Your greatest strength.

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Are HSPs really targets for bullies?

authenticity

(Edited from the original 3/25/15 post)

People who are highly sensitive are often targets for bullies, but it’s not high sensitivity itself that leads to the bullying. It’s because of the dismally low self esteem that tends to go along with being an HSP, especially if we were raised by narcissists. Sadly, for such victimized children, they often find more of the same at school and this only exacerbates their already low self esteem, leaving them open to further abuse.

Narcissists envy and fear high sensitivity.

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Narcissists hate high sensitivity in others for two reasons: 1. They envy it because it’s something they can’t have or may have lost as children and it’s a sign of an authentic person, which is something they aren’t but wish they were; and 2. they fear it, because they know this quality makes it possible for to zero in on the emptiness hiding under the narcissist’s guise.

Their hatred and fear is expressed through love bombing followed by bullying and other forms of abuse meant to weaken the HSP. An HSP’s fragile ego can be destroyed or greatly diminished after years of bullying and abuse.

Sharon: an HSP who carried a can of Narc Repellent.

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I was thinking about a woman I used to know named Sharon.  She was an empathetic young woman who felt everything so deeply–but mostly joy and love.  She’s exquisitely sensitive but is also self confident (she was raised by very loving parents). She is comfortable enough with herself to show her vulnerability openly, allowing herself the liberty to feel all her emotions as well as share the emotions of her friends.

You might think Sharon is a magnet for bullies, but she’s not.  She makes friends easily because she has such a loving and positive presence and and people feel like she cares about them, and she likes herself too (without being at all narcissistic). They are right.

Narcissists avoid Sharon like the plague. Why? They would probably love to get their hooks into her if they could, but Sharon’s confidence in herself and easygoing comfort around all kinds of people scares them right off. While still being emotionally vulnerable, Sharon is invulnerable to narcissists because they sense her strength. She’s indestructible and they know it. As a result Sharon is never victimized and tends to attract other loving people as her friends, people who just want to be around her because she’s a lot of fun but can also cry with you if that’s what you need.

If you’re a highly sensitive adult whose self esteem has been destroyed by narcissistic abuse or a sensitive kid who has become insecure and fearful because of bullying, your high sensitivity will be expressed very differently than someone like Sharon.

Sensitive children do get tested by school bullies, and it’s harder to not let that damage your self image when you’re so young, especially if your parents are also bullies and have already done a number on your self esteem. But for an adult, most people will admire emotional openness and vulnerability or at least respect it–as long as they also know you respect and love yourself. People can sense when you’re comfortable in your own skin and narcs will stay far away, because they’re only attracted to codependent types who are unsure of themselves or their place in the world.

Being highly sensitive: a curse or a blessing?

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A sensitive person who hates herself will tend to act in ways that attract mean people and bullies to them. They are unsure of themselves, fearful, easily depressed or discouraged, easily hurt, easily frustrated, paranoid, hypervigilant, and insecure. They are afraid of everything, and like ravenous wolves, narcissists can smell their fear. They see this–not the underlying sensitivity–as weakness, and they will horn in on such a person for narcissistic supply or bullying because they’re an easy mark who will be too afraid to call them out on their abuse.

Things are very different for a sensitive person with high self esteem. Such a person will be appreciative, insightful, observant, compassionate, forgiving (but not stupidly forgiving), affectionate, creative, a good listener, empathetic, and with a well developed (but never mean or sarcastic) sense of humor. They are not fearful and they know their place in the world. They have a clear sense of their own boundaries (and those of others) and know how to enforce them if they think they’re being violated. They attract people like themselves as friends and lovers and these relationships tend to be self-reinforcing for both parties.

Narcissists know a strong HSP is powerful and dangerous to them.

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Malignant narcissists stay away from self-confident HSPs, because they know they’re much stronger than they are. They know they’re dealing with an authentic person who is happy with themselves and with life, while they are anything but. They know a confident HSP (not the same thing as narcissism) has a laser-like ability to see through their mask without fear and won’t hesitate to call them out when it’s necessary. To a malignant narcissist, a self-confident HSP is a very dangerous and powerful person. That’s why they work so hard to destroy our self confidence and make us hate and doubt ourselves. If we’re crippled by abuse, they can still get what they need from us (supply), without running the risk of having any damage done to them.

As my confidence has grown over these past two years, I’m noticing a transformation of my lifelong high sensitivity from something that made me feel weak and helpless for most of my life into something that makes me feel strong and authentic. I know now that this “curse” and “weakness” I was born with is really a blessing and a strength. I just needed to develop enough confidence to be able to use it effectively.

Learning to love your high sensitivity.

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Here’ a few things I have learned.

