The on-going saga of the Highly Sensitive Person Artist, Sign #2

Hi everyone, thanks for visiting!

This is sign #2 from the list of 21 Signs your a HSP, but from the Artist / Creator’s point of view.

From the site , 21 Signs You’re a Highly Sensitive Person, author Jenn Granneman Dec. 12 2019 .

First, remember, I am not giving professional advice here. I and possibly you are not qualified to do so, making these writings my opinion. That said…

#2. You’re frequently emotionally exhausted from absorbing other people’s feelings.

Ain’t it the truth!

The HSP can’t help but be impacted by the messages other people give off. The nervous system is turned up to 11. (“You see, all the dials go up to…eleven.” – Spinal Tap.)

Other’s physical presence and body language, emotions, facial expressions, odors, movements, tone of voice, volume and utterances, and the innumerable communicative ‘cues’ people constantly project literally bombard the Highly Sensitive Person.

The HSP can be so empathic as to feel they are feeling emotions ‘that aren’t their own’.

But what an asset! For a Creative, especially those who are creating stories, what a gift! What is more perfect for actors, to experience other’s emotional lives. Writers, journalists, who have stories to tell can live them vicariously. Living in another person’s shoes.

But this is a dangerous two edged sword.

The more we are in other people’s skins, the more our time and emotions are manipulated, even monopolized, the less time we spend living with ourselves. When we don’t know who we are, we can never create original, meaningful work. Our work. The work only we can bring to the world, if we truly know who we are. And being deeply in touch with who we are takes alone time, every day.

We may become skilled and even clever, but if we don’t have the time, means and permission to create what is unique to each of us, our work will suffer, seem derivative, and be forgotten.

But who would undermine us? Our partner, our family and friends, church and social groups, schools, even where we work. All may be guilty. In oppressive countries, the State. This is the Tribe, as Dr. Wayne Dyer described it.

As a HSP Artist, this is a very important part of our lives. Being able to control our time and our exposure to other people (including family and church), so we can be ourselves when we create.

If we have a truly supportive family that knows how to nurture us, we may grow up with the skills and strength we need. If we are fortunate we may develop this strength of character in school. (Usually not public school, but either in private school or post secondary education that trains Creatives. )

Or perhaps we will learn what we need on our own from books and from supportive communities we find or foster.

Here is an example. The great American painter Andrew Wyeth never went to school. Entering school age, he was ‘frail’ and too sensitive, unable to pay attention even in kindergarten. His father, the artist N.C. Wyeth, took the young child into his studio, every day, and then asked nothing from him.

Right from the beginning Andrew was given this message: Your Father loves you and accepts you for who you are, unconditionally. Not what society expects you to be, or what family pride and ambition want you to be. You have permission to just be yourself.

And N.C. would not let others negatively interfere. He shielded his very sensitive son, and gave him time and space.

At first N.C. would just work and talk, or leave the child to his own devices. And this worked. As Andrew grew older and stronger N.C. taught him the fundamentals of art and then mastery of the figure. His family (mother and older siblings) taught him to read. He learned from them and from books. But far more than this, Andrew learned how to manage his life as an artist. Further, he was never asked to find employment, he was never asked to leave home. He was empowered, he was supported. From this environment he developed his remarkable talent and produced masterworks.

Here is the opposite: “Now you’re sixteen, go out and get a real job.” “Don’t wait to get married.” “When am I gonna see grandchildren?” “Your Father expects you to learn the family business.” “What about College? Why waste your potential. You’re so good with math.” “It’s so hard to make money in The Arts. What are you really going to do as a career?” “Do you think theatre is a good idea? How do you make a living in theatre?” “What are you writing, the Great American novel?”

Creatives need control over our time and physical space. We need this control because we must have time to be alone with ourselves, away from both the positive and negative ‘energies’ of others.

Even if we have to earn money in multiple ways, using other talents or skills we may have or develop, we need others to respect our self-sovereignty.

Otherwise, if we are extroverted Highly Sensitives, we may end up being more a reflection of the people around us than ourselves. We can lose touch with who we actually are.
And if we are introverted and withdraw too much, we can become exiled, even impoverished.

Close friends, family, including our loved ones, partners and even our own children can intuitively, if not explicitly, learn how to keep us bound to their interests by keeping us from knowing ourselves. They seek to monopolize our time and energies, and know how to ‘push our buttons’.

And this is very very difficult to admit, but absolutely essential to break, that the people we love and respect, or the people we give our time to, do not understand us and do not respect our boundaries in return.

Even though we dislike conflict, we may have to confront this problem.

What to do? Getting angry won’t help.

Anger wastes your time and energy, and ‘plays into their hands’! Anger makes sense to non-creatives. What they do not understand is where your creativity, your originality comes from. And they do not respect this.

You might explain, but rationality doesn’t change behavior long term. People fall back into their old patterns. Believe me.

Sometimes you have to move. Like James Joyce, you can’t write about Ireland while living in Ireland. The place was, for Joyce, simply too toxic. Distance. But also moving to where another Tribe does not know you, or really care, and thus will give you some respect as an outsider. You don’t have to change countries. Sometimes just cities.

Sometimes you have to literally banish people from your life. Sometimes completely, or for periods. Sometimes you can’t move. But you still need a place that is yours. A working space where you cannot be interfered with, called on; where no one is allowed to knock on your door.

As well, the Creative must demand that their time cannot be impinged upon. As in, “Ask me, don’t presume, and respect when I say I am not available. Do not manipulate me, otherwise I will have to cut you from my life. And if that does not work, I will leave.”

It is that serious.

And in reality, moving may not always work. Sometimes you just have to be sneaky.

We hear of people writing in public places. Hiding in plain sight. One can drawn in a sketch book in a public place, but the more tools you need the more impractical it becomes. No one lugs a fifty pound block of stone into Starbucks and starts chiselling.

Picasso, our alpha male artist, had to leave Spain and set up in Paris, early on. Even that was not enough. Fellow artists and hangers-on were at his door constantly. Picasso found he could only work when others were asleep, and people assumed he was sleeping as well. Between 9 and 10 pm Picasso, regardless of where he was, would say he was tired and leave. However, he would work in his studio until 4 or 5 am, near dawn, then lock up. He’d sleep to around noon. When he showed up at a café it was for breakfast, but others presumed lunch. In the afternoon he’d do business, have models sit, friends visit, possibly get some painting done, but then stop for dinner. He then might socialize, go to a salon, but then excuse himself and slip into the studio again. Everyone was fooled and he was left alone to create.
Ha. It worked.

Here must be a secret of the great Creative personality. The ability to be in the community, to honestly represent that community, to channel that ‘zeitgeist’, and yet have the strength to resist the efforts of family, church and community to sabotage your work. As it almost always will try.

So do what you have to do. This is the hard part, the sacrifice that commitment demands. Tune in to others, connect, but develop the capacity and “backbone” to exert sovereignty over your creative time and space.

Cheers! See you next time.