On Personality Types and Accepting Each Other

When you divide people into types, it is important to remember that nobody fits 100% into the description of a particular type. Every human being is far more than his or her type, and every human being is capable of developing over the course of a lifetime.

With that said, it can be helpful to find and come to know your own type and understand yourself and other people better. When you read about other types that are different from you, you realize how many different ways there are to exist in the world. You become aware that, when other people react differently than you would have, it need not be because there is something wrong with that person or yourself. Both of you are okay as you are, but you belong to different types.

Ilse Sand in On Being An Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person

My first thought on reading the above paragraphs, which come at the beginning of the first chapter of Sand’s book, is that only a highly sensitive person could have written it.

Much of my life, I have been surrounded by people who are not highly sensitive, to say the least …

And their approach to life has often been “My way or the highway.”

As such, it has been difficult for me to navigate life, to figure out who I am, and to realize that there really isn’t something foundationally wrong with me for being both introverted and highly sensitive.

For much of my life, my shyness and introversion were seen by some of those closest to me as standoffishness, arrogance, and a lack of affection and concern toward people.

My sensitivity was seen as … well, sensitivity, but that was considered a very negative thing and I had to try as much as possible to suppress it or hide it or ignore it.

I often had to push past it and show myself as a “stronger” and less sensitive person.

This is why learning that there was such a thing as introversion (and even more, a type of people considered highly sensitive) has been so important to me.

That’s why I created this website …

So that I could continue to explore as well as help to normalize what it means to be highly sensitive, especially in the aggressive and insensitive world we live in.

But I do also recognize and wholeheartedly agree with Sand’s comment in her book, On Being an Introvert or Highly Sensitive Person, that “every human being is far more than his or her type” and that each individual is also “capable of developing over the course of a lifetime.”

There was a time in my mid-twenties when I was more of an ambivert than the introvert I am today; I enjoyed meeting new people and even going to the occasional party far more than I do today.

While part of it might have been because these kinds of interests were expected of me as a “normal” young adult, part of it was me … the person I was at that point in time.

(It could have been due to the fact that I had two small children and just needed to get out of the house, so I didn’t mind going out even if it meant meeting new people and doing things I was not familiar with.)

But today, I am a different person.

Or … I am the same person but I appreciate different things than I did at that time.

Today, the idea of going out dancing would be at the very bottom of the list of things I would like to do. And while I’ve enjoyed a few concerts in the past decade, I think I would just end up with a really bad headache.

I’d prefer to listen to some music on my headphones while doing a project at home.

I also so much appreciate the paragraphs above by Sand, because learning about other types of people and realizing how many different ways there are to exist in the world is something that I think we all need more of.

I recently wrote a short post about politics and people being expected to fall into the polar opposites of Republican or Democrat.

This is another place where there are so many more different ways to exist in the world than a single political party.

The fact that so many people are aligning so deeply with one party or the other to the neglect of every other interest and way of being is dangerous and disconcerting to me.

In closing, there are so many different ways of being in the world and I think we could all use a little more understanding of each other and our different ways of thinking, processing, learning, and doing.

When I interact with people, especially new people in new settings, I need time to process that.

Even when I go about just my normal daily routine, I need time in the middle of the day to rest in order to let my mind go blank for a few minutes, to recalibrate so that I can then be refreshed for the second half of the day.

That is just one way my high sensitivity manifests itself and I appreciate those who understand this about me and do not expect me to go full steam ahead all day long.

At the same time, I understand that there are people who operate and do life differently. They might go full steam ahead all week long, pulling 10 or 12 or 14-hour days, but at the end of the week, they need the whole weekend to recover and do nothing.

Other people might have entire seasons of busyness because they process information and work differently.

I admit, those kinds of people are people stronger — physically and probably even mentally and emotionally — than me.

If my being a highly sensitive person makes me a “weaker vessel,” I will accept that and live with it.

But I do have different strengths, emotionally, spiritually, and sensitively.

We all need each other, and the way our strengths and weaknesses can be used to uphold and accept one another can truly be a beautiful thing if we learn how to make it happen.

This is what it means to understand different types and accept them and love them.

Republican or Democrat? No, a Poet.

In her new book, Bittersweet, bestselling author and speaking Susan Cain narrates a story that took place during the civil war that left Sarajevo a shell of its former beauty.

A journalist/correspondent watches as close to 50,000 displaced people emerge from a forest after escaping an attack.

The correspondent asks an elderly man if he is a Muslim or a Croat.

