Last week, I hiked Silver Falls State Park, which is just outside of Salem, Oregon. The park is picturesque and beautiful. There are two main trails that take you from the South Falls to the North Falls and back again, for a total of 8.7 miles.
One trail takes you down into the gorge, and winds you in and out of different smaller trails. Along the way there are 10 different waterfalls you can experience. I managed to see 7 or 8; and, they were stunning.
I started at the South Falls, which is where the largest waterfall is located.
Gorgeous, yes? Yes.
From there it is about a 4 mile hike to the North Falls, and along the way there are some very pretty landscapes and riverscapes.
Here some of the other waterfalls along the way.
Once at the North Falls, I stopped to eat and drink a little. At this point, you can hike up to the Upper North Rim, which adds another .8 miles to the trip. I chose to forgo that portion of the hike, and head back along the rim trail.
About half-way back to the South Falls, I descended again into the gorge. It was such a fun trip. I began the hike at 7:30 am and finished at 11:15 am. When I started there were only a few cars in the parking lot, and when I finished there were only a few parking spaces left.
As I hiked I reflected upon my time growing up in Los Angeles, and the privilege I had as a child, youth, and young adult. Privilege in seeing and experiencing so much diversity. Diversity in landscapes, people, places, well, all of it was diverse. Lovely.
For the past 12 years, I’ve lived in much smaller areas, and I miss diverse people and places. Yet, as I hiked back to the South Falls last week, I was pleasantly surprised by the flood of diverse people coming into the park and on the trails. Yes, I did also get a little anxious. Mainly due to being away from people this past year during the pandemic.
Yet, most of what I felt was the deep connection I always get when I’m around people. As a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I have the ability to feel other people’s emotions deeply, and can get from people, without words, much. Yes, it can be overwhelming, and, yet, it is also deeply profound. A true gift.
Being around so many diverse people excites me even more for my trip to Los Angeles next week, and for the coming trips I’ll take in the next few years.
For me, it then follows to ask the question, is high sensitivity binary, as in you have it or you don’t? Or, rather, is high sensitivity a spectrum of experiences? Hm. Good questions. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Alright, so let’s first define binary and spectrum. Ready? Good. Here we go.
There we go. Again, for the purpose of this conversation, you can think about a complete or wide range of related sensitivities, as a spectrum of sensitivity. Make sense? Good.
Now, why is this important? Good question.
Sensitivity as a Spectrum
Because if we think about sensitivity as binary, we limit the experience of being a sensitive human being; and, we also limit our own experience of what it means to be sensitive.
As we discussed in the previous post on sensitivity, being sensitive is not a problem or an issue, it is, rather a gift. And, being able to own that gift, and really internalize it as such is an important and empowering experience.
And, at the same time, it is equally important for everyone to have access to the possibility that they are also sensitive. Why?
Because understanding our sensitivities, whatever they might be, is such an important aspect of being a human being. Truly, truly, this is so.
People that are highly sensitive often turn to substance abuse and other forms of self-abuse in order to dull their sensitivity. And? It is extremely damaging.
Yes, of course, for the person with sensitivity, and also, for those around them. Both. Yet, it need not be that way. Truly.
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
Here are a couple of questions you can ask yourself to see if you too might be a highly sensitive person. Ready? Good. Here we go.
Are you sensitive to light?
How about being sensitive to cold or heat?
Maybe you are sensitive to noise?
Are you easily overwhelmed?
Do you feel your own emotions more?
How about feeling other people’s emotions more?
Now, you can use these questions, if you choose, to start an investigation into your own sensitivity. Yep. Oh, me?
Yes, to every question listed above, and more. I typically score between 17 and 19 on the highly sensitive person questionnaire, which I recommend everyone take. Everyone. Seriously. Why?
Sensitivity As a Gift
Because finding out that I was a highly sensitive person was pivotal in my life. A gift, as was previously stated.
Therefore, I want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to explore their sensitivity, free from bias and judgment. Yep, that’s about it.
Further, I believe that everyone is highly sensitive in some way. Really. I do.
Remember, sensitivity is a spectrum, not binary. Meaning, that it is quite possible that everyone in some way is highly sensitive to something. Yep. Possible. And?
Removing the Stigma of Being Sensitive
Well, removing stigma about sensitivity, especially in the United States, is super important. Especially for young boys. Really.
Young boys are often raised to dissociate themselves from their sensitivity, yet, that is so very unhealthy. It is unhealthy for them as a developing child and youth, and is also unhealthy, as we’ve discussed, for them later in life.
What is healthy?
Proper education about sensitivity. For instance, positive reinforcement and education about what sensitivity means; and, knowledge about how to cope with emotions. All. Important.
Bottom line? Sure. Here we go.
We all have sensitivities. We have to. Why? Because we are all human, and all humans have senses. And, these senses are, at times, maybe all the time, sensitive. And?
That is perfectly okay. More, as we’ve discussed, it is a gift.
Embracing our sensitivity creates more possibility. More possibilities about ourselves and our lives, and more possibilities for those around us.
When we model acceptance of our sensitivity, we remove the stigma about sensitivity and create spaces that are more inclusive and loving.
And, I for one, think that acceptance, inclusivity, and love are needed in this world. Nay, they are very much needed in this world. Today, yep, and, well, tomorrow too. And, for all time.
Have you ever heard of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)? Hm. Either way, know that although I’ve been a highly sensitive person my whole life, I had never heard this phrase until about 2 years ago. Here’s what happened.
About 2 years ago I was at a team building event, and we had one of our instructors come and talk about the highly sensitive person.
