Very Frustrated & Slightly Confused

I have no idea how it happened, but about an hour ago, I wrote a complete post about being an HSP and an extrovert.  Somehow, only half of that post got published.  So, if you read that post, you’ll realize that I never got into talking about how it’s affected me lately.  I did, actually.  You just can’t see it.

Secondly, I’m unable to create a link to another page, using my laptop.

It is far too late for me to be worried about this.

HSP ENFP/J ISO: Balance

Now that you’ve had your alphabet review for the day.  haha.

The further I go on this journey of understanding this part of me that is a Highly Sensitive Personality, the more paradox I discover.  As we know, only about 20% of the world’s population is HSP.  Then, about 30% of that 20% is extroverted.

Guess who falls into that teeny, tiny, imperceptible crack in the personality pavement?

I’ll give you a hint:

It’s me.

I fall into the crack.

The first time I took a Myers Briggs type test was in high school, over 20 years ago.  (Oops!  Just told on myself.)  Since that time, I have consistently scored as Extrovert iNtuitive Feeling, usually Perceiving, sometimes Judging.  Hence, ENFP/J.  Of course, I have never needed any old personality test to tell me that I thrive off of being around people, socializing, and talking.

For the most part, I spent my childhood years as an only child, so I always wanted to be out, playing with friends.  In college and afterward, I remember very few spans of time where I was alone, without plans of going somewhere or hanging out with friends.  That is, unless I was sleeping or studying.

Once, as a young Christian, I decided to offer to God a fast of my social life for several weeks.  I only participated in church activities and bible studies during that time.

To this day, I get much more done around the house when I have a guest or am talking on the phone.  To be sure, no one rushes over here to watch (not even help! just watch) me clean, but if they would, my house would be a lot cleaner.  🙂

In the past several years, I do feel that I’ve become more of an introvert.  I can’t imagine that I will even completely “convert, ” but I appreciate more and more the need for some alone time.  Some quiet time.

Torn: Highly Sensitive and Highly Self-Centered

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

 Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker…  Does the clay say to the potter: ‘What are you making?’ Isaiah 45:9

While reading and learning more about HSP, I have noticed that it is considered to be a gift to be grateful for.  After all, the Lord made us this way. Just days into starting this blog, however, I composed an entry in which I expressed doubt that there could possibly be anything positive about being an HSP.  The only use I could see for this trait was to make me cry or become very angry and tense at what would appear to be inopportune moments.

Much of the literature I’ve read on Highly Sensitive Persons mentions that HSPs are very in tune with other people’s feelings and thoughts.    Intuition and insight into others’ feelings and thoughts are part of the gift.  This is why HSPs often find themselves in helping/human services, I’d imagine.

In all my reading about HSP, my life has basically been flashing before my eyes.  So many aspects of my life started to make sense through the lens of my Highly Sensitive Personality.  Hurts, heartaches, mistakes, embarrassments…

There was a glaring exception, though:

The bits about being sensitive to what others felt and needed did not resonate with me.  At all.

How could this be possible?!  I am a model HSP in so many ways!  How on earth did I miss out the empathy part?

Then, it came to me.  My greatest downfall in life has been self-focus, or self-centeredness.  Let me be clear:  I never, ever had the thought, “I’m more important than everyone around me.  Therefore, I will put all my needs first and expect them to do the same.”  That may have seemed to be the case, but it simply is not true.

Looking back at my childhood, I can see some ways in which I could have become this way.  Though I am not an only child, I was one for several years before my mother had a second child.  As an only child, and after my brother was born, I was given most of what I wanted.  I was taught to think highly of myself from a very early age, with regard to physical appearance and intellect.

(side note:  if I ever have an academically gifted child, this child will not be made aware of high standardized test scores and percentiles.)

These circumstances are a breeding ground for conceit and self-centeredness.  Let’s also not forget that every, single person living on the planet is a sinful human being who, to some extent, is inherently selfish.  It’s just that some of those humans grow up in situations that teach them to think more highly of the needs of others.

I didn’t.

But can God redeem that time?  Of course, he can!

“I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten….”  Joel 2:25

In hindsight, I only remember very few situations in which I was very open to sense another person’s feelings.  Mostly, I remember being so wrapped up in my feelings and needs that I (unknowingly) built a wall between myself and the other person.  This wall prevented me from recognizing their needs and/or intentions on deeper levels, and possibly prevented me from being able to speak life to a person who may have needed encouragement.

Again, God can and does redeem our lost time!  Even before I began to learn about HSP, I’d been working to be less self-centered and to focus more on others.  It is a work in progress, let me tell you!  Still, God has been changing me step-by-dying-to-self-step.

How can I make the most of this part of my HSP “gift”? And if you also experience the sensitive/self-centered dichotomy, how can you? 

