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6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3)

6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3)

The greatest work of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) will be to fall back in love with his sensitivity. Or, to start the love in the first place if that is indeed the case.

This is assuming you are one of the many HSPs who are quite pissed off at the world for truly misunderstanding what it means to be sensitive. No, we’re not cry babies when people raise their voice at us. What we are is sensitive to the subtleties of this world. The things that 85% of the people miss, we don’t. It makes us more reflective and certainly more inward focused.

Another truth could be that we ourselves haven’t fully understood our own trait, so a part of us questions if we are to blame. Bottomline: We are highly aware, which can make us more creative. But we are also quick to getting highly stimulated, a frequently occurring state that often blocks out that creativity.

In parts 1 and 2, we explored the inward world of HSP. This article will elaborate on those ideas. Can we chart a plan that leads us to be at peace with ourselves? How should we get comfortable with who we are and eventually lead a life more in alignment with that?

We can. It starts with 6 Decisions.

1. Call it over stimulation, not fear

Are you always afraid and anxious? No. You’re sensitive and over-stimulated. It feels the same, but it’s not the same. And this is an essential reframe. If you label over-stimulation as fear, it will surely become fear. You know why? Because the mind is foolish. It can always conjure up something to be afraid of. And, once a state is labeled as fear, we rush into flight or fight and start scrambling for survival.

This takes us very far from what’s really true. We’re not fighting threats or dangers. All that’s happening is that we’re a little over-stimulated and in need of downtime to bring ourselves back to comfort. The best way to start is by actually removing the word “fear” from the picture. Don’t get me wrong. Fear is not a bad emotion, and in fact is a necessary one to keep our survival safe and intact. But over-stimulation is an overload on the nervous system asking us to slow down for a little bit. There’s nothing to be afraid of here.

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2. Don’t try to “overcome” over stimulation. You’ll just add more to it

If you try to overcome your trait, how do you think that’s going to go? You’re asking yourself to stop being you. Not only is that not going to happen, but it’s also giving you a very distasteful message about yourself.

Telling yourself not to get over-stimulated is a losing battle. It’s like asking yourself to not see a red car when you see a red car. It’ll never work, and you’ll just add more to your over-aroused state. Your trait, your high awareness, your sensitivity to nuance, your depth of processing are all innate. There are ways to get your life on board with your plans, but that cannot happen if you insist your inherent and intrinsic makeup has to change.

3. Let go of your need to be like the non-HSP.

It may seem unfair that we come with a trait that makes us so sensitive to the environment, when maybe instead we want to be happily ignorant of it. Like Sandy, the non-HSP, who escaped from noticing everything at the party except the missing piece of cake!

We have to try to remember that we also gain advantages because of the trait. If you’ll allow yourself, appreciate that HSPs actually have a big advantage with their inherent, intrinsically-handed-down, don’t-have-to-work-for-it, higher awareness of subtleties.

The higher awareness provides HSPs with greater opportunities to be more creative, perceptive, empathic and thoughtful. When you notice things that most others miss, that’s an opportunity to do something novel. It is no surprise then that many of the world’s most creative artists are highly sensitive people.

“HSPs are all creative by definition because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.” – Dr Elaine Aron, who discovered the HSP trait.”

Yes, it’s true. We feel things more intensely than others including difficult emotions like anger, fear, and pain. But, like Dr Andrea Wachter says “…you get to feel the sweet things in life very deeply too. While you may have to use more tools to weather the storms of life, when the storms subside and there are calm moments, you get to feel those more fully.”

4. Find ways to bring yourself back to your optimal range of stimulation

This is really what we are asking for.

Take a short walk. Leave the room. Mentally check out. Watch TV. Read a good book. Sleep. Meditate.

You need some mental space and it is critical you get it. How? This is a very individual matter, and the good news is that as an HSP, you will know best what activity helps achieve this.

For me, it’s going silent and politely asking people around me to excuse me. It is not always meditation although sometimes it is. Often, someone comes along who doesn’t understand. Sometimes, I offer him an invitation to read about HSPs, and other times if he doesn’t get it, I also offer him an invitation to go to hell (I don’t say it like that, but I sure as hell mean it like that).

The point I’m trying to make is that we should stop apologizing for our need to check out for a while. Look at it as nonnegotiable for yourself. We are taking in 80% more than others do. Your friends and family should understand exactly why you need private time to reboot.

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5. Introversion helps.

70% of HSPs are introverts. They get their energy from being inwardly oriented. The sooner you graciously accept that you prefer looking inward to recharge, the happier you’ll be.

But too many HSPs have kept their introversion a deep, dark, hidden secret. Society has given them the message that their desire to take time off for downtime and go off into their own private space makes them weird. And in the end, they’ve bought into it.

The majority suspects that we need to do this because we are “afraid of” or “shy of” people, and they show little hesitation in making this known to us. “Why are you so anti-social? Why would you want to leave the party already?”