1. If you have a talent or skill in one of the arts, use it to express what you’re really feeling. Painting, singing, dancing, writing, poetry–can all be ways we can release our deepest emotions in a “safe” way that’s socially acceptable. Don’t hold anything back when creating art, performing or writing. Allow yourself to be vulnerable even if it feels weird and awkward at first.

2. If you don’t have an artistic talent, take up a hobby that speaks to you or get involved in a sport such as running or take a martial arts class, which can build confidence. Activities that center you and build both inner and outer strength, such as yoga, can be helpful too.

3. Always be 100% honest about your emotions. If you’re very shy or fearful, write down your thoughts and feelings in a private journal. Don’t worry about the quality of writing–that’s all just gravy. The main point is to get your feelings down on paper. Seeing your thoughts on paper (or a computer screen) will give you clarity. If you choose to blog publicly instead, you will gain confidence from expressing your most private feelings to the whole world and from the feedback from others you will get. It can be very scary to publicly post something you wouldn’t tell your next door neighbor (as I have now twice this week!), but believe me, it’s worth it. You’ll be amazed at how much doing such a thing will increase your confidence and sense of inner strength. At first you’ll feel like you’re running around naked in public, but you’ll be amazed by the sense of freedom and liberation running around naked can give you! 🙂

4. Every day, try to do one nice thing for someone other than yourself. If you’re really ambitious, you can try volunteer work to help the poor, homeless, children, animals, or anyone more vulnerable or less fortunate than yourself. In doing so, you will feel like you have a purpose, and that you can help others. Knowing you have made someone happier will raise your self esteem.

5. Listen to music whenever you can.  It’s second only to writing and blogging in my healing journey.

6. Surround yourself with positive people (not the same thing as positive-thinking nazis, who are often narcissists themselves) but authentic, happy people who accept you for who you are and don’t judge you.

7. Get narcissists away from you. No Contact is best, but is not always possible. If you can’t separate from your narcissist, read as much about their disorder as you can, and read about PTSD and complex PTSD and the devastating effects these character disordered people can have on the rest of us. Read books about highly sensitive people. Elaine Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person is probably the best known (and an excellent book) but there are other books about HSPs too. Write down your feelings in a journal your narcissist cannot access.

8. Try prayer. It does work.

HSPs and codependency.

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There’s a lot of discussion on the web about codependency as well as empathy, especially in the narcissistic abuse community. While it’s true people who are codependent to a narcissist also tend to be high in empathy and very sensitive, there seems to be a lot of confusion–people who aren’t too familiar with either term tend to believe empathic people are also always codependent. While codependent people are almost always highly sensitive (which is the quality that attracts their abuser to them and keeps them trapped in a toxic relationship because they believe they can “fix” their narcissist), the reverse is not always the case.

A healthy HSP (highly sensitive person) is simply an emotionally healthy person. They are confident and secure enough with themselves that they can resist the “charms” of an abuser. If a healthy person with high empathy does find themselves being drawn into an abusive relationship with a narcissist, they have the courage and presence of mind to pull themselves out of it and even go No Contact before they fall under the thrall of the abuser and before any damage is done. In fact, having high empathy makes it more likely a person will be able to “see” the red flags before anyone else, giving them a chance to escape and/or avoid the person.

A healthy HSP does not waste time trying to “fix” a narcissist. They know the chance of that happening is about the same as the likelihood they will sprout wings and fly to the moon. If a narcissist is going to change (I’m not one of those people who believes it’s not possible), it must be the desire of the narcissist and they have to work very hard at it, but no one else can “save” them except themselves, and it’s going to be a long, hard road if they decide that’s what they want. A healthy HSP will not allow themselves to fall into a love-bombing trap or be “hoovered” by a narc. Once they realize what they are dealing with, they will cut off any further communication. They know they can’t be nice about it, but must be firm. They may care, but they know they are not going to be the ones doing the fixing, and will be able to move on to a healthier relationship with someone they can actually grow with and who will be able to return their love.

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Our society today is also quick to judge those who have high levels of empathy and want to give back to others as being “enablers.” This happens even in the public realm, with the massive cuts in spending to programs that help the most vulnerable people of society and the blanket dismissal by the Powers That Be of those who want to help as “suckers” who are “enabling” the most vulnerable people. I don’t wish to get on a political soapbox but there’s something very wrong with any society that only values how “powerful” you are or how much money you earn. There’s something sick about a society that dismisses its most vulnerable members as “lazy and stupid” or “deserving” of their sad lot. Empathy is a virtue that has become increasingly dismissed as a weakness, but is actually the one thing–maybe the only thing–that could rescue modern society from completely self-destructing. Empathy isn’t a weakness at all–it’s a strength. If you’re a HSP you have this quality and should be proud of it and use it, not hide it away like a shameful thing. The narcissists who run things in the world would like us all to think it’s a shameful thing, but that’s just another lie they tell. It’s needed now more than ever. So, you are not an “enabler” if you want to help others; just be careful who you are helping!

