The Highly Sensitive Male

Today’s society talks about us being resilient, in particular at work and to skilfully manage the 24/7 digital life style, whilst also displaying the right level of sensitivity to any situation. It is a difficult balance to achieve. But does gender make a difference to success in achieving this balance or is it something else?

I remember years ago, when I was a victim support volunteer, a group of us were attending training and we looked at the impact of gender expectations on male victims in a society where there is a perception that a man should be the ‘stronger’ one, the protector. If a couple were in a home and there was an intruder, should the male spring into action to save the situation or could they hide? I am sure stereotypes have changed from those days, but I expect it is not enough?

Take this one step further and look particularly at men with the trait of Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS also known as high sensitivity) and things get even more interesting. Yes, they have the ability to perform well at work and yes, their emotional intelligence is clear to see, but sometimes, their resilience against the increasing stress and expectations of our busy, full-on world and the threats it offers can be an issue. This neutral genetic trait is explored in Tom Falkenstein’s book, 'The Highly Sensitive Man'.

Tom is a psychologist and cognitive behavioural psychotherapist. He trained with Dr. Elaine Aron, a research psychologist who identified this trait as mentioned in a previous blog: 'What on Earth is a Highly Sensitive Man'. Whilst there are unique advantages to having the SPS trait, I wonder if these highly responsive men, who make up about 20% of the male population, are also affected more by societal expectations of male identity and by their encounters with threat, than the others.

Dr Ted Zeff’s book ‘The Strong Sensitive Boy’ includes some illuminating comments from highly sensitive men about their childhood and upbringing and the expectations that meet them from the moment they are born. They have so much to offer, but can sometimes spend a lot of time hiding what they consider to be faults, but which, according to the science, are actually uniquely useful traits that benefit them and the groups they find themselves in, whether at home or at work.

I have known and worked with Barbara Allen-Williams in developing my knowledge on this very important human trait. I can support HSPs in their personal development within the Empowerment Coaching and LEAP Personal Development Course, together we can bring a new appreciation of their trait, how it enriches their lives and what they bring to the workplace and ways to meet challenges of the western view of masculinity, whilst continuing to enrich their life.

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