If you don’t understand your trait holistically, you will forever be left feeling like there’s some flaw in you. It’s the reason why some HSPs are in ill-suited relationships, marriages, friendships, and professions primarily because they try to portray themselves as the opposite of who they are. As Extroverts.

Ironic and tragic at the same time, this has made HSPs more miserable than peaceful. And why wouldn’t it? You haven’t been able to wrap your head around why exactly you have been labeled as “flawed”, “shy”, “timid” when deep down inside you truly feel you are not.

There comes a time when you’ve had enough pretending. If you’re an introvert, accept it, own it. Choose your own ways of navigating your path. In the process, you will find your peace. If society gets in the way, train yourself how to say “Screw it. I’m doing it anyway. From now on, I’m being me.”

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Decision 6. Forgive your past by reframing it.

If while growing up your sensitivity was received by people, particularly by close family and friends, as a problem that needed fixing, then you are rightfully angry. We’re angry at them for asking us to change who we intrinsically are, and we’re also angry at us for believing their flawed verdicts about our value. And now, after we’ve understood our trait, we are angry at how much of our life got wasted in this whole, painful ordeal.

This anger can be toxic and can keep our healing from starting. This is where forgiveness can help us. Forgive the people who did not understand sensitivity as a trait. Isn’t it true that if we HSPs are just now understanding it, how could anyone else have known any better? Forgiveness doesn’t mean I like what happened, forgiveness means I no longer take it so personally. When we do this, the act of forgiveness is more in our favor than anyone else’s, because it empowers us to finally move on with our life. That has otherwise been put on hold.

“Don’t be so sensitive” can now be answered as “I will be. Thank you very much.”

***

Off we go into a life of our choosing without a flinch of disrespect for our sensitivity. Finally.

More by this author

Namita Gujral

Anxiety Coach

HSP, Highly Sensitive Person 6 Decisions a Highly Sensitive Person MUST make (Part 3/3) The Biggest Fight of the Highly Sensitive Person (Part 2/3) How to Thrive, Not Hurt, as a Highly Sensitive Person (Part 1/3) 5 Reasons to Quit Intellectualizing Your Emotions How to Overcome Anxious Thoughts With Milk, a Hat, and a Post Office

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Published on November 23, 2020

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

How to Develop Big Picture Thinking And Think More Clearly

Your neighbors downstairs are playing loud music. Again. How do they not get tired of partying? And why do they choose songs with such a heavy downbeat that the glass in your cupboard is vibrating every two seconds? What can you do to get some peace that you deserve? What should you?

Human mind tends to go in circles whenever faced with a problem without a clear solution. It becomes easy to forget the big picture and get lost in anger and self-pity, wasting our precious time, energy and enthusiasm.

Would it not be nice if we always remembered to put things in perspective?

Would it not be more efficient to face all kinds of problems, from tiny annoyances to life-changing emergencies, with a calm demeanor, sharp focus and fearless determination to promptly take the most efficient action possible?

Alas, humans are not like that. All too often we let anxiety or greed get the best of us and make a rushed or shortsighted decision that we quickly come to regret. Other times, we spend weeks or months at an impasse, rehashing the exact same arguments, unable to accept the compromise required to move forward with any of the available options.

Buddhists talk about getting lost in the “small self.” In this state of mind, we literally forget the big picture and focus on the small one. We start taking our daily problems too personally and, paradoxically, becomes less capable of solving them in an efficient manner. And this is the opposite of big picture thinking.

Let me share with you a story related to big picture thinking…

In 1812, the French army of Napoleon Bonaparte invaded Russia.[1] After a decisive Battle of Borodino, the capture of Moscow and therefore Napoleon’s victory in the war seemed inevitable.

Unexpectedly, the Russian Commander-in-Chief Mikhail Kutuzov made a highly controversial decision of retreating and allowing the French to capture Moscow. Much of the population had been evacuated taking supplies with them. The city itself was set on fire and large parts of it burned into the ground.

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After waiting in vain for Russia to capitulate, Napoleon had to retreat in the middle of a bitterly cold winter. He won the battle but lost the war. The campaign ended in a disaster and the near destruction of the French army.

What can we learn from this historical lesson?

1. Focus on the Consequences

Napoleon focused on the important part: capturing Moscow. Nobody could accuse him of thinking small. Yet he overlooked that the Russian army could still fight even after giving up the country’s most important city.

So was Moscow not an important target after all?

Success expert Brian Tracy has a litmus test: things are important to the extent that they have important consequences. Things are unimportant to the extent that they have no important consequences.[2]

When faced with a choice, ask yourself, what would be the consequences of each option?

  • Want to spend an hour studying or watching the new series on Netflix? What would be the consequences of each option? Netflix can sometimes be a better choice, but it helps to put things in perspective.
  • Want to maintain your apartment by yourself or to pay a cleaning service? Would would be the consequences of each option?
  • Want to meet up for coffee with this acquaintance of yours or catch up on your work instead? What would be the consequences of each option?

The choice can be different for different people. An aspiring filmmaker may have a legitimate reason for choosing Netflix. Personally, cleaning your own apartment can be relaxing and nourishing even if the economics of hiring a cleaner looks compelling because you are earning a high hourly rate.

