HSPs – exploring, understanding, transcending, accepting

My mum used to tell me how I would scream if we were walking out and they were digging up the road. I couldn’t stand the intrusive screaming noise of the drill. Similar would happen when the spin cycle came on the washing machine. That noise! So overwhelming.

My dad loved to call me “Fuss-pot Annie”.

My boss, in a job I once did, did a great job of mocking and humiliating me in front of others when I jumped and yelped (a little) after being startled by the static when I touched the photocopier. I was startled by the shock and shocked by her reaction.

None of them understood.

And I didn’t know then what I know now. Now, having had Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person brought to my attention, I recognise myself as an HSP – someone with the innate trait of SPS (Sensory Processing Sensitivity).

What a relief to have learned that I am -that HSPs are normal even if in some way different. That I am – that we are in good company with around 20% of the population.

And it’s not only the human population – apparently at least 100 species have HSPs among them, and all horses have this trait to some degree.

Today in the park I became aware of an incredible dog, a rather large dog, with stunning colouring, standing very still. It had a very special way about it with a gentle, calming presence despite its grandeur. I spoke with his owner and learned that he was a therapy dog, taken two or three times a week to visit and help patients in hospital. A highly sensitive dog. Horses are often used as therapy animals too. HSPs bring a highly nurturing added value.

HSPs anyway have a deep, intuitive and perceptive empathy for others – the struggle is often finding acceptance for the self. Especially if we were misunderstood and not supported in the way we needed when we were children.

So adulthood as an HSP can arrive with a legacy of compromised self-esteem and highly-charged struggle. However HSP children who have appropriate encouragement and support often do better than others in adulthood. So, if you’re the parent of an HSP child, I recommend even more so that you are clued up in how to best support them. It will pay off.

For HSPs who have been scarred, it is possible to transcend the past, heal the old hurts. With education, exploration and learning comes discovery, insight and awareness and the chance to move from that harsh place of self-berating, self-loathing, self-denial, low self-esteem, ambivalent self-acceptance to a gentle and generous space of understanding, compassion, self-acceptance, self-belief, self-confidence, self-value – and more.

So, get learning!

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Surviving and thriving in challenging times

The pen is mightier than the sword, so I’ve heard … 

I wonder what is mightier than the screen? Hopefully, our innate, intelligent wisdom of the soul can help us bring the screen and the pen, our eyes and ears, hearts, mouths, microphones, cameras mobile phones and keyboards to good use for the good of the world.

Oooof what crazy times we’re living in – with all the shocks and disappointments and reactive fears running around it can be hard to get a clear enough head to write anything that feels coherent. But here I am – in the midst of it all – breaking through ..

Blending screen and paper with a vid about books, two to read, one to write in. I wanted to introduce you one to draw in – my Daily Doodle too – but that is going to have to wait till another time.

The two to read are:

  • The Four Agreements – A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, by Don Miguel Ruiz  and
  • The Highly Sensitive Person- How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron

The Four Agreements is a wonderful wee book of wisdom, written in a very accessible style. If you’re feeling weighed down with struggle and grappling with your relationship with yourself and the wider world, dip your head, heart and soul into The Four Agreements for some insight into how you can relate to it all differently – and more happily and healthily.

If you have ever been called a fuss-pot or a likened to the Princess and The Pea, the I also recommend The Highly Sensitive Person. Elaine Aron writes about the 15-20 per cent of the population whose central nervous systems are more sensitive than the general population. This brings benefits and challenges – the benefits including being highly intuitive and more aware of subtle nuances that other people might miss. The challenges include being highly sensitive to – and needing to take more breaks from – things like noise, bright lights, “busyness”, extreme climates, changes to sleep patterns, lack of sleep…

It can be all to easy to see these features as a bit of a disability in that, on the surface, they don’t fit well with the “pushy”, outgoing cultural demands of the western world.

