The Mistake Of Identity

 

Identity is an anchor in most of our lives.

It is usually derived from a combination of our own experiences, our family and school feedback and our culture.

Identities can feel wonderful if we have positive feedback or it can feel like a ball and chain if we do not.

The more important question is, “Is it real?”

What Is Identity Anyway?

I have always thought that identity was a little bit strange. OK, a lot strange.

Why do I even need one?

Here are some ways that Merriam-Webster defines identity as

: who someone is : the name of a person

: the qualities, beliefs, etc., that make a particular person or group different from others

:  sameness of essential or generic character in different instances

:  sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing :  oneness

:  the distinguishing character or personality of an individual :individuality

:  the relation established by psychological identification

Of course, identity – and we mean social identity – is largely based on what we can see. If someone spends time by themselves we call them antisocial. If someone is lively, we often call them fun. This means that we define the identities of others in terms of what we experience, want and need.  So we often define others in relation to ourselves which invalidates them as someone unique and on their own journey. Therefore, identity can be an exploitive construct. Ask any disenfranchised person and group!

How Identity Gets Us In Trouble

Identity gets us in trouble with others in a number of ways:

  • it causes us to think we know something when we do not. Being able to identity a koala in a picture does not mean that I know anything about koalas.
  • it causes us to think that we have the lay of the land, the map of reality. When we define others and groups even nations as “good “and “bad” we may think we are dealing with reality but actually we are not. We are working from an interpretation.
  • when we put someone into a box of identity and they object we may feel justified in our negative reaction but we are not. Everyone has a right to be who they are and everyone is more than their social identity.
  • when we treat someone as if they are there to serve our agenda and they object, who has the problem?
  • when we ascribe negative attributes to those who disagree are we right? Sometimes, but sometimes we are also missing something and need to be open to that possibility.

Identity also gets us in trouble with ourselves:

  • we may believe that our social identity, whether it is family, peer based or national is really us.
  • we may compare our inner nature to our social feedback and think that there is something wrong with us.
  • we may start to believe that we have an obligation to be what others want us to be.
  • we may start to shrink ourselves so that others will be comfortable with us and then stop liking ourselves.
  • we may stop believing in ourselves.
  • we may receive feedback as a report card on ourselves that has nothing to do really with who we are.
  • we may stop listening to our intuitive, whole self and deny it the voice it needs.

Taking Back Your Identity

Our real identity is nothing more than the inner part of us that does not change throughout our lives. It is the part of us that is universal and yet also seems particular and specific to us at the same time. It is the part of us that people often love even though we are usually taught to keep it hidden.

Although we have to live in the human world we nonetheless need to be true to ourselves. Taking the messages we have received and examining them, discarding the one’s that are wrong or do not fit us is the first step to reclaiming our best selves. It is a step worth taking.

Put Negativity In Its Place

Negativity is not what you think.

Negativity is often thought to be a personal character trait.

There is some truth to that but it is so much more.

What Is Negativity?

According to the Your Dictionary, negativity,  at least in a social or decision making sense, is defined as follows:

  1. a word, affix, phrase, etc. that denies, rejects, or refuses (Ex.: no, not, by no means)
  2. a statement of denial, refusal, or rejection
  3. the point of view that denies or attacks the positive or affirmative: the negative won the debate
  4. an undesirable element or quality; drawback, shortcoming, defect, etc…

It is particularly useful to see the definition of negativity as a point of view that denies the positive because negativity is not simply a response to immediate events or misfortunes in life.  It may, in fact, be a world view.

The Free Dictionary defines negativism as

a habitual attitude of skepticism or resistance to the suggestions, orders, or instructions of others…

As the definition points out,  negativism is a habit of thought.

Negative Is Not Good Or Bad

Negativity has received bad press. It is strange, really, because on the one hand we abhor negativity – it is so depressing – but at the same time we also abhor change.

It makes me wonder if most of our social discourse is the collision of different forms of negativity.

To be negative can mean anything. It can mean that we are setting boundaries, respecting our limits and making chices that are life affirming.

To be negative can mean that we are totally risk adverse, and prefer to let others do the heavy lifting of making change happen.

To be negative can mean that we are stingy with ourselves to the detriment of others.

To be negative can mean that we are respecting our own negative experiences in order to live from a wiser place.

