Yep, it’s true, HSPs have more intense emotions than average! I mean why wouldn’t we considering our highly sensitive nervous system. The real challenge many of us face is control over those emotions. We are taught as children, especially us men, to be selective with certain emotions such as crying! By the way, crying is not an emotion! It’s a reaction caused by an emotion such as joy, sorrow, and even loss. But nope, crying is forbidden!
One thing I have learned is that our subconscious self loves to take the easy route! Meaning if we are focused on hiding our emotional reaction to crying, remembering that big boys don’t cry, that means we consciously fight back the emotion that triggers the reaction of crying. Think about that, in essence, what our subconscious mind is learning is holding back any emotions that may trigger a tear.
I call it the emotional dam, reason being is we cannot eliminate our emotions, we suppress them. Like water behind a dam, the pressure builds until we reach a point when the dam simply cannot hold back the pressure and a flood of emotions burst out often in an uncontrollable manner, and it usually isn’t pretty. Having your dam burst in private is one thing, but in public or in front of women is simply embarrassing to us, because we have been told all our lives that crying is a weakness for men. It is socially acceptable for women, although I can imagine there is embarrassment there as well, but not weakness. But let’s face it ladies, deny it all you want, most of you see weakness if a man cries.
Figure 1. The Emotions of an HSP are deep like an Ocean and Equally Intense.
Having your dam burst in front of your family only increases that embarrassment, unless you have an extremely understanding family. I know HSPs whose wives instantly see them as weak, only because they too were taught from childhood that men don’t cry. Children can lose respect for a father for the same reason; the schoolyard perpetuates this stigma.
Having the dam break at work, well that’s devastating and often results in the loss of that employment, either by the boss or co-workers seeing us as weak, or our own embarrassment forcing us to quit. Some will jump all over me saying that’s not true, but the reality of it is they are only thinking of their own perceptions of it. They’re not taking other people’s perception into consideration, and certainly not certain industries’ perception because some have no room for emotional men.
I spent 32 years in one of the harshest industries any HSP could endure, the industrial construction industry. Holding back my emotions for that length of time was absolutely necessary in order to keep my job. That is until recently, when the work conditions, the insensitivity of some of my co-workers, and the loneliness from working in very remote locations all came crashing down one day. What triggered it? It was something extremely minor. Being an HSP, I would arrive at work before everyone else. It was important that I do that to prepare myself for the brutal day ahead. In arriving early, I would make the coffee in the office as a gesture of kindness for months, and not once did anyone say, “hey, thanks for making the coffee every morning.”
Figure 2. A Beautifully Brewed Coffee
Having been in the construction industry as long as I have, you get used to the lack of appreciation for going above and beyond. One morning, a contractor that I was managing was having a very important pre-energization meeting. This is where they go over the details and safety parameters before we turn on large transformers. The gentleman conducting the meeting knew his stuff, except he was not good at public speaking. What’s this got to do with making coffee you might ask? Bear with me. As an HSP and being an owner’s rep, responsible for his entire contract, I could sense the gentleman’s nervousness, but it was important he tried his best. Besides, the information he was presenting was dead on. His delivery, however, gave the impression he didn’t know what he was doing, especially to those who don’t know what they are doing.
For some reason, one of my colleagues wanted to attend this meeting, and as soon as he heard the presenter speak, he immediately called my boss telling him it was and I quote “A cluster F&%$.” The boss came flying over and pulled me aside and started grilling me about how to do my job. Well, it just so happened that, that morning, after me making coffee, another colleague came to me complaining about the coffee and proceeded to show me how he makes it. Being sensitive as I am, this impacted me greatly as he never made it once, and no one else complained about it when I made it each morning, not a big deal right?
Figure 3. An HSP would not thrive working under a boss such as the one depicted in this photo.
It was when my boss started grilling me about something he had not witnessed, nor understood that my dam began to crack. Instead of asking me if everything was going ok, and finding out the facts, he just chose to react, and that’s when my dam burst! What blurted out of my mouth wasn’t defending the presenter at first, it was the coffee! The reason the coffee came out as the first issue was because there was no issue with the presenter, only the impression from the individual who wrongly interpreted nervousness as incompetence.
Now, from my boss’s perspective, hearing me talk about coffee had nothing to do with energizing transformers, which only compounded the theory that we, and I mean me, didn’t know what we were doing, even though I had done this hundreds of times. That was the beginning of the end for me, both me and in my bosses’ eyes, who quickly spread the discussion to others. For me though, I am actually glad this happened, because it made me realize, for 32 years I was in the wrong industry, and that being around insensitive people like that was killing me as a person.
It was that bursting of the dam that convinced me to change everything, and jump on my motorbike and start a whole new career, something that fits my HSP trait: helping people! Sad really. Because all that education, all that experience from around the world is now shelved just because a single boss felt compelled to react from an idiot’s misinterpretation of a man trying to speak publicly for the first time.