Attachment is forbidden. Possession is forbidden. Compassion, which I would define as unconditional love, is essential to a Jedi’s life. So you might say, that we are encouraged to love
– Anakin (Attack of the Clones)
I was watching Star Wars with my boyfriend, last weekend. (Truth be told, we were also nerding out and playing a star wars board game while watching the star wars movie.) Don’t lie. I know you’re jealous. It occurred to me that the struggle in the storyline serves as a pretty good metaphor for high sensitivity.
I mean…I’m not saying that all highly sensitive people are Siths and Jedis. But…there is a parallel to be drawn there. Have you ever gotten a “gut feeling” about something, and then ended up being proven right? Have you noticed that you tend to feel what others around you are feeling a bit more intensely than others? Do you seem to smell subtle scents before others around you do? Be moved by subtle cues around you that others might miss? Or be bothered by sounds that others don’t seem to notice? If not…do you, perhaps, know someone who fits the bill?
Doesn’t it kinda feel like a jedi-esk (or Sith-like) quality? Just sayin…
At any rate…my point is that it seems to me like the internal struggle that HSP’s feel can often look very similar to that which is portrayed in Star Wars.
Most HSP’s want to “master” their trait. They want to be the cool-headed Jedi’s of the world. Detached. Clean. Unperturbed by the “darkness” of emotions that creep into their work, their relationships, their lives.
It’s a seductive thought.
Except that it’s not.
Let me explain…
I have one grievance with this otherwise epic series. In it, there are two sides. The way of the Jedi is that of calm detachment and compassion. To become a Jedi master means to become impervious to emotional turbulence. To feel too much is to become attached. Attachment leads to fear (of loss). Loss leads to anger. Anger…to “The dark side.” The path of the Sith.
Anakin Skywalker became too attached to his beloved. To save her, he was willing to do anything. He was fearful of losing her. He couldn’t just “let it go.” Thus began his journey to darkness.
And don’t get me wrong, his character did some pretty f***ed up things. Killing Jedi children? Seriously? BUT…There is a part of me that felt for him…maybe could even relate to him. He felt things deeply. Fear and anger…yes. But also love. For his mother. For his wife. Was he too attached to them? Perhaps. But was he right to be frustrated with a Yoda who, rather than validating his experience and sense of loss, instead said “you must learn to let go of all that you fear to lose.” Yeah. I think he was…or at least I think he had a right to feel that way.
I think that this is the way we view emotions (and in particular…the intensity with which the Highly Sensitive seem to feel them). This dark icky thing that we would dearly love to override. Take out this quality that makes me have to retreat into solitude. Help me to stop feeling the emotions that other people are feeling simply by being in their proximity. Take out this neurosis that leads me to focus so damn intently on minute details. Make me stop feeling overwhelmed. Make me stop getting frustrated over things that others seem to breeze through. Make me one of those people who “hits the pillow and goes right to sleep.” Make me stop caring so f***ing much!!!
And like Anakin, we sensitive types often get the sense that we have a choice. We can either choose to ignore our emotional pangs and desire for connection…moving instead toward a simple life. A safe life. A quiet life. One of detachment. Monk-like. Or we can go all the way to the other extreme. We can take on the pain that others around us carry and hold onto it. We can take on the responsibility for others’ well-being as Anakin took on Padme’s. Only to become bitter and angry. Explode. End up severely hurt. Where a mask.
In other words, sensitive people often feel like they can choose quiet (possibly mundane) jobs, refuse social invitations, isolate…OR they can do virtually no self-auditing of any kind. Choose jobs that will lead to financial wealth and success. Say yes to social events so that they can look “normal.” Take on every project that they are asked to (because they are notorious for being unable or unwilling to say no).
They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. I say…hell hath no fury like an HSP that has been pushing herself too hard and for too long. They get bitter and feisty, eventually. They lose their cool, eventually. They explode. Or implode.
Either way, sensitive people seem to lose out on something. To say no to engaging in the larger world forces them to sacrifice connection (just as Jed’s forfeit matrimony). But to immerse fully seems to require that we wear a mask. Hiding our emotions and our needs and our humanity. Pretending we are invulnerable. Slowly dying from the inside out.
Obviously, in the film, Anakin chose the latter. He grew tired of constantly having to keep his desire for connection and attachment in check. He went full-throttle using his skills as he used to, but no longer in service to his well-being. Willing to risk himself and his own emotional stability for the sake of keeping others safe (his beloved in particular). He got severely hurt in the process. To move through the world safely, after that, he wore a mask. A uniform of machinery and shielding.
I think there has to be some middle ground, somewhere. Doesn’t there? There has to be a way to allow ourselves the pleasure and strength inherent in having a more sensitive nervous system without having to sacrifice connection with others. In other words – can’t a girl be “strong with the force” and still be allowed a life?
Doing so, it would seem to me, is essential for us. It certainly was for Anakin and Luke. In the end (years after Anakin “turns”), “Vadar” is presented with a son who is dying in front of him, crying out: “Father…please!” In that moment, it is that same attachment that stirs him to action. He risks his own life to save Luke. And it is not cool detachment that stirs his protective instincts. It is a father’s love that does it. A father’s attachment. It wasn’t the “light” so much as it was an emotional pull, but pulling him toward better action. Luke’s friends and trainers all begged him not to even try to “rescue” his father. Best to carry on with the order of things without detouring to save his father’s soul.
But Luke followed his instincts. So did Anakin. And only in so doing did they both defeat an empire. Victory for the rebellion.
It is victory that I am inviting other HSP’s to strive for. Not in the loud and flashy way of battle stars and light sabers, perhaps. Instead, I mean a more quiet revolution.
Why should “sensitive” people force themselves to abstain from life’s pleasures? Why should they feel like they need to retreat into mundane jobs, befriend only other HSP’s, surround themselves with a wall that allows them to live their lives separate from others? Why should they feel the only other alternative is to wear a mask?
Maybe the better route would be to find a way to quietly rebel. We can learn to stay engaged in the world without letting it overwhelm us. We can challenge the assumption of those who are not quite so…as Jung described us….neurotic…but without belittling their experience.
What might that look like?
It looks like a high powered attorney who leaves her corporate office to start her own firm and work her own hours. She doesn’t leave her profession. She revolutionizes the way she navigates in it.
It looks like a writer who learns to embrace social media.
It looks like a jack-of-all-trades who works part time in a book store, part time teaching a few classes, and part time as an accountant.
It looks like a musician who somehow manages to hush a crowd at a concert, inviting them to listen quietly to a sonnet.
It looks like book clubs in cafes brought to you by Meetup mediums.
It looks like saying no, sometimes. And yes other times.
Because in the end, none of us are served by hiding us sensitive types away. We have a lot to offer a community. To a relationship. To a workspace. And those who do not identify as being especially “sensitive” are not served when they are told they are superficial or callused. Are you kidding? We need those folks to be the explorers and adventurers. We need people in our lives who are decisive and social and light. Otherwise, how could we ever connect?
So if you ever feel like you are struggling between a life that is safe and quiet (but maybe a little lonely); and a life that is daring and glamorous (even if its sucking the life out of you)…try to find the middle path.
What might ti look like for you to stand at the intersection, rather than always being forced to choose sides?