The on-going saga of the HSP Artist, Sign #3

Hello to you! Thanks for visiting.

This is sign #3 from the list of 21 Signs your a Highly Sensitive Person, 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…

#3 . Time pressure really rattles you.

Time Pressures are another source of unproductive stress.

“Oh great, now I have to keep track of …well, EVERYTHING. I need a drink.”

Yes, this is a big kettle of fish. To be sure.

Time stress, time management, its a big thing for HSP-Artists and other distracted people, like those with Attention Deficit Disorder, sleep deprivation and shift work.

This sign observes that ‘time pressures’ , like written exams, work deadlines, time commitments on social media (Blogs, vids etc), dates on the calendar (appointments, holidays, birthdays, anniversaries), family and children commitments and so forth add significantly to your stress level, so much so that the stress is disruptive and counter productive. You just can’t deal with it and you do worse than you should.

While ADD people often use time pressures as stimulus to meet deadlines and get things done, the same times stressors trigger an involuntary ‘fight or flight’ reactions in HSPs – stress so tiring or overwhelming that it is counter productive.

This has nothing to do with how well you can keep organized. The pressure of meeting all these time based commitments simply wears you down. And the stress is worse when you don’t really want to do these things but feel you have to.

“But everyone feels some stress with our busy modern lives.”

Yes, they do, but the not-so-sensitive simply do not feel the same stresses. They aren’t monsters, though. They might feel badly or be annoyed or complain, but they aren’t overwhelmed.

Sometimes, in small doses, this response is useful, as noted. And Sometimes we really do need to run away from real danger. In sports we need the fight response to give our best. Performers harness this energy to deliver their entertainment. In business or teaching it helps deliver presentations.

But the problem with constantly being overstressed, including overwhelming time pressures, is that eventually you burn out. HSPs experiencing constant low level fight or flight responses are caught in a destructive loop: the chemicals released into your system tire you out, make you even more sensitive to stresses, so more and more things will become stressors to the point of exhaustion. Burnout.
And exhaustion is not a good look.

Do you know why Buddhist monks cut off all contact with the outside world as they learn to meditate? Because you can’t learn meditation and connect with your deep spirituality when you have kids to pick up after school, football practice, Jujitsu for the other kid, church volunteer work you promised not to miss, a night class to attend, your ageing parents to help take care of, 28 hours a week part time job, mortgage, car, student loan and credit card payments never to miss, three assignments to hand in, anniversary and six birthdays to remember, four big holidays not to forget, your Significant Other to worry about and two other friends who said you promised to help out with some bullshit project or something. Yeah. While you can barely see past the hood of your car, the monks are looking into infinity.

BUT the root cause of the excess stress is not those activities themselves, but our lack or loss of control over our own time.

Granted, it is pretty difficult when you are a child to change how you live your life. But once you are an adult, things change, right? Sure.

Let’s imagine that our capacity to deal with the added stresses of time pressures is like a drinking glass. For HSPs this glass is much smaller than the ‘average’ persons. Let’s say, a third smaller. For the HSP-Artist about one fifth down from the top of this smaller glass a line is drawn and instructions read: never fill past this line. Reserved for Creative Use. As a Creative, the more your glass is filled past this line the less and less creative you will be. Until you have no energy left for creativity.

But who gets to fill the glass?

Well, ultimately you do. That is what The Tribe dares you to do, tell them No, you can’t do that to me.

The idea is that even though time pressure events will still be very stressful, as long as you have capacity to deal with (some of) them, and the desire to do so, you can manage your life and still have that reserve needed to be creative.

The problem is that others fill our glass without our permission, and they don’t even think to ask. It never occurs to them.

