I finished reading The Highly Sensitive Person and had many great realizations. Even reading it, there was still a feeling that I was an outsider within that group. It explained my sensitivity, but not my roller-coaster ride. If I'm all the way on the far end of the sensitive spectrum (meaning my nervous system picks up more than most people), why wasn't I very cautious?
In her second book, The Highly Sensitive Person In Love, I found an answer. She introduces another important inherited trait, High Sensation Seeking. These folks need more stimulation to reach the optimal amount of arousal. The two traits seem like opposites on first glance, but she makes it quite clear that one can be both an HSP and an HSS, which explains my lifelong tightrope walk to maintain balance. I answered true to all but one of the questions on both tests. This means my range of comfortable arousal (not in a sexual sense) is extremely small. As one HSP/HSS person put it, we feel like we have one foot on the break and one foot on the gas… all the time. We have a built-in, hard-wired internal struggle!
HSPs make up 15-20% of the population and within them 30% are extroverts, so about 6% of the human population. Within that group, an even smaller proportion is also HSS. No wonder I felt like an alien most of my life! Having both traits means I get overwhelmed and bored very easily. Since I developed the HSS aspect more, the HSP part of me got massive adrenal exhaustion, depression, anxiety, digestive issues and chronic fatigue from all my frenetic activity. I have to balance it with time for reflection, meditation, yoga, etc.
The HSS part of me manifests like this:
- Desiring to experience new things
- Wanting to travel to exotic places
- Never wanting to backtrack if possible, so I see something new always
- Being an adrenaline junkie from birth
- Experimenting with drugs
- Becoming easily bored
- Thoroughly enjoying extreme sports
- Being so restless that I move and change jobs frequently
- Wanting to meet new people often
- Have difficulty being in long term relationships
- Being unpredictable or flaky
- Avoid routines of any sort
My first memory is of launching myself off our garage roof towards a branch that was parallel to the ground, like a flying trapeze artist. I missed many, many times before finally sticking this bold move. One of those times I was in my pink bikini, pre-kindergarden, and grazed a pile of concrete blocks, ripping the ass cheek off my suit. But I knew it was possible, and I finally prevailed.
Looking back, I remember being in first grade and noticing that the men had the power. Since I had both the high sensitivity (seen as more feminine) and sensation seeking (seen as more masculine), I developed the latter and tried to hide the former. My entire life has been about trying to develop the daring, masculine side of myself. Luckily, my parents supported me and never pigeonholed me because of my gender.
In my house, there was a wonderful amount of equality (coming from a long line of feisty German feminist bitches), and I never heard the words "you can't do that because you're a girl"….until I was 9. I was playing with my cousins, who were all boys, and it was 100 degrees and 100% humidity on our farm in Indiana. Naturally we all had our shirts off. My parents pulled me aside and informed me that I needed to wear a shirt because I was a girl. I was outraged! I had already hit puberty, so it was probably a good idea, but I was pissed nonetheless.
It wasn't until my brother died 5 years ago that I saw the value and power of the feminine. I could no longer pretend to be a man with breasts that happened to be attracted to other men. Somehow, losing Luke cracked me wide open. I felt my suppressed emotions of 27 years breaking through the dam, like Lake Powell tumbling through the Grand Canyon. I gradually softened, embracing my true nature. I even made girlfriends! Lo and behold, there were other women similar to me… strong AND sensitive, bold AND feminine. Why didn't I see this before?
It's not surprising that I've been drawn to Chinese medicine, which has it's foundation in the Yin-Yang theory. Everything material has an opposite. There is Yin within Yang, and Yang within Yin (shown as the dots, or fish eyes in the symbol). It's about finding that balance where the two are in harmony and one isn't dominating the other. They are both changing constantly, like everything in life, so it becomes a dance.
I was so Yang for most of my life, being active, aggressive, masculine, talkative, etc. But Yang cannot exist without the support of Yin, the dark, introspective, feminine, and calm. That's why my Yang collapsed and for 6 months my whole life has been Yin. My pendulum is swinging back towards the center, the equilibrium, because we cannot stop time. The clock will continue ticking away. I just need to climb higher instead of trying to hold the swing on one end. There is always an equal and opposite reaction. It is ridiculous to pretend to be something I'm not. The universe didn't make an infinite number of unique manifestations so we could try to all be the same.