Sensitivity is one of the most misunderstood temperament traits due to toxic gender norms and stereotypes about masculinity and femininity. Come learn about the science of sensitivity and ditch the stigma you may have inherited about what it means to be a sensitive gay man.
In today’s episode, host Matt Landsiedel unpacks all you need to know about sensitivity with Clinical Psychologist Dr. Chris Horan.
Together they explore questions like:
- What does it mean to be sensitive? (the science and the stigma)
- What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
- Our sensitivity stories
- Unique challenges of being a sensitive man
- Why do gay men and HSP have such similar struggles?
- Challenges we face as sensitive people
- Benefits of being a sensitive person
Take the HSP test to find out if you are a Highly Sensitive Person
Join the next Authentic Relating & Empowerment (ARE) 8 week course
– Connect with us –
Join the private Facebook community
Take the “Healing Your Shame” course
Join the Gay Men Going Deeper Membership coaching community!
Welcome to another episode of gay men going deeper, a podcast by the gay men’s brotherhood, where we talk about everything, personal development, mental health, and sexuality. I am your host today, Matt Lance at all, and we are joined by Dr. Chris Horan welcome Chris. So today we are going to be talking about the sensitive gay man.
We’re gonna be talking about sensitivity. This is not a very common thing people talk about. And Chris and I have courageously chose to bring this topic to the forefront and explore this together because both Chris and I are both highly sensitive people. So we wanted to, to talk a bit about what it means to be sensitive to the science and the stigma of sensitivity.
And we’re going to share a little bit about our story, how, how Chris and I met, how we have worked together professionally. And we’re going to talk, like I said, about the science and the stigma of, of sensitivity, we’re going to share our stories of what it’s been like growing up sensitive men and sensitive boys. And then we’re going to explore some unique challenges of being a sensitive man specifically.
It is different for men and women. The way that sensitivity is socially conditioned and the appropriateness of displaying sensitivity is different between men and women. So we’ll be unpacking that. And then we’re gonna also look at the similarities between gay men and highly sensitive people. And the similar struggles that we share between each other that come from our social conditioning. And then we’re going to unpack the,
the challenges and the benefits of being a highly sensitive person. So we’re happy that you’re here with us today because who knows this may be you and we’ll go from there. So I want to just share a little bit about Chris. He is a clinical psychologist who sees adults who are experiencing a range of mental health, lifestyle, and relationship difficulties or difficulties adjusting to change.
He specializes in addressing emotional difficulties, such as depression, anxiety, shame, stress, or burnout related to be, to being a highly sensitive person, registered as a clinical psychologist with the psychology board of Australia and Medicare. Chris holds a doctorate in clinical psychology from the Australian national university. In addition to a bachelor’s of chemical engineering and commerce from Monash for his doctoral research,
Chris designed, developed and evaluated resilience training programs for the NSW police force. Through this research, he developed a deep understanding of resilience. He especially enjoys using this expertise expertise to support his clients, to establish the foundations for more fulfilling, productive, resilient, resilient, and healthy life. He grew up in a community in which his sensitivity was seen as a problem to get rid of instead of something to be understood and embraced after a long-term relationship breakup,
he awoke to the need to value this part of himself. And he went on a journey to self discovery, drawing on his understanding of what makes people resilient in his spare time. Chris can be found meditating working out in nature with friends, hiking or at the beach, or walking the streets of Melbourne with his adorable puppy. Yuko. Awesome. So Where do we want to begin?
We have a lot to share. Let’s let’s share the story of how we met. Do you want to share the story, Right? Yeah, I guess festival, I just want to say thank you. And for inviting me to be part of this podcast, to share my story and to share a message for all of those people who are sensitive and gay,
that they’re not alone, not alone. There are many of us out there, and this is an individual difference and it’s nothing wrong. And it’s something that needs to be priced also for those people who are not less sensitive to give you education around those people around you, who are more sensitive, such that you can help them meet their needs. Yeah.
