Visual Note Taking for HSPs

Sketch noting for online meetings can be a great way to capture what’s being discussed, while visually representing the path of the discussion.
For the many HSPs and HSS/HSPs who are not at step #1, which career to choose, online meetings are simply a fact of life. Now, you might think this would be too hard or require too much focus that would take away from the meeting but with a little practice you might be surprised at how well being sensitive to subtleties, good at listening deeply, and thorough processing come into play in making the process second nature.
This summer I am teaching a curriculum and instruction course to doctoral students and added in the Visual to Verbal techniques as a way of encouraging more active learning but also increasing intrinsic motivation. Visual note taking can become autonomy-supportive and lead to greater feelings of competency and relatedness, all tenants of Self-Determination Theory, which some of you will be familiar with.
Give visual note taking a try at your next online meeting and see how it works for you!
Empowering The Sensitive Male Soul
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

What does it Mean to be a Highly Sensitive Man?

What does it mean to be a highly sensitive man? I share this video to present a glimpse into one young man’s story of being highly sensitive. It is important to acknowledge that all HS men are NOT alike. Each one of our stories is likely to be quite different and we should refrain from the human tendency to generalize based on one story or one experience. HS men, indeed, find ways to live in the world throughout their life courses. That does not mean it is ever easy but it does mean that we each manifest and express the trait differently.
The common core that connects us is always the four aspects of Sensory Processing Sensitivity:
Depth of processing of all experience and stimuli in the mind in a more elaborate and thorough way. We think before acting and tend to reflect on experiences more deeply to glean the lessons and improve future actions
Over stimulation tendency in certain individualized circumstances. Some are bothered by strong smells, scratchy fabrics, bright or dim light, crowded spaces, noises, tastes, and many others. No two HS men will be alike in this regard.
High empathy and emotional responsiveness. HS men tend to readily enter the experiences of others and feel their emotional state as if they were their own. A broader emotional range means we feel more deeply, more intensely than less sensitive people.
Sensitivity to subtle cues. HS men may be keenly aware of details that others miss or overlook. There is no difference in the sense organs themselves (no “superpowers”); rather, it is the way stimulation, taken into the senses, is processed that is different.
All personality traits serve the purpose of survival and reproduction. That’s it, they serve no other purpose that we know of. With that in mind, Sensory Processing Sensitivity is ONE trait among many. It is a very strong trait, though, and will likely influence the lives of those high in it to a profound degree. Personality traits typically fail to serve their evolved purpose when they are expressed at the extremes of possibility.
For example, I recently saw a post where the person said that almost every word from others brought about either tears or anger. If one is expressing any trait to that extreme, it is easy to become a non-functional person, or to suffer so deeply as to undermine most possibilities for a reasonable life. Traits serve their purpose best when they are expressed more moderately. A moderate-high expression would allow a person to enjoy the benefits of the four core D.O.E.S. aspects of the trait, while not being as subject to upset, irritation, fears, anger, or faulty perceptions and actions.
It is extremely important for all HS people, but especially HS men, to learn the skills of emotion regulation, to learn to set effective boundaries and enforce them over time, to learn that not everything that happens matters or should be processed at all. The task before all of us is to learn all that we can about the trait and integrate that understanding into our lives in ways that apply its inherent strengths: deep thinking, strong empathy, innate creativity, concern for others and for our animal brothers and sisters, and the higher potentialities of leadership, mentoring, and helping others to grow and develop themselves.
Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a wonderful variation in how we humans have evolved to discern subtle cues in our environments, between people, and to reflect on how and why we live. It can, however, be a misery when there isn’t a sufficient self-care practice that is sustained over time.
There is no substitute for knowing yourself, for adapting your life (as opposed to adapting yourself to life), and for the role of boundaries in allowing you to experience life in ways that suit your disposition.
For much more on HS men, see my new book Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul. Available in print, eBook and audio book formats.
Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person