I’ve actually composed a list in answer to that question, but I’m going to take my own advice and pray before posting it.  It just doesn’t read right; and I want to step back and think it over.  Maybe even rewrite.  Let’s see.

 

Ferguson, Missouri, “Kate and Allie,” and My Stomachache

These days, the hottest topic in national news must be the shooting of Michael Brown by Officer Wilson:  a black youth murdered by a white police officer.  I am not here to deliver a verdict either way; but everyone must admit that this incident – along with many like it – has brought racial and socio-economic profiling to the forefront of everyone’s minds. 

In my mind, I am beyond whether or not Office Wilson shot this young man, simply because he was black.  I am beyond what type of aggressive or criminal behavior Michael Brown may have been displaying.  Do I believe that Michael Brown deserved to die?  Absolutely not.  I do pray that this case will be handled as objectively as possible (a long shot, at this point) and that justice will be served – whether this means that Wilson is found guilty or innocent.  

The thing that is disturbing me right now is the response I have seen.  I have seen so many people say things to the effect of, “Well, Michael Brown was a thug, with low hanging pants.  He robbed a store.  He rushed an officer.”  All of these things may be true, but I really, really need for us to stop using the word “thug.”  

I’m starting to think that the working definition for “thug,” is “black man, who is less than middle class and dresses in a hip-hop style.”  No need to educate me on the origins of low-hanging pants.  I already know.  My point is, not everyone who dresses like that is a criminal.  Like my brother.  He doesn’t wear low-hanging pants anymore, but he’s also not particularly clean cut.  This evening, I noticed a picture of him giving a peace sign, but like a “cool” peace sign.  I almost cried, thinking that this picture could be used in the future as proof that my brother is a lowlife thug.  Honestly, I’m about to cry right now.  I don’t agree with many aspects of my brother’s life, but I can tell you one thing:  he is not a thug or a criminal. 

Honestly, he may get a free pass, because he’s somewhat ethnically ambiguous.  I am, too, but he is more so.  

This evening, I was feeling very ill.  I will get to that in a moment.  

First, I want to mention an episode of “Kate and Allie,” a sitcom in the mid-80s about two white, middle-class, single moms sharing a brownstone in NYC.  I used to love that show!  There was an episode in which Allie was taking a taxi somewhere, and her purse got stolen.  She’s far from her destination, and she needs a fare to get home.  Eventually, it starts to rain, so her makeup and hair become messed up.  She starts more and more to resemble a crazy homeless woman, and is treated as such by the people whom she approaches for help.  If I remember correctly, this serves as a “don’t judge a book by its cover” reality check for Allie. 

So, back to tonight: 

I went to a home worship service with people from a different country.  The home was about a 15 minute drive from my home.  I enjoy their food, but sometimes, it does not agree with me well.  For some reason, I felt compelled to eat three full plates tonight.  Then, I started to get stomach cramps.  Time to go.  Silly me didn’t want to use the bathroom there, because it would be a sign that I couldn’t handle their food. 

So, I set off to my home.  I got about 100ft down the street, and my stomach started cramping.  Badly.  Then, there was nausea.  I thought, “if I can just make it to the nearest fast food restaurant.  

Negative. 

I made it as far as a friend’s house, which was about a two minute drive from where I’d just been.  I knocked on her door, then went back down before she could get to the door.  When she opened the door, I just said “bathroom, bathroom” and ran inside. 

May I delicately report that I have no more of that food left in my stomach as of this writing.  After a few trips back to her “bathroom, bathroom,” I sat down, completely drained.  By the way, there is no central air in her home, so I was sweating quite a bit when in the bathroom.  I probably remained at her house for another 30-45 minutes, and even fell asleep briefly.  When I woke up, I thought I felt well enough to make it home.  

I was wrong. 

I felt dizzy, nauseated and crampy again.  Really, I wanted to cry.  Fortunately, her home isn’t too far from the main strip of gas stations and fast food restaurants.  I pulled into the first gas station I saw.  It had bars on all of the doors and windows.  Pardon me for my own socio-economic profiling, but squealing in pain, I pulled right back out and drove a couple more blocks to a fast food place.  

Picture this:  

The restaurant is about to close.  In walks a thin, black woman, dizzy and almost doubled over in pain.  Hair is disheveled and sweaty, and there are traces of splashed vomit on her very casual outfit.  The cashier asks what she’d like to order.  All she can manage is a breathy, “I just need to use your bathroom.  Please.” Then, she hobbles to her destination. 

Could she be drunk? Could she be strung out?  

The town in which I live is largely low income and blue collar.  And there is, actually, incidence of drug and alcohol abuse and other irresponsible behavior that takes place here.  Therefore, those two are not at all far-fetched possibilities. 

