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