Escape Boredom – Leonardo da Vinci and a Guide to the Good Life

The “well-employed life” is what I leave you with this Friday. So many of us who are high sensation seeking highly sensitive people (HSS/HSPs) continually battle with staying “well-employed.” By well employed, I do not imply working for someone else to earn a wage or salary; rather, being well-employed is to be engaged on projects that are of intrinsic interest, that are challenging, and that allow us to fill our precious time in this life by being present in the here and now.
The notion of the modern “arrival” myth is a powerful one driven by vast consumer interests that wish to use all of us as profit centers from cradle to grave (even beyond). By communicating the idea that one can only be happy by having more stuff, better stuff, newer stuff, we set up a never-ending treadmill of acquisitions. Of course, in order to acquire new things we must slave away for others in work we may not enjoy, that may not offer engagement with out intrinsic interests, or, in fact, may not be suited to us in any way at all. Yet, we will do it to have more stuff, to pay for the stuff we think we ought to have, and to avoid being seen as different in the eyes of others. Conformity is an extremely powerful tool.
Now, we know that HSPs tend to theoretically pay less attention to the influence of culture but is that true for you? Or do you subscribe to the same general notion that if we only have X, Y, or Z we would be “happy?” There is much to be gained from being aware of the fundamental fallacy of living only for the future and learning to find an awareness of the ever-present NOW. The Buddhists teach us about the necessity of being in the present as the only truly worthwhile moment.
I am glad the accompanying video on this post eventually moved to discussing Flow, since the flow state is all about the NOW. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is the originator of the Flow concept but the experience itself is as old as humanity itself. Csikszentmihalyi has pulled it together in a neat, tidy way that can be explained to others so it may be taught for its worth and value to human potential and human realization.
The Flow state, if you are not familiar with it is when we taken on a challenging task (but not beyond our abilities), where we lose track of time, where the work provides immediate feedback on our efforts, where action and awareness marge, and where the work is worth doing for its own sake. HSS/HSPs are likely keenly aware of being such a state as it is the only state we can be in where all anxiety and boredom are relieved, where all other concerns become secondary, and where our innately creative natures find perfect application.
Consider, for example, what it would be like to construct a small building, assuming you have basic carpentry skills such as measuring, cutting fastening, etc. Think of the challenge it would present to you to conceptualize the dimensions, how you would need to work out 1,001 details along the way, and how you would need to focus intently to accomplish each section of the project. The same would apply to many other projects, construction is just as example. Imagine the growth that would happen as you learn how to tackle a surprise unknown. You might have to research how to solve your problem in a book, view some YouTube videos, or ask a more experienced friend or special interest group on FaceBook, but you would bring to bear the skills and abilities to solve your issue, or you would fail and have to try again. In either case, you would learn and grow as a person in confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth.
We high sensation seeking HSPs tend to be far more fueled by a need to continually reinvent ourselves than do HSPs, who may also list boredom as a top issue. The HSS/HSP may be very high in new experience and novelty seeking, one of the four core aspects of the trait, as well as high in boredom susceptibility, another core aspect. When those two converge they tend to exert a powerful driving force that refuses to be held down for long. When one is high in novelty seeking and boredom susceptibility the drive is to seek the new, the unfamiliar, the interesting and unusual.
We also experience Flow states when we encounter the new and novel, when we bring our action and awareness into a singular focus of here and now. Flow is for everyone and will greatly alleviate tension, stress, anxiety, depression, fear, and the doldrums. Adapting our lives so they resemble Da Vinci’s “well- employed” status is our task as we each make choices about the quality of today and tomorrow.
How will you arrange and adapt your life to reflect an ever-present NOW?

“Let Them Scream Whatever They Want” | Marcus Aurelius on Panic

The Stoics have so much to teach highly sensitive people in this time of crisis and panic. I find myself turning to their wisdom as old historical human patterns repeat again and again…