That’s so I’m really pleased that we can do this together. Yeah. Because I think the experience for many of us is that experience of feeling alone in it. Yeah. Yeah. I feel, yeah. And I’m glad that you’re here today to do this with me and share this information because it was you sharing the term highly sensitive person with me that allowed me to understand my sensitivity in a whole new way and to understand the science behind the trait and,
and yeah. So I’m very grateful that you’re here as well. What’s your, what’s your I’m curious, what’s the recollection for you of how we met and how it all played out. And I wanna, I want to hear, Oh, that’s what I met you through. Obviously the gay men’s brotherhood reached out to you. Yeah. Because it was looking for people who I could relate to,
to talk about my own experience and understand myself, but also I really valued just your message relating to authenticity and, and, and the emphasis on community and connection. So that’s why I reached out to you. Yeah. That’s and just all went from there. I guess what, what’s your recollection? Yeah. Yeah. It’s very similar. We, we ended up doing some work together,
building some infrastructure for sensitives and we both, well, Chris, Chris first taught me about the highly sensitive person this term, which is meaning that somebody has sensory processing sensitivity, which we’ll get into later, but, and was like, I felt like, holy shit, this is the missing piece of the puzzle. And I I’ve been looking for this my whole life.
And finally, Chris offered me this piece of the puzzle. And then the course of my business changed at that time. I was working predominantly with, with gay men and, and I decided to kind of open up a whole other avenue for my business around working with highly sensitive people and empaths and other intuitives that are struggling with a lot of the same things.
I think gay men. And these, this demographic are a lot of similar similarities, loneliness, shame, fear, not feeling understood these sorts of things. So, and then Chris and I decided to develop a course called authentic relating and empowerment, which also Chris introduced me to authentic relating, which I was really grateful for as well. And so yeah,
our connection has really had a huge impact on my professional world and how I, how I, the modalities that I use in order to work with people, I think have been dramatically changed since, since connecting with you. So lots of gratitude for that. Yeah. And thanks for being so open for that connection. And for that, those ideas that we shared and for wanting to build something with me,
or I know that the people who were part of the early programs have really benefited a lot from it. So we ran program last year to program a few PR three programs for programs last year. Yeah. Three. And then we’ve had about 80 people go through the course already. So that’s pretty a pretty awesome. Yeah. I constantly keep on getting feedback.
So many of the people who did the program were my clients and they constantly say, oh, that course are now helping me a lot. Yeah. Really shifts people’s understanding of themselves and what they need in order to thrive. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. We’ll share a bit about the course after I think maybe why don’t we start with talking a bit about what it means to be sensitive,
because I think a lot of people have the stigma of being sensitive, right? Like, oh, somebody who gets their feelings hurt easily. Right. That’s like usually the go-to when you hear the word sensitive, but there’s so much more to this term sensitivity that we want to unpack with you guys. So do you want to explain to the viewer listener the science behind sensitivity and what it means?
Yeah. So there’s a, the term, the highly sensitive person was first coined by a clinical psychologist, Elaine Aron in the nineties. The understanding that there’s differences, individual differences in sensitivity in infants has been well studied for like decades, hundreds of years. But for some reason it was just assumed that, oh, once people get to adults, oh,
they’re all the same, but it was not the case. So she articulated the experience of an adult, highly sensitive person. And she, yeah. So she coined this term, the highly sensitive person and articulated the end, define divided all around sensitivity, being the experience. The 10 people who are highly sensitive is having, being able to notice things at a final level of details,
detail in different sensory domains. So that can be auditory. So it could be auditory, visual taste, touch, smell, also emotionally sensitive sensitivity, which is within the ability to notice activation of your organs and musculoskeletal system when your emotions are activated. So people who are highly sensitive, just notice these things more and it’s distinct. This is distinct from being sensitive to other people’s needs,
which is what is often you, which is which people often think of when they think of the term sensitivity. Oh, that’s, they’re very sensitive to the other person’s needs. I would call that empathic. Yeah. Very empathic. Whereas sensitivities, I can notice lots of things. And then there’s another distinction with reactivity, which is the extent to which you react to the things that,
to what you notice. Yeah. So there’s definitions, I’ll kind of elaborate on more as we talk. Yeah. There’s a, there’s a, an acronym that, that Dr. Elaine Aron uses to categorize the characteristics of the trait, which is, does D O E S and you touched on, on the E and the S which is emotional reactivity or responsivity and empathy.