Unfortunately, HSPs have often been abused themselves or have other disorders such as complex PTSD, and they often find themselves targeted by narcissists for abuse. Narcissists are usually attracted to people with high empathy because they know they can get the “understanding” and love they crave and will proceed to feed on the HSP’s emotions much like a vampire feeds on blood. They know it’s hard for such a person to say “no” because they can’t stand to hurt anyone’s feelings, so an HSP person is more likely to stick around and tolerate abuse than someone who is less sensitive.

If you are such a person; if you are very sensitive, cut your losses now! Staying around a narcissist who is actively abusing you is just not worth it, and there’s also a very real danger of being drawn so far into the narcissist’s web of deception and abuse that you could develop Stockholm Syndrome and begin to identify with your abuser. Once this happens, you could even find yourself taking on traits of narcissism yourself and colluding with your abuser. It’s an insidious process but it can and does happen; and it happened to me. Be careful. Your soul is a precious thing and you should not give it freely to anyone until you know that person can be trusted with it. That doesn’t mean you have to become hypervigilant and start seeing demons around every corner, but if your intuition is throwing up a lot of red flags about a particular individual, don’t dismiss them. They could save your life.

“Fragile Heart”

A friend sent me this video. Have the tissues ready. 😥

Lyrics:

There’s no place for a sensitive soul
In a space where your ego freely roams
And you’re a little bit narcissistic
And I’m a little too understanding, sadly
So you held me like your rose
Only to watch me whither slowly

But there’s no hope for the weaker minds
This, I know

You can’t take me down
For my fragile heart
I’ll start over now
With my fragile heart

Yikes! Does this mean I’m a narcissist?

Almost a year ago, I wrote this slightly jocular post after I read an article describing covert narcissism. It was the first time I’d actually read anything about it. Even back then, I recognized the symptoms as fitting me like a glove, but was far away from awareness. This slightly humorous, false self-deprecating attitude was typical of a lot of my posts at the time. I think somewhere deep inside though, I knew.

I can’t believe how different everything seems now.

Lucky Otters Haven

yikes
I just finished reading a Scientific American article that delineates narcissists into two categories: Overt Narcissists and Covert Narcissists:

When most people think of narcissism, they think of the public face of narcissism: extraversion, aggression, self-assuredness, grandiosity, vanity, and the need to be admired by others (see “How to Spot a Narcissist“). But as far back as 1938, Harvard psychologist Henry Murray noticed another breed of narcissist among his undergraduates: the covert narcissist. While the “overt” narcissists tended to be aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention, “covert” narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution [I’ve also seen this referred to as “inverted narcissism,” whatever that means].

Um, I’m prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, am known to be hypersensitive and anxious, and there are times I believe I’m being persecuted…

But it…

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Sensitive Children and the Adult Child in the Abusive Narcissistic Home

Excellent article about the devastating effect narcissistic parents have on the most sensitive children in the family and why they tend to become scapegoats. They grow up into codependent adults prone to repeat the same toxic patterns with others. But this doesn’t have to be a life sentence. Read on.

SITE FOR CREATIVE SOLUTIONS

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In a home affected with an abusive narcissistic parent emotions are repressed and become twisted.  Rules are built on shame, guilt, or fear.  Feelings are often not shared and when they are expressed, it is done in a judgmental manner placing blame on one another.  The narcissistic parent is self-involved and feels no empathy for their children.  They are incapable of mirroring real love and try to get their children to fulfill their unmet dependency needs.  The narcissistic parent’s unresolved drives for attention and caretaking takes center stage as the child’s early developmental needs are ignored and denied.  The self-involved parent shames the child for having desires and makes them feel guilty.  All of the family attention and energy is focused on the demands of the narcissist.

Sensitive children growing up in abusive narcissistic homes build their personalities based on what they have to do to survive.  Many of these children…

View original post 685 more words

Portrait of a non-disordered HSP.

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It’s a sad fact that many HSPs (highly sensitive persons) develop personality disorders and elaborate defense mechanisms like NPD or BPD just to cope with the world because they feel like they have no normal defenses against being hurt or abused. The double whammy is that so many HSPs have disordered parents who scapegoated or abused them, just because they can see the truth about their parents’ malignancy through their mask of sanity. Of course, this makes it even more likely for an HSP to develop a disorder where they successfully or unsucessfully attempt to hide their high sensitivity (true self). High sensitivity/vulnerability is a wonderful quality and is needed in this unfeeling world, but is not well understood or accepted in a narcissistic, materialistic society. HSPs who have developed NPD or BPD or some other personality disorder are not happy people.