New Study on Sensitive Men

Dear Highly Sensitive Men,
I am currently serving on the dissertation committee for Daniel Miller, who is a Ph.D. Candidate in Counseling and Counselor Education at the University of Rochester. Daniel’s dissertation study focuses on understanding the identity development of highly sensitive men. Your perspective and experiences as a highly sensitive man could provide valuable insight for Daniel into what the highly sensitive identity means to highly sensitive men, and how highly sensitive men navigate gender socialization experiences to help counselors, educators, and others working with highly sensitive boys and men have a better understanding of your unique experiences.  Please note this study only seeks highly sensitive men who grew up in the US.
Attached to this email is an information letter further detailing the research study. If you are interested in participating in this research study or have any questions about the study, please feel free to contact Daniel directly at
Please help me help Daniel by sharing this post to your social media and to any HS men you may know!
Thank you!
An Interpretive Phenomenological Analysis of the Identity Development of
Highly Sensitive Men
Principal Investigator: Daniel Miller
This form describes a research study that is being conducted by Daniel Miller under the supervision of Martin Lynch, Ph.D. from the University of Rochester’s Warner School of Education and Human Development.
The purpose of this study is to develop a deeper understanding of the experiences of highly sensitive men as they relate to their identity development as highly sensitive men. Specifically, this research study is interested in understanding more about what the highly sensitive identity means to highly sensitive men, and how highly sensitive men navigate gender socialization, to better understand the unique experiences of the highly sensitive male population.
If you decide to take part in this study, you will be asked to participate in the following data collection and analysis procedures:
● Complete 3 short questionnaires. These questionnaires will ask basic information about your identities and personality and help determine whether you are an appropriate fit for this study. Together, they should only take about 10 minutes to complete. If you fit the necessary criteria for this particular study, you will proceed with the following study procedures below. If you don’t meet the necessary criteria, unfortunately, you won’t be eligible for this particular study and you won’t proceed to the next steps. This study focuses on collecting data from a demographically diverse population of highly sensitive men, therefore primary reasons for being excluded from moving forward in the study would be if your particular demographic group happens to be overrepresented in the data already collected.
● Next, you will participate in 3 interviews. The 3 interviews will be spaced no shorter than 3 days apart, but no longer than 1 week apart to allow for the optimum time for the researcher to process the interviews. Each interview will last approximately 1 hour and will take place over Zoom video conferencing, but have the option of being audio-only depending upon your preference. Interviews will be audio-recorded only using voice recording applications. The first interview will focus on you describing your life story growing up as a highly sensitive boy/man, the second will focus on your current experiences as a highly sensitive man, and the third will focus on understanding what the highly sensitive identity means to you.
● Finally, you will periodically provide feedback on the primary investigator’s developing understanding of your interviews throughout the data analysis process. This will help ensure that the primary investigator is understanding and representing your voice accurately in the findings for the research study. There will be 3 requests for feedback throughout the data analysis. These feedback requests will take place over email.
We estimate that approximately 10-25 subjects will take part in this study. Your participation will take course over a 3-week period for interview procedures, with 3 feedback requests taking place periodically over the course of the next 6 months after interviews are completed. Study participants are required to participate in all interview procedures within a 3 week period. Participants who are unable to complete all interviews over the 3 week period may be withdrawn from the study by the primary investigator.
There is a small chance that some of the interview questions may feel personal or make you feel uncomfortable. You may skip any questions you don’t want to answer. Additionally, if you experience discomfort in interviews, the primary investigator will provide you with resources to assist with processing this discomfort. There are no other expected risks to you for participating in this study. There are also no expected benefits.
You will not be paid for participating in this study. There will be no cost to you to participate in this study.
The University of Rochester makes every effort to keep the information collected from you private. In order to do so, all study data will be stored in a secure manner. Regarding the use of audio recordings for interviews are recorded for transcription and analysis purposes only and will not be released in any publication or report; they will be destroyed once the analysis is complete. Only the investigators will have access to your individual responses. Sometimes, however, researchers need to share information that may identify you with people that work for the University or regulators. If this does happen we will take precautions to protect the information you have provided. Additionally, results of the research may be presented at meetings or in publications, but your name will not be used.
Feedback requests will occur over email. Transmitting your information by e-mail has a number of risks that you should consider. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
a) E-mail can be circulated, forwarded, stored electronically and on paper, and broadcast to unintended recipients.
b) E-mail senders can easily misaddress an e-mail.
c) Backup copies of e-mail may exist even after the sender or the recipient has deleted his or her copy.
d) Employers and on-line services have a right to inspect e-mail transmitted through their systems.
e) E-mail can be intercepted, altered, forwarded, or used without authorization or detection.
f) E-mail can be used to introduce viruses into computer systems.
Conditions for the Use of E-mail
The researcher cannot guarantee but will use reasonable means to maintain security and confidentiality of e-mail information sent and received. You and researcher must consent to the following conditions:
a) E-mail is not appropriate for urgent or emergency situations. The researcher cannot guarantee that any particular e-mail will be read and responded to.
b) E-mail must be concise. You should schedule an appointment if the issue is too complex or sensitive to discuss via e-mail.
c) E-mail communications between you and the researcher will be filed in your research record.
d) Your messages may also be delegated to any member of the study team for response.
e) The researcher will not forward subject-identifiable e-mails outside of the University of Rochester and Affiliates without your prior written consent, except as authorized or required by law.
f) You should not use e-mail for communication regarding sensitive medical information.
g) It is your responsibility to follow up and/or schedule an appointment if warranted.
Your participation in this study is completely voluntary. You are free not to participate or to withdraw at any time, for whatever reason. No matter what decision you make, there will be no penalty or loss of benefits to which you are otherwise entitled.
For more information or questions about this research you may call Daniel Miller at (315) 719-7188. Please contact the University of Rochester Research Subjects Review Board at 265 Crittenden Blvd., CU 420628, Rochester, NY 14642, Telephone (585) 276-0005 or (877) 449-4441 for the following reasons:
● You wish to talk to someone other than the research staff about your rights as a research subject;
● To voice concerns about the research;
● To provide input concerning the research process;
● In the event the study staff could not be reached.