However, on deeper examination, the HSP’s have much to offer the world if only we can learn to accept, understand and appreciate ourselves better.

The first edition of this book was published way back in 1999 and how I wish I had come across it then. Unfortunately I only heard about it a year or so ago and I have only now just read it. If you recognise yourself if any of the descriptors I’ve noted above, I urge you to read this now – don’t wait!

And just to be clear, I don’t any kind of affiliate fee for recommending these books – it’s purely a matter of resources that I have found helpful and I want to share with you.

The one to write in is a little diary that I use specifically as Gratitude Diary – where I record 3-4 little bullet points every night (okay I do occasionally get distracted and forget – I am human) so let’s say most nights – of things I appreciate /am grateful for.

Could be something as simple as I got a seat on the bus – or one thing got cancelled which made space for something else or I saw a beautiful blue sky, the sun came out – I heard a bird singing a beautiful song, a child smiled – had some gorgeous chocolate, spotted some beautiful and sensuously scented flowers, that thing I need to buy is on offer … Anything that can help to shift a rotten day into something not so bad after all – and an okay day into an excellent one. Nuggets.

The one to draw in is my Daily Doodle – but more on that another time ….

Meanwhile sending you love and best wishes and Permission to be YOU.

ThankYou!

Annie

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The Paradox of Play

L084050annwig016What do you think of when you see or hear the word “Play”?

Spontaneous? Carefree? Free-for-all? Imagination? Fantasy? Childhood? Make-it-all-up-as-you-go-along? Chaos? Anarchy? Freedom?

Do you also think about frameworks? Structure? Rules of Engagement? Rules of the group?

There’s an unspoken paradox at the core of play/playfulness – in that it is, at the same time, both “rule-free” and rule-bound.

It hadn’t occurred to me until I started reading up about Play. I am very much attracted to the Freedom side of Play – the side of play playfulness that liberates us from obligations to meet specific targets, outcomes, results imposed on us by external forces, be they img_0820colleagues, family, our boss or simply a biological imperative. I love and crave the freedom to let my mind roam free, indulging my senses, feeling the warmth of the sun on my skin, smelling roses or jasmine, being caressed by beautiful music or a gentle hand. wp_20160329_11_47_45_proFeeling the power of the sea pull the sand between my toes. Taking a brightly coloured pen or pencil and doodling without any particular plan about what is going to emerge. Tweaking a recipe to add flavour and spice. It’s all part of play.

And yet, play does have rules. Especially social play. Even solo play has parameters and criteria by which we can define it as play …. that the player is at liberty to quit at any time, for example, and that the focus is on the activity itself not a specific end result. For more specifics about the elements of play, I suggest a foray into Stuart Brown or Peter Gray. Ah I just love saying Gray on Play!

Social Play, as I was reminded by Gray has rules that need the agreement of all the players. It can incorporate fantasy and have a broomstick be a flying machine – or a horse, or whatever the chooses to have it be. But the fantasy game is only upheld if everyone in the group agrees on the same fantasy.

If someone doesn’t like the rules, they are at liberty to quit and leave but they will only be able to change the rules if everyone else in the group agrees.

In this way, children come across and learn about individual freedom – looking after their own needs and wants – and looking out for and taking care to meet the needs of others. It’s a hugely important part of socialisation.

wp_20150806_11_44_04_proIn the adult world we can face a lot of prejudice against Play. It’s deemed pointless, a waste of time, childish, irresponsible, indulgent, lazy, undisciplined, free-wheeling, coasting, unproductive … oh I could go on but I shan’t…

And yet Play can teach us so much. It relaxes the mind allowing our creativity to flourish. It paves the way for innovation, novel problem-solving. It recharges our batteries allowing for increased, not decreased, productivity overall. It creates and enhances social bonds- great for networking. It gives us the freedom to learn and ‘fail’ without the world crashing down.

