Ups and Downs and Why it is OK

If you have ever wondered about how much you seem to follow an apparently unpredictable up and down cycle, maybe this piece is for you….

HSPs have been described in various ways over the years, comments can vary in extreme from ‘rather neurotic’ to ‘so sane but intense’, ‘healthy’ to ‘unwell’, ‘eccentrically delightful’ to ‘weird’, ‘so chattery’ to ‘silent and withholding’, ‘emotionally unpredictable’ to ‘hardly expressing a thing’. I hasten to add, these descriptions have as often been from HSPs about themselves in my therapy room or at meetings, as from those who know or observe them. Some of us will bristle at such generalisations or interpretations, others will recognise people’s reactions or comments on our state of being, others will not recognise themselves at all. But when all is said and done, what are we, really, when it comes to those ups and downs that people notice, that we notice, even if we don’t show the effects – that propensity to seem emotionally very high one minute and very low the next, to seem apparently contradictory? Does it mean we aren’t normal, or there’s something deeply wrong with us? Should we immediately run off and find a therapist to ‘fix’ what’s wrong with our brain? Get a BPD diagnosis!? Or is it normal for highly sensible people to experience this level of changing emotion?

Let’s not forget, before we explore this a little further, to reference what actually defines us as highly sensitive people, having Sensory Processing Sensitivity (as defined by Dr Elaine Aron). We have:

  • Depth of processing and everything that comes with that.
  • A propensity to become easily Over-stimulated.
  • Emotional intensity.
  • Sensory sensitivity (including sensitivity to subtleties).

Remember these things? Did you read Dr Aron’s book on highly sensitive people or have you bypassed one of the most empowering books ever written in favour of websites that generalise and capitalise on something they often know very little about and can leave readers feeling disempowered or victims somehow? When you are thinking about your development out there in the world, remember to refer back to the source of the research on our trait. This really does help.

Of course we have ups and downs and of course they are noticeable. If we have intense emotions, are they not going to show, somehow? If we get easily over-stimulated is that not going to become apparent? If we think deeply about all sorts of things, or notice every little change or sensation around us, is that really not going to colour how we engage with everything and everyone around us? But is the simple fact of intensity, or moving from one emotionally intense feeling to another logically an indicator that something is wrong? Does it mean there is no rationale, or thinking process gong on? I don’t think so, which is why I wanted to bring ‘strong feelings’ to your attention. Strong feelings, for us, often don’t limit themselves to singular emotions – one of the reasons we can be quite exhausted at times. One day we might be feeling very sad. The next perhaps feeling angry. The next joyful? Are any of those feelings wrong? What if we experience all of them in one day, is that wrong too?

"When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, remember the mountains and the valleys that got you here." - Morgan Harper Nicholls

So, why am I talking about all these things? How does it help to think about ourselves as prone to surges of joy and depths of despair? In particular, if you come from the UK like me, how does it help to normalise this in the face of a culture where the ‘stiff upper lip’ is part of the national character? It’s because it really does matter how YOU colour your normal behaviour. It really does matter how YOU assimilate experiences and respond to your environment. It really does matter what YOU think. And importantly, it matters what values you use to screen everything you perceive about you, your purpose, our purpose, what’s happening ‘out there’, as a part of that species called human.

Why? Why does it matter, that you continue to be intense, affected, a depth processor, aware of little things?

Well, if you haven’t already worked it out, your human tribe needs you to be just as you are. So much of what we see matters. If no-one is noticing, it’s our job to bring it to their attention, sometimes by just feeling things. It’s not always comfortable for people to see us in tears at witnessing something that is obviously cruel, especially if they haven’t noticed. However, if we don’t show it  how will anyone learn? If we don’t think carefully and in a complex way about long-term plans and effects, how will anyone who is busy under a workload of empire-building or drudgery ever know there is another way of doing things? And how do we know that any of these things need thinking about if we are not moved by our feelings, our sensitive nervous system, to notice, to consider at depth and hopefully, to communicate a question or an idea for alternatives? Feelings are a neutral thing – they simply indicate there is something to notice (and potentially, to act on).  They are neither right nor wrong.

There is such a lot going on around us. In the bigger picture, some people are screaming about the dangers facing us through our environmental negligence, others are concerned about walking backwards from hard-won human rights, greed run wild, building the rights of women, children, whole races and species. Does this mean we all have to be standing on soap-boxes? No, it doesn’t. We are empowered in different and varied ways. Let’s remember however that change can happen in the tiny increments of life – a little word, a little change, maybe just a little respect for the way in which our awareness and response to things outside ourselves can be intense. Giving ourselves respect for the deep, deep way in which we respond to what is going on around us, what is engaging with us, can empower us to have a voice or an idea that will make sense. Sometimes our very intensity is what what stops others in their tracks and gives them pause for thought.

