Dark night of the soul and HSPs

Highly sensitive people are marked by a deeper psychological complexity that naturally lends itself to greater potential inherent growth and development of the overall personality. Of some necessity this means that we enter what the accompanying video to this post describes as the “dark night of the soul.” During this time, we often move away from who we thought we were towards who we may become. This movement creates some anxiety, confusion, and depression because it IS disconcerting to discover we are not who we think ourselves to be! Moving away from ego, where the impetus is to dominate and control, to one where possibility exists and where uncertainty dwells as a frequent friend is not for everyone.
If you have noticed, many people today are deeply polarized along harsh political lines but peek under the hood and we see that the same human tendencies towards sociocentrism and egocentrism are at play, as they have always been throughout human history.
Sociocentrism, very simply, reflects the tribal mentality to conform to the current group, even if one does not necessarily agree in total. Social group pressure is well-known and researched as one of the strongest influences on our behaviors; thus, sociocentrism reflects a mindless quality of groupthink where people choose not to use their own rational thinking capacities in favor of group consensus. Egocentrism is acting out of egoistic concerns and the drive to control. Our egos are bullies and seek to control our environments, exert control over other people, and to protect us from harm. When our egos are too dominant, again, we are not using our rational thinking capacities to think through our actions before taking them. We also practice little to no reflection and learn no lessons from our mistakes.
The indefinable tug towards lessening of the ego, along with lessening of concern for group approval is stronger in some people than in others. It would not be accurate to say that ALL HSPs are driven to be less egocentric or sociocentric, since we all know of many instances to the contrary. But, if the drive is strong in you to grow and develop, there will also be a commiserate series of “dark nights of the soul.”
Let me reframe this another way. The Polish psychologist, Kazimeirz Dabrowski, created a theory over 30+ years of clinical practice that he called the Theory of Positive Disintegration. His theory is all about human growth and development to greater levels of psychological complexity where the ego gets de-emphasized in favor of greater altruism and spiritual creativity. So, how can disintegration be positive? Dabrowski’s view was that if we possess sufficient what he termed as Overexcitabilities (emotional, intellectual, imagionational, psychomotor, sensual), we would be on a lifelong path of moving from lower orders of psychological complexity to higher ones. In order to progress, we will face times when we fall apart (disintegrate, if you will) and reform at a higher level of complexity. This process will be repeated over a lifetime with no guarantees that we will reach any particular level of the five he postulated.
The beauty in Dabrowski’s theory, in my view, is that he directs the innate human creativity we all have towards our own growth and psychological development turning us from less evolved states where the ego is in control to one of autonomy and magnanimous views of human society. Though the theory of Positive Disintegration was co-opted early on by the gifted community, Dabrowski believed that all people have some level of potential to develop beyond the most basic levels of egocentrism and sociocentrism. He did believe that the majority would exist at the level of near complete social control and we seem to see that playing out daily in front of our eyes as extreme positions are taken up and maintained rather than engage in anything resembling honest discourse.
HSPs and especially HSS/HSPs may find themselves driven to grow beyond early versions of themselves into new possible selves that shatter who they think they are, but which offer more expansive versions of who we may become. HSS/HSPs usually possess that extra creative drive to reinvent on a continual basis that exactly resembles the dark night of the soul and Dabrowski’s Positive Disintegration.
I write much more about Positive Disintegration in my book, Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person (chapter 7). If you are an HSP or HSS/HSP, I strongly encourage you to develop self-awareness around our natural predispositions to live in a deeper, more complex, more intense way. Understanding this process and that it is completely normal for us will help you to come to an allowance, perhaps an acceptance, of your traits over time.
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person
Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Dark night of the soul video:

Online Highly Sensitive Men’s Workshop – Late 2020

The year 2020 and COVID19 have certainly forced many changes in society and for us as well with presenting workshops for highly sensitive men. We had planned a second workshop this year but had to shelve it until we, and everyone else, can feel safe in traveling and being in close proximity with others.
I am considering holding our second highly sensitive men’s workshop as an online event late in the year. This would be held via Zoom and likely be a 6-8 hour event. Dr. Elaine Aron may be in attendance, as well as John Hughes and perhaps an appearance by Tom Falkenstein, author of The Highly Sensitive Man.
How many highly sensitive men would be seriously interested in attending such an event?
Please share with any social media where you think other HS men frequent so we get the maximum number of responses!
Kindle cover 5 2020