Yes, Play provokes Fear and Play invokes Freedom. Play is rule-free and rule-bound. The Great Paradox of Play. I’ll write in more detail on Play another day. For now, I’d love to know …  How will you play today? 

I’d love to hear what you have to say.

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Play Date – Trial and Error

Hello!

 

L084050annwig016I thought I had already posted this post on here but it seems to me now that I had not! It was originally penned back in 2008 when the blog was called “Kitten with a ball of string” – but still stands true today. In Praise of Play – Play Date, Trial and Error.

In keeping with the theme of Kitten with a ball of string – I’m wading right in with my very first blog post in playful experimental mode.

Blog? To be honest, just now it feels like I’m groping my way through a pea-souper fog – and yet I’m smiling. There is so much to learn. So much to explore and find out. I’m teetering between overwhelm and unbridled excitement.

How to add my photo? What font do I want? Will I like the text colour I chose? Will the blogger prog publish my text in the colour I chose? Will anybody else care? Will I inspire? Will I be dire? Will I be a blog-post hi-flier or bury myself in a blogging quagmire?

No matter, I’ve decided to play.

ParkPic IIWhat I love about the notion of a kitten with a ball of string is that the kitten learns so much from something so simple. What a much more fun way to learn than being stuck in a school classroom all day! – Ah, apols to any parents trying to cajole their kids into loving school – I have no wish to cause you any troubles – but come on, admit it – the kitten does seem to have the edge in the fun department….    And it learns without learning being a burdensome bag of hard work. Kitty plays, kitty messes up, kitty tries again, kitty gets closer, kitty learns, kitty wins…

That’s the kind of learning I like. That’s the kind of living I like. Fun. Playful. Carefree. Sparkling. Getting the serious stuff done while having it feel like sailing on a joyous magic carpet ride.

ParkPic IWhat do you believe about learning? About life? About creativity? About productivity?

Must playfulness cease the minute you become a grown-up?

An adult’s lot is to be serious, work hard, nose-to-the-grindstone. Discuss …

An adult has the right to be creative, to experiment, to explore, to discover, to produce. And the right to individuation, self-expression, art, play, passion, compassion and bright-eyed sparkle. Sparkle versus grindstone. Compare and contrast!

I didn’t know exactly what I was going to write before I wrote this. I could have spent hours trying to craft the perfect blog post. But I didn’t. I just got right there and started writing – chasing the words and ideas like they were multi-coloured balls of string (or wool). I dipped my paws in! I skitted around. I played, I wrote, I’m posting.

Kitten with a ball of string – U Sparkle!

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Where do you feel at home?

IMG-20151022-WA0001WP_20160320_15_05_05_ProIt’s spring time in Tel Aviv and the wild flowers are in bloom. The blistering sun has begun to show us what it’s made of but has not yet parched the land dry. The grass is still green. Beauty in bright colour offsets the the White City buildings, the coastal cliffs and the clear blue sky. No matter if the building is boxy or curved, white or a dirty, sandy, browny beige, the effect is the same. A luscious sense of spring and renewal. A gentle pulse in a generally throbbing city.

WP_20160320_15_03_11_ProThe sand on the beaches isn’t yet too hot to touch and can caress blissed out bare feet. No giant ants yet either nor jellyfish in the sea.

It sounds idyllic. But still this is no easy place to amble on a gentle walk. The pedestrian has to fight for space with pumped up cyclists on electric bikes – who too often do not stick to designated cycle lanes. Then there’s the segway enthusiasts, the skateboarders … the hard clack-clack of the “matkot” players whacking a ball back and forth on wooden paddle bats with determined, agile force.

WP_20160320_15_02_36_ProTel Aviv, this White City Unesco Heritage Site. This beautiful, brash, charming, brusque, bewitching, utterly in-yer-face city. A constant cacophony of combustibility – everyone jockeying for position, wanting to be sure they are not being taken for a ride – whilst knowing that someone somewhere is mostly trying a trick or two….

