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: