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THANK YOU….. you just summed up my swirling thoughts into something i can read with out everything else in my head meshing with it. I finally feel like i can explain what happens within without getting distracted. I’m an Introvert with ADD and it makes it so hard to explain quite what im feeling sometimes. — M.G. on space2live
M.G.
Brenda has truly opened up a space for introverted types on the ‘net, and her self-revelations are always inspiring. Her voice is one I always look forward to. She is one of the writers that actually played a part in my return to writing.  — S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
S.E. of Sunflower Solace Farms
I met Brenda and took the MBTI… I had a fairly good understanding of these types before the meeting but was impressed by the depth of knowledge that Brenda shared with me. She clearly has a passion for this work and a gift in imparting the information. There have been doors opened for me because of our talks… — Alan Hintermeister
Alan Hintermeister
Your words are my lifeline.  I sit down to your posts and as I read I can feel my acceptance of myself and my needs grow.  Your words validate my feelings about my life, motherhood, relationships and it is something I hold onto.  And during the times when I feel like I am not able to be a mother or a wife or a sister or a friend or whatever someone needs me to be, I go back to your words and find some peace…I send your posts to my husband when I need him to understand that I love him but I need …
D.R.
This is me. This is me from the day I was born. For so long I felt misunderstood and rejected, even by the people closest to me, because they could never understand my need for solitude, and I had no idea how to explain it to them. Even now that I know more about Introversion and have a more informed understanding of my hard-wired need for solitude, it’s still very difficult sometimes to help my loved ones understand this profound craving for time and space all to myself. This is one of the best…
Sharon
You’re so honest in your writing. It’s bold. It’s frank. It’s wonderful. I could definitely see the work you are doing here as a useful book. It could save/make a lot of relationships! — Jimmi Langemo
Jimmi Langemo
Because of your blog, I know that it is possible for me to have the love that I want one day and that I don’t have to be alone.  — Indepthwoman  on space2live
Indepthwoman
I think I want to print out your articles and hand them out as a sort of relationship waiver form. “You want to be my friend?….You are interesting in going out? Here read this first. Sign here to acknowledge that you have read and understand the enclosed material. Thank you.” Seriously. I think it would work. — Guerin Moorman
Guerin Moorman
During one of the harder times in my life I found Brenda’s website
and reached out to her. To say the least it has been one of the best
decisions I have made. Being an extrovert I never quite understood
what it meant to romantically involved with an introvert. Brenda does
an incredible job listening, giving in the moment feedback, and helped
me understand the how an introvert functions. She helped explain to me
that I am introspective extrovert, and this gave something to identify
with and allowed me t…
Evan H.
your depth of understanding, and talent at sharing it amaze me. Speechless… and for your sharing of it.. Thank you… deeply. *sigh, its like coming back into my body through acceptance….. Sherrie on space2live
Sherrie

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Politics Getting to You? Dealing with Conflict and Hostility as a Highly Sensitive Person

heads yelling

I dared to jump on Facebook for a bit on Saturday. Minutes into my perusal, I found myself scanning down the comments on an update of the only person I’ve ever considered un-friending. This person’s language and people bashing have turned my stomach on a few occasions. Today was no different. The thread on their post was full of political judgments, negativity and belittling. The reason I keep this person as a ‘friend’ is because I know their redeemable qualities. I’ve seen their good light. It’s getting harder and harder to remember them though.

The sad thing is, this person’s feed was not the only one to push my buttons on Saturday. The divisiveness and battles the upcoming election have spurred are so ugly, pervasive and unpleasant I am intentionally limiting my social media viewing. After my Facebook experience, I felt keyed up, like I was in fight or flight mode. It’s hard to see your friends turned into vengeful, bitter fighters. It’s hard to watch and feel the darkness spread.

The next day a friend and space2live reader sent me an email stating the same thing. She is considering not watching the news and blocking people on Facebook.

Where’d all the good people go?

The less than respectful presidential candidate debate on Sunday night, only added fuel to the fire. Giving air time to two individuals who do not espouse integrity or diplomacy, yet have the opportunity to lead our country, only spreads animosity and fear.

The current state of our divided and conflict-ridden country is especially hard when your nervous system is already highly attuned and sensitive. The negativity, walking on egg-shells and imminent explosiveness around political candidates has us all on edge. We harmony-makers/seekers are working overtime. We HSPs are looking for ways to buffer our sensitive souls from the clashing. Ultimately, we are headed for burnout and possible withdrawal if we don’t figure out ways to remedy the detrimental emotional impact.

This feeling of overriding negativity and conflict, reminds me of the atmosphere in a few of my long-term relationships, minus the political aspect.cats fighting

Introverted or conflict avoidant? 