And then S is noticing subtleties in your environment. The first two, the D and the O the, the D the D is a depth of processing. And I think this is a really important thing to note about highly sensitive people is that they process a lot deeper with more depth and breadth. So we tend to be able to notice things and process a ton of information from that.
So somebody could be saying something and talking, and we’re actually noticing their body language. And we’re noticing the little thing on the corner of their mouth. That’s moving, or they’re, they’re like the spasm and their face or anything, all these fine little details. So we’re, we’re constantly filtering all of this information and bringing it in. And, and this leads to what would be the oh in does is overstimulation because we’re processing so much information.
And this is usually the one category of the trait that most people deem as negative, which is feeling overstimulated in the nervous system, which means we, we have taken in so much information processing through our senses, the sensory aspect of our, of our perception, and it’s caused an overstimulation, our nervous system. So that, for me, it shows up as like anxiety,
it shows up as like feeling just fried, like totally frazzled, because I’ve taken on too much, especially if I do something like multitasking, it just really exacerbates my, my, my nervous system. So I think that’s really important to note anything else in the scientific aspect that you think is important to cover. I guess the main thing, the main thing from a scientific point of view is that it’s well understood that well,
the research is very clear. That being sensitive does not mean that a person will have better out worse outcomes in life. It really comes down to the, having a good fit between one’s nature, their sensitivity and their environment, particularly when they young. So if we have someone who’s highly sensitive and they are supported in getting their needs met, particularly to be supported in helping them to understand their emotions and to manage that other stimulation,
then the research has shows that sensitive people get better outcomes than less sensitive people. However, that’s, if they are so sensitive, people thrive in that context. However, if a sensitive person, a highly sensitive person is not supported in getting their needs met, they wither. So they get worse outcomes. And this matches up to an, a metaphor that research,
a pediatrician, Thomas Boyce, I came up with, it’s just the metaphor of the orchid and the dandelion, the Oakwood being the highly sensitive person and the dandelion being the less sensitive person. So the awkward needing I’m more, more attuned, a bit more nurturing, but it’s beautiful. Whereas the dandy line that can grow on the rubbish tip what we call rubbish tip,
and, you know, they don’t need that special nurturing, but they’re not as special as they open. They’re not as pretty. So anyway, I’m a proud orchid. What about you, man? Yeah, I’m a proud orchid as well. And it never, it wasn’t always that way. And I think, well, I want to go into our sensitivity stories,
but I first want to just note something that’s important about the trade as well is that it is a genetically inheritable trait it’s passed down through genetics and research shows about 20% of the world’s population is scores high on the sensory processing sensitivity test. And it’s also across about a hundred species, right? So it’s actually quite an adaptive and an evolved trait to preserve a species,
right. For the species survival. And I think, you know, you’re looking at how it would be beneficial to the human species. I think it’s, you know, people that are, that are highly sensitive tend to have higher empathy, right. They tend to be able to notice subtleties and environment, which means changes in environment. A lot of people that are highly sensitive,
they also report being able to kind of feel things before they come. Right. And this is important for the evolution of our species, because we want to be able to be empathic, be compassionate with one another. And I think the sensitive people on this planet are teaching people how to, how to do this and how to display empathy towards each other.
And also kind of being able to be the bullshit detectors of this planet, knowing, you know, noticing the things that are, that are happening in, you know, maybe behind the scenes that other people wouldn’t notice. It’s a bit like where the, I think that reminds me kind of like the con we can be the canaries in the coal mine.
Do you want to explain what that means? How long in the olden days? And I’d put these canaries in the coal mine in case the oxygen level was dropping too much and the canaries would kind of drop dead if the oxygen level got lower. Well before a human being, the oxygen level got to a level that a human being would be affected by the oxygen levels being low.