When I felt ready to leave the restroom, I took a moment to straighten out my hair a little.  For their kindness, I decided that I should order something.  I also thought that would help me feel a little less dehydrated and dizzy for the remainder of my ride home. 

As I ordered, I felt the need, somehow, to explain to the cashier exactly what was going on with me.  He said, “Oh, I understand.  I eat food from that region of the world pretty often.”  Somehow, I felt the need to prove that I was neither drunk, nor strung out.  

I’m at home now, and have been for nearly two hours.  The cramping and nausea have subsided, but I still feel dizzy and weak.  

The physical pain is gone, but the questions still remain: 

What if I had been in a more affluent part of town?  

What if the only place open had been a finer dining establishment?  

What if the employees on duty hadn’t been two young, black men?  

Even being where I was, I half-way expected the police to be waiting for me when I emerged from the restroom.  If I’d have been in a different area, that half-way would have become fully. 

This is such a tough situation, because my demeanor tonight is often indicative of some sort of substance abuse or mental illness.  Similarly, Allie’s behavior and appearance on the show definitely resembled that of a homeless beggar.  

I genuinely wish I had an answer for how to discern with great accuracy whether a person is truly a threat to others or himself or not.  

Recently, I saw where a white man had tweeted something to the effect of, “I have to admit, I get nervous if I see a man board an airplane wearing a turban.”  

A Sikh Indian replied, “I have to admit, I get nervous if I see a white man enter a movie theater.” (reference the mass killing in the movie theater, or the universities, or the elementary schools…)  

So.  What are some NOT dead giveaways that a person is planning to harm you? 

1. He or she is black.

2. He or she is white.

3. He or she is wearing a clothing style that you don’t like, especially one that can be identified with hip-hop or country music culture.   

4. He or she appears to be “less than” middle class.  

5.  He or she appears to be “more than” middle class. 

I pray that we can all be more discerning and recognize real signs of danger; not based on skin color or social class.  

 

 

A Sliver of Hope: I’ll take it!

The other day, I was in an unfavorable situation that has made me cry a few times in the recent past.  I was with a group of people, who, because of some cultural differences, make me feel left out when I am with them.  What I mean to say is that the cultural differences make it appear as if they are trying to leave me out, but that’s not their actual sentiment.  However, I still have to be in this situation from time to time.

On this recent day, some of the cultural differences were in play, and I noticed their behaviors were pretty much the same as usual.  But something was different:

It didn’t make me cry.

My heart didn’t feel like it was being ripped out and stomped on, by an evil group of me-haters.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow!! 

I don’t take this to mean that I am no longer an HSP.  But I do take it to mean that I can have victory in situations that seem hopeless.

It was several weeks ago that I learned how this particular cultural difference meant that this social distance would exist with this group.  It just took me a while for my mind, heart and nervous system to come to terms with this fact – and also not to be angry or resentful in light of it.

This little milestone gives me so much hope!

Have you had any similar milestones? 

Loving One’s Enemy: HSP Style

This is what the Bible has to say about loving one’s enemy:

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”d says the Lord. 20On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”e 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:14-21

The Lord is very clear in his Word about how He expects us to respond to those who would try to harm us, whether intentionally or unintentionally.  As someone who is – by the strength of the Holy Spirit – trying to conform my life to the Word of God, I do not see this passage as an area of exception.  I know that this instruction is one that I must follow, and thus, want to follow.

A few months ago, I was uninvited to an event, at which my presence had previously been expected.  There were two guests of honor; and one of them did not want me there.  End of story.  I got crossed off the list.

When the friend who wanted me there broke the news, I actually cried a little.  I felt hurt, humiliated, bitter, angry…lots of negative.  Truth be told, I did not feel very close to the other guest of honor, but being there for my other friend was important enough to me to be able to put that aside for a day.

I very much wanted to complain about this to anyone who would listen.  I did not keep this slight all to myself, but I was delicate in my discussion of it.  Tried to be, anyway.  However, I’m also trying to do a better job of following the Bible’s commands about gossip.

In the months leading up to the event, I grew more and more angry, all the while knowing that the right thing to do would be to forgive and move on.  This would be especially difficult, given the fact that we all have very similar social circles.

In spite of my anger and hurt, I did not want to address the situation until after the fact, because I didn’t want to spoil the happy mood of the event.  A few weeks following the event, I decided that enough time had passed, and our paths had crossed enough times.  It was now time to make my feelings known and somehow clear the air.

So, I contacted the person who had revoked my invitation.  I told them how I felt, and that I didn’t think it was necessarily fair to exclude me.  As a guest of honor, it is that person’s prerogative to invite or un-invite whomever; but it didn’t seem that the decision was well-grounded this time.

This person responded to me in a way that might not have been intended as condescending, but it definitely came across in that way.

