Autopsychotherapy for HSPs?

Are we capable of autopsychotherapy? Of course we are; who knows us better than ourselves? Kazimierz Dabrowski, a Polish psychologist/psychiatrist created his theory of Positive Distintegration as a way of explaining human growth and development through inner processes that often resemble disintegrative processes, but which are actually quite necessary to bring about the dissolution of lower levels of development in favor of higher levels of personality development.

We know that highly sensitive people are often intense people who experience strong, quick emotions and spend much time in reflection and contemplation. Dabrowski believed that some people have higher levels of developmental potential than others and, thus, are geared for what may be accelerated personality development. This concept has been used extensively by the gifted community, who have long noted that most gifted people tend to be highly sensitive and exhibit many of what Dabrowski termed “Overexcitabilities” or OEs.

OEs should be quite familiar to HSPs as overstimulation to certain, highly individualized stimuli, ie., sensory stimulation, intellectual stimulation, creative stimulation, emotional stimulation, and physical stimulation. Note that not all HSPs are gifted, far from it. Many HSPs are quite intelligent, creative, multitalented in many ways but giftedness is a bit different. The important point to consider is that Dabrowski’s theory of Positive Disintegration is for everyone and can help us to better understand what we might do with our inner milieu of anxieties, depression, and neuroses. To Dabrowski, these were not necessarily a sign of mental illness; rather, they were a sign that a person may be undergoing disintegrative processes that might result in higher levels of personality development over time. He was very careful to articulate that there are, indeed, instances of true mental illness that are organic in nature but most of what we think of as mental “health” is actually culturally-derived and does not reflect true human nature, which to him is more turbulent and disintegrative as a natural state of being.

Can you perform therapy on yourself? Sure, and do so with the aim of creating yourself rather than eliminating a problem.

For more on Dabrowski, feel free to browse a website maintained for his theory:

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person (ch. 7 of this book is entirely about positive disintegration as it applies to HSS/HSPs)


Thrive Audio book

Following up on the release of my audio book for Thrill, I am now happy to announce Thrive Audiobook Coverthat Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career is available as an audio book!

I have a limited number of free codes for the audio book if you are in the US or UK. If you like the book, kindly consider leaving a review on Amazon. Message me here if you’d like a free code for Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career.

Positive Disintegration

In chapter 7 of Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person, I cover how the theory of Positive Disintegration applies to HSS/HSPs. In this podcast, therapist Cindy Barnes articulates a view of the worth of PD as it applies to HSPs. The comments start at about 1:21.

For more on Positive Disintegration, please see chapter 7 of Thrill.

Thrill Audiobook

You’ve waited for it; now it’s available, at long last! Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Cover for audio bookHighly Sensitive Person is now available as an audiobook on Audible and soon on ITunes.

Narrated by the very talented Stuart McNish, Thrill comes to life in ways reading a book silently misses. If you enjoyed reading Thrill, you’ll love hearing it as well.

Please share!

Thrill Seeking

Here is an interview I just did for Iowa Public Radio on Sensation Seeking! It was great to inform the conversation around sensation seeking because the trait is simultaneously a great gift, if managed well, and a great curse, if allowed to run wild. Being a highly sensitive person, at the same time, provides many of us who are HSS/HSPs the cautionary pause we need to assess whether we should do whatever it is we are contemplating doing. The two traits combined are a dynamic duo of creativity, deep thinking, deep feeling, and moxy that can also be a great gift or great curse, depending on how they are balanced and managed. Thanks to the producer, Rick Brewer, for seeking me and providing the platform!

PLEASE share this one widely! Thank you!

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Why You Should Strive for a Meaningful Life, Not a happy One

Striving to be ourselves, it’s not just an ambiguous notion for many highly sensitive people and high sensation seeking highly sensitive people. The need to find meaning in life is one of the most significant aspects that HSPs and HSS/HSPs have communicated to me over the years.

The sensitive sensation seeker is one who thrives in an optimal range of stimulation where boredom is kept at bay, novelty and new experiences provide fresh stimulation, and where we choose it autonomously, even if it goes against the norms of society. Sensitive sensation seekers are a creative group who do best in short-term situations: projects with a definite ending date, situations that we know have a finite life, and where new stimulation will always be on the horizon. Now, you might say that boredom is a sign of laziness or weakness and that one simply needs to “get busy” and there will be things to do, hence alleviating boredom, but if you are a sensitive sensation seeker you know that boredom is more than a mere annoyance; for many it has been described as a “worst enemy.”