So I guess the, the, if you don’t, if you ignore what the sensitive person is saying, you’ll miss the message missed important information. So we, we did, we detect things and we tell people that, Hey, this is an issue. And if people shout us out, you know, it’s at the detriment of society, really? Yeah.
Yeah. It’s important because whether you, you, you identify with this trait or not. I think if you look at 20% of the world’s population scores on the trade, I think that’s one in five gay men is going to score on SPS, right? So you’re dealing with, with other highly sensitive people, you know, in the dating pool, you might notice that,
you know, somebody’s just different, their nervous systems, different, there might be more anxious. They might be more whatever, just more empathic, these sorts of things. So it’s good to know who you’re dealing with, whether you’re a sensitive or not. And then for the people that are sensitive, just knowing that you’re not alone, there’s 20% of the gate community is going to score in the sensitive domain.
So it’s pretty a pretty big number. Right. So why don’t you share with us, Chris? What your, well, your sensitivity story, like, how did you learn to become your sensitive? What was it like being sensitive as a child for you? Well, I think people used to tell me that I was sensitive as a, as a young person,
but it really wasn’t welcomed. It was like, talked about in the context of why can’t you just be like your brothers? Yeah. What’s wrong with you? Come on, just get on with it. And there was a lack of understanding of, well, I’m just different. And it would really hurt me to get those messages because the cost was,
it turned me against myself instead of actually understanding and valuing that I’m just different. My self-esteem was low. And my willingness to stand up for myself was, was reduced because I, I, and I’m I’m, and one’s ability to get their needs met, becomes compromised if they’re told that this, that their needs aren’t valid, but that was my experience of just,
wasn’t a happy, it wasn’t a happy childhood in many ways, happiness, although it would fluctuate. So what I might throughout my childhood, and even my early adulthood, I would notice that there were certain people for whom they would notice my needs and they would, they would welcome and embrace them. And they would, that would help me meet them.
And when my needs were met, I thrive that I remember there was a, before I became a psychologist, I was working in corporate, in a corporate job. And the CEO of the company I was working with kind of, he kind of protected me from all the political machinations. And he kind of backed me in a way to take advantage of that sensitivity.
And we did amazing work together. But then I changed to another job where I was, had a supervisor who didn’t value this difference and what I mean, just to be like someone else. And then I crushed. So this is this, this experience. My personal experience was that sometimes I get my needs met and other times I wouldn’t, and it was all variable because I didn’t understand my needs.
And then I had this huge that I went, got into a relationship where once again, I was told that you’re too emotional, this something wrong with you. Why can’t you be like other people? And once again, this was very disempowering. It was, it led me to a state of yeah. To a state of great vulnerability. And it was only after the end of that relationship that I came across the term,
the highly sensitive person. Yeah. When I was kind of through doing some therapy relating to grieving the end of that relationship. And at the very same time also, I was doing my doctorate in clinical psychology. And I was looking at what predicts resilience and the greatest predictor of resilience is neuroticism. So people who are more neurotic are less resilient. And I said,
well, what, why do people become erotic? And so I’ll ask this question on it. And I looked into the research and it became very clear to me that the people who are most neurotic, other people who are highly sensitive, but traumatized and invalidated in their sensitivity. So, well, what about then I raised the question, well, what about if we didn’t have to,
what about if we change the trajectory and the sensitive people were supported in getting their needs met while are no longer neurotic. So, and this means that this is basically 20% of the population empowered to live healthy, emotional and, and physical lives. Yeah. So this became a big focus of my work on how to kind of support myself in valuing my needs as a sensitive man and how to help others.
Yeah. That’s brought me really pretty much to where I am to them. Then I kind of looked into what’s required for a sensitive person to thrive. And that’s how I kind of came up with the program design with you, the two central elements being emotional regulation and authentic relating. Yeah. So that’s my story. It’s still a work in progress. I still do fear,
fear displaying my sensitivity from Tom time because I fear other people putting me down and criticizing me because of so many memories of that experience. But I’m learning to be braver. Yeah. This is a good, a good step in that direction. It takes a lot of bravery to come on a podcast and share your story. So mine is a little similar to yours.
