Like many Highly Sensitive People, I often ask a simple question, "What’s wrong with the word Sensitive?” I mean, it’s a word with multiple meanings, but the one that we often home in on is the one that tells the story of our lives. Yet, unfortunately, it is the one-word trait that is more often than not used in the pejorative to describe our Nature that is either abhorred or tolerated by less sensitive folks.
We live in a culture that values emotional detachment, stone-cold decision making, logical, warrior-like capabilities that seem so distant from the core behaviors of the clan of highly sensitive people. Our culture views sensitivity as a weakness, a lack of discipline, control, or maturity. An unfair and false assessment, if there ever was one.
This judgment is especially hard on HSP males, who already have difficulty with the trait in lieu of expectations the culture sets for masculine behavior. Technically our trait is called sensory processing sensitivity, which is tied directly to environmental sensitivity theory. It embraces the notion that environmental sensory sensitivity is expressed on a spectrum from high to low. The term sensory processing sensitivity is a mouthful but sounds much more palatable than just plain “sensitive.”
But, what does sensitive really mean? We know the term has multiple meanings, but why do we choose the most degrading definition. We need to do some serious renovation on how the term sensitive is used, dig a little deeper and put some fine points on the explanation of the term to truly capture the complex Nature of high sensitivity and reframe the meaning.
Can Men Be Sensitive and Still Be Masculine?
“Son, are you a man or a mouse?” These few words were delivered to me by my dad every time I got a bit too weepy as a little boy. Growing up in the 50s and 60s, it was not wise for little boys to show too many traits of emotional sensitivity. It might look like a sissy if you know what I mean. So, my father would chide me with this little question, and I would abruptly stop my sensitive ways and buck up and act like the little man I was supposed to be.
As the years went by, I began to shield myself from this type of criticism by trying to live the manly life I was taught to live. But it always felt a bit disingenuous and inauthentic. The older I got, the more I realized what I was, no less a man, because I could feel deep emotion, get in touch with my inner core, and freely express the emotion within. So when I began to read about the highly sensitive personality type, I felt vindicated and liberated. Dr. Elaine Aron gets a lifetime achievement award from me. And I’m sure a lot of HSMs feel the same way.
Why the World Needs Sensitive Men Now
In the sixties, a Broadway rock musical called Hair proclaimed that we were in the dawning of the Age of Aquarius. It was all new and shiny and promised a time of great awakening and peace. So we waited, and we waited, and that never happened.
Yet, I sense a return to that hopeful dream, that idealized goal of moving us toward harmony and balance, sans the cynicism of the last forty years. For generations, Nature has crafted a group of humans specially designed to aid in that process, a group comprised of males and females, people of all races, religions, countries, creeds, and ages. This group of people we sometimes meekly refer to as the Highly Sensitive People.
There is nothing meek or mild, or weak about this group. On the contrary, they are wise, insightful, brave, creative, and intuitive. They aren’t perfect people, yet they are perfect for this cause. They are the wise protectors, the cautious leaders, the thoughtful and empathetic priestly personalities sprinkled worldwide. This group is part of Nature’s recipe, a gentle ingredient in the human mix that adds the right amount of nutrition and flavor to enhance the taste and nourishment, but not enough to overpower or destroy. That is the mission of Highly Sensitive people.
The purpose, the mission, is to change awareness from the old model to the new. The new model is about equality, stewardship, using all sensory abilities, being thoughtful and kind, sharing, and loving one another—each for our unique gifts.
Creating the New Man Begins with the Sensitive Man Revolution
If change is to occur, we need to convert more men to the cause of balance. I think this is happening spontaneously now, yet slowly and quietly with little or no fanfare. Many younger men of Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z generations are beginning to see the folly of the old traditional male role model espoused by our fathers’ generation. But unfortunately, there is still pushback from certain groups of men, who are best-called traditionalists.
However, by reaching out to more men of all generations, we help liberate them from the old yoke of traditional masculinity, which is a burden for many men both emotionally and mentally. The most challenging precept for these men is that they become more masculine and more human by embracing the new male within themselves. Ironically, letting go is gaining new freedom they have never known.
To my fellow HSP brothers, know this: we already have the strength we need to aid in this task. We are designed for this job. Evolution is a slow, purposeful grind. It mashes up that which is no longer needed and develops tools and features that will usher in the next stage of development. We HSP men are not fully developed either. We will need to evolve with our fellow males. At times, this obligation may seem challenging, but we are the basic template. We can be the model from which Nature builds and refines the masculine. To allow this to flow through us, much like the chrysalis, we emerge more robust and resilient—humanity benefits. We must embrace this calling. To read more, click here.
I have started a Highly Sensitive Men’s online meetup group. Please contact me if you’d like to join email@example.com
About William Allen
William Allen is an author with a writer’s heart and researcher’s mind. After getting a degree in Psychology with an eye on doing psychology research, he recalibrated for a career in Information Technology. He found himself in a thirty-year career as an Information Technology manager at Wells Fargo who enjoyed managing highly intelligent, often difficult staff, many of whom were highly sensitive.
He retired early from his corporate job to start his Hypno-coaching and neurofeedback brain training business, BrainPilots, in Bend, Oregon. In late 2016, he began his blog, The Sensitive Man, about his experiences, as a highly sensitive man. The blog became the genesis of his first book, Confessions of a Sensitive Man. His new book, On Being a Sensitive Man, is the follow-up book that focuses on how to live in the world as a sensitive man.
He feels that HSP males need to take their keen insights and intuition and make them public. He would like to shed more light on highly sensitive males and the much-needed role they need to take in our society.
Books by William Allen
I have written two books to aid in this task. I wrote Confessions of a Sensitive Man for every man or boy told that they are too sensitive or too emotional; they aren’t man enough or masculine enough simply because they feel more, sense more, and experience a broader range of emotions.
The book's purpose was to educate about the trait in laymen’s terms, validate through experience and opinion the value of the attribute, and provide questions about the trait that would appeal to further research. The book discusses questions from an HSP male point of view. The questions are more boots on the ground -- questions about relationships, gender identity, the positive and negative sides of being an HSP, behavioral quirks, traps, and struggles for highly sensitive men.
In many ways, this book was written by my older self for my younger self. I offer this book to younger, highly sensitive boys and men with that hope. It is about the accumulated experience that life rolls out to each of us, where the only evidence is the memory deep within. There is value in that.
On Being a Sensitive Man is the follow-up companion volume to Confessions of a Sensitive Man. It was written to provide strategies and tools for highly sensitive men to help them navigate their lives. The book discusses the correct mindset, how to expand the comfort zone, deal with change and strong emotions, right livelihood, calm the mind, and move towards self-acceptance. The book concludes with how highly sensitive men can be an impactful force in helping to change the role men can play in a troubled and complex world. The book encourages Highly Sensitive Males to stand up for their sensitivity and the gifts associated with the trait. By developing a healthy mindset, HSP (highly sensitive person) men can exert influence in a world that is often insensitive to the needs of others. Lastly, the book looks at our current definitions of masculinity and the need to discuss what is working and what is toxic. There is a place at the table for highly sensitive men, and they can intuitively bring insights into guiding men to a more humane view of what all men can be.
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