent becomes too strong to resist. Learning to challenge and engage with your fears to reinvent is an essential skill in the 21st century where few things are stable, predictable, or long-term. We are all entrepreneurs now…

Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul

Kindle cover 5 2020

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

thrive cover

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Kindle cover 2019

What If Working From Home Goes on … Forever?

Working from home has become the norm in many cases during the pandemic and has provided many companies with the opportunity, forced by necessity, to learn by doing. It’s always been a given that working from home is not for everyone but may work extremely well for some people, particularly high performers. This NY Times article thoroughly covers the present state of working from home and the many issues we face.

I found it amusing that they agreed with my long standing observation that 2 days of working from home is just about the point where we begin to feel the need for socialization. An ideal work from home arrangement might include 2-3 days at home and 2-3 days in the office with flexibility to shift either way to keep it fresh. This is especially true for the high sensation seeking highly sensitive person because we are forever in need of novelty and new experiences. With flexibility to determine what feels right for us we may be better able to stay ahead of the boredom susceptibility aspect of our trait and enter flow states.

I also was struck by several of the quotes from the article and could not help but think the “madhouse” environment of many offices has come home and some who enjoy that environment seem to actively seek ways to bring the same frenetic energy to work from home arrangements. HSPs recoil in horror at this I’m sure! Many of us may also find it interesting in an ironic way how some workers describe the home environment as simply not working for them. Many of us have been saying something similar about open office environments for many years! The irony…

If you are like me and have been working from home for years the issues raised in the article are likely non-issues. You likely have figured out ways to seamlessly accomplish work, while not overdoing it and still maintaining a functioning household with or without kids. You have probably become used to slipping in at odd hours to do 10 minutes of work then slip right back out to your patio or backyard.

What you learn after working from home after more than a few years is how to redefine work and your personal life. If you are wise enough to work at something you have some intrinsic interest in, it does not seem like work. Moving seamlessly between the personal and professional become second nature and worrying about what is one or the other becomes meaningless because it all simply becomes what you do and who you are. That level of integration only comes with possessing a high level of self-awareness coupled with a commiserate level of professional competence.

What’s your working from home story? Like it or hate it?

Empowering The Sensitive Male Soul

Thrive: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Why We Aren’t Who We Are

Do you cling to labels? Is your label count up to 10, 20, or more? How many different labels define you? We HSPs are not immune to the human tendencies to subscribe to faulty notions that may limit who or what we may become in this life. Too often, we may find that it is comforting in some way to “know” who we are, or why we think, feel, and behave as we do. But, for the most part, the more we subscribe to this illusion the more we limit ourselves to a narrow range of possibilities.

Highly sensitive people and high sensation seeking highly sensitive people may be generally more open to new possibilities, simply as a function of their traits, but when we allow the narrative that we continually “spin” about ourselves and our lives to dominate our thinking, we deny other possibilities, such as the introvert who can act extroverted, the HSP who can act out of character, or the highly sensitive man who does not have to play a role he does not agree with.

The more we chase a firm and solid identity the more we may find that it’s simply an exercise in attempting to define what is inexplicable and liminal. Accepting that and allowing that we only live in the NOW can bring us back to the reality that we can only ever approach each moment as an open possibility.

This does not mean that it is is not helpful to know something about yourself. Indeed, it can be hugely beneficial to understand your own predilections and tendencies but the trick is to not allow any of these aspects to limit who or what you may become in any given moment. Those of us who are more creative know this as a way of being where we can freely live in ambiguity, knowing that sometimes practicing non-judgement may lead us to new opportunities, ideas, and inspiration. Those who are less comfortable as creatives may feel more pressure to cling to a story line of who they are and what they are about.

Many of us have also suffered in childhood environments that were not supportive or where we experienced trauma, conflict, or abuse. Finding a way to stop clinging to a story then becomes even more essential if we are to leave the past truly in the past. It is also fascinating to note that we may be full of ideas and certainties regarding who we think we are, yet to an outsider who does not know us, their take on who we are and what we are about may be entirely different.

My advice? Don’t cling to the illusions we all build up in our minds too much. Approach the present with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to embrace the in-between and betwixt spaces.

Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person