Our culture tries desperately to fill our glass. Look at what is imposed on us, what we are expected to keep track of and never forget, what slowly fills our glass (and what others rarely even notice as time stressors), and what is absolutely of no benefit to the process of creativity:

The hour, or even minute of the day,
day of the week,
week of the month,
month of the year,
days for school or work
day and hour of worship
hour of religious prayer
date of birth
dates of birth of your significant other, your children, your parents, your siblings
dates of anniversaries
dates of holidays (not of your creation)
dates of celebration (also not of your creation)
dates of religious significance, annual
dates of religious significance, unique, like weddings, funerals, baptisms
night the garbage goes out

All of these time bandits could completely disappear and your creative powers would not diminish.

We accept this because we have been indoctrinated. We accept this because there may be a bribe attached. (Play by our rules and get a tiny reward…) The Tribe wants to control us, and this is one of the ways.

Worse, however, is when people in our immediate life fill our glass without our permission. When they do this they then force us to set boundary limits, to assert ourselves, and this hurts.

When parents, spouses, close friends, even our children, fail to respect our boundaries it hurts. It hurts because we feel our loved ones should know, but instead they demonstrate they don’t know (or care) or worse are filling your glass at your expense for their benefit.

Here is another illustration:

Imagine that you know someone who lost their legs from the knees down in a traffic accident.
From that point on you would never even dream of making any assumptions about their mobility.
You want them to be at your birthday party. Everyone always brings some sort of food because you do a pot luck, and this year its outside at a local public park.

Can you make assumptions that nothing will be different this time with your friend, and just send the regular invite? Of course you would not. You wouldn’t. You would first ask if they are even able to make it, did they want to attend; you’d ask how you might make it possible for them to be there, ask them if they can and want to bring food.

Why would you bother? Because, obviously, your friend is not as capable as you are, and you respect their condition and want to put the power in the relationship on their side.

So why did you disrespect your HSP Creative friend by simply sending an invitation?

Why don’t you know that their time-glass has only, basically, half the capacity of yours? Why did you pour more into their glass without permission? Why did you not call them with plenty of time and ask them if they have the time, and did they need a reminder, or perhaps someone could help them with the food and pick them up, so that their work would not be interrupted and they would not be stressed?

That’s what life can be like, for the HSP-Artist, repeatedly being forced to empty out their glass (miss meetings, forget appointments, not deliver on volunteer work, forget birthdates) so they can keep a reasonable stress level and get their work done.

I have my ideas. It took me years and years to understand why I was disorganized, why time commitments were so stressful to keep. Moving out on my own helped enormously. I started to learn who I was. But my mother, even a decade after I had moved out of the house, was still sending me big envelopes stuffed with all sorts of things. Basically physical and mental clutter. Clippings from newspapers I just had to read. Photo copies of letters from the relatives overseas. A tiny toy. Something I had made in Grade 3, an old badge from Cub scouts, a bank statement she was asking me to decipher, (wtf, go talk to your banker), her letter to me…on and on and on. I’d get one every few weeks. Sometimes she’d deliver a whole box. Then she’d phone me a week later to discuss the articles and the letters, assuming I had read them.

She was filling my glass.

Knowledge is power, Baby. Once I realized what she was doing, I could deal with it. The moral of the story is, as the HSP Artist, you’ve got to be polite, say no-thank you, and put your hand over your glass.

Taking control can be difficult. You may have to tell everyone, including family, that they MUST first ask if you have the time (to do something ). At the same time you have to establish boundaries, cautioning that you may often have to say, No.

You may have to explain that asking someone if they want to do something, before asking if they have the time or means is emotional manipulation. And you will not tolerate being emotionally manipulated.

After all, who doesn’t want to help, be friendly, be loyal to family and parents, go places, have fun, volunteer, be a good person, remember the anniversary / holiday and what kind of gift to buy?

The problem for the HSP Creative is that when we are expected to remember, presumed to participate, assumed we will want to, there is little actual reciprocity. There certainly may be for other people, but not for us.
The family, people, groups to whom we give our time and endure our added stresses are rarely supportive and empowering in equal measure in return.

If time pressures are too much for you and you have to assert yourself to get control, there may be conflict. Consider it part of becoming a professional.

Try not to feel hurt. Ours is a special talent.