Having the gift of high sensitivity is especially hard on children, who tend to be easily bullied at school, even if their parents are accepting and loving, because these qualities are seen as “weak” or uncool by other kids and sometimes teachers too. Also, since children are naturally narcissistic, HSP qualities in a child tend to manifest as being easily offended or hurt. A child hasn’t yet learned to use their gift of sensitivity for good purposes or to help others. So an HSP child can easily develop a personality disorder, even if it’s less severe than a child who has been abused from early childhood.

But there are rare people who are highly sensitive who seem to come through childhood and adolescence unscathed. I’d like to talk about one such person. It was a young woman I knew at one of my old jobs. Her name was Meghann. I don’t think I’ve ever met a person so attuned to life, so in touch with her emotions, so accepting of others, and so joyful.

Meghann was physically beautiful but never seemed that conscious of her appearance. She dressed casually and wore very little make-up, but she didn’t need it. While not classically beautiful or what most would call sexy, Meghann’s beauty came from within. Enhancing her natural beauty with cosmetics or baubles would be like gilding the lily (although I did see her dressed up on occasion and thought she was equally stunning).

I trained Meghann when she was a new employee at a call center I used to work for. I liked her immediately; so did everyone else. She learned quickly and was quick to laugh but never AT anyone. She just laughed because she found humor in just about anything it was possible to find humor in, and that included herself.

Meghann had a way of attracting people to her. Both men and women loved being in her presence, because it was so loving and positive. Not obnoxious-positive, in the sense of fake-perky “positivity nazis” that pervade our society, but she had a subdued optimism and there was a kind of glow that seemed to emanate from her whenever she walked into a room.

Meghann was one of those rare nice people who rises quickly through the corporate ranks. I’ve found in most places I’ve worked, the most narcissistic and cold people seem to get ahead, but Meghann was so smart, likeable and good at her job that she was promoted to a supervisory position within 6 months of my training her.

As a covert narcissist, I was envious at first. What was this? I had trained her! As it always seems to be for me, I was still stuck in my low level job; no one would promote me there, and this–girl–who was young enough to be my daughter had moved way ahead of me and in such a short time. In fact, she was to be my new supervisor!

But it was strange too–I really didn’t mind. Somehow I was able to forget about my envy because she was just such a genuinely sweet person and I loved her too. You just couldn’t stay angry or envious of someone like that for long. And, I had to admit, she had done everything to deserve her promotion. I realized I was actually happy to be working under her and I told her so. I was rewarded with a dose of supply because she told me that if it wasn’t for me, she wouldn’t have been where she was,because I had been such a great and patient trainer.

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Meghann laughed a lot but it was always a musical, natural laugh, never forced or fake, and she never laughed at people in pain or at tragedies. She laughed at herself as well as at all the absurdities the world has to offer if you just look for them. When Meghann laughed, people gathered around her to feel her joyful presence and be touched by it.

But Meghann was also very emotional. She was often in tears, not because she was sad or depressed, but because she felt everything so deeply. It wasn’t unusual for her eyes to become damp when she listened to you talk about some sad thing that happened to you, or even tear up when she was happy. I remember when she had her 26th birthday, and the department had all gone out on gifts and a cake (and we really meant it), she was smiling radiantly and wiping away tears at the same time. Even I felt myself responding and wanted to run up and hug her (I didn’t). She just had that effect on people. I don’t know one person who disliked her. She could tame even the nastiest, most envious people because of her joyful and accepting presence.

Meghann had many artistic talents where she freely expressed who she was. She could sing, paint, and take beautiful pictures. She made a lot of her own clothing which was original and beautiful. She was a person who knew exactly who she was and wasn’t ashamed to show it. You could tell she had enormous self confidence, but it never came off as arrogance, entitlement or grandiosity. In fact, most of the time Meghann was very humble. Not self-flagellating or fake-humble–she just never acted like she was somehow better than you or more deserving. She even blushed adorably whenever she was the center of attention (which was a lot) because she couldn’t hide her true feelings and didn’t try to either.

Meghann wasn’t happy every day. As a sensitive person, she felt everything, and sometimes the things she felt made her cry. When she was sad, everyone knew because she was quieter than usual and stayed in her office. But she was still approachable and never took out her depressed moods on other employees. You knew she’d been crying because her eyes and nose were pink, but she was never over the top about it and never sank into self pity or whining. She just felt her emotions and moved on.

I was in awe of Meghann. I couldn’t stay envious of her, although I had every reason to be (especially because she had been raised in a happy, normal family by loving parents–and I tend to be envious of people who had that). When she finally quit to move to another state, I almost cried along with everyone else. I couldn’t hate Meghann because in her, I saw the kind of person I think I could have been had my high sensitivity not been used against me as a young child and forced me to turn against it and try to be someone I never was.
My memory of Meghann still inspires me, because I want to be like that. I think I’m already halfway there.

