A Political Post from a Highly Sensitive Person

The more I think about it, the more I feel that highly sensitive people should make themselves heard in this current (far too heated) political climate.

Because we HSPs think deeply on things and process information more deeply than most, we go beyond the binary.

The HSP’s depth of processing is described this way by Dr. Elaine Aron:

At the foundation of the trait of high sensitivity is the tendency to process information more deeply … HSPs simply process everything more, relating and comparing what they notice to their past experience with other similar things. They do it whether they are aware of it or not. …
Studies supporting the depth of processing aspect of the trait have compared the brain activation of sensitive and non-sensitive people doing various perceptual tasks. [Research has found] that the highly sensitive use more of those parts of the brain associated with “deeper” processing of information, especially on tasks that involve noticing subtleties.
In another study, by ourselves and others, sensitive and non-sensitive persons were given perceptual tasks that were already known to be difficult (require more brain activation or effort) depending on the culture a person is from.
The non-sensitive persons showed the usual difficulty, but the highly sensitive subjects’ brains apparently did not have this difficulty, regardless of their culture. It was as if they found it natural to look beyond their cultural expectations to how things “really are.” 

Dr. Elaine Aron, in The Highly Sensitive Person

When it comes to the political system, this depth of processing that highly sensitive people have often means we do not default to the current (and highly divisive) structures of the two-party system that has become so unhealthy and even dangerous for our nation.

Because this two-party system – the Republicans and the Democrats, the conservatives and the liberals, the red and the blue, the right and the left – has grown so pervasive in recent years, it seems as though this is the way it has always been and the way it must be.

But it’s not.

And as difficult as it might be for some to grasp this, there are ways of looking at things that fall outside the two binary categories.

It is deeply flawed thinking to assume that just because a person aligns with some aspects of one part of the party system that they must align with every aspect of it.

It’s like saying that because you enjoy eating blueberries, you must therefore like everything that is blue, including blue cheese and blue raspberry ices and any other food that is blue.

Okay, so that wasn’t the greatest analogy, but I hope you understand …

And if you are also a highly sensitive person, I trust you understand what I’m trying to say.

A person can be more than either pro-life or pro-choice.

More than either pro same-sex marriage or homophobic.

More than either pro Trump or pro Biden.

And if we neglect to see this, then we are not thinking deeply about matters that will be affecting our world our nation for years to come.

We have grown far too used to strawman arguments and one-sided simplistic explanations.

We have grown far to use to casting doubt on “the other side” and throwing everything about that other side under the bus, when there is so much more to life than two sides.

I know, when it comes down to voting, it is said that if you choose to vote for a third option, rather than the most popular Republican and Democrat in any political race, you’re throwing away your vote.

And I know that votes are important because they help to determine what direction the nation goes in overall.

Yes, I’ve heard it all before, but forgive me if I admit that I don’t agree with it at all.

This is why I have never voted and why I never will unless something changes about this current political system. It is limited, and flat out wrong.

What about a person who is anti-war yet pro-life?

Or someone who believes that two people can love each other, no matter who they are, and who agrees with more gun laws and free education for all, but who also understands the concerns of the more conservative among us?

I have never watched a presidential debate, as they are too intense and anxiety-producing for a highly sensitive person like me to view, but I do remember thinking this when hearing some people talk about how much mud-slinging there was during one such debate:

Why should the future of a nation depend on how well someone argues?

There is so much more to life than arguing.

Why not ask the candidates to write a poem? Or require them to spend a couple of hours playing with preschoolers or volunteering at an old folks home? Why not have them play an instrument or choreograph a dance or paint a picture?

How has one of the most advanced nations in the world become one known for arguments and an inability to move forward because of the deeply divided political climate?

It has been said that a house divided against itself cannot stand …

How much longer can such a divided nation continue on?

But all is not lost, and I am hopeful …

Hopeful that the emotional and the sensitive among us will find our voices and be willing to speak out for options that do not fall into one or another binary.

Hopeful that we who learn who we are – with our sensitivity and our tears, our depth of processing and our longing for beauty – will learn to inspire others to also seek these things.

I am hopeful that we will be able to use the gifts we have to share a desire for peace and beauty and a better world with others.

And who knows … maybe one day someone who identifies as a highly sensitive person will hold the highest office.