Boredom susceptibility is one of the four key aspects of the personality trait known as Sensation Seeking, a trait described and delineated by research psychologist Marvin Zuckerman in the late 1960s. Since that time, sensation seeking has been researched and applied to the treatment of addictions and other risky behaviors, to the gifted population, and to the well-functioning of those who are able to express the trait in a more moderate sense. Moderate expression of any trait is more advantageous than extreme expression. For example, a truly high sensation seeker might take poorly conceived risks that end in his death or jail time, simply because he is an expression of the trait at the extreme high end. This brings us to the interplay between Sensation Seeking and Sensory Processing Sensitivity.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a complex personalty trait with four key dimensions:

Depth of processing of all stimulation and experience, meaning we spend more time in reflection and consideration of what something may mean or in rumination over events.

Overstimulation, in some highly individual circumstances. No two highly sensitive people are alike but may experience issues with strong smells, loud noises, temperature swings, scratchy fabrics, or other sensory irritations. Many may also have Misophonia, which is a strong aversion to repetitive noises like chewing, clicking, tapping, or other unexpected sharp noises. Such instances can cause a rather visceral and strong reaction of anger (even rage) that is out of proportion to the stimuli. Lest you think that highly sensitive people are fragile, weak, or simply complainers, consider for a moment that many are quite successful in their chosen fields and have attained high educational status and reputation. Many HSPs learn to manage their tendencies toward overstimulation, in time.

Emotional responsiveness and high Empathy. HSPs have a wider possible range of emotional expression than those without the trait, simply meaning they might experience not only the joy in an event but the sadness and everything in-between, all at once. HSPs might also be highly empathetic and have a deep capacity to enter the realities of other people, even if they do not wish to. No, they are not psychics or anything paranormal but HSPs may find that empathy leads to compassion and apply that orientation to solving real-world problems that affect real people. Many HSPs are employed in the “helping” professions and derive great meaning from their work. Others strive continually to manage how much they feel from other people and what to do about it.

Sensitivity to subtle stimuli. HSPs are exquisitely finely tuned and may notice subtle smells, noises, or visual cues that others overlook entirely. This sensitivity can be a great advantage, though it is a costly in terms of time and energy. Many HSPs find it quite necessary to recharge in quiet after a day of too much stimulation or that they must arrange their lives to work in sync with their natural bodily rhythms and needs more than conventional situations.

The highly sensitive person, then, is one who thinks and feels more deeply than others, may need to withdraw to recharge or avoid becoming unpleasantly overstimulated, notices subtleties others miss, and who innately have a capacity to assess the emotional and affective states of other people.

Highly sensitive people are about 30% of the overall population, according to the latest research, which postulates that sensitivity is inherent in the human species as a general personality trait, just in varying amounts. The range of highly sensitive would likely contain a variety of people along a continuum with proportionally fewer at the extreme high end, again, because extreme expressions of traits tends to not be advantageous to the species. Some 30% of the highly sensitive population are also high in sensation seeking, which might seem completely the opposite of sensitivity (and it is), but let’s consider how they seem to interact and overlap.

Boredom susceptibility seems to be an issue with the highly sensitive and the sensation seekers. In that way, they overlap, but in other ways, they tend to be quite different. For example, seeking physical thrills would not be descriptive of the highly sensitive person, but in those who are both sensitive and sensation seekers, thrill and adventure seeking may be present. One way that sensitivity mitigates high sensation seeking is in the pause to reflect aspect where one stops to think or gather more information prior to taking an action. You might just consider that the risks are simply too great and not jump out of that plane!

Similarly, the sensitive sensation seeker may be a highly creative individual who has a real and pressing need for continual reinvention. Such a person moves from career to career, likely never staying at any one point for too long before the need for novelty and new stimulation become too great. This restlessness can be a defining issue of life for sensitive sensation seekers but it can also be one that propels us to great heights.