To be negative can mean a lot of different things. It depends on the person.

Can Negativity Be Systemic?

Yes, it can. Whenever we try to maintain the status quo in the face of the need for change we are supporting negativity.

Change is a big deal and needs to be respected. However, ignoring the need for change only makes things worse. When changing circumstances do not result in appropriate responses, then we are all harmed.

Nothing stays the same.  A 2 year old enjoys learning to move a round, but we so demand that a person still be crawling at age 18. The same needs to be true of cultural systems.

We all, however, have resistance to change. It is natural and can be self protective. We need, after all, to respect the limits of time, resources and abilities. We can, therefore, empathize with resistance to change. It is part of being a human being.

When we are aware of our resistance to change, respect it but are also skeptical about it, we then can thoughtfully make necessary changes. Cultures can do the same.

Not all systemic negativity, however, is so benign.

Discrimination As Systemic Negativity

Discrimination is a serious and cruel form of systemic negativity. It is not based on facts. It is a use of attitude to exclude and denigrate other people. It is a kind of negativity that extends to animals and nature, because underneath it is a basic distrust of life and people.

I am not trying to be pollyanish here and deny the reality of negative behavior and even evil behavior. I am talking about a way of thinking that denies the good in others. It is a way of refusing to relate and work with others, a way of denying the reality of an ecosystem that includes different people and life forms.

Discrimination is essentially a power grab that controls decision making and resources and tries to maintain that control by managing a social discourse that devalues others.

Resistance As A Way Of Life

Unfortunately, it is easy to get caught up in resistance. We can encounter resistance and react to the resistance and we are then all off and running into a negative spiral.

I think we have to be as intelligent and considered as we can be about negativity and resistance. it is there, but we do not have to give it its head. We can pu it in its place as simply one approach among many  and get on with what we have to get on with.

I think there is a spirit afoot of being fed up with negativity that I think is healthy. If we each do our part, perhaps the legacy of negativity that the world has suffered with for so long, no longer has to be our future.

 

 

Workplace Bullying: A Survival Guide

Unfortunately, difficult economic conditions can increase the negative behaviors that people will tolerate in order to keep their jobs. If you ever find yourself the target of workplace bullying, it is important to have strategies to safeguard your emotional and physical well-being.

If You Experience Workplace Bullying

If you are being bullied at work:

  • Don’t deny the problem. It is important to recognize when you are being bullied and to take steps to protect yourself.
  • Don’t blame yourself. Workplace bullying is usually about control and rarely has anything to do with you personally.
  • Get help.
    • Check your company’s policy. Are there any guidelines or protocols that address workplace bullying? Is there a resource person that you can talk to about the situation?
    • Contact your employee assistance group, if one is available. These groups are confidential and may be able to advise you. As an added bonus, your request for assistance can help document your experience of being bullied.
    • Reach out to family, friends, and/or a professional counselor.
  • Create a paper trail of the bully’s “bad behavior” and your “good behavior”. For example, if you receive a threatening phone call from the bully. Don’t call the bully back and subject yourself to further abuse. Instead, respond to the call via email, reiterating the bully’s threats and formulating your own professional response. If the bully ignores your work-related requests, send an email indicating that you haven’t received a response and copy others.
  • If you choose to confront the bully’s bad behavior, always do it in writing. State your concerns in an email, and keep it professional. Indicate that you are raising your concerns in an effort to work better together.
  • Exercise caution when confiding in your co-workers. Be careful about saying things to others that you don’t want to get back to the bully. The last thing you want to do is provide evidence against yourself. Also, some co-workers won’t want to be put in the middle, in which case you should respect their wishes and seek support elsewhere.
  • Be impeccable. Keep your performance level high, and play strictly by the rules. This is often the best defense against someone who is trying to sabotage your success.
  • Maintain a cheerful and positive attitude, even if you have to fake it. While this will be very difficult to do, it will show the bully that his or her campaign is not having the desired effect, which is sometimes the best revenge. (One caution though, some bullies may respond by escalating their campaigns.)
  • Do not lose your temper. Always behave in a professional manner, regardless of how the bully is behaving. Not only will feel better about yourself, but it will also prevent the bully from gathering ammunition against you.
  • Be proactive. Bullying behaviors are repetitive and often predictable. Do your best to anticipate the bully’s behavior, and have an action plan ready. Try to stay one step ahead of the bully.
  • Take care of yourself. Relish your downtime. Relax, and do things you enjoy. Consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing signs of stress or other medical issues.
  • Update your resume, and keep your eye out for other jobs. It is empowering to know that you have other choices and that you don’t need to tolerate a hostile work environment. You should also realize that many workplace bullying situations can never be satisfactorily resolved. It’s best to be prepared for all possible outcomes.

