Author: Richard

Distancing Myself from Empaths

Over 3 years ago I described my understanding of empaths and acknowledged that I fit the description. I reluctantly admitted that there was something more to the empath experience than just being a highly sensitive person (HSP). Today I revisit the Empath label, and explain why I can no longer identify with it. Firstly, in recent years Elaine Aaron has been very clear that HSP is a trait, not a disorder, disease, schema, error in thinking, acquired preference, or anything else obtained through conditioning or experience alone. Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) is the more accurate academic description of the trait. There is new evidence to support it from brain studies and a growing mountain of qualitative evidence in the form of interviews, surveys, and clinical observation. See the Highly Sensitive Person Website and Esther Bergsma’s website for research details. Drs Begsma is a Dutch expert on high sensitivity, and while her website is in Dutch I find Goggle Translate does a good job converting it into English. Check out her blog on work stress here: …

Pros and Cons of Being Highly Sensitive

Defining Terms Sensory processing sensitivity, SPS, is the accurate academic term for the trait behind the more widely known and used HSP or highly sensitive person. SPS is my preference because it describes the trait, rather than making the trait the defining attribute of the person. Primary Characteristics of SPS/HPS are DOES: Depth of processing, overstimulation, emotional sensitivity and empathy, and sensing the subtle. Secondary Characteristics: DS Differential Susceptibility: SPS children who did not receive the engagement from adults that would cultivate a sense of safety, validation, and encouragement are more likely than others to be depressed, anxious, or shy, whereas those who received the necessary engagement as children do better in life than those who are not so sensitive. They are more confident and less likely to be depressed or highly anxious. Pronouns: I use the terms “our and “we” to refer to HSP/SPS as a way of personalizing or humanizing the trait. Pros Cons Depth of processing. Recent evidence [2], [5], [8] supports earlier surveys and interviews that suggest we have strong activation …

Truth and Beauty

“Truth and Beauty are fundamentally different. Whereas Truth is a property of statements, beauty reveals itself in the course of an experience with an object.” Howard Gardner Do you know what you value? I value beauty. I say in my profile that I value beauty and excellence, as well as truth and kindness. Beauty is #1. The older I get, the more my values coalesce around the holy trinity of values espoused by Aristotle and others: Truth, Beauty, and Goodness. What is the difference between the three? This post isn’t about making those distinctions. For that I recommend Gardner’s book, Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed. Or check out his lecture on the topic. I found Garner’s book to be helpful and insightful. For audio book lovers, it is available on Hoopla for free with a library membership, in many cases. That is how I “read” it. Beauty is a personal thing. I like blurry backgrounds in my photos, you don’t; I’m mesmerized by the beauty of daisies blowing in a breeze, you find them ugly …

Stones at the Sea Edge

The Quality of Light

My father was a master of illusion. Early in his career he was a photoengraver. He etched images in copper plates to run on mechanical presses. Later he worked the large camera in a newspaper’s composing room. He was an expert at creating half-tones, those images newspapers use that are made up of variously spaced and sized dots. Given enough distance from the surface, you don’t see the dots, and your brain’s pattern recognition system creates a meaningful image. Dad enjoyed the process, the technical challenges, and the end result. He was a stickler for quality, frustrated at younger workers who didn’t want to learn the subtler nuances of the craft, didn’t see the point of excellence in daily details. On Friday evenings when I was in junior high, I would stay downtown and wander from pinball arcade to Chinese restaurant to street corner with friends and then around 11:30 I would head to the newspaper office to get a ride home with Dad. If I got there early I sat on a stool inside …

3 Most Formative Books

3books.co is Neil Pasricha’s ambitious project to uncover and discusses the 3 most formative books of inspiring people so that he can compile a list of the 1000 most formative books in the world. I heard about the project from an interview Neil did with Dr. David Van Nuys on Shrink Rap Radio. I quickly became a regular listener to 3 Books, and have decided to make my own list. I like the word “formative.” Not favorite or “best” books, but the ones that formed you. What books shaped me the most? These three: These books fall roughly into the three categories of books that I’m drawn to year after year. Books of new ideas and theories (Spiral Dynamics), books about religion or spirituality (Pagan Temptation) and books that move me with their story and prose. As a highly sensitive person (or empath in the colloquial terminology) I exhibit the characteristics that HSP expert Elaine Aron summarizes as DOES D is for Depth of Processing O is for Overstimulation E is for Emotional Reactivity and Empathy …

A Year of Bokeh

It started when I looked at a photo by Eden Bromfield and thought, “woah, how did he get that shot?” I’d been looking at photos for months, deciding what I was most drawn to. What type of photos did I want to take? I liked both the ultra sharp landscapes that I would later come to understand are the result of a technique called photo stacking. And I liked soft (gasp) out-of-focus photos I would later learn were the result of a fortuitous geometry in the heart of specific lenses. But back then, gazing at that photo of Eden Bromfield’s I was simply lost in the beauty of it. The delicate over-lapping discs and rings of light echoing the cap of the mushroom and the general sense of glowing luminosity. I was enchanted. Learning the technique took a few months but it led me on a journey which culminated, finally a year later, in this shot: Different Kinds of Bokeh After viewing a number of the images with those glowing haloed backgrounds, I notices the …

BC Ferry silhouetted against Sunrise

Beauty Will Save the World

“Too often, beauty that is thrust upon us is illusory and deceitful, superficial and blinding, leaving the onlooker dazed; instead of bringing him out of himself and opening him up to horizons of true freedom as it draws him aloft, it imprisons him within himself and further enslaves him, depriving him of hope and joy…. Authentic beauty, however, unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond. If we acknowledge that beauty touches us intimately, that it wounds us, that it opens our eyes, then we rediscover the joy of seeing, of being able to grasp the profound meaning of our existence.” – Pope Benedict XVI Speaking to a collection of artists. The wounding, eye opening, joyful, grasping of profound meaning that the Pope described is an experience I’ve had. In fact I’ve had this experience many times and I now spend most of my free time putting myself in contexts where it might occur. It is not, of course, …