Cultural anxiety is often thought of as the problem that occurs when a person enters a foreign culture and has to assimilate. Although it may not seem to apply to HSPs, it does.
Cultural anxiety occurs in people who do not fit social norms. Because we still live in a world that struggles to handle differences between people, highly sensitive people may suffer from a cultural anxiety because their culture does not understand them and tells them they are flawed.
Cultures are usually created around a sustaining economic system and the values of the culture derive from the values necessary to sustain that system. Those values, particularly if they are materialistic, can be at odds with the values of a sensitive person.
Cultural conditions can dramatically increase the social anxiety felt by an HSP, and that cultural anxiety can become deeply entrenched. If the highly sensitive person experiences rejection very early in life, the negative feelings and anxiety of an HSP individual may become a “set point”. A set point refers to a frozen physical, mental and emotional position of a person. It can be difficult but not impossible to change the set point once established.
HSPs can reduce their cultural anxiety with a concerted effort to develop gracious social skills. Most people respond favorably to kind and thoughtful treatment. Good social skills can reduce cultural anxiety which will improve the functioning and health of a highly sensitive person.
HSPs, Social Anxiety and Social Standing
Human beings categorize everything including people. Our brains and vision are structured to categorize what we see. We handle information in terms of what is useful to us and often categorize people in the same way. The process of categorizing over time is what leads to stereotypes and prejudice.
Prejudice and stereotypes can be difficult to stomach. It is important that a sensitive person develop perspective in order to live in a culture that devalues them. We have lived in a sensitivity devaluing culture for a long time and are finally starting to transition to a culture that will value the gifts of sensitive people.
HSPs And Cultural Structures
Because humans have been focused on survival as their primary objective, the more nuanced talents of highly sensitive people have not always been appreciated. Earlier cultures, however, found HSPs very useful. A tribal culture could use a sensitive person as a tracker, healer or shaman. Many filled roles as advisors and priests
because of their ability to detect the nuances that others missed. HSPs under these circumstances could alleviate or prevent disasters to the society.
Our science focused society has narrowed its perspective to the material as the only relevant information on which to base our lives and decisions. The result is a very uncomfortable world that fixates on “material” fact. The physical world is only a small part of relevant and important information as an energy sensitive HSP well knows.
The Ascendency Of HSPs
Our culture has devalued sensitivity, emotions, social sciences, and nature in pursuit of total material control of the planet. As we move away from this unsustainable material model of society, HSPs will become more important because their talents will become more valuable to the survival of our species and the planet. Understanding nuances of nature, nuances of real health – not a body held together by pills – even nuances of complex systems so they can be better managed will become important and better appreciated.
A competitive short-term focused society misses a lot of important information creating many negative consequences for nature and people. An HSP’s holistic approach to information can reduce the risks that a short-term focused society creates and help develop a more stable long term future for the human race.
A Social Role for HSPs
HSPs cannot and should not match the aggressive capabilities of a non-HSP. The social role of an HSP is not competitive. Highly sensitive people have great research skills and can enlarge the perspective of people around them with interesting and useful information. They can help minimize future problems with their ability to perceive imbalances and risks. HSPs are good at seeing another point of view, and can help bring people together. The kindness of HSPs can soften the burden of perfectionism in our society. HSPs make great friends and can take pride and comfort in the fact that they are very interesting people.