“I am a musician,” the man responds.

I have written little during these days of extreme political polarity, little because so many are writing so much about it, little because I can do so little about it.

At least, that is how I often feel.

But is it true?

The journalist who asked the question was haunted by the man’s response years afterward. Haunted and humbled.

“I am a musician.”

And me? I am no musician, but I am a thinker. I am a poet. I am a highly sensitive person.

I grieve at the polarity and the tension, the anger that runs hot and the lack of true dialog and discourse and understanding between one side and the other.

How quickly anger and disrespect can turn to violence.

Is this what we are waiting for?

Is this what we want?

I believe that some people think so, but these must be those who do not truly think it through, just how much damage can be done in such a short amount of time.

And how such damage is, in most cases, irrevocable.

It cannot be undone.

Am I a Republican or a Democrat?

No, I am not.

And I feel that we have done and are doing a great disservice to a nation and to its peoples and to the deep and nuanced issues we face as its people by thinking that we can so easily cut any one matter into just two sides …

And assume that a person must stand so easily on one side or the other.

And assume that if a person feels strongly about one thing that is considered a Republican value, then they must feel the same about every single thing that is pushed forward by the Republican agenda …

And the same for the Democrats.

How simplistic and shallow we must be if we think that everything cuts so cleanly, so surgically, and falls so easily to one side or the other.

What if, instead, we chose different words in our dialog?

Claimed different words for ourselves and our beliefs?

Are you a Republican or a Democrat?

I am a musician. I am a poet. I am a highly sensitive person.

I am a teacher. I am a lover. I am a parent.

I am a human, a feeler, a thinker, a believer.

Are you not as well?

Does Higher Education Encourage Creativity… Or Quench It?

I’ve sometimes wondered how my education has affected my creativity as an artist and writer.

I wonder if my degree in higher learning has curbed my enthusiasm for writing and other forms of creativity.

In my college years, it felt like I was always jotting ideas down between classes or using longer stretches of time write up some story’s plot line or scene or dialogue while other students passed me by on the way to their classes.

This is the time of year I often think of new ideas in stories.

The ideas are still there, but something isn’t. Something is missing. Maybe it’s the passion and enthusiasm … or perhaps it’s just the energy.

Years have passed, after all, since those college seasons.

Maybe it’s the space that I lack. Perhaps any space really is creative space.

But then I also wonder if it is all the reading and education, at least in part, that has caused my creativity to wane.

With so much reading and learning, which I love and which I continue to do, I’ve realized in part just how much is really out there.

So many styles of writing and art. So many genres.

With so many niches, I’ve learned just how difficult it is to establish one’s space as a writer or artist.

It seems as though even every niche and subgenre and sub-subcategory has been not only written about and taken … but extensively (and many times uncreatively).

It feels sometimes like the people with the marketing degrees are the ones who make it as writers and artists … not because they have the greatest skill in the art of creativity but because they know how to put themselves out there in this modern context and culture.

Of course, some good writers can be marketers and some marketers can be good writers. The two do not have to be mutually exclusive.

But in this modern culture of needing to have a large platform or regular speaking events and using SEO (to reach not people but spider bots I think they’re called), much of writing and much of making it as an artist is not the creative act itself but the building of one’s brand and platform and marketing oneself.

For me, as a highly sensitive person and an introvert, that takes the heart out of writing.

It steals the joy out of it.

I know there are extroverted writers and artist out there and perhaps some marketing experts who are also introverts or even highly sensitive. I don’t know.

The statistics say that 70% of highly sensitive people are introverts and I know that many introverts do work that involves interacting with people and they just muscle through it.

In my professional life, I do the same.

But that one-on-one social interaction takes all the energy I have and I don’t have more left over to think about setting up speaking engagements or writing SEO articles or figuring out every social media platform in order to build my platform.

Several years ago, I completed a manuscript.

It went through a number of drafts and revisions, beta readers, and editors.

Then I sent it out to both agents and independent publishing companies, all of which got back to me with pretty much the same thing.

You’re a good writer and this material is solid, but you don’t have a platform.

Maybe I’m just sensitive, highly sensitive at that, but something either broke or died inside of me since then.

I’ve continued reading and studying and honing the craft of writing, but some part of the enthusiasm, the hope, faded.

Some introverts, like Susan Cain, while embracing and teaching on the power of quiet has still had to play the game of the extrovert world …

Speaking and engaging in order to get the message out.

