Identity And Thoughts: Changing The Cultural Narrative For Highly Sensitive People

Do your thoughts drive you crazy?

Do you ruminate a lot and feel that you are going around in circles?

Do you think that your thoughts control you?

What Are Our Thoughts?

Our thoughts are mental pictures that we create.  They often seem automatic and out-of-control. They are a natural consequence of our interaction with daily life and are your way of processing and dealing with what is happening around you and to you.

Our thoughts are our mind’s desire to take care of us. They also are a way of our dealing with the unknown and unknowable. Our thoughts support our assumed identities and try to identify our place in the world. They help us to belong.

Unfortunately, our thoughts often seem to be running our lives.

Why Are Our Thoughts So Painful?

For many thoughts can be very painful because through our thoughts we determine here we stand in life. Our thoughts are essentially left brained operating in a linear way and aligned with the manifested world. They are mathematical and materialistic.

If we identify with our left brained thoughts then we are only looking at a small part of reality and not necessarily what is true.

One of the reasons thoughts can be painful is because they attempt to place us in an identity that works in a world that often has preconceived ideas about who we are and should be.

Our Thoughts And The Cultural Narrative

Our thoughts can be a lot of things. They can be about personal aspects of our lives as well as the public aspects. Sometimes they have a short term focus. Sometimes not.

Most often they seem to be a way of interpreting and dealing with the cultural narrative around us. The problem with continually engaging in this way is that the cultural narrative usually has a life of its own. For highly sensitive people, the cultural narrative is usually about non-HSP life and lifestyles so it is basically not about them.

We can, therefore, feel left out and our thoughts do not necessarily help us with that.

However, we are not here to serve a social structure. We are here to become our best self. Sometimes the social structure and our evolution are at odds and we are not suppose to fit in.

Reclaiming Your Narrative

It is important to have a sense of yourself separate from the narrative around you.

Narratives about life are just stories as the research on human evolution in Spiral Dynamics show. Narratives are the social structure created to support and justify a particular cultural embodiment. They change when we need to change. They are not sacred. One person’s narrative is not necessarily another person’s narrative.

Narratives are not necessarily the TRUTH.

When you try to be a part of the cultural narrative and take your identity from it, you may be creating problems for yourself.

Identifying with the cultural narrative works for many non-HSPs since the narrative usually reflects them.  It may feel wrong that they can be so comfortable in the cultural narrative when as a highly sensitive person you feel like an outsider.

For that reason, you have to identify a narrative for yourself or your thoughts will be dominated by ideas related to a narrative that doesn’t suit you and only causes you mental frustration.

Creating Your Own Narrative

Highly sensitive people need to create their own narrative.

We need to separate ourselves from the dominant narrative. To do so we need to make some mental adjustments:

  • see the existing cultural narrative as changing rather than fixed.
  • align your narrative with the evolutionary process going on around you. That way you support improvements in life and are not simply fighting the existing cultural narrative.
  • notice how your narrative can be helpful to others as a way to help you maintain your ability to connect with others.

When you take back your narrative, you can eliminate a lot of the thoughts you have about your place in the existing system and let your thoughts now serve where you are going and what you are becoming.

It is a great way to stop ruminating and start creating the life you deserve.

The Special Challenge Of The Outsider

To be an outsider is not an easy task. It is a special role that has great potential for personal transformation.

Who Is The Outsider?

The outsider is the person who departs their existing cultural home for a new unknown destination.

People do not become outsiders accidentally. It is a path that is deliberately chosen because it is necessary, important and valuable:

  • stage of life – the transition from adolescence to adulthood is one
  • issues within the culture that makes life their untenable
  • life changes like divorce that cause a person to leave a social system.
  • the search for the soul’s purpose

The outsider is the person who brings a fresh perspective to others, a new way of proceeding, valuing, or synthesizing information.

The outsider’s journey is the beginning of the process of transformation. It starts with an awareness that something is not right or that something needs to change. According to the book, Dharma Types by Simon Tony Chokoisky:

Anything that requires radical re-thinking, leaps of imagination, and creative synthesis of many elements is the Outsider’s purview. Ruled by the Space Element, there is no ‘where’ Outsiders cannot travel, just as there is no experience they cannot have. From the highest of the high to the lowest of the low, Outsiders trek the terrains of the wild and the inner spaces of the soul,reaching to depths and heights that no one else dares to follow. Laws and morals hold little power to obstruct their need for experience, and Outsiders are most creative in their interpretation of social strictures. As a result, they can just as easily fall into depravity, as soar to the heights of purity: such is the razor’s edge that defines the Outsider’s path. However, just as it is easy to fall off track, it is also simple for Outsiders to get back on, for they are never far removed from Redemption, though it may not seem that way to them. Examples of criminals-turned-saints abound in sacred literature, illustrating the Outsider’s roller-coaster journey from truth to error… and back again.