In the person who needs to feel a sense of meaning in life, especially the sensitive sensation seeker, happiness is indeed a fleeting moment, a mental illusion that one feels as a transient state, and, as articulated in this video, is less satisfying than simply seeking meaning in life. A meaningful life, what does that mean? It may mean seeking meaning through career for many, but meaningfulness in career is not always possible, due to a variety of factors within and not within our control. Meaning, then, may take the form of finding ways of engaging with ourselves and the world that bring our capacities to bear on challenging tasks with the possibility of growth and development. Such experiences are called Flow experiences~

Striving to be who we already are is a bit of a fool’s task, yet we engage in it because we come of age largely having no idea who we truly are. Our superficial and shallow culture promotes a generic vision of identity at any given age we may simply “wear” like a ready-made suit, only changing every ten years or so. Many people also do not know how to think well; many do not understand how to think rationally or creatively, yet both are integral to effective thinking and doing in the world. The Zen Buddhists take the approach of moving us toward an ever-elusive goal only to learn that the reward was always within us the entire time, that we are already whole and complete as we are, that, even if we somehow were able to attain spiritual enlightenment and find absolute serenity and contentment, we would still be just as we are right now in this moment. There is only the present moment and only that opportunity to choose how we will live, what we will do each day, and how that contributes to feeling as if we are experiencing a meaningful life.

Bear in mind that what is meaningful to one person may be less so to another person, yet both are equally as valid since we all come from very different life narratives. For example, that graduate who stands and is recognized as a first generation college graduate may not seem unusual, but you may not know the incredible improbability of that person being where they are at that moment having achieved something no one may have expected or thought possible. We never know what is meaningful for another person but we do know, or can learn, what is truly meaningful for us, but it does take some experimentation and a willingness to take risks, and possibly to fail.

You are the universe personified and experiencing itself through your very eyes. You are the universal creative force that created the galaxies, stars, the planets, and all life that exists throughout the expanse of space and time. You are a partial expression of a complete idea that only comes into focus when we think of life as a whole. You are neither above or beneath nature; you are nature… As such, you are whole and capable of many inborn instincts and actions, as well as some you may choose yourself. There is no imperative to seek happiness, as we have learned, yet so many are under the illusion that if we only reach X, Y, or Z we will finally be “happy.”

Happiness and meaning go together, hand in hand and one for the other. Feeling as if our life has real meaning, that we engage our often significant capacities while growing from the experience, is happiness! It’s the striving of the process that is the real enjoyment of life, as well as the small moments when we pause to reflect on how far we’ve come.

Seeking meaning in life my friends, not happiness…

Please share!

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person


Self-Care Is Not An Indulgence. It’s A Discipline.

Self-care was never about indulgence, pampering, or occasional moments of attending to our needs; it was always about the discipline of taking care of the issues that keep us going on a day-to-day basis. In that regard, yes, it is boring but quite necessary, especially for highly sensitive people as we seek to manage our daily energy budget.

How much overstimulation can you take? You know that answer and how long it will take you to recharge and it probably has nothing to do with spa treatments or anything other than simple peace and quiet. In that sense, do we have the discipline to step away from all the distractions today and find a peaceful moment, just for ourselves? That part does take discipline…

I’ve referred to self-care in the past as akin to a spiritual practice but that term may not have the intended effect as many people today are unable to differentiate spirituality with religion. A spiritual practice is aimed at your growth and development as a whole person in this moment. Similarly, the discipline of self-care should be engaged in with a serious attitude knowing that it has real significance and value to your well-functioning as a highly sensitive person.

Whether you practice self-care as a discipline at the level of spiritual practice or relate to it in some other way, please appreciate that your body needs rest, it needs hydration, and it needs appropriate fuel to function well. Your mind need stimulation as well with some level of socialization with others, preferably agreeable others whose company you enjoy. Your mind also requires that you learn to think in a disciplined way in order to manage the relationship between feelings, thoughts, and actions. Too often, anxiety finds its way in to our minds and clouds our thinking beyond a level where it is useful. Training the mind takes time and real effort and it will not happen in a spa center or luxuriating in comfort; it’s real work requiring resilience and discipline over time.

Never chastise yourself for what you’re not doing now, though, just work on incrementally taking better care of yourself on a daily basis. The boring stuff, in the end, is what adds up to overall well-being.

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Link to article (click here)