Tuesday, 20 November 2012


(in which a tendency to cut the labels out of items of clothing is explained)

Sensitive (Skin?)
"Sensitive" is one of those words.  Women are often found bemoaning that men aren't sensitive enough, they don't feel.  And by this, they don't mean that men's feelings aren't easily hurt enough, nor that they need to have more trouble taking criticism, nor that they shouldn't be able to handle regular toothpaste and soap.
  In my very one-sided, cynical-making experience, women have often said that men in general aren't sensitive enough (while complaining about men) and men have in turn often said that women are too sensitive (as part of complaining about women right back).
  Leads one to conclude that there are two main intended meanings for the word.  One involves frailty, and the other awareness.
  No one wants to be frail.  (No one wants to be unaware, either.)

Some Geese Are More Sensitive Than Others
  I've been reading about a personality trait lately, labelled "Highly Sensitive Person."  Elaine Aron was perhaps the first person to take all kinds of disparate, commonly held professional opinions about various psychological and sociological phenomenon, and put them together to come up with something.  A label with which to classify a whole kind of person.
  Obviously, if you have a typical group of people (or other creatures), you will find that there is wide difference among them, as to how aware they are.  So, if you take a herd of antelope, or a shoal of fish, or flock of geese, there are going to be the easy lunches, the ones which are very easy to sneak up on.  These not-terribly-sensitive/aware individuals are also generally the most relaxed and carefree.  Not easily spooked. Not overcome by the cares of the world. Because they aren't actually paying much (of anything) very much attention at all, nor are they expecting anything, really, to go wrong at any point.  These "easy lunch" folks (with people, we might call them "sheep" or "naive") comprise perhaps a bit less than a quarter of the herd they are part of.  Many predators find them quite yummy.
  As is so often the case, the "normal" or usual bunch falls between this extreme and the other end of the awareness spectrum, and comprises perhaps sixty percent of the group as a whole.  So what is the other extreme?  The first goose to take flight at the approach of a predator, at sudden noise or movement.  The nervous ones, perhaps.  The ones who live in expectancy that bad things may well happen.  They are not probably as happy, not probably as laid back.  They are not the first pick of the dating pool.  But they are definitely the hardest to sneak up on.  They're the first to know when something's wrong.
  Elaine Aron suggests that research into this kind of thing points toward this difference not being mere personality, nurture or inclination.  It's actually a natural aptitude.  It's a physical makeup thing.  Right down to nerves and brain cells, this flighty bunch of geese is wired to take in far more of what's going on around them, to process far more visual, auditory, social and other sensory input. In fact, when more typical representatives of these individual's group can easily "turn off" their paying of attention to what's going on, their scanning around to see if everything's okay, these flightly, hypersensitive/aware guys have a much harder time, and seem to have to continue to take in, process and record an overwhelming amount of information.

Like Daredevil, With The Heightened Awareness, Over Here...
  With humans, when you have a crowded party, a business conference (or even, one would expect, a church service or bible conference), you see these three kinds of people doing their things.  You have people who are clearly oblivious to most of what's going on in a room, you have those in the middle, and you have people who are "on" all the time, picking up who's angry with whom, where disagreements are about to or have just occured, who likes whom, sudden subtle changes in overall mood, movements of individuals from one part of the room to another part, perhaps switching up group allegiance.  If someone has a new hairdo, or leaves the room and returns, having changed pants, this superaware kind of partygoer notices right away. These flighty geese really can't turn this off, and can often tire out quickly, and not be able to relax in a crowded room.  They may want to go off alone, or to take one or two people off so they can socialize, but not have to be in the middle of so much stuff to unceasingly process.
  As a child, I was made to attend church five times a week, with extra bible conference weekends and "special meetings" too.  A real problem for me was I couldn't not listen.  I had to record the wording, the body language, the tones of voice, the pauses, the odd personal traits and quirks I have been criticized for mentioning on this blog.  And I then had to remember most of it.  For the rest of my life.  You give me the name of any preacher or church guy I had to listen to a lot, and I can not only instantly play in my head a video with sound, of him speaking, even if he's now long dead, I could write you a sermon in his style, using his language, with a "mockery" knob going from zero to eleven. Because I was like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange. It was like my eyes were pried open, my head stabilized, and all of those sermons pouring in my ears endlessly until whoever was speaking decided enough was enough.  I am stuck with those memories today. And they're not vague memories.  And an awful lot of those guys were clearly just talking to fill time.  Or to promote the continuance of the status quo.  But I had to sit there and sift, parse and crossreference them anyway.
  In normal conversations, usually it's like the iceberg oft-alluded to in aid of making the point that much is going on below the surface.  Well, you can see below the surface.  The iceberg is looming down there below you and you can see it if you're looking for the iceberg, and don't like to pretend it's just floating there atop the waves.
  When people are talking, they often play very coy, coming out of the conversation thinking they "spared" the other people by not fully saying the depth or breadth or detail of their thoughts and feelings about topics addressed there.  But they hinted.  They trailed off mid-sentence.  They gave body language cues.  Their wording often spent as much time not quite saying things as it did saying things outright. It's like they didn't draw a dog, they just drew an elaborate picture of a backyard, with a dog house, dog dish, dog toys and then left a clearly dog-shaped patch of white paper untouched by their crayons, but with green grass scribbled in right around it everywhere that wasn't dog.