How To Report Bullying

If you decide to report the bullying:

  • Keep a written diary that details the nature of the bullying (e.g. dates, times, places, what was said or done, and who was present).
  • Maintain copies of harassing/bullying paper trails, such as emails, and save threatening voice messages. You should also hold on to copies of documents that contradict the bully’s accusations against you (e.g. time sheets, audit reports, etc.)
  • Keep a list of people you think may have observed the bullying. Find out if any of those people would be willing to speak on your behalf.
  • Make a list of all the efforts you made to work the situation out (e.g. emails, phone calls, requests for help from HR or Employee Assistance)
  • If you are experiencing serious health problems as a result of the bullying, get a documentation from your doctor.
  • Report the behavior to an appropriate person or department, such as Human Resources or your Union Representative. Be prepared to present your case and back it up with plenty of documentation and evidence.

Don’t be a victim. Take a proactive stance to protect yourself. Use this situation to motivate yourself to find a better situation and environment.

Note: This article was first published in Cliff Harwin’s newsletter.

Breaking The Failure Taboo

Failure is something that many of us if not all of us have been taught to be afraid of.

Unfortunately, failure is a big subject and perceptions about failure are not necessarily innocent.

Fear of failure causes so many people to hide and makes them afraid to be themselves. What a loss!

Why Failure Is Such A Big Subject

Failure has been a big subject throughout human history.

If you take a look at ancient myths and stories many of them are as much about failure as about bravery.

In early human societies, failure was dangerous. Failure was life threatening and the consequences were often death. Even community games required or resulted in human sacrifice. The Mesoamerican Ballgame of early Aztec societies was one example, but there are many others.

Failure was particularly problematic for early humans, because they had very little knowledge about the actual causes and effects of events in their lives. You could say that life was a guessing game but a serious one.

The Seriousness Of Failure Stuck

There was certainly plenty to be afraid of in early human societies.

War, disease, weather, lack of resources were all factors that made life seem fragile. However, it seems that we often made the problem worse with superstitious rule making and worship of gods and ancestors. Although they were forms of self protection, they were practices that led to some serious scapegoating. I would have been afraid to be alive then myself.

People who were different were definitely targets of superstition and to some degree are still today. Perhaps because the uncertainty of survival resources, like food and water as well as continual war made demands on each society extreme.

The Fear Of Scapegoating

What constitutes success and failure have been and are still culturally prescribed. Your occupation, performance and family status are three ways in which we are often judged. We have also inherited our fears about not measuring up.

The serious need to ensure our survival as a species has come at a serious cost. We have so limited what we call acceptable behavior that we often to not realize how much we have cut ourselves off from our natural abilities and talents.

In addition, the serious treatment of and consequences for failure, real or not, right or not, has stuck in our mental programming. To this day, we humans do not handle failure well.

The fear of scapegoating is a serious inhibitor of our social, professional and creative behavior. In many cases we not be aware of it as an inherited fear. It is there under the surface and deep inside us if we look and reflect on it.

Failure And Creativity

Failure is such a big deal that human creativity has been controlled and thwarted for thousands of years in the attempt to create some stability and certainty in human societies. As justified as the desire for stability is, the universe – all parts of it – is essentially creative.

I am always amazed by animals who take the uncertainty of life in stride and find a way to enjoy the good they find. They do not fight life as we often do.

When we fight our natural creativity, we are fighting life and ourselves. At the end of the day, that cannot be rewarding or an enjoyable way to live life.

We all know of individuals or have ourselves experienced the blame that gets put on people for something they did not do or over which they had no control.We all know how wrong it is and how lousy it feels to be scapegoated. Do we, however, pay too high a price to avoid that fate?

What Is Failure?

It is worth considering what failure is. Failure has been associated with vulnerability and uncertainty for thousands of years.

But that is not really what it is.