It only took about 10 minutes for me to get it. Yep. Then?
As I reflected upon the information I received at the teambuilding, and the new information from the book, so many things occured to me about my childhood, youthood, and adulthood.
I could clearly see my high sensitivity, what was then labeled as shyness or actually derogatorily called being sensitive.
I internalized my shyness and sensitivity as a problem for many, many years.
What I could have never known as a child, youth, or even as an adult previous to a couple of years ago, is that being a highly sensitive person is also a paradox, and a gift. Yep. How, you ask?
Sure. One, question first.
What do you think of when you imagine someone that is highly sensitive; or what association do you make? It’s okay. It’s not a judgement.
Did you see someone in a position of weakness, or in need of help? It’s okay if you did, today it’s normal.
What I am showing you is that in language being sensitive is associated with weakness; and, that that same language is what is used to experientially socialize children to think of high sensitivity as a weakness.
Now, though I am pleasantly surprised that the definition leads with receptivity and capability, it soon enough gets to easily hurt or damaged. Unfortunate, and just plainly not ture.
What is true is that being a person with high sensitivity, like most things in life, is a paradox. How, you ask? Right, well, let’s take a look shall we.
First, let’s explore high sensitivity. Now, know that my experience with the topic of high sensitivity is in being a person with high sensitivity. Meaning, that I’ve not read much about the topic.
Alright, ready? let’s go.
What is High Sensitivity?
Having high senstiivty pretty much means as it sounds. That, in some aspects, people with high sensitivity are more sensitive to external and internal stimulation.
Here are a couple of examples.
People might be highly sensitive to light, sound, touch, taste, smell, and emotions, both their own, and other peoples. There are many ways these sensitivities manifest, which you can check out on the Highly Sensitive Person website.
More often than not, people that have high sensitivity do not know it. Some don’t ever end up knowing it, and some, like myself, do. Approximately 15 to 20% of the population has high sensitivity.
The issue with not knowing, is that people with high sensitivity may end up internalizing their sensitivity as a problem, which is unhealthy and can be destructive.
Many people with high sensitivity end up using unhealthy coping mechanisms, like substance abuse, to bury their sensitivity and inability to understand and cope in more healthy ways.
And, the paradox? Yep, here we go.
High Sensitivity as A Paradox
I label high sensitivity as a paradox to push the limits of language and experience, of what is known. Important. Example? Of course.
I know several people with high sensitivity; and, all of them are clear and strong.
Yep, they are sensitive, and sensitive in different ways, yet that sensitivity makes them clearer and stronger.
In language, as we discussed, sensitivity is associated with a weakness, or deficit, which is simply not the case.
When people that are highly sensitive know about their sensitivity, they can learn to cope with their higher sensitivity, and, in many cases, higher emotional input and output in more healthy ways.
Further, because emotions are felt more, both internal and external, it provides the highly sensitive person with a gift.
The gift of feeling more, knowing more, and loving more.
Another gift is being able to sense where people are at emotionally. Super helpful always, and even more so in leadership roles.
It gives you the opportunity to meet people exactly where they are, free of any judgement. You understand your emotions more, and so you understand other people’s emotions more too. It works like that.
Being a person with high sensitivity has been a journey from thinking for many, many years that I was broken to the realization that I am clear about my emotions and stronger for my sensitivities. Much Stronger.
If you think you might be a person living with high sensitivity, I recommend you take the sensitivity quiz on the Highly Sensitive Person website.
Regardless of whether you are a person living with high sensitivity or not, it is important to remember that our senses and emotions are part of being human. We all have them.
Yes, some people are more sensitive than others to their senses and emotions. However, we all need to take the time to understand our sensations and emotions; time to be with them, and greet them with compassion and grace.
Along the way, please also don’t forget to continue to extend yourself that same compassion and grace. You deserve it.
Well, I am currently working on a couple of new pieces, which include an article on the mind, one on being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), and one on writing. Fun.
I am also considering writing something for a periodical publication. It’s been a while since I’ve submitted anything like this, and am wondering about the periodicals to send to. If you’ve got an insight for me here, I would greatly appreciate it.
This week is my strategy week at work. Meaning that I don’t take meetings unless absolutely necessary, and I work on creating the next couple of years of work for the team I work on.
Of course, these are drafts we are talking about here, as the team I work on is highly collaborative, and will have tons of input for me on anything created this week.
It is a nice time to reflect upon where we’ve come as a team, remember where we are going, and begin to fill in all of the work needed to be completed for us to get there. It’s fun.
About two years ago I learned about High Sensitivity. At that time, I had never heard about it before, and was sort of stunned. Meaning that I could see myself in all that was being talked about, and yet, was in some ways resistant to the idea that I might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
Upon reflection, and a little reading, I came to the, not hard to make, determination that I was an HSP, and had always been.
Certain feelings I always had, and things I felt more in my environment than other people, made more sense to me than ever before. Was truly a transformative moment for me.
I am reflecting upon my HSP’ness now in preparation for the article I will be writing later this week.
If you’d like to learn more about being a Highly Sensitive Person, here are a couple of books I highly recommend.
Both of the books are wonderful, and I highly recommend them if you are interested in Leadership and or Eastern Spirituality. Funny, they are both very alike in that regard. Interesting how that works.
Not sure what the next book will be, yet, this past week I did create a new possibility. What, you ask? Of creating a local remote book club. Yep. There are two other people interested at this time. I’m hopeful to get 2 or 3 more people.
As I was pursuing the book club idea, sending out invitations, it got me thinking about a blogger book club. That might be kind of fun. What do you think?