I think, you know, I kind of described my, my upbringing as like, almost like everything was in like high definition or like Technicolor, you know, like everything was just intense. My whole upbringing was intense. I felt things intensely. I smelled things intensely. I saw things intensely, bright lights, loud noises. The, all these things were really activating for me.
And I had no idea. So I just thought that this was how I was. And, and that, you know, for a long time, I thought there was something wrong with me. I felt effective. I felt broken. I felt like, why am I always just feeling disregulated and overstimulated by the world around me? And I, I basically,
and I also being an empath as well. That was also a lot for me too, because I was feeling all the feelings of the people around me and my own feelings, which made it even more intense. And so I think I learned very quickly from a young age to shut off my emotions and to associate from a young age. And I also experienced childhood trauma,
which I’ve talked about in previous episodes. And I just learned to dissociate. I learned to shut off my ability to feel, to be connected to my body. And I was using drugs and alcohol as a way to cope with the intensity of, of everything and kind of numbing myself out. And, and then just in the last, well, I would say probably,
you know, 10 years, I’ve done a lot of deep, deep inner work on kind of, you know, understanding myself. And then this piece of the puzzle that you gave me around understanding my sensitivity was such a game changer because I think the biggest thing for me now is understanding the environments that I have to avoid. Right. Like, and especially if I’m feeling more sensitive,
cause my sensitivity can, can heighten at times. And then it can decrease at times, like depending on mood or if I have a lot going on in my life or these sorts of things. And when I’m more susceptible or more susceptible to my, my sensitivity, I have to avoid environments that, that are too intense for me. So really like the orchid,
like you said, understanding my sensitivity and the, the, the, the, the environments that I, that are going to make me thrive was that was a game changer for me. So now I don’t put myself in situations where, well, a I’m not valued by the people around me. Right. And where people don’t understand my sensitivity. I think I don’t hang out with those people.
And so that’s, that’s been a big part of it. So being around other sensitive people, learning about the trait and then being around other sensitives has been such a huge game changer for me because I know I’m not alone. And it feels so good to be around other people who see the world and experience the world the same way that I do, or at least similarly as I do.
So. Yeah. And really, it makes a difference to be able to meet other, to kind of find other people in my experience. I share that who kind of, don’t tell you that you’re wrong, that you shouldn’t be this way, that you kind of welcomed this aspect of yourself, myself. Yeah. It makes such a huge difference. I love it.
Yeah. It’s also good dating perspective. Yeah. Big time, big time. Actually, one of the things that’s really important to note about that is just being highly sensitive. Like we have certain needs and those needs often can sometimes be judged as being high maintenance or too picky or too emotional or too dramatic. All these things. Because for me, it’s like,
I can’t eat certain foods. I can’t be, I can’t drink alcohol. I can’t be around loud and boisterous people like this sort of thing. I’m more introverted. And I think growing up my parents, like they thought I was so picky because like I would only eat certain foods. And I, you know, didn’t like certain things, loud noises and,
you know, learning about that helped me too. And then bringing that into my relationship. Like my, my partners need to understand this about me because it’s a huge part of who I am. And it affects every aspect of the relationship really like even sexually, like, because of my overstimulation sex can be overstimulating for me. So I need certain, certain aspects of sex to be conducive to my sensitivity.
Right. So a lot of communication I’ve had to learn how to be a really good communicator and communicate my needs because otherwise I just end up over stimulated and dysregulated and it’s no good, Definitely on just a little side note, Elaine Aron, she in the research has identified that not all sensitive people are introverted. That’s around 70% of highly sensitive people are introverted,
but 30% are extroverted. So I’m a little bit more extroverted than you. The experience of the extroverted, highly sensitive person. It’s a bit like having one foot on the accelerator, wanting to get out there and the other foot on the brake, because you just getting, you put yourself out there and then you get overwhelmed by what? Yeah. So there are some of us who are both extroverted and sensitive,
extra challenge. Yeah. Yeah. So your friend who, who might come out and then they just go stole all the sudden, they might be highly sensitive because I think for me, like, I, I, I do like going out, but then I hit a stress threshold, a social threshold, and I need to get the heck out of wherever I am.
