Sunday, 1 March 2015

Buttercups and the HSP Thing.

Sorry to keep going on about the HSP thing, but this post was prompted by another post on another blog by another person. She’s suffering badly, and I feel a sense of a mission settling in – to further explain something to the good and normal people out there in the hope that they will be less inclined to make the sufferers suffer even more. So here we go again:

I gather the Americans have an expression: ‘Suck it up, buttercup.’ And from the context in which I read it, I gather it means something like ‘We all have to do things we don’t like. Stop being a wimp and just get on with it.’

This is the normal voice of a normal person speaking from a position of understandable ignorance. When applied to another normal person it isn’t unreasonable, but when applied to a person afflicted with the HSP condition (or characterised by the HSP tag, whichever you prefer) it doesn’t and shouldn’t apply. According to the chief researcher into the phenomenon, HSPs have a brain that is wired differently from the majority of people, and nobody can help how their brain is wired, can they?

I’m reminded again of Emily Brontë. By all accounts she was physically strong, mentally tough, uncompromising and industrious. But she lived totally for her writing, her family, her animals, and her communion with nature and the open moorland. That was her world, her version of reality. When she tried to exist in somebody else’s version – through taking a job as a teacher at a boarding school – she was brought so low that Charlotte had to fetch her home because she feared that Emily would become seriously ill or even die. This is often cited as a case of simple homesickness, but I’m quite sure that it’s another example of normal people speaking from a position of understandable ignorance. It seems there is some correlation between the HSP type and artistic propensity, and the standard view of the artistic temperament has always been one of incomprehension.

Emily was neither coward nor failure (two accusations commonly hurled at HSPs, and which they commonly hurl at themselves because they’ve been conditioned by the culture to believe that only the standard type is the right one; anything else represents inadequacy.) She was a rare type, the like of which it is impossible for normal people to understand, any more than somebody blind from birth can know what red looks like. It’s a type which feels trapped and suffocated when forced to live in a world that is inconsistent with its particular needs. (Even the sympathetic Charlotte referred to ‘Emily’s peculiarities.’) To an HSP, such a world is dangerously lacking the only air it can breathe. And so the subject becomes fretful, anxious, depressed, desperate; it wakes up every morning with a sense of dread at having to live through the same torture for yet another day. To offer a simple analogy: does anybody say ‘suck it up, buttercup’ to a fish gasping and floundering on the deck of a fisherman’s boat?

Emily was lucky. She got rescued, first by Charlotte fetching her home, and then by a bequest from her aunt which enabled her to be financially independent. The result was the best of her poetry and the classic Wuthering Heights. Those who don’t get the luck have to find their own way back to the only air they can breathe. Often it means waiting for an opportunity to come along, and it can be a tough wait.

And here’s a final irony. In my experience, HSPs are unlikely to have money. That’s true of every one I’ve known. My ex, Mel, put her finger on the reason when she said recently: ‘When I’m looking for a job, I’m not so much concerned about the pay or the nature of the work. What concerns me most is how the environment will make me feel.’ To an HSP, feeling is paramount. They don’t do things because the material rewards are high, but because the activity and environment will be conducive to their highly aware and sensitive natures; because it will make them feel good; because there will be wholesome air to breathe and they will avoid being brought low by a grinding sense of suffocation. So what’s the irony? Sometimes an HSP will feel trapped through wandering or being forced into a place that’s very wrong for them, and sometimes they need money to get out of it. That’s the irony.


Madeline said...

I've never heard that expression but it sounds awful. And yes it's like telling a blind person to try harder to see. Of course HSP isn't a disability (or is it? I guess it depends on how you define it) but it does seem to be a built-in nature and a particular way of experiencing the world.

You're right that HSPs tend to be artistic (or artists tend to be HSPs?) and I think it may also be true of academics. Something about a tendency to spend a lot of time in one's own head.

As for the issue of money, perhaps some billionaire HSP needs to set up sort of fund to help HSPs in need get to where they ought to be. They could call it the Emily Bronte Fund. Or the Emily Dickinson Fund for that matter.

JJ Beazley said...

Let's go for two Emily Funds, make it a pan Atlantic thing. You work on Donald Trump and I'll see what I can do with Richard Branson.

Della said...

I completely agree about the correlation between HSP and no money. It makes sense, and I see it often. Hope you are faring well J.J., esp. now that spring is blowing in. Here it's still cold but we've at least been spared the snowstorms of the NE U.S. Although somehow the lack of a definite winter makes me long for spring even more this year. Take care!

JJ Beazley said...

And another little angle on the money issue: I suspect there's also a correlation between the HSP and persistent unemployment. A lot of the jobs available to those without quite high level qualifications would be hell to an HSP.

We've had a sort of non winter, too - a mixture of all sorts. I have the first colour in the garden with a stand of properly saffron crocuses.

Hope you're well too, Della. Have you finished that novel yet?

Della said...

I sometimes wonder if sensitivity is a valued trait in our society (though that sounds cynical). I used to work in 'HR' and noticed that more confident, thick-skinned candidates tended to be chosen. Later, managers would invariably complain they were too difficult. Funny. Ah, crocuses are lovely! I've only seen the purple here.