As I reflect on my more introverted tendencies (seeking solitude, feeling numbed out after too much stimulation), I notice a pattern of conflict and negativity preceding them.

Surrounded by gentle collaborative souls, my energy does not dip. I can go to concerts and parties without too much of an effect on my spirit. Granted, if it is exceedingly loud or crowded, I will get tired but not like I do after spending time in conflict.

As a young person, I avoided the main living spaces in our house because my sister and I fought so much. I had to retreat to a safe space, mostly my bedroom. The constant sparring exhausted and hurt me. I know it affected her too.

During the last few years of my marriage, there was a lot of inner and outer conflict between my husband and me and between us and our children. We all walked on egg-shells. I had anxiety attacks at night. I withdrew during the day.

What conflict does to us biologically

 “The near-constant activation of the stress response is like exercise for your fight, flight, or freeze pathways. They become stronger and faster. At the same time, your smart vagus doesn’t get the opportunity for a good workout. Eventually it will lose its good tone and become weak — leaving you with a loud and hyper-sensitive set of stress responses that perceives other people as basically dangerous and unkind, no matter what the reality. That’s a tragedy because we are built to use safe relationships as a way of reducing stress.”  — Amy Banks, M.D., Wired to Connect,

Your smart vagus is a nerve that stretches from the base of your skull over your head to connect with some of the muscles responsible for facial expression, speech, swallowing and hearing. It helps determine the safety of other people based on their facial expressions and voices. If it determines all is safe, it also helps activate the muscles that show you are engaged with the people around you. Your eyelids and eyebrows lift, to appear more open. The muscles of your inner ear tense in preparation to hear conversation. You look more animated.

I was in a state of high-alert when around relationships that caused intermittent conflict. My nervous system went berserk and misinterpreted communication signals from others as stressful even when they were not especially threatening. I had to limit my time in the presence of people who brought on strong negative reactions.

How to re-wire your stress responses

To remedy my over-aroused nervous system I first tried working more solitude into my schedule. This is definitely helpful but not always feasible.

According to Dr. Banks, safe relationships change the neural structure in our brains and reduce our stress responses. I found more positive, safe relationships. They built up my smart vagus and gave me a sense of security and confidence. The addition of secure, healthy relationships rewired my brain’s reception and allowed me to read other’s signals better. I can tolerate more time with others. I am more open to the important people in my life. I don’t go into fight or flight response as easily. safe angel statues

I am currently exploring the idea that  healthy relationships are even more beneficial to my sense of calm and growth than solitude.

The constant presence of the polarizing presidential candidates and their combative campaigns reinforce the neural pathways of stress responses. They make us want to fight, make us feel unsafe and wear us down.

Given it is virtually impossible to avoid their presence in the media, I encourage you to seek out or create positive, non-threatening relationships that foster your sense of belonging and emotional safety. Put more love and humor in the world to negate the hate. Skip social media and go outside. Take in natural beauty and peace. Get your heart rate up from exercise and not a heated thread on Twitter. Let your nervous system recover.

How are you coping with the negativity of the presidential election? How has conflict shut you down? 

If the world is feeling unusually harsh to you and you would like help learning how to find solitude and foster positive relationships please contact me for personal coaching. 

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11 Comments

  1. Barb November 2, 2016 at 11:06 pm - Reply

    what i have a hard time with is feeling like i am watching a domestic abuse scenario acted out on national television. the two are not the same at all, and the intensity of the negativity, hatred, bullying and poison of the one side is very hard to deal with. i see it as direct negative backlash to the last 8 years. it is heartbreaking, depressing, awful that there is so much pent up frustration and anger. i also feel this sort of crazy-making, like what we are seeing from his behavior is just complete insanity but somehow we are supposed to metabolize it and treat it as a valid viewpoint, when everything in my system tells me this is an extremely dangerous individual. it is literally watching the most extreme forces of hatred rise up in a very male, very bullying form. i have been a wreck during this election, although i have voted republican in the past and have not had a problem with any candidate like this ever. it is the epitome of a destructive type of “power over” energy that is hopefully having its last gasp, but it is very hard to witness.

    • Brenda Knowles November 5, 2016 at 7:31 am - Reply

      I agree. There is a destructive, ‘power over’, negative energy to this election. I don’t see progress coming from whatever party ends up in the white house. The campaigns have brought out some of the worst behavior and fears in Americans.
      I’ve resigned to keeping my little corner of the world as positive and loving as possible. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Barb.

      • Barb November 28, 2016 at 12:26 am - Reply

        And thank you for your kind response. 🙂 Happy holidays.