Maybe one day, presidency will be determined by poetry and music rather than mud-slinging and arguments.

What have we if not hope?

And where there is life, there is always hope.

HSP Field Notes on Driving

As a highly sensitive person, you don’t want to take everything personally, but you do.

Everything includes driving, or more specifically, the other drivers.

You take it personally because you know the cars are not simply cars – inanimate objects operating independently of emotion and feeling.

There’s a driver inside … and that driver is making decisions that affects not only the vehicles, but everyone in and outside of vehicles nearby.

You Are a Highly Sensitive Driver When …

As an HSP, you might have begun driving later than most.

Or if you began driving as soon as you could get a license, you likely feel the heavy responsibility that driving is.

The fact that you’re steering a vehicle capable of murder – or at the very least, manslaughter. It might sound morbid, but it’s true. And a highly sensitive person has pictured what this might mean .. probably more than once.

About a year after I began driving, I was taking a free right turn on a street I often travel. The street’s sidewalk is bordered by a tall hedge, beyond which I couldn’t see anything.

I’d driven this route repeatedly on the way to my parents’ house, so I simply slowed to a rolling stop, ready to keep on driving.

And I almost hit a man on a bicycle who sped into sight from behind the hedge.

I stopped quickly, he passed, and nothing bad happened.

But I replayed that in my mind time and again, playing the “What if” game again and again.

I didn’t want to, but I couldn’t stop it.

  • What if he had been going faster?
  • How would it have turned out if I hadn’t stopped in time?
  • What if I hadn’t seen him until it was too late?

A non-HSP might just breathe a sigh of relief and say, “Phew, close call. Lucky for him.”

I pictured the guy’s family, the hospital, or worse, the morgue, the police officers … the undying guilt.

I don’t like driving, and if you’re a highly sensitive person, you probably don’t like it either. The responsibility is simply too great. You drive because you have to, not because you like to.

Dealing with Non-HSP Drivers

That was a tangent. The main point of these field notes on driving involve other people – the driver behind the wheel of the other car.

As mentioned above, you know there’s a person in the other car, a person just like you – except that by their choices, they are clearly not a highly sensitive person.

In short, their aggression grieves you or brings you anxiety, sometimes both.

Example:

You’re driving a two-lane road and see the sign ahead … you know, the sign that brings you sudden anxiety because when you turned onto that road, you turned into the lane you need to be in, in preparation for the next turn.

  • You hate having to veer into another lane last minute.
  • You don’t want to inconvenience the drivers in that lane.

So, you’re in the left lane, for instance, and you see the sign:

“Road work. Left lane closed ahead.”

Within half a second, you’ve turned on your blinker, even if you don’t yet see the place where the road narrows into a one-lane. You check your rear-view and your side-view mirrors (although you already know from frequent checking and heightened awareness what is behind and near you).

Within ten seconds – if at all possible – you’ve turned into the right lane and you breathe a sigh of relief. You’re safe. You’re in the proper lane. You didn’t crash into anyone.

And there it is ahead – the road narrowing into a single lane and cars filing toward that.

In your mind, it’s like a line leading toward an amusement part ride. Or a line in a cafeteria.

No cutting allowed.

You wouldn’t want someone to cut in front of you, and you wouldn’t dare cut in front of someone else.

It’s the basic Golden Rule at work, which Jesus so aptly coined by stating, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”

So, you’re driving in the right lane, and traffic is slowing down. It’s slowing down more than it should be.

Why?

It’s easy to see, but it bothers you … Every. Single. Time.

Vehicle after vehicle speeds ahead in the left lane, passing dozens of cars, and swerving into the right lane at the very last minute before it becomes one lane.

Most of the time, they don’t even use their turning signal.

It’s not necessarily the inconvenience it causes you and the other cars.

After all, you didn’t end up late to work because of the choice of one driver.

It’s just one car length.

And that’s the core of why it bothers you – not just in the above example, but pretty much every time you’re behind the wheel.

It’s not that you drive slowly. You keep up with traffic, but invariably every time you’re behind the wheel, someone speeds up, cuts in front of you, and then often slows down (and slows you down) so they can turn into some lane or other road.

Why, you want to ask the driver?

“Why not just remain at the same speed you were instead of cutting in front of one more car? It’s just one car length, after all. What does it matter?”