This place where, if you have the money you can enjoy the best of great food, fashion – so many independent shops by individual designers as well as some global chain store regulars (although probably not at regular prices – imported goods can be expensive here). And if you’re young enough to still want to party all night you can find music and clubs and bars to do so every night.

 

WP_20160320_15_04_14_ProThere is so much potential in this tiny postage stamp of a city by the sea. It buzzes with energy and hormones. Bodies tanned and toned and beautiful. People from all over the world. Running, cycling, stretching, pilates, yoga, dancing, resistance and weights workouts on beachside and parkside gym machines. Bin men and street sweepers at 4 o’clock in the morning. Never stops. Never quiet. Even in a quieter side-street (there are some!) there’s probably building and renovation works going on at all hours. Traffic chaos. Digging the tunnels for the Light Rail … A city and a people always in action, always active, never stops.

WP_20160319_15_19_01_ProSo …. when I describe all of this, how do you feel? What is going on in your soul? In your body? Do you feel energized and alive? Do you feel overwhelmed and wanting to contract and curl up and close down? A bit of both? What strikes you about the effects on you from what I write and the images you see?

 

My point being, where do you feel at home? How clear are you on what kind of environment suits you best? Or to give a bit more flexibility, lets move the “s” and ask what kind of environments suit you best? In your own life, are you in an environment that suits you? Does your environment nourish and respect who you are? Your body rhythms? How sensitive are you to your environment? Very? Not at all?

I invite you to give yourself the gift of time and space to get really clear on this. You are most welcome to add your comments below.

WP_20160320_14_32_41_ProAs for my own take, I would say I’m among the “very sensitive to my environment” camp and there are times when the relentless energy of this place overwhelms me and I have to escape to calmer quarters. I have a sort of love-hate relationship with here – can’t live with it, can’t live without it. And even should I leave it I will always be drawn back. And always love the flowers.

© Annie Wigman

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Who decides what’s right?

IMG-20151022-WA0001Decisions, Decisions. Who decides what decision is the right one for us?

People love to help. People love to advise. People love to caution. People love to encourage. People love to criticise. People love to build you up. People love to cut you down. People give you answers that would have you live their lives, fulfill their, as yet, unrealised ambitions. People give you answers that reflect their fears … and the list could go on.

So how, in all this forest of advice can you know what’s right for you? And how can you deal with a change of mind later on when you have the benefit of hindsight and personal experience to call on?

Last time I wrote (in early October 2015) I had just made a huge transition in my life. I had newly emigrated from my homeland – the land of my birth to my other homeland – the land of my people.

WP_20160204_16_43_10_ProOne of the strange paradoxes of winter in Tel Aviv is that of putting on more clothes to wear indoors than outside. Outside could be anything from 17 to 26 degrees (yes even in February) – warmer than many a summer’s day in England.

But indoors, especially on days when the sun doesn’t shine, and at nights when the sun’s gone down, with stone floors, no central heating, no heavy curtains, carpets, no double glazing, old buildings hurriedly thrown up on the 1950s and designed largely with hot summers in mind, and often riddled with damp, indoors in the winter it is FREEZING.

Indoors you may well need sweaters and coats and thick boots and scarves. And hot tea. And you’ll still be cold. And then you go outside and Ooooof need to take that coat off and oh those boots and those cosy socks feel too warm and constricting around your feet. It’s bizarre. It’s all upside down and back-t0-front compared to what you’re used to.

Or, to be more precise, compared to what I am used to.

Because I knew this would be the case (I have been here in winter before) and decided to come here anyway. And I also knew that, despite the sunshine and the sea, this is not always an easy place to live.

For some people this land is the only place they would consider to be their true home. For them the decision is simple. No matter what, despite any and or all hardships, discomforts and challenges and financial or social or cultural constraints that may come their way, living here is their dream, their destiny, their only right decision. They have a certainty, a depth of faith and commitment such that nothing could put them off or make them deviate from this path they have chosen.