Letter to my child-self

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Me at age two.

For most of my life I wanted to pretend you didn’t exist. You embarrassed me and made me look bad. You cried too much and made scenes. You were weak, sickly, scared of everything, and easily frustrated. You didn’t know how to talk to people and usually ran them off by telling them too much too soon. You were easily overwhelmed. You were too sensitive and didn’t know how to roll with the punches. I hated you. I just wanted you to go away and stop getting me in trouble and making everyone hate me.

I am so sorry. I was wrong. I’d been brainwashed by others. I didn’t want to understand you. It was too dangerous. I might have been punished or bullied for it. I was in fact. I couldn’t let that happen anymore.

It wasn’t your fault you had problems. That was done to you. You had no say. You were a thoughtful and deep child, who loved to analyze and understand things. You were intelligent and read a lot, always wanting to learn about everything you could. You were curious about human behavior and more than anything you wanted to be loved. You felt deep in your bones that the love you needed wasn’t there for you and you tried to find it elsewhere. But you already had internalized the message that you weren’t enough. That message was a lie.

You didn’t know it but your sensitivity wasn’t a weakness, it was your greatest strength. You just hadn’t learned how to use it and you were made to believe it was bad, but that’s another lie. It’s a sophisticated gift that is lost on children but you can grow into as you age. It shouldn’t have been a shameful thing; it should have been celebrated and nurtured because it meant you could see the truth about the world and the people around you. I’m sorry I couldn’t see how strong you were. I’m sorry I couldn’t see how much I needed you.

I can see you there, peeking out and wanting so badly to come out.
You deserve better. I’m not embarrassed by you now, for I have come to realize how much I need you to teach me how to be authentic and fully engaged. Let me hold you and love you. Cry your tears and laugh your laughter and teach me how to be you again, but this time tempered with the wisdom of an adult.
Come on out.

Everything is okay. There is nothing to be ashamed of. I was wrong to be ashamed of you. You are not weak. You are strong, much stronger than you know. You should have been understood and loved for who you were, not who they wanted you to be. I understand you. I want you to be who you are. I want you to teach me everything you know that I have forgotten.

Smile and come out. There’s nothing to be afraid of.

23 signs you’re secretly a narcissist masquerading as a “sensitive introvert”

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Ruji posted a link to this article from Scientific American and I thought it was so interesting it deserves a blog post of its own. (It’s also quite funny.)

Ever known anyone like this? Of course you have. He’s the nerdy bookworm you know who always talks (proudly) about what an introvert, INFP, or HSP he is, but always changes the subject when you have a problem you want to talk about or is suddenly “too busy” when you need help moving.

She’s your long-suffering, martyred mother who constantly whines about how much she does for you and how unappreciated she is.

She’s your quiet coworker who cries at the drop of a hat but complains loudly when others are given credit, rewards or praise and she isn’t.

He’s the sensitive songwriting hipster who writes confessional ballads about heartbreak and rejection but treats his girlfriend like a piece of furniture or sometimes a punching bag.

All narcissists are highly sensitive about themselves and cannot tolerate criticism, rejection, or being ignored. They are all very easily hurt and cannot laugh at themselves. But all narcissists–whether covert or grandiose/aggressive (the more traditional type recognized by the DSM)–lack empathy, which means they are highly insensitive to the needs of anyone else. The difference between an grandiose/aggressive (traditional) narcissist and a covert one is a matter of, well, grandiosity and aggressive behavior. An aggressive or grandiose narcissist believes they are special, unique, better than everyone else and demand to be treated as such (and will rage and attack if they are not), while a covert narcissist believes they are beneath contempt and expect everyone to give their problems #1 priority (and are more likely to sulk and whine than overtly attack). But make no mistake–both types of narcissists are emotional vampires because both think they are the most important human beings on the planet and manipulate and abuse others to get what they want, even though one advertises their emotional vulnerability and low self-esteem and the other masks it behind a facade of stoic invulnerability. Covert narcissism has been referred to elsewhere as “vulnerable narcissism.”

Reading this, a question formed in my mind. The items on the test for covert narcissism seem suspiciously similar to many of the characteristics of BPD (except for the introversion, but borderlines can be introverted too). In reading about covert narcissism and BPD in general, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of difference. Covert narcissism is not recognized as a disorder by the DSM but BPD is. Are covert narcissism and BPD the same thing? I seem to have a lot of these traits. Guess I’ll have to take the test at the end of this article.

23 Signs You’re Secretly a Narcissist Masquerading as a Sensitive Introvert.
By Scott Barry Kaufman

If I see one more listicle about introversion, I’m going to cry.

