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.

A Philosophy of Pain

Chronic pain can make it nigh impossible to focus on anything else.

I’ve dealt with chronic pain off and on for years. Over the last several weeks, it has been particularly bothersome. Progressively so, to where for the last few days I have found it a challenge to focus my attention on other things for long periods of time.

Pain is such a strange yet centering thing.

It does not simply invite your focus. It forces your focus.

As humans, we have struggled with the problem of pain for hundreds, yea, thousands of years.

Over the past couple of hundred years particularly, our focus has been on how to minimize and if possible eradicate pain from our lives. Whether physical or emotional or mental pain, we try to escape it. Medication for the body. Medication for the mind. And so many distractions and entertainment to choose from that we may escape whatever emotional we might be facing.

In reading about the lives of past saints, I find it interesting that their reaction to pain was very different from ours. Many of them embraced pain. Some even sought it out … although the very thought to us can seem strange and even pathologically wrong.

The reason behind their seeking, however, makes some sense, even though it is not something most of us would seek out or choose to do. It goes with the idea of Christ as Suffering Servant. To embrace pain and suffering is to embrace him and to become more like him, to take on his cross of pain.

I don’t like pain, especially when it’s debilitating. I don’t like the fact that it forces my focus, especially when there are plenty of other things I want to focus on.

However, perhaps there is a purpose for pain.

There is a physiological purpose for pain, to be sure. Feeling pain indicates that something has gone wrong in the body and needs attention. 

Philip Yancey in his book, Where Is God When It Hurts, discusses the importance of pain by highlighting the plight of those with leprosy, who cannot feel pain. Without the important nerve endings, they can injure themselves without realizing it, ending up with infected injuries that can deteriorate to limbs lost simply because they did not feel the pain.

In such a case, pain is a gift. It enables a person to realize something is wrong with the body and to seek medical attention.

But what of the aches and pains that simply do not go away, that persist and turn into chronic pain? I do not know, just as I am not sure what to do with the pain that I am feeling.

Simply grin and bear it? 

Or refuse to get up in the morning on days the pain feels too intense?

Or turn it toward Christ somehow and seek His presence within it?

There are some questions we, as humanity, have asked for centuries, for millennia. There are some questions that, I believe, will not have answers this side of eternity.

But as we live within those questions, as we live the questions, perhaps we will live towards the answers we seek. 

And perhaps that is one of the purposes for pain.

HSPs and the Need for a Bit of Space

It’s strange and welcoming that on the first day of my 40-day focus on healthy living, I am back in a place – a situation – where I feel I can write. When I left this place, I did not foresee myself returning, especially not so quickly. But here I am … and although I am tired after a long day and although it is not over yet, I am – I feel – at peace.

Something I have not done for months now is to write regularly and this is one of the main things I want to do over the next 40 days – write every day. Some days, I might reflect on the events of the day; some days, I might share something from what I’ve read, as another thing I am attempting to do is read every day from a book that is meaningful and true.

And as I mentioned when introducing this 40-day focus, not every journal post over the next 40 days will be mine. Three friends are making this same journey – or similar ones – with me, as well as keeping journals of their decisions, observations, and daily challenges.

We haven’t yet decided how it will work … who will post and on what days. Perhaps some days you will see more than one post, depending on how inspired each of us feels to write. 

Space for Writing

About the place I find myself right now, the situation in which I feel able to write once more. It is a physical place; often, this is not the case. Often, my ability to write has little to do with the physical place I am in, but more the mental place – space – where I find myself.

As a highly sensitive person, it is very difficult to write when I do not feel that I have space or “air” enough to write.

And the place we are right now, as a whole, is a difficult one from which to write, is it not? With so many voices clamoring to be heard and so many speaking in anger or frustration or simply ignorance, it is difficult for anyone – much less a highly sensitive person – to process and filter and find a safe place from which to write.

I could say something cliche like “Sometimes all it takes is just getting started,” but it would not be true. Otherwise, I would have been writing over the past several months, but I could not. Even if I sat in front of my laptop or sat with a notebook and pen in hand, I could not have commanded myself to write.

It takes more than physically being in the right place, but mentally and emotionally as well. I know that this goes against what some people say about writing. Many successful writers claim that you must write even without inspiration and the inspiration will come. I am not saying this isn’t true, and I have written “on command” plenty of times in my life to know it is true.

And yet, there is that feeling that comes when you finally feel that you have space enough to contemplate and process and from which to write. Again, perhaps this is an HSP thing. Perhaps those who are not highly sensitive people can more easily write on command and maintain a strict writing schedule.

But this is something I am going to try to do for the next 40 days of healthy living. 

Being a Bridge

Sometimes I feel that we as a whole are on the edge of something and the thought is exciting, and at other times the thought is frightening. Because being on the edge of something often means falling or building a bridge.

And so few of us, these days, it seems are willing to be bridge-builders.

Some people reading this might even say, “Well that sounds good, but I’m going to wait to make my final assessment until I know what side of the political spectrum she is on.”

Well, I’m not going to make it that easy. You will find no strict borders here. No walls to shut out those who don’t agree.

You can call me a bridge if you’d like.

But even the fact that this is my first time writing in a while and on day one of my 40-day journal of healthy living, I have resorted to talking about politics frustrates me. So enough of that.

Finally, you might find these journals start but don’t quite seem to find an ending place. They are thoughts that have begun and have the potential to carry on … perhaps you will carry on these thoughts and journeyings in your own heart and mind and take them somewhere.

Perhaps you will contemplate what it means to build a bridge, or to be a bridge, or how you might find ways to create space in your life. Perhaps not for writing, but for something else you deem important.  

I wish you space and peace and the most beautiful of views from your bridge.