What Simon Chokoisky is talking about is that outsiders rethink the rules and what is considered conventional thinking. They are questioners and seekers of truth and in doing so can investigate anything and make many mistakes. Being an outsider carries the pitfalls of openness.

HSPs As The Outsider

Highly sensitive people are outsiders just because of their difference and because they are in the minority. Does that make them outsiders in spirit? Are we the adventurous outsider that Simon Chokoisky talks about?

HSPs in some ways are reluctant adventurers. Our nervous systems take in everything and we cannot escape that. Our sensitivity also means that we cannot escape consequences. It causes us usually to be cautious and conscientious because when you take in everything you cannot be in denial.

When you take in and process everything around you develop the ability to look at the world from multiple perspectives. Highly sensitive people are very much outsiders in that they are the integrators and synthesizers of the human race reworking and reweaving the human story into one that seems more authentic to them. The range afforded the highly sensitive person is offset by the values that come from having an empathetic nature. Thank goodness! It will cause us to reweave the human experience into one that is healthier and more compassionate.

We humans are creative people. However, creativity is not always constructive. HSPs have the chance to make creativity something positive by applying their empathetic values to the open experience of the outsider in a way that serves us all well.

The Many Purposes Of Hate

 

Hate is complicated and it arises on many levels and has many purposes. We can have a complicated relationship to it. According to Dictionary, to hate means “to dislike intensely or passionately; feel extreme aversion for or extreme hostility toward; detest.” One way of describing hate is to say it is the part of us that says no.

So if you eat some food and hate it, you may do so for any number of reasons. Perhaps it does not taste good to you or your body is telling you that it is not good for you. So hating something can provide you with information about what is good for you and what is not.

Hating And Getting Along With Others

Hating also has a social purpose. It is a tool used to teach us what is socially acceptable behavior and what is not. As children, we experience the revulsion of others to varying degrees when we act in a way that is not approved. Those experiences are often combined with rewards and punishments to direct our behavior in a certain way. Unfortunately, they can cause us to suppress important and valuable parts of ourselves. Two common forms of self-rejection are crying in boys and intelligence in girls. When we suppress the good in ourselves to be accepted and survive, which is necessary to some degree for all of us, we often begin hating ourselves. Our identities have been formed around acceptance, which means giving up our true self to get along with others.

Hate also extends to attitudes. Because it can be self-protective, it is sometimes used at a group level to insulate people from perceived threats to survival. This is where hate turns into group prejudice. No longer a tool to identify what is healthy or unhealthy group identity becomes a codified set of attributes that support the identity and experience of group members. Violating these codes means you can be ostracized from a group even permanently. Hate can go even further. Cultural narratives define what a culture works towards – its beliefs and goals. Not to go along can engender hate as can changing the narrative.

How Hate Harms

Unfortunately, hate can be used to manipulate us and others. The fear of being hated, the fear of being left out or blamed, all of these manifestations of hate can influence our choices.

Hate has some additional destructive aspects. It can

  • shut down social discourse by making people feel unwelcome. Keeping social space healthy (non-toxic) is necessary for people to be able to listen to each other constructively.
  • reduces the motivation of others to engage and participate in the social space. It is a way of marginalizing others by raising the stakes of engagement. If you are afraid for your safety it is hard to want to participate with others in life.
  • raise living costs as people try to meet the demands of inclusion. What happens when one cannot afford it?

Benefits And Disadvantages of Hate

Hate can help us understand ourselves better but can also be used to create distance from others. It can be used to increase empathy or reduce it. Hating can be used to establish social norms and demand certain behaviors – both constructive and destructive. It can act as a barrier to social mobility, as a tool of social ranking. At its best, it can inform us about what is in our best interest. At its worst, it creates untold harm.

The Wound Of Materialism

Materialism destroys our environment as this picture shows. It also destroys so much more.

It destroys our humanity.

Every society defines its purposes and priorities. There was a time when the material side of life was extremely lacking and improving the human standard of living was a necessary and important goal. So the Western world, starting in Europe, created an economic system to rectify an existing problem. So far all is well.

Unfortunately, at some point, the goals of society went beyond rectifying serious material deficits and needs. Culture became about materialism: wealth accumulation and fame. This change may have been one of the biggest mistakes we ever made.

All social systems have a stewardship responsibility in society. Stewardship involves considering the past, present, and future. Stewardship honors the broad need for quality of life and sustainability. Stewardship promotes the health of all living creatures and their institutions. It is transpersonal.

When wealth accumulation became the agenda, stewardship went out the window. It pitted one person against another because it was no longer OK to seek to have your real needs met, if you were not part of a wealth accumulation system, you essentially did not exist. Those who could advance the wealth agenda had their needs met over those who were less able to do so (or less interested).

So if it mattered to you that we do not harm the environment unnecessarily then you were not only unimportant but also considered dangerous to the wealth accumulation agenda. If you think getting a good night’s sleep matters then you are not available to work ridiculous hours to further the wealth accumulation agenda. If you think that compassion matters then you may be interfering with profits.