It started out with the fairly reasonable “31 Unmistakable Signs That You’re An Introvert.” Sure, many of the items on the list offered an exaggerated version of introversion, but there were some real gems that had a large grain of truth. Like this one:

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But then this happened:

22 Signs Your Dog’s An Introvert

“He often wears headphones with no music playing, in the hopes no one will try and talk to him.”

You’d think that’d be enough for a lifetime of listicles. But no… they kept coming, mixing together many different traits under the general umbrella “introversion.” For instance, some lists include shyness-related behaviors, but it’s well documented that shyness is not the same thing as introversion. Shyness is more related to being anxious and neurotic. There are plenty of introverts who prefer alone time but really aren’t anxious or shy when interacting with other people.

Another common misconception perpetuated by these listicles is that introversion and sensory processing sensitivity are the same thing. From “23 Signs You’re Secretly An Introvert”:

“While extroverts tend to get bored easily when they don’t have enough to do, introverts have the opposite problem — they get easily distracted and overwhelmed in environments with an excess of stimulation.”

Actually, sensory processing sensitivity is not the same thing as introversion. There are plenty of socially introverted folks who can deal with loud sounds and bright lights, even though they may get emotionally drained from too many superficial social interactions. Vice versa, there are plenty of socially extroverted individuals who get overstimulated by sensory input. A number of studies support that idea that sensory processing sensitivity is much more strongly linked to anxiety (neuroticism) and openness to experience than introversion.

But when I saw this listicle, I just about flipped my lid:

7 Signs Kanye West Is Secretly An Introvert

Really? Let’s clarify something here: Narcissism is definitely not the same thing as introversion.

Have you ever met someone who constantly tells you how “sensitive” and “introverted” they are, but all you actually see is selfishness and egocentricity? I’m sure you have, because these people exist in spades.

When most people think of narcissism, they think of the public face of narcissism: extroversion, aggression, self-assuredness, grandiosity, vanity, and the need to be admired by others (see “How to Spot a Narcissist”). But as far back as 1938, Harvard psychologist Henry Murray noticed another breed of narcissist among his undergraduates: the covert narcissist. While the “overt” narcissists tended to be aggressive, self-aggrandizing, exploitative, and have extreme delusions of grandeur and a need for attention, “covert” narcissists were more prone to feelings of neglect or belittlement, hypersensitivity, anxiety, and delusions of persecution.

In the 90s, psychologist Paul Wink analyzed a variety of narcissism scales and confirmed that there are indeed two distinct faces of narcissism, which they labeled “Grandiosity-Exhibitonism” and “Vulnerability-Sensitivity”. He found that both shades of narcissism shared a common core of conceit, arrogance, and the tendency to give in to one’s own needs and disregard others. But that’s where the similarities ended.

While Grandiosity-Exhibitionism was associated with extraversion, aggressiveness, self-assuredness, and the need to be admired by others, Vulnerability-Sensitivity was associated with introversion, hypersensitivity, defensiveness, anxiety, and vulnerability. Further research by Jonathan Cheek and Jennifer Odessa Grimes at Wellesley College found a moderate correlation between covert narcissism and the Highly Sensitive Person Scale developed by Elaine Aron.

In other words, while introversion, sensitivity, and narcissism are all partially separate traits, hypersensitive covert narcissists are more likely to report that they are introverted and sensitive.

Are You a Covert Narcissist?

By this point, you’re probably wondering if you’re secretly a hypersensitive covert narcissist masquerading as a sensitive introvert. Without further ado, here are 23 items that will allow you to gain greater insight into your personality. In a recent study conducted on a group of 420 undergraduates, Jonathan Cheek and colleagues found that higher scorers on this “Maladaptive Covert Narcissism Scale” tended to also score higher on tests of entitlement, shame, and neuroticism, and tended to display lower levels of self esteem, extraversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. In contrast, maladaptive overt narcissism wasn’t related to shame, self esteem, or neuroticism, even though overt narcissists reported feeling just as entitled as covert narcissists. It seems if you have to be a narcissist, it’s better to be an overt narcissist than a covert narcissist!

So here’s the test. Be honest with yourself!

Take the test and read the rest of the article here:
http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/beautiful-minds/23-signs-youe28099re-secretly-a-narcissist-masquerading-as-a-sensitive-introvert/

Crybaby.

kid_crying

WARNING: THIS ARTICLE MAY BE TRIGGERING.
I spent the first 13 years of my life almost constantly crying. I was a perpetually squalling cranky baby, a screaming tantrum-throwing toddler, a tearful preschooler, and a school child prone to attacks of uncontrolled crying in public places and embarrassing situations. During my teen years, my crying was downgraded to near-constant sulking and negativity. Tears came mostly when I was angry or frustrated by the time puberty hit. Rage frequently accompanied the tears, or maybe it worked the other way around.