Do we live in a sick society?

For it is non-conformity which creates the new, exposes the flaws of the old, and helps push a society toward better frontiers.”

Highly sensitive people may weigh cultural conditioning less than in less sensitive people. We know this from one research study that measured the level of influence that culture, which we should define here as an entirely arbitrarily constructed set of ideas, beliefs, and values specific to a time and place, exerted in the decision making process. HSPs, indeed, did seem to weigh cultural conditioning to make certain choices less than in less sensitive people. But does that mean we are necessarily non-conformists?

HSPs may be conformists or non-conformists because no two HSPs are alike and do not share backgrounds, or even cultural beliefs. Having a trait like Sensory Processing Sensitivity simply implies that we have the four core aspects of SPS:

– More elaborate processing of experience in the mind
– Tendency toward overstimulation in certain highly individualized situations (again, no two HSPs are alike)
– High empathy and a broader emotional range
– A sensitivity to subtle cues that others overlook or miss

How we embody high sensitivity is certainly deeply influenced by the particular society that we live in. In the US, the culture is decidedly conformist yet, ironically, prizes the non-conformist. We are simultaneously expected to utterly conform to work culture, political culture (no matter how exaggerated and gross), religious culture (a total institution with no form of tolerance for questions), and regional variations in culture. Yet, many HSPs and, especially HSS/HSPs, feel a drive towards non-conformity that removes the “blinders” most people willingly wear.

Adapting to a sick society produces sickness…at times of social instability the greater our conformity the more our mind will act like a mirror and reflect the chaos of society back within.”

If we espouse all of the same “beliefs” that others so vocally project we have given up our ability to think, to reason, and to craft new ways of being that may be better suited to new times and circumstances. Staying the same simply because “that’s how things have always been” is a dramatically poor excuse to not think, to not innovate or envision new ways of being and doing that may be better for the greatest number of people. In the current climate, we see huge cultural shifts taking place that expose those who are the mirror, reflecting the sickness of our society, and those who reject the mirror. If we see anything, it is the degree to which the human mind is limited by its own laziness and desire for stability.

High sensation seeking highly sensitive people may be most likely to imagine how society may evolve and change, given that sensation seeking as a trait prizes novelty, new experiences, a displeasure with the mundane, coupled with a willingness to cross or break cultural boundaries. Linking that up with deep sensitivity we have a person who is perhaps well suited to adaptation and change, since it is already their way of life.

The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal…they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”

My point in presenting this discussion of normalcy is to bring into question the definition of true mental health. Too often, we highly sensitive people feel that something is “wrong with us” and that we are unable to simply be like everyone else. But to be like everyone else is to be a conformist who is rigid and inflexible to changing circumstances. Your mental structures are more flexible and allow for both disintegrations at times and reformulations. That is, if you are in touch with your true nature and do not allow the culture to bash you into conformity.

Acknowledging here that not everyone is strong-willed or driven to the same degree to resist conformity, we can still benefit from understanding that what is normal may also actually be “sick” and that the social utility of conformity has led us to mass delusions of what it means to be “normal.”

As quiet leaders in society HSPs and HSS/HSPs have a unique opportunity and responsibility to invent the new in ways that move everyone toward greater equality, opportunities for growth and development, and “real” humanity that does not take its cues from thinking that is rooted in non-thinking, non-rationality, non-morality, and unfairness.

How will you invent the new?

Empowering the Sensitive Male Soul
Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person