Much effort has been made in the past 50 years to recognize the degree to which our lives are dominated by the stories we tell ourselves and others about life. These stories often relate to our vulnerability – self created and culturally created. Often these stories shut down our creativity.

By embracing the colorful but potentially “dangerous” aspect of ourselves we can open ourselves up to our creativity and take responsibility for it.Creativity is not irresponsibility.  It may actually be irresponsible not to embrace our full creativity.

I am all for some comfort in life. However, we need to realize that security is a story we tell ourselves just like any other. When we rigidly put safety first we not only deny reality which never works, but also sacrifice quality of life and joy for stability.

Is that really the trade-off we want to be making?

Duality And The Mastery Of The Exquisite

 

Duality is something that many of us embrace as a way to develop perceptual sophistication.

You know…
…love vs. hate…
…light vs. dark…
…yin vs. yang…
…good vs. bad…
…masculine vs. feminine…

It’s a start!

Duality Can Be Like Fool’s Gold

Discovering duality can be exciting. It is a way to start to grapple with the world.

We can see differences and we have a way to think about them.

We have a way to make sense of what we see and feel.

We are in control!

Too many people treat duality as the last word on reality when it is really just the tip of the iceberg. It is not the last word in our quest for perceptual honesty and truth. It is only the beginning.

Duality Is A Window

Duality is like a window. It is a way to begin to understand differences.

But differences are not fixed. They exist in relation to other characteristics and contexts.

So duality is not a way to understand something concrete. It is how we begin to understand factors that are always changing.

Duality gives us an opening to learn about and understand the energy of differences.

It lets us be with differences so that we can begin to understand their value.

Light is not just one value, and dark is not just one value. Each offer us many rich variations and different levels of opacity, intensity, and subtlety.

When we engage with dualities we can begin to see what we miss.

Holding The Tension Of Dualities

The creative process provides us with a tension between what we want and where we are currently.

When we hold the tension between the two, possibilities then show themselves to us.

The same is true with dualities.

When we hold light and dark together in our attention, then they start to evolve. They move together, they dialogue, they may argue. They beome active.

Meeting The Exquisite

Holding dualities creates a movement to the middle.

It allows something to emerge. That something is a place that works, where the two elements are not just in balance but where they are the most effective, where they bring out the best in each other.

Holding the tension of dualities helps you find a sweet spot between them. It is a tool to help you hold the tension in conflicts and let solutions find you.

Finding solutions and where dualities are able to meet and work together reveals a sweet spot: a place where you a feel something fall into place.

It’s a place which feels right, a place where everything feels in sync.

When you find it, it feels like you have bumped into something exquisite. It is better than harmony and it is better than compromise.

It is the sweet spot, the exquisite feeling that comes from the tension of dualities coming together in the right way for the right reasons.

It is one of the best feelings in the world.

 

A Reexamination Of Comfort Zones And Creativity

Being in one’s comfort zone or not seems to be a marker of all sorts of wonderful traits including creativity and progressiveness. I can even be a path to success and wealth!

I consider myself a creative person. However, I find many ideas about comfort zones, and getting out of them, to have very little to do with creativity and creating a good life for yourself.

Since I perceive quality of life something that we can and need to create for ourselves, I think that reevaluating comfort zones is a necessary step before it is possible to actually improve your life.

Distorting Comfort Zones

Current ideas of comfort zones, in particular getting out of one’s comfort zone, are very much tied to the growth model of economic progress. Getting out of one’s comfort zone appears to have become somewhat of a cultural ideal and I think that is problematic. Being uncomfortable is not necessarily better than being comfortable. It is important to be able to know when to step out of comfort zones and when not to.

Here are some reasons, a society might value having people move out of their comfort zones:

  • if our comfort zone is “bad”, we will seek continuous self-improvement. Although there is nothing wrong with learning, it is better when it is for healthy reasons rather than to live up to a cultural ideal,
  • we buy and consume more, in particular more than we need. If living in a smaller house and having fewer possessions makes sense for us, it will be demeaned in a consumption based economic system. “Enough” is just a synonym for your comfort zone.
  • it can be thought of as supporting the hypermasculine culture of Western civilization with its emphasis on markets, competition, conquest, and expansion. Nurturing and sustaining activities are mostly devalued. One example of the mindset occurs with those people who assert that they will rest when they are dead, as if rest is a waste of time.
  • if we are out of our comfort zones, we may not be true to ourselves. For example, we are out of our comfort zone when we pretend to be happy when we are not. If we do this often enough we lose access to and recognition of our real feelings and true selves.
  • if we go along with getting out of our comfort zone as a cultural model, we may not be able to identify our real values and aspirations.
  • there is more to comfort zones than the demands of a hyper consuming society.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone is not about becoming extreme in sports or any other endeavor.
  • getting out of one’s comfort zone implies that what is natural may not be good. Should we be rude because being cordial is in our comfort zone?
  • dissing comfort zones suggests that the ordinary is not good enough. Actually the ordinary is magnificent if we can stop long enough to see it.