I had the curse of the blonde and fair skinned, so my emotions showed on my face in neon reds and pinks against the white background of my skin. I blushed easily and that was embarrassing enough. I could feel the blood rising up my neck like a sudden wave of heat and my ears would start to burn. My bullies picked on my tendency to blush and would deliberately embarrass or humiliate me to see my ghostly pale face turn as red as a fire engine. If it went on long enough, my lips would start to quiver and there would be tears, and that’s what they were really waiting for–to see me cry.

The crying was awful. I wasn’t a pretty crier; in fact I was ugly when I cried. My skin would turn into a mottled red and pink that looked like a bad case of rosacea, my nose ran like a faucet and turned so red it was nearly purple, and my eyelids turned bright red too and swelled up as if they were bee-stung. It would take hours for these facial giveaways of my pathetic vulnerability to finally disappear.

I had a great deal of difficulty controlling all the intense and confusing emotions that seemed to crash over me like tidal waves when I least expected it. These feelings were just too big for me to handle, and I was so easily overwhelmed by them and had trouble soothing myself (this is an early indicator of BPD and other disorders like PTSD). Whenever I cried I thought I would never stop. No one could calm me down. My emotions were a force of nature too powerful to be tamed. When I wasn’t crying, I felt a constant dull ache in my chest (heart area) and congestion in my throat. Even that early, I knew crying would relieve the tightness and pain, but the crying was like vomiting and sometimes as painful because the intense waves of emotion plowed through me like an out of control bulldozer.

Raised by a narcissistic mother and enabling (possibly low spectrum or covert narcissist) dad, I became the the family scapegoat (made even more crazymaking by the fact that as an “only” in their marriage, I also sometimes served as Golden Child). I was either held on a pedestal that far exceeded my actual abilities/beauty/intelligence/whatever, but most of the time I WAS NEVER GOOD ENOUGH FOR THEM. I questioned myself and everything I did; it seemed I could do nothing right. I wasn’t allowed to do things for myself or speak my mind. I felt awkward and defective in my family and everywhere else too.

Not long after I started elementary school the bullying started. I was the class crybaby and kids always target the kid who cries the most or seems the most vulnerable. I had no defenses at all; I had never been taught any and lacked the confidence to stand up for myself. Things got especially bad in 3rd – 5th grades. During 4th grade, I was followed home every day by a group of kids who laughed and jeered at the way I walked and imitated my walk, as my tears welled and threatened to overflow (no wonder I hate mimes). The bullies would call out to me and sometimes even throw things to get my attention, but I wouldn’t turn around. I just kept on walking. I knew I couldn’t let them see the tears streaming down my face because that would make everything so much worse.

My third grade teacher, Mrs. Morse, was a psychopath with arms like Jello who always wore sleeveless dresses, so whenever she wrote on the board, all that quivering, pale freckled flab hanging from her bare arm made me want to throw up, but I still couldn’t take my eyes off it. It was mesmerizing in a horrible way, like a car accident.

Mrs. Morse knew how sensitive and scared of everything I was. She knew I was bullied by most of the other kids. But she had no empathy for my plight. She was a sadistic bitch straight from the pit of hell. She deliberately called on me whenever I was daydreaming, which was often (no kids got diagnosed with Aspergers back in those days and the idea of “attachment disorders” that lead to later personality disorders was an afterthought in those days), then she would make me stand in the front of the room and answer a question or solve a math problem while she glowered at me like wolf about to pounce and kill their prey. She never did this to the other kids, who were allowed to answer questions from their seat. She deliberately tried to humiliate me, because she knew she would get a reaction.

meanteacher

One time I couldn’t solve the math problem on the board (which was my worst subject), and she berated and belittled me in front of the class.
“You never pay attention. You’re always daydreaming. Do you have a mental problem?”
The class laughed.
My tongue was in knots and I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt tears burning the backs of my eyelids like acid.
I swallowed hard and tried with all my might not to let a tear loose but they started to flow anyway. I hung my head in shame and rubbed away the tears with my grubby fists as I turned away toward the wall. My narrow back and bony shoulders heaved with silent sobs.
That was exactly the moment this sadistic malignant narcissist who passed for a teacher was waiting for.
“Look everyone! Lauren is crying! Look at the tears! Cry, cry, cry, baby.”
The class burst into screams and hoots of laughter.
“Cry, baby, cry!”
I stood there in front of the class, staring at the floor, snot mingling with my tears, and longed to melt into those scuffed green-gray linoleum tiles, and never return.
In today’s anti-bullying environment, this “teacher” would have been fired for that shit. She might have even lost her teaching license. That kind of thing isn’t put up with anymore.