Others find it all a bit too much. Family and Finance. In general, whilst incomes here may be generous compared to Eastern Europe, they are low compared to the UK or US and prices are high. Without a partner or family and/or without a significantly well funded bank balance, or the energy and stamina of youthful blag and bravado, life here can be exhausting and start to feel like a challenge too far.

WP_20160204_13_16_57_Pro

WP_20160204_13_17_05_ProWhy am I writing all this? Because I am unsure. I am certain that what I did was brave. Maybe courageous. Maybe foolhardy. But at the time it was the right thing. I had to do it for me, regardless of the people who wished to encourage and the people who wishes to dissuade and deter. And now?

Now maybe I’ve reached another of those fork in the road moments. My decisions, my choices might have consequences that will be logistical nightmares. Temporarily. Or bring financial or social and emotional hardship. Temporarily? Permanently? In service of….?

In service of what? This is one of the key questions to get clear on when making major decisions. Then trust your intuition to help guide you through the maze of decisions large and small.

WP_20160204_17_12_39_ProThe jury is still out on where my future lies. But coming here has been an incredible voyage of discovery and learning about what really matters to me. Where are the boundaries and where is the room for flex.

Becoming clear, being clear and being able to stand in your choices, even if you change your mind are of immense value and will most likely save you from agonies of angst. Your way to clarity on what matters to you, your boundaries and your areas of flexibility may be different to mine.

I would love to hear some ways that you have become more clear on what matters to you and the challenges you have faced along the way. Feel free to let us all know in the comments below.

And be true to you.

 

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Emigrate, Immigrate, Integrate, Grow

L084050annwig016On Wednesday night I got into a groove.
On Wednesday night I made a huge move.

On Thursday morning I awoke in a new place.
And now new horizons, new challenges, new pleasure and joy I face.

Yep on Wednesday night, October 7th 2015, after some years of planning and prevaricating and “angsting” and excitement, I emigrated. I left my birthplace of London, UK and came home.

I’m yet to reach my final destination of “by the beach” in Tel Aviv – hope to be there in a few short weeks. Currently installed in a smaller town where my brother lives and relishing being around family – including nephews who are so tall I can barely reach them!

WP_20151011_15_35_56_ProAlmost as high a mountain is the admin and bureaucracy I have to embrace. But slowly, slowly and bit by bit it gets done. With help, of course. My Hebrew language skills are not too bad – better than many who come here – but having my sister-in-law by my side has made a huge difference.

And despite my familiarity with the culture here, there is much acculturation to be done. Although Tel Aviv is a cosmopolitan city, Israel in general is a very different world from the UK. This is the Middle East, where African and Asia come together, under a veneer of Western sophistication and gloss. It’s both a melting pot of magic and a witches brew of combustion. Passion, frustration, love, pain, drama, resentment, mistrust, fear, grief and an all enduring positivity and ‘can do’ stance.

WP_20151011_11_36_31_Pro

WP_20151011_08_41_45_ProEvery step here is a new dance to an old tune and and old familiar dance to a new sound. On Sunday morning I was glancing up at eagles soaring overhead. Today I opened a bank account.

I feel emotional, vulnerable, exposed, afraid, excited, full of anticipation, wonder and awe. I miss my friends in London. I look forward to seeing other friends who live here and making new ones. And the beach … oh the beach …

Taking Permission to be YOU can be found in small changes – tiny nuances of difference in your life. And it can also be found in huge, dramatic large changes. Right now I’m in the midst of both.

And it was evening, and it was morning, and it was good. I’m living through ongoing change. I’d love to hear from you about what changes you’re planning and making. Feel free and invited to let us know in the comments below.

With love and Permission to be YOU

© Annie Wigman

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Who says I don’t like Structure?

WP_20150810_12_04_52_ProWin- it-with-Wiggi and Cupboard Love

Does the thought of structure make you shudder? Do thoughts of planning give you sweaty palms? Do you see yourself as a free-spirit who loves to let life organically?