Did You Know: You Can See Erect Nipples Through A Thin Blouse
  Thing is, you can see all of that.  You can hear what's almost being said.  You can read the opinions like you can see erect nipples through a thin blouse.  It's polite to pretend that, of course, no one can see them, but there they are, plain as day, rudely staring at you.  ("Hey nipples!  My nipples are down here!")
  So these opinions, the ones that are being only partly put out there, coyly half-covered, sentences trailed off, meaningful eye contact given, body language eloquent, all of this adds up to these opinions being communicated in ways that a transcript of what was merely put into words won't quite pick up.
  And the least clueful segment of any group is going to say "But she didn't actually say that" or "Well, I'm not saying that, exactly..." They are going to demand that everyone live as if no one suspects that icebergs have more below the surface.  "Why do you need to try to read stuff into everything?" they will complain.  "Sometimes it's just simple. Why do you have to always try to make things so complicated?" they will moan.  But their counterparts across the awareness divide wonder why they always have to try to make everything so simple.

Are You Highly Sensitive, You Execrable Asshole?
So this book has an interesting questionaire designed to identify people who may be overcome by certain things and not know why.  It askes questions like:
-do you cut the labels out of clothing because you don't like them touching your skin?
-do you like to go off where it is silent and dark to think?
-when you are in a crowded room, do you look for exits as soon as you enter?
-when you are in groups, do you find people to speak to singly, and enjoy going off with them to speak one-to-one or maybe at most a threesome?
-do you over-react to caffeine and alcohol, until you get used to a routine intake of them?
-do you have trouble with sudden, unpredictable changes to your life, your living or working area, or your weekly schedule?
-do you wake easily in the night?
-is there an awful lot going on in your head at all times?
-are you apt to spend a great deal of time, alone in your head, on non-physical things like reading, writing, creating music, philosophizing, thinking and religion?
-when you have to show someone how to do something, are you more than usually able to put yourself in their shoes and figure out what they don't yet know?
-are you more than normally impervious to painkillers, including numbing injections at the dentist?
-do you put a pillow over your head or wear ear plugs or a sleeping mask or the like to try to get a good sleep?
-do other people's moods affect you quickly and deeply?
-do you have a sense of how to make other people more comfortable in a room?  Do you notice if they're cold?  (once again, nipples are a dead giveaway that you should offer them a sweater)
-do you have a strong aversion to a number of sensory stimulus, such as bright light, loud noises, specific strong smells, varieties of coarse fabric?
-do you startle easily?
-do you tickle easily?
-as far as other people touching you, is unexpected physical contact always a shock to you, and when someone is touching you fondly, does a very little go a very long way?
-do you enjoy/are you annoyed by subtle differences in the taste and texture of different kinds or servings of food?
-are there things you simply cannot eat or drink because of their smell, taste or texture?
-do you hate other people trying to in any way direct your decision-making/actions?
-do you try harder than most people to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things?
-do things like being hungry or sleepy or horny make it almost impossible for you to think normally?
-do you structure your life so as to avoid confusion, random stuff and out of control situations?

Stuff like that.  Kinda guilty on all counts.The only things in her list that I didn't relate to was sensitivity to cold (with me it's heat which completely disrupts my body's ability to function) and avoidance of violence in TV and movies (I love The Walking Dead.  Mostly because I've never seen a single violent scene in something like that and believed it.  I can see the pixels in the CG blood.)


Kristi said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thanks for posting.

Wikkid Person said...

I think 15-20% of the population feeling weird because they're reacting (including emotionally) to stuff many other people simply doubt the reality of, is quite a thing. We're not weird at all, in fact.

Wikkid Person said...

From another blog reader who was unable to comment without the webmaster's loving aid:
I tried to post this on your blog, but nope it wouldn't let me.
I think that anyone who has things about the way they are bent that hinders them from having healthy relationships is going to be missing out. One of my sons is probably this ultra sensitive type that you describe. Its very awesome when its awesome. He is strong in this area. It melts me in delight for him. Sometimes though, it hurts him, or causes him to hold back when he shouldn't or run instead of face things, and its not so awesome. And the thing is he doesn't need to be a slave to being too sensitive for the world. Its ok if he doesn't want to wear tags. Etc Who says its better to live life wearing tags? The areas hes weak in and doesn't have a full perspective are areas for growth. And I've seen him be able to overcome things as the months go. He can step outside his anxiousness, his fears. He can now recognize how unhealthy some of his interpretations are of situations. He's much happier now that he can recognize a good choice from a bad choice. He knows he can look at things in different ways. Its been a road filled with all kinds of ins and outs but its been a great unfolding for a small, poetic boy, who loves people deeply. He's told me things like this

: mom I see a bit of Jesus in everyone.

: He was watching people as we were walking. 'Mom I think we are all broken, he told me. That man over there is. And so am I as he showed me his bruise”

:Mom, I don't think people are alive till they have Jesus in them.

: Mom do you love everyone? If not you should probably wonder if you love God.

He's 4 and he sees things in detail. But there are ways that he zooms in that hold him captive. And its that way for everyone. Everyone has scary corners that we can't seem to outrun. That aren't an easy walk away. I know that knowing your loved and accepting you are has made all the difference.

My mom is this way. Very sensitive. She called me yesterday and said. “Caryl, I know you say I don't share myself. That I don't ever express myself. I'm going to today. I'm going to share! And she did. For 15 minutes she shared herself, her thoughts, her ideas, her faith. I knew how foreign it was for her but she did it. Walked right out in the open. It was pretty damn cool. She wasn't in 'on' mode. She wasn't in flight/fight mode. She wasn't dissecting all the angles. She wasn't recording. 64 years of this constant can't quite relax and share. Its takes years and lots of sorting but its been worth it. Ya know, its cool when you see a mountain move. The coolest thing you can see, really.

I don't think any personality is a curse. I think that they can all be uniquely enjoyed in relationships. I don't think its good to nurse weaknesses.