Having feelings that are intense, and easily moved, gives us a very finely tuned view of what’s going on around us. We are responding to what is happening. If we can accept our feelings as normal, give them space and respect as signals to observe something, it gives us power. Just because our feelings can seem to change, it doesn’t mean any of those responses are wrong. If we disregard strong feelings, we do so at our peril. The ‘up and down’ is simply an indication of response to a tide that is sometimes inspired by negative experiences, or sometimes by the positive. Negative and positive things happen all day long, we have no idea what is going to happen, therefore we don’t know how we will feel. It’s not a fault, it’s not a weakness, it’s just a response. No feelings are wrong, they just are. The only wrong thing would be to count them as of no importance or to fail to act on them when the time is right.

And what about over-stimulation and the anxiety or fatigue that this can bring on? Often that fatigue or overwhelm will lead to feelings – are those feelings wrong, or are they simply indicators that something needs adjustment? As sensitive people, we need to make adjustments more often, we are affected more quickly. It’s all normal, unless someone else or we ourselves decide our response should match the unresponsive majority. So often I have heard HSPs talk about how they over-reacted to something perceived as disrespect, or felt embarrassed by tears of joy at something as simple as the first blossoming flower of spring. But when you look more deeply into these things, we don’t always ‘over-react’ – sometimes something did happen, it’s just no one else noticed. Sometimes assumptions from the dominant culture do curtail our freedom to do and act as is natural for us. Sometimes our sensitive systems and creative abilities do perceive new or wonderful ways to benefit ourselves or others, giving us overwhelming feelings of joy and expectation – imagine how hard it is when no one else realises how wondrous it is. Do allow yourself time to experience the disappointment and sadness when you are the only one who notices.

What might it be like, to truly respect your responses, to check them out for meaning, to accept those intense feelings neutrally as information rather than a fault? What part might that play in furthering your own empowerment?

Next time you feel your ups and downs are unwelcome, think about how they inform our intelligence, how they inform us if we are on the right path, how they enable us to finely tune our destiny and that of others. Find other HSPs, even for a few minutes, to hear how you feel, what you are thinking, what matters. You will be surprised how one other HSP can help you to manage the helter skelter of feelings that one minute seem to be troubling, the next minute seem to be nicely settled away, having been heard and made sense of. Sometimes only another HSP will be able to see the sanity in your distress, the numinous in your joy. And let’s be honest, if you really do have an issue related to your feelings, something that needs work, who better to advise you and help you seek a safe space to learn and grow, than a fellow HSP?

Enjoy those ups and downs as signs you are alive and well and ‘sensitive’ to everything around you. Don’t abandon your innate and natural wisdom – there is a reason for your response. You just need to realise you are the one to interpret these feelings, not the dominant culture who whilst needing our sensitivity, might mistakenly seek to suppress or negate it.

And then  – this is the hard part – we do have to learn to ride the disappointment of knowing something that others are slow to realise.  We are first aware, that means we witness the thing that needs to change over and over whilst others have no idea. That’s ok, but we do need to grieve and then accept that we, the first responders, will always need to wait for others to catch up to where we are. There are still ways in which we can use our feelings and awareness to bring about meaningful conclusions – just not all the things, all the time.

barbara_allen-w

But that’s ok. It’s the life of a sensitive person to be up and down in truthful response to what is going on around us. We will survive, but let’s not add to our distress by putting ourselves down for our up and down experiences. They are normal and signs that there is hope.

Barbara Allen

Founder and Director
National Centre for High Sensitivity CIC
Article written by Barbara Allen (e-mail: accounts@hspsensitive.com)

On the Quiet – NCHS Update

It’s been a while since our last Newsletter, not because there is nothing to report, but simply because such a lot has been going on behind the scenes, both to slow things down but also to speed us forward. So, it’s a pleasure to write a summary of some of the latest things we would like to share with you about our work here at the National Centre for High Sensitivity during the last year.

Thanks firstly and as always, to Ildiko Davis, our Newsletter Editor, website editor and also facilitator of online HSP meet-ups, both for HSPs and HSP therapists. Ildiko’s work has helped us to keep you informed and also, to focus our attention on where we are going and what’s going on ‘out there’. It’s been a long, slow road, getting the NCHS on its journey and Ildiko has been such a support and strength through this process over a number of years.

The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.During the last twelve months, a tiny team has been forming here in Andover, made up of volunteers offering a little of their skill in helping me to bring ideas and plans forward. I would like to thank Anna Pell, Bridget Woodward, Rosanna Leigh, Claire Bailey, Andrew and Sophie Kidd and Jordan Leigh for stepping forward, offering time this and last year that I know is hard to find in this busy world, but so very much needed. There are more waiting in the wings to offer skills and ideas, I know, and it feels like this year, our little team is going to form a foundation that will be a springboard for much useful work for and on behalf of HSPs in the UK.

Our next major piece of work is around funding. So far, funding has been very small and provided mostly by a combination of donations from my private practice, Growing Unlimited, and small donations from HSPs to cover some of the costs that naturally arise. In order to progress, we need to bring in many thousands, rather than a few hundreds of pounds, so once again I have been wondering where it will come from. I have recently had an offer of some help from a fund-raiser and I am hoping over the next couple of months to meet with them for ideas and guidance in where to find funding and how to go about asking for it. I’m excited by this and profoundly grateful for this offer of help.

