Thank you to all of you who have checked out my blog, left comments and are following Listening to Temperament. It’s been a honor to hear from all of you. As an introvert I like time to myself and solitary pursuits like writing but of course the goal of this particular solo pursuit is to reach out and make connections. My strongest desire is to offer helpful information in a more meaningful way, and with less of a gap between now and the next post.
Elaine Aron’s first blog of the year included an announcement about Listening to Temperament which was followed by a wave of new interest in my blog. I was very sick with a tenacious flu so it was lovely and also challenging. A side benefit may have been that I didn’t have the stamina to over attend! I also pulled from self care advice I often give about timing. If you have the flu, are feeling anxious, stressed or low it’s not the time to evaluate your life. You won’t come up with anything good. You are likely to tell yourself you might never have energy, be distressed or judgemental about feeling overwhelmed, or fear, or even decide that you are hopelessly behind and will never get caught up. Note those thoughts and put them on a metaphorical shelf. Check back with them when you are in a better place. There will be a lot less on the shelf when you aren’t feeding your stress by over attending to it. Later when your circumstances are lighter you will have more resources to deal with what’s left. Pause. Deep breath. I’m coming back from the flu like that.
How to be a Manager
The deep thinking of highly sensitive people can be advantageous for creativity, problem solving and detailed responses. When an HSC or HSP is feeling anxious or otherwise stressed that tendency can be problematic. Highly sensitive people tend to over attend both internally and externally which can grow anxiety and other challenging feelings. For people who are lower in activity, a temperament characteristic measuring physical energy, this may be especially likely. If you are an introvert, live in your head or can get lost in your own world, anxiety can be quite happy to get to know you. HSP’s who are higher in activity level often have a high enough appetite for life to pull them out of their heads though they may sometimes miss or ignore the signals that they need some time out for self care.
Anxiety tells us that we had better pay attention. When anxiety has the upper hand it feels as though we will miss something if we don’t stay with our anxious thoughts and feelings. HSP’s often want to get to the bottom of things, be able to figure out a problem and tie it up neatly. Anxiety loves all that time and attention which feeds it and makes it bigger and stronger. Now it’s in charge.
It is important to acknowledge anxiety, like any feeling. Our bodies tell us when we have a physical thirst and need to get a drink. They also tell us when we have an emotional thirst which needs attention. We can get busy or distract ourselves so that we don’t hear the need for awhile but it will come roaring back at a quieter time. Ignoring a feeling doesn’t make it go away. And trying to tune it out it means also tuning out enjoyable feelings. It doesn’t work to selectively tune out feelings. Just don’t throw the door wide open. It’s not feelings that get us in trouble it’s how we respond to them. People often want to control, or for their children to control their challenging feelings such as anxiety and anger. A livable and doable goal is instead to manage those feelings.
Be in charge of the door. Anxiety is an uninvited but insistent guest at the door. It’s like the most obnoxious sales person trying to sell you something you don’t want, don’t need and can’t afford and yet somehow you’re buying it every time. In all the years I’ve worked as a therapist not a single person has told me that time spent with anxiety was helpful, but without a plan it’s easy to go there again and again. Then it’s comfy on your couch and really hard to get rid of.
Instead, pay attention to the door but own it. It’s your door. Don’t allow that guest more than 15 minutes at any given time. Be fierce at the end of that time. Or, you are the person at the podium in front of the hospital or courthouse. The clamoring journalists are your insistent turmoil. And just like a press conference you set a time limit (fifteen minutes or less). The journalists/your turmoil are/is likely to want to continue past that time. And just like a press conference you tell them you’ll see them at three and walk away. You’re not looking for closure or feeling ready to be done. The appointment time is 15 minutes or less. Put the leftovers on the shelf. When you keep doing this, and attending to self care is essential to be able to set these boundaries, there will be less and less on the shelf. Once you are not so done in by your anxiety you will have the resources to deal with what’s left on the shelf. You are managing anxiety instead of it managing you. Way different. The power of you!
Next time, more on the temperament characteristics , activity, and intensity, an expressive energy scale.