Do you much prefer to wing-it than plan? And on the other side to that, would you like to free up some time by being a bit more efficient?

Then check out this picture of my food cupboard. It’s kinda higgeldy piggeldy and yet it also has an organised beautiful symmetry. Yes I have limited space and I’ve had to cram loads of things in. But there is a loose weave Wiggi logic and sense of order whereby I (mostly) know where everything is. True there is another cupboard with a few more bits above it and yets, I do have to take things out to get at items at the back, but it all runs fairly smoothly bar the odd dropped item and a swear word or two.

Another win-win with Wiggi where I can wing it and zing it is what I do with my laundry when it’s been washed and ready to hang up to dry.

I don’t just pull it out of the basket at random like I used to. No, I lay it all out in piles – underwear, t-shirts, nightwear, and whatever else. That little bit of extra work at the outset saves me loads of time lost in messiness later on.

These are two of my ways of leaning into the win-win of being a free spirit who rebels against tight structures and allowing just enough structure to help things run smoothly.

So these are examples that have worked for me …. now over to you … I’d love to hear what you struggle with around structured efficiency vs winging it – and how you resolve it.

Let us know in the comments area below.

Best wishes, Annie

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Fussing in the name of Fairness

L084050annwig016“Fusspot Annie” – I still remember the sting of being called a Fusspot Annie in my childhood. It is such a demeaning, nasty put-down. I suppose I liked things to be “just so” … and still do.

Drama Queen is another moniker levelled at folks who are seen to make a fuss.

Derogatory terms for people who, perhaps, seem ‘difficult’.

Okay so we all know too much drama isn’t helpful. It can cloud the real issues and ramp up the blood pressure and possibly annoy other people so much that it creates the polar opposite of what we are trying to achieve.

So far, so in alignment with the fuss about being a fusspot.

But hang on … isn’t there another perspective? Isn’t there always?

What if, instead of jumping to a conclusion that a fusspot is simply an attention grabbing narcissistic drama queen (not being gender specific here by the way) … and we see the fusspot as pioneer, as a pioneering leader standing up for people’s rights? As champion for changing what is wrong?

True, it may not always be the case – and sometimes a fusspot is simply a fusspot and a pain in the proverbial butt. And I believe it’s well worth noting that sometimes a fuss truly needs to be made.

And the “fusspot” instead of being derided ought to be championed. Deserves to be heralded as pioneer, leader, standard bearer of what’s fair and what’s right. And in that vein I salute the fusspot with all my heart and with all my might.

Cheers!

 

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Permission to Reminisce, Permission to Grieve …

Memories of Childhood …

L084050annwig016AWDC_Outside_002Memories of Childhood.
Some are good, some are bad.
Some are happy, some are sad.
Something triggers, memory flickers. Reminiscing greets a smile – or grieving for a longer while.

Memories of childhood. Some are good, some are bad.
Some are happy, some are sad.
Grieving for what’s loved and lost – and things it seems you never had ….. Breathe ..

Life happens all around us, all the time. Sometimes we participate fully and enthusiastically and at others it can feels like it happens ‘to us’ whether we like it or not.

Much can be said and has been said about how we benefit from remembering that we cannot control events – what happens, happens, what IS just is. What we can do is consciously decide how we choose to respond to what is.

Refusing to wallow though, does not and should not mean denying our emotions in the moment. It is essential to allow ourselves to feel what we feel. And, to know that what we feel can change in an instant. Emotional ebb and flow.

The cabinet? It was my father’s. It holds precious memories for me of wines and liqueurs, of crystal, of beautiful wood and mirrored interiors, of sparkle, of guests in the house and excitement. Good memories, happy memories to counterbalance those that are ‘bad’, those that are ‘sad’. But it’s time to say goodbye. It’s out of my hands now. Time to let go.

© Annie Wigman

 

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