Getting out of one’s comfort zone can be as mindless as any other idea.

Reframing Comfort Zones

One way to get out of the trap of comfort zones is to reframe what you are doing because frankly your comfort zone is really not all that important an idea to wrap your life around. It certainly should not be a reason for doing anything.

If you make yourself present to where you are, what you want or need to do and the steps to accomplish what you need to do, how do comfort zones enter into that?

Do you need to get out of your comfort zone when brushing your teeth. Perhaps standing on your head while brushing would be out of your comfort zone, but would it be worthwhile to do so?

Perhaps you should consider sleeping standing up because that would be out of your comfort zone.

A Better Use Of Comfort And Discomfort

All absolutes are problematic, because there aren’t any. Absolutes are an illusion. So turning anything into an absolute as a guide for living life is a mistake. That includes “getting out of your comfort zone” if you use it as a measure of whether or not what you are doing is a good idea.

It is far better to use comfort to determine when something is working or not. We use it as a tool for learning and living in a healthier way.

We HSPs have the ability because we are so intuitive, creative and in touch with our feelings to notice comfort and discomfort as a way to make life work better – not as an absolute but as a tool for compassionate living.

That is really the value of discomfort and comfort and one of the wonderful ways HSPs can add a lot of value and magic to the world.

Tyranny of the Clock

People in an economic system based on production learn to live with the tyranny of the clock.  Although people have been tracking time since the early days of humans, our relationship with time has become different.

Time used to be related to something going on in nature.  People measured the hours of sunshine, the seasons, and how long crops took to grow.  The day began when the sun came up and ended when it set. Our survival was directly related to what nature offered us and so our relationship to time was related to nature also.

Since the Industrial Revolution, we have changed our relationship to time and nature. We treat nature as something we control.  It is understandable that we sought to control nature because we felt so out of control in relation to nature: the weather was so unpredictable, the basic needs of people were not being met, and disease was rampant.  At the time, natural resources were so plentiful. So we created machines and production processes to harness natural resources to take care of our basic needs and kept on going.  Time became a factor in production costs and therefore directly affected profits.

Time And Limits

There were understandable reasons for the economic system that we have created.  Human society at the time of the Industrial Revolution was saddled with all sorts of limits that needed to be challenged. Some of these limits were based on belief systems. Some limits were geographical, others political. Even time felt limiting because we were limited by the amount that each person could accomplish which in turn limited our ability to meet our needs. Since the Industrial Revolution, the clock has been used as a tool for challenging limits through productivity measurements which evaluate how well we produce in a specific period of time.  Our educational system is organized around time.  We have a certain period of time to learn a given amount of material, whether we learn or not is often irrelevant, when time is up, time is up.

When the clock controls how much attention we give to something or someone, we relinquish control over our lives because we are not really engaging with life and the realities around us.  If it takes two years to learn a subject but you only have six months, then essentially your learning is controlled by the demand for speed. If it takes 2 hours to accomplish a task well and one hour is all that is allowed, again you relinquish control over the quality you are able to bring to the work by the demand for speed.  If it takes a year to grieve the loss of a friend, and the people around you demand that you grieve quicker, then your life is diminished by the demand for speed and your health may be negatively affected.

Speed And Sensitive People

The demand for speed is a serious issue for highly sensitive people since creativity, deep listening, and serious problem solving do not lend themselves to time pressure. HSP’s inevitably suffer from distracting and unhelpful conflicts when they are expected to work under artificial, and unnecessarily restrictive time schedules. To the highly sensitive person production is not the end and be all of one’s work life. Qualitative considerations are more important than quantitative ones – within reason of course.

