Criteria 5 of the latest list from John G. Gunderson. Taking a deeper look into this one was the original reason I wanted to get into these conceptions more thoroughly. Along the way, in even a few days, my own perception of what this means to me has evolved.
- Hypersensitivity, meaning an unusual sensitivity to nonverbal communication. Gunderson notes that this can be confused with distortion if practitioners are not careful (somewhat similar to Herman's statement that, while survivors of intense long-term trauma may have unrealistic notions of the power realities of the situation they were in, their notions are likely to be closer to reality than the therapist might think)
Hm. I’m wary of this because I don’t want to confuse it with distortion. So I found a couple of definitions that seem pretty accurate to me.
1.) Hypersensitivity (also called hypersensitivity reaction) - Hypersensitivity reactions require a pre-sensitized (immune) state of the host.
- This definition refers to the immune system, but I think it fits with the mental state of the Borderline Personality as well. We are pre-sensitized to the emotions projected from ourselves and from the world, making the additional pressure compound even more.
2.) Being hypersensitive could be described as being allergic to life. For the highly sensitive person (HSP) a seemingly ordinary day can be overwhelming. Even the most subtle of stimulants a person encounters on a daily basis can be over-stimulating. Energies associated with touch, noise, scent, light, etc. are often too quickly or deeply absorbed by the HSP. As a result, the HSP may become mentally confused, emotionally upset, and/or physically uncomfortable. Hypersensitivity is also associated with a heightened sense of awareness and intuition. This makes being a HSP or empath a two-way street.
For me, hypersensitivity comes most often in social interactions. Too many voices, too much noise, too many people, too close. Voices volleying back and force. The crush of noise pressing inside my head, filling my mind and making it frantic, reaching for the quiet. Bodies sharing my space, not leaving me enough room, not enough air to breathe. Too many eyes falling on me, dissecting me. Turning me inside out so all I can feel is the falling back into myself.
Flashes, too bright, 8 mm film reels, projection noise, film flapping, screeching halt, Go, padded hallways constricting as you make your way through, goose down filling your lungs soft and suffocating.
It’s almost impossible to follow one line of thought, every external conversation clashing with the internal monologues branching off and running away in my own head. The noise is deafening, lost in the static. Everything comes too fast, and I can watch myself, too slow, cover my ears and hold myself together. That slow motion screen shot of a woman screaming, curled up in a corner, pulling at her hair to make it all stop…. Except it’s just another day, at the dinner table, in a friends living room, out to lunch with co-workers.
Other days it’s like feeding off of other people’s energy. Calm people are the best. This is one reason I do like Friend so much. When it’s just us, the influence between us is very calm, almost silent. Still. Other people, most people, have fragmented energy, turbulence that rolls off of them in waves. It’s clear in the motions, their manner and speech. Impossible to ignore, it permeates the thin skin separating us and their energy leaks in, pushing our own out. It’s too easy to feel what they feel. Confusing. I have a hard enough time figuring out my own feelings most days. The last thing I need is to figure out someone else’s and pick it apart to figure out which is mine and which is foreign on top of that.
Most days being hypersensitive isn’t too much of a problem. Eyes are the worst. I hate people watching me, looking at me. I keep to myself. Keep random conversations to a minimum. I’ve perfected a determined pace and lack of eye contact that keeps my interaction as little as possible. Oddly, I love being out in the machine shop or the lab floor. I’ve always loved being out in the shop. The metallic smell, the loud machines, everything running and operating, noisy and dirty… mechanic. Machines. Not people. Machines don’t overwhelm me. Just people.
Other times I think this contributes to reading too much into other peoples actions. Bridging the emotional gap between a normal relationship and the distorted one. Every compliment is uplifting, creating a warm glow. Every small gesture a glimpse into what another person is feeling. If you can see it, it must be there. You can read more in a person’s body language than from what they’re actually saying more often than not. Picking up on the unspoken cues, especially when they’re in conflict with the verbal ones, is a mess. Thoughts collide and become a confusing mash of disbelief and desire. Not knowing what to believe and what you want to be true. Even the smallest negative reaction, building on other actions pointing down a path you don’t want to travel. Noticing everything. When someone pushes back, even a little, it’s obvious. Why? Because we look for it. Hoping it’s not there, but expecting it, seeing it, is frightening. Then what do you do from there?
All of it. It makes me cringe. Stops my breath and curl into a ball. Flight. I can’t fight it out and expect anyone to treat me as sane. I walk out, walk away. Learned to hold it in, until I can get myself out. Getting out is the only thing I know to do. Remove myself from the source, the scene, until I can get a handle on my reality and calm down. Stabilize myself enough to go back and keep going. It doesn’t always work. Sometimes I have to leave completely, go home and go to bed, or just drive aimlessly, left alone to the quiet night. I like the darkness. My monsters lurk in the light.