This is where you will need a basic idea of who you are — what are your goals, values and aspirations.

2. Flip Defeat Into Victory

Kutuzov managed to turn Russia’s defeat into a historic victory by recasting the problem in a wider context: losing Moscow need not mean losing the war.

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Despite the symbolic meaning attached to the Kremlin, the churches, the priceless treasures that had been stored in the city for centuries, the outcome of the campaign was ultimately determined by the strength of the remaining armies.

If you can adopt this result-oriented perspective, many of your personal defeats may be flipped into victories as well. Few events in a human life are absolutely good or absolutely bad, and it usually takes many years to recognize in retrospect, what role a particular encounter did play in your story.

Therefore we have every reason to look for the good in the things that happen to us.

This is a very practical attitude, far from baseless “positive thinking.” After all, if something unfortunate has happened to you and you find good sides in this circumstance, you will then be better positioned to take advantage of those good sides.

Say your noisy neighbors are affecting your productivity. What if it is a blessing in disguise? How can you turn this defeat into a victory?

  • Perhaps you are too serious about life and could learn how to have more fun. Join your neighbors or go out for a walk instead of working;
  • Perhaps you only wanted to be productive while instead procrastinated on social media. Now that your procrastination has been interrupted, stop and acknowledge this much greater obstacle to your productivity;
  • Perhaps you are too sensitive to interference. Take this opportunity to practice ignoring the noise and doing your best anyway;
  • Perhaps you have a victim mentality and the feeling of unfairness drains you more than any actual nuisance your neighbors might have caused. Try accepting this lapse in your productivity the way you would accept bad weather.

Get used to finding opportunities in your problems. This is the quintessential big picture thinking.

3. Ask for Advice

Both Napoleon and Kutuzov had trusted advisers to discuss their affairs with. In general, getting a different perspective — or several — can only help inform your understanding and lead to better decisions. Just ensure that the people giving you advice are competent in the particular area where experience is needed.

Paying money for advice can also be a wise investment. Lawyers, tax accountants, medical doctors spend years learning how to assist people like yourself in living more successful, more fulfilling lives.

A quick legal consultation can save you a fortune down the line or even keep you out of big trouble. A medical check-up can uncover potential issues and help keep you healthy and active for years to come.

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Even big, complex dilemmas at your job or in your romantic relationship can be tackled more effectively by partnering up with a coach or a therapist or, of course, with the help of a wise friend.

4. Beware of Biased Advice

Many imperfect decisions occur in response to an imperfect piece of advice that you choose to act on. This advice often comes from a biased party.

For example, we are often encouraged to buy something that we supposedly need:

  • Protect your skin from harmful UV rays by using a special lotion.
  • Fortify your health by taking multivitamins.
  • Connect with your friends by sending them elaborate gifts.
  • Brighten your weekend by consuming a delicious pastry.
  • Become more productive by getting a faster computer.

However, most purchases are unnecessary.

Some, such as the sunscreen, do have legitimate benefits when used properly.[3] Others, such as multivitamins, only make a difference for a small group of people.[4]

Advertisers of those benefits inevitably want to narrow your focus in order to overstate the importance of their product. They frequently present it as the only solution to your problem, whether real or imaginary.

After all,

  • Skin can also be protected from the sun by wearing appropriate clothing.
  • Health can be better fortified by consuming a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
  • Spending time or talking on the phone with your friends is the foremost way of connecting with them, and it is virtually free.
  • Your weekend can be brightened by doing something that you love.
  • You can become more productive by focusing on the tasks that have the most important consequences. A faster computer can, in fact, decrease productivity by making it easier to multitask and by enabling your favorite distractions.

There are other sources of imperfect advice. Politicians also frequently want us to focus on a particular “big picture,” to the exclusion of the alternatives.

Even loving parents can be guilty of the same. They can advise their children to pick a career path that is safe and respectable, based on their “big picture” that in life one has to make a living. A child may disagree, however, based on another “big picture” that one’s life has to have meaning and fulfillment.

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Bottom Line

It is human nature to make rushed, emotional decisions based on incomplete information, then regret those decisions later on.

You can protect yourself from poor judgment by striving to attain the big picture when careful consideration is called for.

Focus on the consequences of your decision before considering how you feel about it.

Play with the cards you’ve been dealt, but look for opportunities in each situation and you will find them.

Ask knowledgeable mentors for advice, but beware of biased people who have an opinion, but do not necessarily have your best interest in mind.

Yet remember, true big picture thinking comes from hard-won experience. Legendary military commanders Napoleon Bonaparte and Mikhail Kutuzov were both injured on the battlefield.

Clear thinking comes from putting your big picture to the test of reality.

More Tips on Thinking Clearly

Featured photo credit: Haneen Krimly via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Wikipedia: French invasion of Russia
[2] Brian Tracy: No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline
[3] American Academy of Dermatology: Say Yes to Sun Protection
[4] Harvard Medical School: Do multivitamins make you healthier?

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