Being sensitive means that we notice the cost of our highly competitive and highly demanding capitalistic system. We notice the stress in ourselves and others, the loss of time for connection and the kind of deep teamwork that is satisfying and inclusive. We see the loss of our cherished natural environment and all the cost to animals and humans. I suspect that to most HSPs the cost-benefit analysis does not read the way it does to an accountant. As a result, how we use time will also be different.

Time And Quality Of Engagement

The tyranny of the clock does not allow for the freely engaged way of relating to living and problem solving that results in deep satisfaction. It does a lot of damage and creates more problems than it solves. There is such a need for healing caused by the destructive shortsightedness of a high-pressure economy.  As a result, it is bound to be unsatisfying to highly sensitive people.

Time is precious. A high-pressure system is not very appealing to highly sensitive people who will treat time as they treat other things with regard and diligence. Finding a way to live true to your sensitive self and still contribute to your culture is a central challenge of sensitive people everywhere.

Is Independence Real?

Independence and autonomy are cherished goals in many people’s lives.

I am all for standing on one’s own two feet. However, I notice more and more how autonomy and independence can become distorted.

Is Independence Real?

Here in the US, we are all about independence. So much so that we have little in the way of safety nets for the inevitable downside of life.

Independence is virtually a mandate, a matter of character rather than development.

Independence can also have many meanings. It can be interpreted as independence from want, the realities of life, aging, mistakes, and failures. Independence often suggests an idyllic experience of life, free from pain or any other concern. Under the character definition of independence. the more pain in your life, the greater your failure. It is personal, you know.

But it is not a real independence. None of us can escape mistakes, aging, ups and downs that are always a part of life. Why is it a sign of personal failure if we cannot?

The Failure Of The Independence Model

Independence can become an obsession. If any dependency is a fault, then revealing that you are not entirely self-contained can be a serious exposure of yourself and to yourself. In a world where perception has consequences, being perceived as needy or needing can cost you the respect of others.

It is one thing, however, to challenge excessive neediness and the lack of independence underneath it and another to base ideas about independence on false ideas about what it is.

Yes, There Are Limits

Our Western view of independence suggests that limits do not apply to us and that they should not. I guess limits are for other people. Perhaps for highly sensitive ones.

The denial of limits has serious consequences that actually limit our independence.

When we deny reality we limit our choices which result in our making decisions that can have ramifications. An easy way to see this is by looking at the example of denying our need for sleep because it is a limitation that we should have to put up with. If we do that enough, we can make serious mistakes, perhaps get into an accident, or become ill from the physical neglect. In essence, we have created new limitations because of the ones we denied.

It is a little like kicking the limitation can down the road. Except that often other people are harmed as a result.

The Effect Of Independence On Compassion

When we deny limits and the realities of life, we become less compassionate toward ourselves and others. We treat reality as a fault, as a mistake, or an imposition. We treat others in an adversarial manner as encroaching on our independence. It is a very rejecting attitude.

We also deny ourselves and others the necessary care that we need. Often we end up accumulating serious problems because of the neglect we inflict on ourselves and others. Without an acknowledgment of limits, we cannot really manage our own lives. In effect, we give up real independence for an illusion of independence.

Without the acknowledgment of real limits, we cannot have a conversation with anyone that is real. Without the acknowledgment of limits, we cannot really solve a problem. Real problem solving requires that we deal with reality.

What Is Real Independence?

I think real independence is freedom of choice based on reality.

It is the ability to take in all of the facts about present circumstances and take the course of action that makes the best sense to us.

it is the ability to act in our best interests based on real information.

It is the ability to be fully human  – warts and all.

It is the ability to work toward our goals in a way that is based on reality.

It is the ability to have real conversations, about real issues and work with others in a real way.

Being real is such a wonderful antidote to the “faux” world we live in today, divorced from nature and the reality of life. So much of the time, we are in a prison of illusions about what life “should” be like that we lose all contact with life. Whatever benefit we think our illusory life provides comes at the expense of real satisfaction.

Is it worth it?

Walls Do Not Make Us Safe

The walls are up in our society.

All sorts of walls: brick, stone, identity, geographical, ideological, and economic. There there are social barriers of race, sex and physical abilities. Roles and social affiliations are other forms of demarcation. So are rules.

We can’t live with them and we cannot live without them.

Why We Have Walls

Walls are not intrinsically a problem. However, after thousands of years of creating barriers to protect ourselves, we are now drowning in them.

