There are several facts about High Sensitivity that can help others understand the trait:
~It’s genetic. We’re Highly Sensitive at birth and it can sometimes be recognized in the womb.
~At least 20% (maybe 30%) of the population is HS, though many aren’t aware of the trait.
~30% of Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are extroverted, and there is a subset who are High Sensation Seeking HSPs
~It’s not the same as ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder or Autism
You may know these, but are you aware that High Sensitivity is seen equally across gender? Yep, 50/50 men and women.
While I don’t have first hand experience as a Highly Sensitive man, many of my clients have been male and I’ve talked with others and read and listened to still others, so I’m confident in saying that for someone identifying as male in the current culture, being Highly Sensitive can be even more challenging.
Some Differences Between HSP Men and Women
Women are expected to be more sensitive, more compassionate, and can be given a bit of lee-way in our reactions. This can become a stereotype such that the reasons for the reactions may be discounted…”Oh, she’s just an over-reactive woman, don’t worry about her.” This is obviously not helpful. Generally, female HSPs are still often seen as ‘too’ sensitive, even with this cultural viewpoint.
Men, however, are told from a very young age that ‘boys don’t cry’ and crying or being concerned about others (compassionate) is weak and feminine. They’re taught to “man up,” “be a man,” and “don’t be such a sissy.”
HS men often sense the need to hide their feelings, act inauthentically, shut off their hearts. They learn to not share their reactions to things for fear of being seen as weak or too feminine.
I’ve heard from clients that they were pushed into sports and hunting and activities they weren’t interested in (not that HSP men can’t enjoy these) and dissuaded from artistic or humanitarian pursuits. They find it challenging to engage with other men if the activities or conversations lead toward the macho perspective or don’t include meaningful discussion.
And the cultural response isn’t just from other men. One client comes to mind and a memory of him noting that his wife had a particular challenge allowing him to cry and be really moved by beautiful things. He sensed that she thought if he was ‘too’ sensitive, he wouldn’t be the ‘man’ of the house and she couldn’t depend upon his strength.
So, what are Highly Sensitive men to do?
As with so many things, it’s really helpful to hear from and connect with others who understand…other male HSPs. Reading articles written by HS men provides common ground and understanding from a shared space. William Allen is a Highly Sensitive man who’s written a couple of books on the subject and has a weekly newsletter and blog posts, and other resources. He co-hosted this year’s HSP retreat in Colorado with Elaine Aron. Hearing others’ accounts and thoughts can be very validating and supportive.
As HSPs come to honor themselves as highly sensitive, we tend to attract others into our inner circle. It’s very helpful to be connected with others who get us, and for men I think this can be even more important. Being intentional about who you want to include in your life can help to draw more HSPs your way.
And personal work on honoring yourself as Highly Sensitive, and learning how to share the trait with others from a place of strength and confidence, can be very helpful. Sometimes working with a guide can make this easier and more successful.
The world needs HSPs so much right now, and HSP men coming forth to shine their light, unabashedly, is so powerful and impactful. Thank you Highly Sensitive men for your contribution!