One trait of Highly Sensitive Persons that often goes unnoticed is that we tend to begin relationships where most people end up. In other words the “ladder” most people climb from mindless chit-chat to intimacy is often upside-down for HSP’s. We often and easily move into deep communication first and then struggle to ratchet down the intensity.
This tendency can sabotage possible new friendships and make true intimacy elusive. Highly Sensitive Persons may find it difficult to believe that most people are satisfied with superficial talk. Thus we may come on strong to non HSP types, who may be blown away by our candor, our probing questions, and our insatiable curiosity at a point in the relationship when our listener is not ready for us.
This was brought home to me in recent days when I was visiting out-of-state. My friend and I had enjoyed a number of social occasions with his friends and acquaintances. I observed (another HSP trait) that most of the communication was light-hearted and casual, full of anecdotes and story-telling. It was enjoyable and I tried to resist my craving for more.
Later I experienced the intensity I was seeking. Some of our conversations got very deep, emotional, and heavy as I listened to sensitive men struggling to put together the pieces of their puzzling lives. They listened appreciatively to my observations and concern. I realized, though, how exhausting a steady diet of such conversation can be.
I’m not judging the quality of one level of intimacy over another. Rather, I am acknowledging the existence of both, the predominance of the seemingly superficial, and my own ongoing need to learn to function in both worlds. I recently took on a perspective that I call the “puppy dog.” Think of what a puppy does; he just sits and stares with those big eyes, transfixed on his master’s voice. He’s simply delighted to be there without any agenda. He isn’t looking for intensity as much as companionship. That perspective has helped me and kept me from the saboteur voice that tells me that I’m wasting my time if I’m not always engaged in deep intensity with others.
Intimacy can be elusive. It takes time to build for 80% of the population. For the 20% Highly Sensitive types out there…well, we’re just going to have to adjust much of the time to the rhythm of the majority!
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