Visual Note Taking for HSPs

Sketch noting for online meetings can be a great way to capture what’s being discussed, while visually representing the path of the discussion.
For the many HSPs and HSS/HSPs who are not at step #1, which career to choose, online meetings are simply a fact of life. Now, you might think this would be too hard or require too much focus that would take away from the meeting but with a little practice you might be surprised at how well being sensitive to subtleties, good at listening deeply, and thorough processing come into play in making the process second nature.
This summer I am teaching a curriculum and instruction course to doctoral students and added in the Visual to Verbal techniques as a way of encouraging more active learning but also increasing intrinsic motivation. Visual note taking can become autonomy-supportive and lead to greater feelings of competency and relatedness, all tenants of Self-Determination Theory, which some of you will be familiar with.
Give visual note taking a try at your next online meeting and see how it works for you!
Empowering The Sensitive Male Soul
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

What does it Mean to be a Highly Sensitive Man?

What does it mean to be a highly sensitive man? I share this video to present a glimpse into one young man’s story of being highly sensitive. It is important to acknowledge that all HS men are NOT alike. Each one of our stories is likely to be quite different and we should refrain from the human tendency to generalize based on one story or one experience. HS men, indeed, find ways to live in the world throughout their life courses. That does not mean it is ever easy but it does mean that we each manifest and express the trait differently.
The common core that connects us is always the four aspects of Sensory Processing Sensitivity:
Depth of processing of all experience and stimuli in the mind in a more elaborate and thorough way. We think before acting and tend to reflect on experiences more deeply to glean the lessons and improve future actions
Over stimulation tendency in certain individualized circumstances. Some are bothered by strong smells, scratchy fabrics, bright or dim light, crowded spaces, noises, tastes, and many others. No two HS men will be alike in this regard.
High empathy and emotional responsiveness. HS men tend to readily enter the experiences of others and feel their emotional state as if they were their own. A broader emotional range means we feel more deeply, more intensely than less sensitive people.
Sensitivity to subtle cues. HS men may be keenly aware of details that others miss or overlook. There is no difference in the sense organs themselves (no “superpowers”); rather, it is the way stimulation, taken into the senses, is processed that is different.
All personality traits serve the purpose of survival and reproduction. That’s it, they serve no other purpose that we know of. With that in mind, Sensory Processing Sensitivity is ONE trait among many. It is a very strong trait, though, and will likely influence the lives of those high in it to a profound degree. Personality traits typically fail to serve their evolved purpose when they are expressed at the extremes of possibility.
For example, I recently saw a post where the person said that almost every word from others brought about either tears or anger. If one is expressing any trait to that extreme, it is easy to become a non-functional person, or to suffer so deeply as to undermine most possibilities for a reasonable life. Traits serve their purpose best when they are expressed more moderately. A moderate-high expression would allow a person to enjoy the benefits of the four core D.O.E.S. aspects of the trait, while not being as subject to upset, irritation, fears, anger, or faulty perceptions and actions.
It is extremely important for all HS people, but especially HS men, to learn the skills of emotion regulation, to learn to set effective boundaries and enforce them over time, to learn that not everything that happens matters or should be processed at all. The task before all of us is to learn all that we can about the trait and integrate that understanding into our lives in ways that apply its inherent strengths: deep thinking, strong empathy, innate creativity, concern for others and for our animal brothers and sisters, and the higher potentialities of leadership, mentoring, and helping others to grow and develop themselves.
Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a wonderful variation in how we humans have evolved to discern subtle cues in our environments, between people, and to reflect on how and why we live. It can, however, be a misery when there isn’t a sufficient self-care practice that is sustained over time.
There is no substitute for knowing yourself, for adapting your life (as opposed to adapting yourself to life), and for the role of boundaries in allowing you to experience life in ways that suit your disposition.
For much more on HS men, see my new book Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul. Available in print, eBook and audio book formats.
Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person