Perhaps I have not educated myself too much.

Perhaps it is not the scores of classes or the passing of years that has caused me to set down my pen and pencil for a time.

Perhaps it is not even the overthinking that we HSPs are so prone to doing.

Is not the knowledge itself, but what I have chosen to do with it.

In this case, unfortunately, I have chosen to grow discouraged and let that keep me from writing …

At least from seriously writing toward a specific end.

Maybe this very knowledge or realization will be enough to get me out of this funk, this furlough, this neglect, of writing.

So I overthink. I’m a highly sensitive person, after all.

So I don’t have a platform that is worthy of our modern culture’s attention.

But I still have a gift.

I still find joy in writing and art.

And because of this combination of skill and joy, I think I have a calling.

And I think I can no longer ignore it.

I think it is time to write.

HSP Reflection on The Story We Share

Although we often fail to recognize it, we all share the same story

The story of falling and at times being rescued

The story of sometimes continuing to fall with no hand to arrest the descent

Yet the story we share is also of finding unexpected grace in unexpected places

We all share the same story, yet the parts that we share are the parts we have the hardest time seeing

Of families that build us and break us and build us again

Of friends that see us and know us and, grace upon grace, accept us

Of some friendships that falter yet rise again stronger and some that fracture completely and are never rebuilt again

We All Share the Same Story

Of hope that ends in death and hope that transcends death and hope that knows that death is just another part of the journey

This story we share yet we fail to see for the things wherein we differ

Color and culture, religion and race

Which leader might save us from the darkness we face

I cannot take your hand and arrest your fall if my fist is clenched against you

You cannot take mine and hold it in friendship if you hold to only the differences we carry

We, family, cannot cross the bridges we build if we burn them again and again

Sister, brother, take my hand

Father, mother, let us stand

Friend, oh friend, the story we share is greater than the places we differ

And maybe the story of falling and redemption, of grace after grace after grace …

… is enough …

… to heal us and make peace and carry us through

To the next part of the story

So This Is 2021

A new year has begun.

Some years, December 31st passes into January 1st without a lot of fanfare, it seems.

I mean, there are always potential parties to attend, places to go, and other ways to ring in the New Year.

(But we HSPs generally don’t go for those things anyway … big crowds and small talk are the kinds of prospects that make us want to turn and run the other way.)

But this year was different. The turning of the year gave us all a little more reason to celebrate (even if we needed to do so from home in order to safely socially distance).

This past year was 2020, and I need say no more. We all know what transpired in 2020. We also all know we’re not out of the woods yet, but we’re still going forward one day at a time. (What other choice do we have?)

But while we all “know” what happened in 2020, we don’t. Not really. Because each of us has seen the year through our own eyes, none of us know the whole story. The story that is all of us but is also each of us.

It has been a lonely year for me.

Strange, because I actually have had less alone time than usual due to my particular circumstances. But it has been lonely in that I have felt in some ways forgotten, neglected, pushed aside (again, due to certain things that took place in my particular circumstances).

I have found that loneliness isn’t exactly a state of being. It’s a state of mind. A state of feeling.

And as a highly sensitive person, I realize now that loneliness is something I have struggled with nearly all my life in some way.

Perhaps the struggle for you has been similar. Or maybe you have faced something else.

  • Insecurity due to losing a job.
  • Sorrow and grief with the loss of a loved one.
  • The pressure of trying to provide for a family in an uncertain economy.

Your struggle has been part of your story this year.

Your story and no one else’s. I think part of the loneliness I have felt was that I didn’t have anyone to share my story with.

I mean, I could vent some things to a couple of family members, or share other challenges with my partner, but perhaps it is part of my “beingness” as a highly sensitive person that makes it difficult for me to truly share just how difficult some things have been.

How hurt I have felt by friends failing to stay in touch when I needed them most. How frustrated I feel because of the lack of space and solitude (which is different from loneliness and something I, as an HSP, deeply need).

Yet a new year begins. It is 2021 now.

The days before me spread, unlived, unmarred.

How will they unfold? What story will I find written on the pages?

There is much out of my control, but also much that I can control. Little things, mainly.

  • Taking a few moments outside, even if the weather is too cold for my liking … just to get a bit of space (and some needed exercise).
  • Or waking up a little earlier than I would otherwise to fit in a bit of reading.

It doesn’t have to be a big thing to make a big difference, does it?

Maybe it is the little things that make the biggest difference.