And it’s almost just like a switch flips. Like I can be like social and bubbly and like fluttering around and talking to everybody. And then all of a sudden I hit my threshold and it’s like, I have nothing left. Like I’m good. And I need to get out, get away from from it. So I know that’s definitely a sign amongst HSPs like ghosting or just like,
you know, taking care of ourselves. We have to remove ourselves from the overstimulation. Ideally though, it’d be nice if Sally sensitive person is overstimulated would share, Hey, I’m just overstimulated. I’ll come back in a bit. But sometimes we don’t understand. So I guess we’re not the best at communicating. Yeah. That’s definitely something that we got to learn.
So let’s talk about the unique challenges of being a sensitive man. And I emphasize the man part of it because I feel like being highly sensitive person, like women experienced sensitivity differently because they’re conditioned differently amongst around gender, right? Like it’s okay for women to be more emotional and to be more sensitive and to be that, you know, that aspect of things,
but for men it’s tend to be really frowned upon. So what are some of the unique challenges of being a sensitive man, which you think Well, yeah, exactly. When the gender socialization doesn’t really support sensitive men in many ways, it kind of undermines the health of the sensitive man to be told that you shouldn’t be sad or suddenly be fearful. And then to then suppress these emotions just gets in the way of getting your needs met.
So yeah, the sensitive sensitive man is basically constantly told that there’s something wrong with them. Particularly style of being a boy, a sensitive boy, oh, there’s something wrong with what’s wrong with you. What’s why can’t you do it differently? Yeah. So self-esteem gets crushed. You’re not getting your needs met just very lonely. These are the unique experiences of the sensitive boy in my experience.
What about yourself? I think there’s a total disregard for the nervous system. I think it’s all like when, when, when the way that the sensitivity shows up for people is it can show up like avoidance, it can show up as like withdraw. It can show up as overstimulation. It can show up in all these ways. And I think that,
you know, oftentimes you hear being like, oh, just toughen up or, or, you know, get over it or pushing, pushing kids that are more introverted in and highly sensitive into social situations that they don’t want to be in. And then it causes dysregulation. It causes insecurity, shame all of these things. And I just think that, so,
yeah, I just think the social conditioning for the, the young boy is very limited. It’s limited displays of emotionality. It’s asking them to deny who they are, you know, poor displays of empathy. Right. I just think our culture is so easy, easily, like labeling young, sensitive boys as weak, right? Because the way that we value,
what is strong is repression, right? Repress, who you are, deny who you are, don’t show emotion. So I think there’s a lot of work to do in society around discontinuing this whole gender socialization around what is appropriate and what isn’t for, for young boys and girls. I just think that it needs to become more fluid in order for, for us to learn as,
as young people to embrace who we are. And so we don’t have to hide our authenticity. And that’s especially the case, given that the percentage of boys who are sensitive and girls is the same one in five, one in five boys is sensitive. One in five girls is sensitive. Yeah. So it’s, it’s very unfair that for the set, for the sensitive boy to be so devalued and to be so undermined in their development,
it can even affect. And I’ve seen it in my clients, educational achievement definitely affects relationships, confidence, but even relate educational achievement. So many different consequences from not being supported in getting your needs met. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yes. So coming back to the boys, there was a board, there was an author called Ted Ziff who wrote a book called the strong sensitive boy.
We ha he, he describes this maps out the experience, you know, just, just not being valued is plays. It has a huge impact on the ongoing wellbeing of the other sensitive man. Yeah. It’s unfortunate. Really? Hm. Oh, I was going to say let’s let’s on to the, the S well, the similarities between gay men and highly sensitive people,
if you know, the people that we’re, that we’re obviously speaking to in this podcast are going to be while everybody, because it’s good to not understand the trait, but people who are both, but what is a gay man and a highly sensitive person have in common, Well, particularly gay men of the past will a gay man that grows up in any environment where they,
where their sexuality is. They’re taught that there’s something wrong with their sexuality shares the experience of a sensitive boy. Who’s grown up being told there’s something wrong with their sensitivity. There’s a sense of loneliness, a sense of, of not having your needs met a sense of sadness associated with the depression when we’re not getting our needs met, we become more depressed and anxious and we can burn out.
