DANGER: I’M A “HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON!” | {Self Reflection Journal}

This is as close to my diary entry as you’ll ever get. Ready?

So! A few things I’ve learned about myself since the last time I talked about not feeling good enough.

Discoveries:

I discovered while reading Mastery: The Keys to Long-Term Success and Fulfillment by George Leonard that I, among the three different kinds of learners, am most prominently the obsessive-type learner. I don’t like to just “get-by” on things unless they’re unimportant but mandatory (general education courses—anyone?). The things I choose to do are generally very important to me, and I’ll put as much effort into their mastery as possible.

mastery obsessive learner

The success graph of an “obsessive” learner. Notice the dips and the constant plateaus?

Another thing I discovered: I need immediate gratification. Like, right now. And then some extra just in case. When all goes awry I panic because I believe all my previous efforts leading up to this point have been ruined. What was the point in reaching this far just to fail? Now I’m backtracking, is what I hear myself say. It’s like having a fever. You feel really hot and the only way it’ll heal is with time. For me, I want it healed NOW. I want the heat to go away NOW, and so I’ll take a cold shower to cool off and just for extra precaution, store myself in the freezer (don’t do this. I was even smart enough to not do this). In a crisis, I feel the need to be excessive. I feel like to need to make up for it.

Something else I’ve noticed is that I’m highly sensitive to my environment. I used to think I was crazy, that it was just all in my head, but I came across a book (which I’ve yet to fully read) called “The Highly Sensitive Person”. I took the online test and was astounded by how many of the symptoms I had. Elaine Aron summarizes this in a very comprehensible way:

“Highly Sensitive People, refers to people who process internal and external stimuli much more thoroughly due to a biological difference in their central nervous system…This provides greater insight and awareness, yet is also consumes energy and takes time to process and decide on a course of action. And, although everyone can refine their abilities, HSPs cannot simply turn-off this trait anymore than someone else can turn it on.”

She was able to put into words only what my subconscious knew.

Loud, noisy, or crowded areas do heighten my stress levels. I can almost feel the outer chaos manifesting itself into inner chaos in my mind. When I spend too much time indoors, I feel physically drained (even if I’m not doing anything physical) and my mental willpower depletes. It becomes hard to actually concentrate. If I don’t have mental stimulation, then my physical body “dies” by compensating in unhealthy postures that obstruct physical movement; this would explain my scoliosis. Sometimes, I could almost pass out or fall asleep if I truly wanted to (and ironically, at night sometimes I lie wide awake, unable to sleep). A few times in class this year, I had to pull my head down and crouch to recompose myself, but I know I’m not physically exhausted–just mentally unstimulated. It’s like if you watched TV all day long and feeling tired by the end of the day; it doesn’t make sense because you’ve done no movement and yet your mind/hormones/neurotransmitters or whatnot are dead from the lack of activity. I get frustrated with myself and tell myself I need to concentrate harder in class. This could all just be theory, and I by no means truly understand what’s happening in my body/mind. All I know is that if I were outdoors, or actively doing something, going somewhere, engaging in one-to-one conversations (and less crowded areas), I would have a lot more energy and be thoroughly engaged!

It was such a relief taking this quiz to know that there is a species of us out there—I’m not the only one! I finally have a name to this thing that’s been sticking to me for so long. I could finally identify it and the disclosure feels amazing.

Issues:

I blame myself for a lot of things that I can’t control: one being my sensitivities to inner and outer stimuli, another being the fact that my body can’t seem to fall asleep when I want it to! When I can’t will myself to do something, I tell myself I’m weak or not trying hard enough. This honestly doesn’t help me fall asleep but further stresses me out as I contemplate whether or not I should put on a podcast to listen to until I pass out, or count sheep.

Also, being a highly sensitive person makes me wonder if this make me a better, actor? To be highly sensitive to my surroundings should, in theory, allow me to jump into the immediate circumstances of my character because I’m highly susceptible to stimuli. On the contrary, if I’m too much affected by my own circumstances in my life, it blocks off my ability to become my character. I don’t know why, but I am leaning towards the latter as the more likely case.

 

Plans:

I’m going to read The Highly Sensitive Person! But where-oh-where does an acting student and part-time-entrepreneur schedule that into her agenda? I plan to finish it at least by the end of this semester.

What if I can apply the principle of surrender from Mastery for the things I can’t control? A part of me hates this passive approach, and yet another part of me is relieved (perhaps the “frexhausted” part. That means frustrated and exhausted). I think if I’m not getting something, then I need to try hard, or try something else. There’s no such action as a LACK OF action, right? Doesn’t that get you nowhere? It doesn’t make sense to me and yet, a part of my gut is saying that there’s a tactic behind this madness. I have to stop blaming myself for things I can’t control. Granted, I am sure there is SOME remedy out there that will help with my issues, but I haven’t found it yet and that is okay. It doesn’t mean I’ll never find it. It doesn’t mean I’m lazy or not trying hard enough. The fact is, I am trying the hardest, or the best I can possibly manage at the moment. I suppose it’s the only tactic I haven’t tried yet. I am going to surrender—whatever that means. It’s a hard concept to master, since my brain doesn’t have an “off” button so I’ll start by coming back to my breath if I find my mind digging for answers.

Backsliding is a sign of the mastery process and a sign that I’m doing something RIGHT. That was really relieving to hear because I while everyone tells me that I’m such an ambitious, successful person, the opposite is true; those are the very things I fear not being/achieving, constantly. Next time I experience a backslide, I’ll take a breath and just know that I’m on the right path; that failing means I’m doing something right.

Are you a highly sensitive person? Would you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?