I don’t know if my sharing these few thoughts has helped you, the one reading this, in any way. But I hope it has.

I hope it has offered a little bit of clarity, perhaps, to your own feelings or experiences of this past year.

More than likely, your year was also more challenging than the average year. Lonely. Stressful. Even grievous.

But it is a new year, and I wish you moments of peace, bucketsful of hope, and skies of bluest blue.

Let us make this journey together.

Chronic Pain, Bane or Blessing?

Although I don’t like to talk about my chronic pain much, I recently mentioned it to my uncle, as I had to decline on yet another offer of his to join him in hiking around the Rocky Mountains. He takes these trips regularly and it’s a wonder that he is so fit for being nearly 70 years old.

I love hiking and nature and felt bad for turning him down yet again. I told him as much when he offered last week. He mentioned that when he was about my age, roughly 30 years ago, he was dealing with similar pain and was desperate for some kind of fix.

Pain and Painkillers

Like me, he was not is not a proponent of painkillers. I will take painkillers if I need to. I’m not going to suffer in agony just for the sake of personal pride; at the same time, I will not pop a pill at the first sign of pain. I prefer to understand where the pain is coming from and what natural things I might do to get rid of it.

For instance, headaches in my life are often a simple result of not enough sleep. With a good night’s sleep, I’m usually feeling much better. Then I don’t have to take a pill at all.

With this chronic pain I’ve been facing, I felt similarly. Back pain can be quite intense, but I knew there was a core reason for it, and I didn’t want to harm my body further by taking a pill to dull the pain and then damaging myself because I couldn’t feel it.

My uncle told me that his pain got so bad, he finally went to the chiropractor. Previously, he did not have much confidence in chiropractors and avoided them completely, but at this point, he didn’t have a choice.

I suppose he went to a good one because his back problems rectified. The chiropractor also gave him a set of exercises to do, which he practices religiously to this day. I believe those exercises are the main reason he has not dealt with severe back pain since that time. He said as much to me when we chatted over the phone and recommended that I find a good set of exercises and stick to them.

HSPs and Running on Inspiration

I find it a challenge to stick to pretty much anything. I know that running on inspiration can be good but it can also have its drawbacks.

I have grown accustomed to the drawbacks but I still for the most part run on inspiration. In other words, I stick with something for a week or two or maybe even 40 days, but at some point, the interest wanes and I generally find myself neglecting whatever it is I have chosen to do.

I do not know if this is common to highly sensitive people or if it is simply a weak area of mine. If it is common to highly sensitive people – running on inspiration that is – it is likely because of the fact that we put our whole minds and hearts into the things that we do and into the relationships that we carry. As such, there are only so many things we can maintain inspiration for. Beyond that, we tend to lose our focus and inspiration. And yet another aspiration falls to the ground.

But I know my uncle is right in his recommendation and I have indeed begun a series of stretches and back exercises that are gentle enough to not cause too much pain. I believe it might work to ease the pain and hopefully also strengthen my back.

Who knows? Perhaps 30 years from now, I will be contacting a younger niece nephew or niece and inviting them to scale mountains at the age of 70.

The Importance of Pain

No one likes feeling pain but I believe that we often neglect to realize just how important pain can be. Without this chronic pain, I would let another five or ten years go by in which I do not strength in my own body through regular exercise and stretches, which some people might not need, but which my body clearly does need.

The body that houses us does not have a voice, and thus it speaks to us, and quite possibly the most common medium uses to indicate danger is pain. It would do us good to stop and listen rather than to ignore it and continue on with what we are doing or mask the pain with painkillers that might control the symptoms and sensations, but not the cause.

The problem of pain is a problem, to be sure, but it is also a blessing.

I might have mentioned a book I read in a previous post by Philip Yancey and Paul Brand, Where Is God When It Hurts? about pain and its importance. Without pain, one does not feel and may end up with serious problems that they might have avoided completely if they had felt the pain of a broken finger or a bruised heel.

This is the essence of the disease of leprosy. Although someone might wish to not feel pain and think of it as a gift to have deadened senses, that is what the disease of leprosy is; not feeling pain can cause far more damage then one might imagine and even lead to fatalities, as does eventually happen with the disease of leprosy.

In Closing

Few people today if any, seek out pain. And those who do seek out physical pain are likely masking another type of pain, emotional or spiritual or mental. (That is a topic for another post.)

But although we do not seek it out, do not need to always run from it. We might learn, if we are open, the blessing of pain and not always consider it a bane.