Oh! Not sure I'll ever finish it! :( On my second draft which is so much better than the first, but then, I didn't know the full story then so it's no wonder. At this point in my journey the characters are more flesh and blood, which is nice as they keep me company along the way. Ha. If the day (ever) comes and I do finish, I'd like to send you a complimentary copy (with the stipulation that you only say nice things about it ;)). All's well otherwise...looks like my daughter might be studying in Scotland next year! :)

JJ Beazley said...

Well, I wouldn't expect the corporate world to value sensitivity. Machines are usually made of inert materials, aren't they?

Seems like your novel has been a major project for a very long time. Maybe that was its purpose - along with having characters materialising out of the ether to keep you company, of course. (I think that was one of my favourite things about writing. The blog doesn't have quite the same scope, although it was fun meeting my version of Lady Gaga in NY.)

Whereabouts in Scotland? One of the universities, presumably.

Della said...


My daughter has been accepted to Glasgow, which is actually her 2nd choice. Her first is Edinburgh U. but she hasn't heard yet. So it's either of those two. She was accepted to Bristol as well, but is not keen on having to borrow so much money. The tuition there is MUCH higher than in Scotland (for us EU folk). She'll study Sociology and would like eventually, to become a teacher, probably in primary school.

JJ Beazley said...

I'd heard the tuition fees in Scotland were lower than in England. They have their own educational system there, as well as their own legal system. Plus a lot of things are devolved to the Scottish Assembly, rather than being run from Westminster.

Seems we're a lot cheaper than America, though. One of my correspondents is a young woman from Ohio who has done post-grad to Masters level, and now has $150,000 worth of Sally Lunn loans to repay, which she has to repay immediately. At lest our students don't have to repay their loans until they have a job with a decent salary.

I assume your daughter is fully bi-lingual.

JJ Beazley said...


Della said...

Yes, the 9000 pound tuition per year (at most universities) in England is nothing compared to what goes on in the States, and very fair of them not to demand repayment on loans until one is earning an income. How terrible that someone has to pay such a sum of money on their education ($150,000). The U.S. is just crazy (in this way and others, pls don't get me started ;)). My kids are German/American citizens but (fortunately) have no interest in studying in the U.S. Though unfortunately, they also have no interest in studying in Germany (yes, they're bilingual) where university education is free :( Oh, well. Scotland, England or even The Netherlands are good options. My son is keen on the latter because he was born there and we lived there until he was seven.

JJ Beazley said...

You might remember from earlier posts that I have reservations about the drive to make tertiary education near-universal. It makes job opportunities increasingly difficult for those with who are not academically inclined, even though they might have high enthusiasm and aptitudes. I believe it's one of several factors that have fueled the rise of a ghetto culture in Britain. Mr Blair started it with his 'education, education, education' speech, and the next thing was that they started charging for something that used to be free. It is a saving grace, however, that a person has to be earning a salary of £40,000 a year (I think) before they have to start repaying it.

Anyway, I hope your kids have successful university careers and go on to put dear old mom in the shade. I'm sure you've earned it...

Della said...

You're always so kind :) thank you. Not sure if I remember those details of Britain's educational system, but yes, I do understand your points. Germany actually has a decent system because it 'streams' people to different places depending on their aptitude. The problem though, is that they start too young in my opinion--in only the 5th grade :( (though it's later in Berlin, and doesn't happen in 'Gesamtschule' (comprehensive school) where my kids have gone). No matter what though, I don't think higher education should be as insanely expensive as it is in the U.S. I just don't understand that.

I must tell you that today my daughter has heard from the University of Edinburgh that she's been accepted to their Sociology and Social Policy program! She's really thrilled :) and I'm so happy for her too because she's worked so hard.

JJ Beazley said...

Bloody foreigners! Coming over here taking our jobs, our women, our university places... (Better hope UKIP don't win the election in May.)

Very pleased for your daughter. It's heartening to know that somebody out there is thrilled about something. Congrats to her.

Do you know, I've never been to Edinburgh. I drove through the middle of it once when I was using an old map that didn't show the big new ring road, but I only stopped at traffic lights. Those who do know it, however, tell me it's a beautiful city with a convivial atmosphere. I knew somebody once who read English there, and she certainly liked it (although her main area of praise related to the number of different flavoured vodkas available.) And din't it spawn Harry Potter?

Della said...

ha, ha...foreigners, yes. Don't scare me about UKIP! Thank you for the congrats. I believe Rowling did a teaching course at the university and completed her first Harry Potter novel there. Alexander McCall Smith is also associated with the university (not sure if you like his books). But yes, I think young people are looking more at how 'liveable' a university and city is, its social life potential, etc. My daughter is not the biggest drinker but is fascinated by the Festival Fringe as she's spent years in an English youth theatre here. I found Edinburgh indeed a lovely city, though it can be austere in the gloom.

JJ Beazley said...

Scots generally are austere in the gloom. Consider that comment deleted (especially as Scotland has always seemed to me to be a more civilised place to live than England. Their history wasn't quite as conditioned by Norman feudalism as ours, and sometimes they suffered for it.) And it's a good job she isn't going to Aberdeen. Most of the public buildings there are dark grey granite. I sometimes wonder any of them survive the winter.