“Angry” doesn’t even begin to describe what I felt.  “Hatred.”  That’s a more accurate, if not entirely biblical, word to use here.  My current job can be done without a great deal of thought.  This is a blessing and a curse.  It’s great when I need to obsess over process something that has happened.  I can just do my work and stew over my emotions.  It’s awful, well, for the very same reason:  too much time to think.

The day I got the response, while at work, I (inwardly) yelled out to God about how much I hate this person.  I know that God can handle my emotions and my honesty.  Between my mental yells, I was repenting and begging Him to help me not react so strongly.

Here would be a good moment to note that this episode was one of the catalysts that caused me to learn more about HSP.  

I still knew that I had to forgive.  I also knew that the time would come when we would be in the same setting, and that I’d have to be cordial, kind, and friendly.  Just the thought made my eyes start to fill with tears.  This seemed like an impossibility!!

Learning more about Highly Sensitive Personality has helped me feel less horrified by the intensity of my reactions in uncomfortable or harmful situations.

The problem is that this awareness does not actually diminish the intensity.

Though I’ve started to really heal from the hurt of that situation, something remains:

There will always be something that hurts me or makes me feel uncomfortable.

And my body will produce tears, which will roll down my face.

Whether I like it or not.

  (For the record, I don’t like it.)

Just yesterday evening, I was thinking of a change of scenery that I may need to make.  While there will be some positives associated with this change, there are still some unsettling, upsetting aspects.

Again, with the involuntary, unnecessary tears at the mere thought of putting myself in that situation, which would actually be quite innocuous…

Guess what, people? The shaky voice and tears streaming down your face do not do much in the way of winning friends and influencing people.  Actually, that’s only halfway accurate:  people are influenced – to stay away from you!

In moments where I feel uncomfortable, angry, lonely, unwanted (whether rationally or irrationally), the slightest “hello, how are you?” from a well-meaning person will bring on the tears.  This has happened many a time.

Trust and believe:  these tears are not a plea for attention, nor sympathy.  I now understand better that they are borne out of having a nervous system that’s cranked up a few notches higher, even on a normal day.

So, back to the original issue:  how can I love my enemy, when standing there with tears running down my face?  I guess the answer is just that:

Love my enemy while the tears are running down my face.

This is a terrifying prospect. Absolutely terrifying, particular for a person whose sun rises and sets according to what others think of her.  And people who are crying for no apparent reason don’t get held in very high esteem, it seems.

But back to God’s Word:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. 14I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 15My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. 16Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16

He made me this way, though I cannot imagine why.  Therefore, He also knows that I can somehow honor and obey him, even with this unusual chemistry that He has built into me.

Will it be tough?  Yes.

Will it be embarrassing?  Definitely!!

But “His power is made perfect in my weakness.”

Depression and HSP: Any Kinship?

I don’t know how much of a stigma still surrounds clinical depression.  I do know, however, how it feels to go through it.  I know how it feels not to be able to envision ever being anything other than in a state of depression.

Upcoming posts about depression will be a bit of a deviation from our regularly scheduled Highly-Sensitive programming, but I didn’t want to start a whole new blog for this topic.  I wouldn’t be surprised to know that other HSPs have also experienced depression at some time or another.

One thing I’d be curious to know:  if you, as an HSP, have ever experienced a period of depression, was it before or after you recognized that you are a Highly Sensitive Person?  

It’s barely been two months that I’ve acknowledged being an HSP.  My period of depression was about 7 years ago.  This is making me wonder whether the depression would have been so strong, if I had already been aware of the HSP and had been taking emotionally-protective measures.

 

 

Like White on Rice

Recently, an acquaintance engaged me in a conversation that left me feeling very uncomfortable. Nothing was said that was blatantly out of line, but he was dancing dangerously close to the line.

I was already in a weird place emotionally, so his comments certainly didn’t do anything to ameliorate the situation.

Also, because of where we were, I ended up being somewhat of a captive audience. At the beginning of the conversation, I was working on something. This gave me an excuse not to engage too deeply. When I finished, I unconsciously stacked and re-stacked my belongings a few times. I suppose that was my way of prolonging my disengagement.

You may be wondering why I didn’t just state that the discussion was making me uncomfortable? If you find out, please tell me, because I still don’t know.

When he finally left from where I was, I felt relieved, but also quite wretched. Soon after, another friend came by, and we went to eat. Even when I was with that friend, the icky feeling would not go away.

It subsided slightly as that day progressed, but remnants lingered.

To what can I liken the way my emotions cling to me, long after the fact:

Like white on rice
Like flies to flypaper
Like chewing gum in hair
Like Linus to his blanket
Like a gel manicure to fingernails

Like me to Jesus – except I didn’t do a great job on that in this situation.