      • Barb November 28, 2016 at 3:00 pm - Reply

        i would like to add, however, that this sense of equivelancy between the two candidates is what disturbed me the most, the sense that both were equally bad. the one displayed by his actions and words an intolerable level of cruelty, verbal abuse, bullying etc. the other has almost guilt-by-association with him, and has also been the victim of a decades long smear campaign that had people actually believing she had murdered people, and distracted all of us with the “scandal” of her using the wrong server (which was the error of an IT person). this has been what has been so painful to me… it was not that long ago that women in this country were burned at the stake. i see no substantial difference besides the physical between that and what just happened to HRC. the vitriol was ruthless, without boundary or principle, and incredibly effective. most people don’t even know that they were repeating right wing rhetoric created on targeted fake news sites with the sole purpose of bringing her down. i’m not saying she’s a saint, but they idea that they are even remotely close to the same type of person, or that their policy approach is at all similar disturbs me greatly. it is like a national brainwashing took place. she got pummeled. no one even knows why they hate her so much, they just do. again and again she has turned up innocent, and again and again he has spewed his bullying rhetoric, but somehow the accusations leveled against her became as bad as his actual actions. i have no idea how this happened. so much of it seems to be deeply ingrained misogyny, the things i have seen do nothing less than demonize her in the literal sense of the word. she looked shattered after the election. it was literally like watching a witch hunt in modern times, on modern platforms. as a woman it completely gutted me on every level and has made me feel profoundly unsafe in the world. as for tending to our own corner, it is easy to retreat but it is such a place of privilege to be able to do so. there are so many who will not be safe, whose lives have already been deeply effected. there will be so much harm done. hillary had a concrete proposal to install 500 million solar panels by 2020. now we have someone that does not believe in climate change. these people are not the same. the harm will be irreparable. thank you for hearing me out. i am in a ton of pain for those people and a very vulnerable planet that cannot afford this president.

        • Brenda Knowles November 29, 2016 at 6:52 pm - Reply

          I am sorry for the pain you and so many others are feeling after the election. I have a deep feeling of disappointment. I too struggled with the equivalently evil rhetoric created around Trump and Clinton. I could not figure out the overwhelming hatred toward her. In my own home HRC is a criminal and Donald Trump merely an A*hole. The insinuation being that a criminal is much worse. She was never convicted of anything but yet she was a criminal. I doubt we will ever know the full truth about either of their histories. How I would love to have someone honest, respectable and respectful in the president’s seat. You are right there are so many who will continue to feel unsafe. I react from a place of privilege. I understand my despair and frustration are new to me, but for so many the despair is just heightened and continued.

          • Barb December 8, 2016 at 5:33 pm

            Thank you for hearing me out and sharing your words. I found the villianization of her the most difficult part, and came to have a profound respect for her and all she has endured. I hope that those who still consider her a criminal do some real research into their accusations, as well as into her political career and all she has done for families. Sadly, research and fact-finding do not seem to be the order of the day.

          • Brenda Knowles December 22, 2016 at 3:35 pm

            This election was not like any other. So much nastiness and so little dignity. May the darkness only amplify the light.

  2. Gold Rhino October 18, 2016 at 12:42 pm - Reply

    Hi Brenda,

    As a professional historian, I respond to people who talk about this horrible election by relating it to the Gilded Age, (1862-1901) and those journalists of today who say we have been in a Second Gilded Age since 1973.

    I remind listeners that many observers consider the current election the worst choice for voters since 1884–more than a century ago.

    I’ll spare non-historians the details of the 1884 contest; interested parties can consult Wikipedia.

    In short, what makes both elections so deplorable is that a majority of voters–then and now–disapproved of both candidates by large margins..

    Since most people seem to dislike American political history, the result is usually a stress-relieving change of subject.

    Hope this helps, but I warn you that several million people believe that after the election, regardless of who wins, we are likely to undergo a non-violent revolution. If so, you will encounter impassioned rhetoric for a long time. So I’d find some way to deal with the anticipated increase in polarization.

    I’m very introverted, but was a young revolutionary during the 1960s. I believe that so many things need changing that I welcome all turmoil short of civil war.

    Some famous German fellow in the 19th century pointed out that throughout most of human history. life has been constant struggle for the vast majority of people.

    Hope the context helps.

    Best,

    Gold Rhino

    • Brenda Knowles October 19, 2016 at 9:29 am - Reply

      I like your experienced and knowledgable input Gold Rhino. It gives me a new angle to look at the situation from and gives me areas to explore. Thank you! I will strive to figure out ways to handle the polarizing rhetoric. It sounds like I’ll have to figure out how to sit with the discomfort for a while.

  3. Sandra GW October 14, 2016 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    Love this article, Brenda. Reminds me of my own constant “fight or flight” state.

    • Brenda Knowles October 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm - Reply

      Hugs to you Sandra. 🙂

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