One of our exciting plans is to hold a conference in late Spring 2020. I am hoping for April but it will all depend on finding the right venue at the right price and when it’s likely to be available for us. The conference will be two days and will include talks, discussion groups, stalls with relevant books and other HSP-related items, networking tables for HSPs who can offer informed and appropriate support or anything else that HSPs might find useful. Topics will include science-related info, talks by a variety of professionals and others who have an interest in appropriately supporting or educating HSPs, highly sensitive children and their families. There will also be a variety of discussion groups so that people with common interests can get together to learn more, get support, share ideas and so on. It’s important to us that we find a way of holding this conference in a way that will work in its intention but also work for HSPs strategically.So, I will be looking for a conference organiser with some intelligence and imagination :).

During 2019, we have a few interesting meet-ups and workshops coming up (see our listings in the newsletter), one of which will be our HSP Retreat Weekend, 29th and 30th June. My colleague, Annet de Zwart from the Netherlands will be co-facilitating this event with me. She has co-facilitated HSP Gathering Retreats with myself and Jacquelyn Strickland/Elaine Aron in Europe and the UK and she also attended the training with Dr Elaine Aron last year. So, she is perfectly placed to bring something special to our upcoming event. The two topics we will cover this time are: Understanding and managing over-stimulation and The path to HSP empowerment. The two days will consist of information and exploratory activities, a chance to get to know other HSPs in a gentle setting, time to unwind and be social (if you want to) and above all, a chance to grow. This will be an intimate event and held in our dedicated Andover space to help keep costs for participants down. If this event goes well, we may expand it a little next year, we will see! We don’t have a lot of places on the retreat this year, so if you think you might like to join us, do book early.

We are in the process of developing a new website which we hope will be easier for non-techs like myself to update and will encapsulate the information our current site has, plus bring into one place a blog, a chat facility, a forum and also our event listings which are currently hosted here and there on Meet-up.com. Hopefully this will simplify things and help to make sense of all of the different things we are involved in. With no funding to speak of, we are dependent on volunteers to help us with this new website, so thank you Andrew, Sophie and Jordan for starting us on the road to our new and expanding website.

Difficult roads often lead to beautiful placesI thought I would also mention a new project that is coming along later this year. The project is the idea of Rosie Raleigh, who attended the UK HSP Gathering Retreat last year with Jacquelyn Strickland and became inspired to use her skills to help with reforming policy to include the needs of HSPs. As you may know, working with high sensitivity as a cultural diversity issue is close to my heart. Rosie will be working with higher-level policy-making and has a lot of experience with this, so I have high hopes. Rosie has named the project ‘Vantage’, after the name given by scientists to a particular aspect of our genetic trait.If you want to know more about Rosie’s project e mail her at rosieraleigh@gmail.com.

Finally, I would like to give a little more of an introduction to Claire Bailey, who has recently joined me as an administrator and support. She is very well qualified in all levels of managing behind-the-scenes in organisations, so I’m very lucky to have her. Claire is a volunteer for the NCHS and for now she is very part time, so as always, if you get in contact with us here, do forgive us if we need to take some time to get around to answering any queries :).

barbara_allen-wWell, that is all for now I think. If I have forgotten anything, do let me know and I will add any information to an email or to the next Newsletter. Thank you for reading this far and I look forward to meeting you at one of our events in the near future:).

With warm regards
Barbara

Article written by Barbara Allen (e-mail: accounts@hspsensitive.com)

Merging our Meetup Groups for HSPs

The National Centre for High Sensitivity (NCHS) is running currently three Meetup Groups for highly sensitive people:

We will be merging these Meetup groups to a single Meetup group for HSPs at: https://www.meetup.com/Growing-Unlimited-Hampshire-HSPs/, to simplify the administration of running our Meetups. The Hampshire Meetup group has the most members and events.  Also, this is the HSP group that has been longest in existence. So, it makes sense that this will be the only merged Meetup the NCHS will be running. All our future Meetup events for HSPs will be listed here, regardless of the location of the event from now on. This will also simplify checking upcoming HSP events for you.

Sadly, when we will  discontinue some of our HSP Meetup Groups, the record of events and messages held on those Meetup sites will be lost. I wish there would be a way to archive that somehow, but according to Meetup.com, one can only archive things individually with copy and paste. If any of our readers would know an easier way to archive our events held in the past and our messages on Meetup.com, we would be grateful, if you would let us know about it!

If you have paid to be a member one of the  discontinued meetup groups, we will transfer your membership payment to the Hampshire HSP meetup group, once you sign up to be a member of that group. Alas, we are not able to transfer this to your name, unless you sign up yourself. So, please remember to do that, if you would like to get regular information about the events we are running for HSPs.

We apologise for the bit of extra work it will take for you to sign up for our merged Meetup group at: https://www.meetup.com/Growing-Unlimited-Hampshire-HSPs/

We hope to welcome you on some of our future events organised for highly sensitive people at some point.

Warmest wishes,
Ildiko Davis
NCHS Newsletter Editor, NCHS Website Coordinator and Online HSP Meetup Facilitator

Article written by Ildiko Davis (e-mail: ildiko.davis@yahoo.co.uk)