white_rabbit

Later that year, there was a similar blackboard incident. This time, I was stood in front of the room and told I looked like an albino rabbit when I cried. (I actually did, due to my fairness and my slight overbite.) I was mortified as this unbelievable cruel bitch encouraged the entire class to laugh at my pain and humiliation. I ran out of the room and fled to the library sobbing. The librarian was a sweet and very young woman (probably just out of college) who actually liked me and knew about my love for books. That library was my refuse and the librarian was my friend who understood me. This time, she saw me rushing in like that and held her arms out to me as I crashed into her and sobbed into her warm fragrant neck. We stayed like that for a long time, until Mrs. Morse (accompanied by one of her 9 year old flunkies) came marching in looking for me. Mrs. Morse grabbed me roughly by the arm and marched me back to the pits of hell she called a classroom. Sadly, I looked back at my librarian angel and saw the wetness on her face and her sad little wave.
She knew, and I knew she knew. I’ve never forgotten her. Sometimes in my fantasies I still see her waving at me with that sad tearful smile, and that image gives me comfort and strength.

I think my years of uncontrollable emotional displays came to an end when I was 15. They had already been abating somewhat, replaced with rage and anger, but I had trouble controlling my anger and constant dark moods, even though I wasn’t crying as much. I started to drink and do self-destructive things. I started “talking tough” but inside I still felt anything but.

The year before, when I was 14, my parents divorced and I was taken to live with my mother in the city. She loved it; I hated it back then. We fought all the time, mostly because of her self involvement. My grades slipped and I never did my homework. I was depressed all the time and cared about nothing. When I cried (which was still often) I usually did it alone. The other kids at school didn’t like me. I was never invited to parties, always last picked for softball. I felt intimidated and shy all the time, but I still tried hard to make friends–a little too hard. I fit into no clique (I have never fit into any clique) but there was a group of girls low in the high school pecking order consisting of the geeks and quiet, studious girls. They seemed welcoming enough at first. I saw their small (or more likely, polite) displays of acceptance and wanted so badly to believe they actually LIKED me that I guess I started following them around like a needy puppy.

charlie_brown_linus

I noticed after awhile they avoided me too, and my “birthday corsage” box was proof of my unpopularity, because it was not signed by all the girls and when it was signed, it was just a name. No long flowery messages, no in-jokes, no high-school risque comments, no “you are such a great friend” or “Love ya, Lauren. XXXXOOOOOO” Just…signatures and an occasional terse “Happy Birthday.”

My fears were confirmed later that day. After weeks of avoiding me, the group of nerdy girls approached me and told me they wanted to take me out to a restaurant for my birthday after school. Wanting so much for them to like me I remember grinning like a fool and nodding like the needy puppy I was. Inside I was a little suspicious, but dammit, I wanted to believe them! Maybe their ignoring me had just been my overactive, “oversensitive” imagination after all, and they really did care. Why else would they want to spend time with me on my birthday?

At the restaurant I was picking up a certain tension. The girls kept looking at each other worriedly and wouldn’t look me in the eye. As I ate, I watched their anxious faces. Something was up, and it wasn’t good. I felt like I was going to throw up. I spoke to no one.

Finally, Harriet, the leader of that clique told me she needed to talk to me–privately. I felt like I was on my way to the principal’s office for some transgression. My heart pounded in my throat and I felt tears burn the backs of my eyelids, but I didn’t cry. I bit my lip until it bled and tried to just breathe through my terror.

Outside, she smiled at me sympathetically. Then went on to tell me the real reason they had planned to take me to lunch was because they didn’t want me to hang around with them anymore and didn’t have the opportunity to tell me at school. She actually got tears in her eyes when she said this, and then told me she hoped my feelings hadn’t been hurt. Um…hello? But all I could do was stand there staring at her as if I was cognitively challenged. For the first time ever, I felt emotionally numb. I didn’t realize at the time that would soon become my new way of coping with my pain.

nobody_loves_you

I was traumatized by that rejection. I spent the next two days in bed. I felt sick and couldn’t go to school. I told no one what happened because the shame was too great. I didn’t cry; I couldn’t anymore. I just wanted to sleep forever and maybe die.

After that I couldn’t cry anymore. At least not in most situations that call for it. I had and still have trouble accessing my emotions. It was too scary to let them out, because when I did, bad things happened. It scares me to realize I might have easily become a narcissist, splitting off from all soft emotions, even empathy and guilt. Many narcissists started life this way too, without natural defenses.

I know now whenever I feel that painful tightness in my chest and throat, that means I need to cry. I’m not afraid of it anymore. I want to retrieve my long-ago ability to feel intensely connected to my emotions, because used properly, being an HSP is a gift and a blessing. The big difference will be that I’ll be able to let emotions pass through me freely and be able to express them without shame and without allowing them to overwhelm me or control me.