As an HSP, you wonder why it matters to you. Why it bothers you. But it does.

It bothers you because you know that’s a person behind the wheel. A person who probably wouldn’t, under normal circumstances, push in front of you in a line without saying a word.

They wouldn’t do that in person, so why do that in a vehicle?

It’s all the same in your mind, after all.

Whether in or outside of a two-ton hunk of metal capable of murder, the person is a person.

So, what kind of person allows the vehicle to change who they are and how they would otherwise act and react?

Road Rage and HSP Anxiety

You’ve heard of road rage, and if you drive, you’ve likely experienced it too. You know you’re not insusceptible to behaving rudely just because you’re safe behind the wheel.

But in the rare occasions you do attempt it, your heart races and you feel guilty just for speeding up to catch up with that person who cut you off.

The anxiety and trembling, the racing pulse, just aren’t worth it.

So, you let them pass, but you still want to understand.

If you could, you would step outside of your vehicle and knock on their driver’s window.

You’d say, “Hey, I was the one you cut off on the road a minute ago without using your blinkers. I’m just curious, why would you cut in front of someone without indicating?”

After all, to you, the blinkers are like “Please” and “thank you.” They’re manners on the road.

You’d want to know why the person was in a hurry.

This is what you want to ask:

“Are you late for work? Did you have a stressful day and you just aren’t thinking about the drive? Are you listening to hyped up music and is it affecting your mood?

Do you play a lot of driving video games so that, when you get behind the wheel, you’re just in that mode? Did you even think about it? Did you even think about me?”

As a highly sensitive person, that’s the crux of the matter, isn’t it?

You’re so highly attuned to people, to what they do and how they act, to what they feel and how they respond to those feelings. If you could, you would try to make a connection.

If you could, you would try to make a friend.

But you can’t, so you just stay in your lane and leave a few car spaces between you and the vehicle in front of you.

It’s your way of saying, “If getting ahead one more car length is that important to you, go ahead. You’re welcome to it.”

You don’t understand this aggressive mindset, but you try to navigate as best you can among and around them … because as a highly sensitive person, that’s just what you do.


Photo on Foter.com

HSP Field Notes on Loaning Books to Friends

Loaning BooksFirst of all, why would you be loaning books to friends?

Well, as a highly sensitive person, you consider your books some of your closest friends.

Your living and breathing friends are also your friends.

(Therein lies the problem.)

You love a good book and the thrill of emotion that stories can provide.

  • Books have healed you.
  • They’ve made you cry.
  • Books have made you smile and laugh.
  • Sometimes they’ve changed your life.

So, you want to share those joys with your friends (the human friends, not the friends that live between the pages).

So you loan your book to a friend.

The next time you see them, you eagerly ask what they thought of the book that you loaned.

They say something like this:

“Oh, I haven’t gotten around to reading it yet, but I can’t wait to find the time.”

You notice they post about a dozen times an hour on Facebook, but you don’t mention that.

You might ask the question once more, but you get another:

“Sorry, I haven’t had a chance to read it yet.”

You don’t ask again about the book you loaned them.

Why?

As a highly sensitive person, here are three main reasons:

  1. You don’t want to seem like a burden or an irritation.
  2. You definitely don’t want to seem desperate.
  3. But you don’t want to make your friend feel uncomfortable about the fact that you loaned them a book three months ago (or six months ago or two years ago) and they still haven’t read it.

But you remember.

You remember every book that you’ve loaned.

Although you might not remember exactly when the book changed hands and was no longer in your possession, you know who is currently in possession of the book.

And sometimes, when you notice the place on your bookshelf where the book used to be, you imagine where it might be in your friend’s house.

  • Is it on one of their bookshelves?
  • Did it end up in a box and get stuffed in their garage?
  • Might it be on their bedside table, meaning they really do plan to read it soon?
  • Did they move it along while following Marie Kondo’s advice?

So, to protect your highly sensitive self from the nagging worry of where your book-friends might be suffering some horrible fate, you decide you’ll never loan a book again.

Then your friend stops by for a visit

And when they ask what’s new, you happen to mention, “I just read the most amazing book.”

Your friend expresses an interest and you decide you’ll try it … Just. One. Last. Time.

So you loan them your book … and it begins all over again.

_______

Photo by Theo Crazzolara on Foter.com / CC BY