I have heard very intelligent people express a fear of being irrelevant, lost and unable to support themselves. This is not living. In many cases, it is not even surviving. This is, in fact, slavery. And we all know that slavery is very damaging to the essence of a human being or any living creature for that matter.

We are not here just to be used.  We are here to live and to be cherished, and our existing social and economic systems are failing us miserably.

The human race has been demoted to serve a wealth agenda. It is definitely time for change,

And it cannot come soon enough.

Is Poverty A Fault?

Do you ever feel that it is wrong to be poor?

Do you sometimes feel that to be poor is a mark of failure?

Several days ago I read an article by Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed In America, that challenges the common views in the United States about wealth and poverty.

She demonstrates how poverty evolved from being a condition of someone’s life to a cultural idea.  The change in our definition of poverty grew out of a book published the 1960’s and written by Michael Harrington. It was titled:  The Other America.

The book asserts that the poor are different from everyone else and interprets poverty to be a result of a flawed character. In other words

  • it is wrong not to be wealthy
  • it is a fault to live modestly
  • if you are not greedy there is something wrong with you
  • circumstances do not result in poverty; it is an innate condition coming from poor internal controls and profligate habits.

It is interesting that this book was published at the time that many individuals in economic minorities were entering the economic life of the country. Blacks, hispanics, and women were moving from dependent roles to full economic citizenship just as poverty and wealth were being redefined!

The “wealth is good” mindset served a number of purposes:

  1. it made an economic safety net the problem of the individual rather than the community. So any safety net was an act of generosity not a matter of responsibility or good citizenship.
  2. it immediately diminished any individual or groups who were not wealthy.
  3. each individual had to take care of their own safety net, which creates a hoarding mentality.
  4. as our population exploded, supply and demand created rising prices.  In order to take proper care of yourself, you needed more and more success in order to afford the best care – health care etc.
  5. individuals became more attached to careers to survive in this climate which reduced their investments in family and community.
  6. increased attachment to short-term financial concerns reduced loyalty to long-term sustainability concerns  – all in the interest of survival.

The “survival of the wealthiest” culture is a culture of stinginess.  It rewards those who pay the least and charge the most.  It is tailor made for a society with a burgeoning population and few safety nets.

When wealth became “normal” for our culture, it was a way of thinking that supported American exceptionalism and the material demands of our economic machine. All societies create a story that supports its intent, and our current society is no different.

As our environment collapses under the weight of our unrealistic identity, we need to start asking some questions.
  • are we only an economy or are we really a culture?
  • is generosity towards our fellow man really more expensive that a destructively consuming society?
  • how can the local community create a resource smart society
  • is snobbery our highest value?  How about health and well-being?

Perhaps the most important question we can ask is how do we create a cultural story that is worthy of our long term attention that honors each individual and the wonderful earth we inhabit?

Superiority And Class: Thoughts For Sensitive People

Why are class and superiority important subjects for highly sensitive people?

Social anxiety is a serious problem for highly sensitive people since HSPs values are different from those of the dominant culture –  a culture that pursues competition above the quality of life.  Finding a way to be in and live in the culture without losing yourself is an important challenge for HSPs.  Giving some thought to the difference between class and superiority and how each concept affects social relationships, provides a highly sensitive person with a good starting point for developing an effective social strategy.

A competitive culture values superiority and winning.  Social and other forms of superiority promote the triumph of one person or species over another.  It is adversarial, often Darwinian, and low in regard for human and other life.  It is the survival of the fittest model.

Rank, Superiority, And Class

Superiority is an attitude.  In reality, no one person knows it all.  In reality, we are all finite, and “in this” together.  Therefore, superiority is really an illusion, a structural rank that may not have a basis in reality.  Class is not an attitude, class is a quality.  Class is the result of approaching all tasks and people with regard.  It is essentially humble, willing and caring.  Class recognizes that each life and each life form has value.

  • Superiority is about separateness; class is about coexistence.
  • Superiority is about conquest;  class is about consideration.
  • Superiority is about prizes; class is about prizing.
  • Superiority is about disregard; class is about regard.
  • Superiority is about winning; class is about sharing.
  • Superiority is territorial and exclusive; class is inclusive.
  • Superiority is adversarial; class is collaborative and problem solving.
  • Superiority is about toughness; class is about kindness.

It can be easy to oversimplify, after all not all choices and options are equal or helpful. The words, superiority, and class, are more about the spirit that defines our approach to life than the actual choice itself.  Loving choices are actually healthier motivations that make for easier and better decision making – all other things being equal.

Because of their holistic nature,  highly sensitive people can be naturally inclusive which has the potential to create an atmosphere of goodwill around them. Inclusivity is a valuable social quality to have.  Too often, highly sensitive people are considered weak when their natural kindness is exactly what our world most needs. Class has more than social benefits.  It is the basis for effective mediation and problem solving; important skills for a healthy society.