Rules, roles, customs, conventions, expressed expectations, unexpressed expectations. There are a lot of ways to create protections. We humans have been very creative about it. And of course, we all have our personal walls including our habits and personalities.

Many of our barriers came into being when we needed them when our species was younger and more defenseless. They became a part of our reality out of necessity. Now with 7 billion people on the planet, they are being questioned in a more serious way than ever before.

Walls are meant to protect us when we need protecting. They are not meant to just keep others out. There is a distinction. Walls are a closed and fixed structure; boundaries are more open and flexible.

The Limitations Of Walls

Sometimes barriers are contrived and sometimes they are not. Sometimes they help and sometimes they do not.

There is a reason why, however, at this particular point in time we are in need of a rethink about all kinds of barriers more so than others:

  1. 7 billion people all with their own walls is unwieldy.
  2. we have always needed to cooperate. However, the complexity of our current human systems and the demands on them require a more skillful interdependency.
  3. our problems are bigger. There are too many of us for the resources on the planet. Our walls are making it harder to solve our big problems and we cannot shut ourselves off from the needs of others.
Walls are what we have when boundaries fail when we cannot find a way to negotiate our differing needs and claims on mutually shared resources. They are what we create when we do not trust.

What to do?

Changing the closed structures of the human race is a big task. The barriers cannot be simply brought down. Instead, we need to ask ourselves a new question.

What does a human society look like with cultural institutions built on the basis of and for the purpose of creating trust? Trust is something we create just like anything else.

Perhaps at one-time survival was more important than trust. Well, we survived! Now we have to repair the damage and figure out how to create a different kind of human society built on trust and sustainability.

Structures create results. Now we need new results so we need new structures. It is time for an overhaul. Let’s bring the walls down by creating the world where people see that they do not need them.

Naysayers And HSPs

Do naysayers drive you up the wall?

Highly sensitive people can have difficulty with naysayers. Particularly if they consider themselves wiser than the naysayers – which, frankly, can be quite often.

Some people are habitually negative. Sensitive people may have difficulty with those who are habitually negative because they have the capacity for and access to a more nuanced perspective. As a result, highly sensitive people tend to seek and offer insights which are not always welcome.

HSPs inevitably include as much information as possible in their decision making especially all the information in their awareness they have no choice but to deal with.  If you take in or are aware of huge amounts of information, your perception will be informed by all of those inputs. HSPs often have a deeper and more complex understanding than others. The result is that HSPs often feel at odds with rule makers, gatekeepers, and other authority figures without really having an interest in conflict. One of the unfortunate consequences is that many people perceive highly sensitive people as difficult when in reality many HSPs dislike conflict.

The dilemma of highly sensitive people and naysayers is not a superficial one. Naysaying is often a knee-jerk reaction to a behavior, a change or a need.  It is often conditioned behavior based on individual and cultural habits. It is often defensive.

HSPs who are inundated with all sorts of information, both habitual and less noticed, do not have the luxury of mindless obedience. The situation for the highly sensitive is further complicated because their sensitivity increases and supports their awareness and integrity, which then makes them at odds with the more conforming members of society.

It also makes conversation difficult.  Inevitably highly sensitive people cannot help but be on a different wavelength.  Trying to share that wavelength with non-HSPs can be difficult and maybe sometimes dangerous. Unfortunately the desire for seeing and being seen will not be satisfied by many non-HSPs who cannot appreciate a sensitive person’s perspective. Trying to reconcile the differences can be emotionally damaging and affect our integrity and self-respect.

Being an HSP gives us a need for encouragement that non-HSPs may not share since they are more aligned with their peers and cultural direction.  Naysayers, then, can actually damage the dreams, hopes and aspirations of the highly sensitive. Naysayers can also block progress in many ways.

One of the most difficult problems for highly sensitive people is the internalizing of the naysaying around them and taking it as an indictment of their very identity. That is a mistake to be avoided.

Naysayers do not know it all.  They can benefit from the insights and wisdom of highly sensitive people, and HSPs need to continually remind themselves of this so that they can summon the energy to hold their ground. HSPs need to be mindful of the fact that naysayers can cause them harm. Surrounding yourself with more positive people is a great insurance policy against the self esteem erosion that occurs around the naysayers of the world.