And yeah, so it’s the same. There’s so many parallels between the experience of the devalued sensitive boy and the devalued gay boy, Obviously there’s difference now that in the Western world on many parts of the Western world, being gay is more acceptable, but still, I think being sensitive as a voice is still not as acceptable. I think they’re both very similar.
I wouldn’t even say the gaze of the past because I think there’s, there’s still so much shaming happening around, around sexuality. It’s it’s improved, don’t get me wrong. But I still think that it’s, it’s, it’s viewed as it’s devalued really homosexuality is still devalued and even in Canada, and I’d say Canada is probably one of the more accepting countries in the world for,
for being gay. And I would still say that a majority of the population in Canada devalues homosexuality versus heterosexuality, in my opinion. Yeah. Yeah. Well, I guess I live in a bubble living in inner city Melbourne way. Yeah. A lot of schools are very welcoming guy, but it didn’t use to be like that 20 years ago. It was very different.
There’s there’s, you know? Yeah. There’s a lot, a lot more support. There’s no support for being a sensitive boy. I don’t, I’ve never seen, I’ve never heard of anybody getting up in front of the school assembly and saying, I am a sensitive boy, and these are my needs, but I’ve heard this coming happening in boys schools in Melbourne for gay people I’ve come in as gay.
So this is, this coming out process needs to happen for, for sensitive boys and sensitive men. We need to just read ourselves of the shame and we need to say, this is me and I am not going to accept anyone who tells me that I should be different anymore. Yeah. Yeah. I agree. I think this split, this directly plays into gender socialization again,
because if you look at, you know, what does being sensitive and being gay have in common, and it would be the rejection of the femininity, right? Because people view sensitive as a feminine attribute and people view being gay as more feminine attribute. Right. And I just think that that’s, that’s what we’re up against, right? When you look at the social conditioning that we’re facing as gay men and as sensitives,
a lot of the people that I was triggered by growing up were men that had strong displays of emotion would trigger me and men that had strong displays of femininity. So drag Queens, these sorts of things were really triggering for me when I was younger, because I was rejecting these aspects in myself because I had yet to make peace with the fact that I was sensitive and I was gay.
Right. So that’s how internalized homophobia shows up. Right. Reject the thing that you are rejecting within yourself. And this is same with sensitive, right? I think there might be even people that are, that are listening to this podcast that might be triggered by us exposing our sensitivity. It’s like, why would you share that about why would you want to own that?
Right. Isn’t that a bad thing to be sensitive. People might be saying, but it’s like, when you start to make peace with these things, then you start to you stop judging them in others. And I think that’s for me now, I, I lead with these things. I love the fact that I’m a gay man and I love the fact that I’m sensitive.
And for sure there’s still aspects of both of them that I’m like, yeah, it’s a bit of a pain in the ass because it goes against the grain of what the mainstream society is going, going along with. But for the most part, I love being gay and I love being sensitive. Well, you’ve come a long way. Yeah. Lots of deep work and healing trauma has been huge.
Like without you, you made such a great point earlier, like, you know, trauma does, you know, somebody who’s a sensitive person, who’s experienced trauma will become more neurotic. And I think that neurosis is like, it creates so much disruption in our relationship functioning and, and in our relationship with ourselves and work like every aspect is affected when we’re more neurotic.
And I think the more, the, the trauma healing that I’ve done has had such a huge impact on my functioning because now that I’ve healed the trauma, cause I think trauma shows up similarly in the body as an overstimulated sensory processing sensitivity, right? It’s like overstimulation. It’s like, hyper-vigilance these sorts of things. And I think once you remove the trauma out of the body,
you’re left with managing your SPS and it’s made it so much easier to manage my SPS with, without the trauma Kind of looming over. I think that that the Def definitely hailing the trauma makes a huge difference. I think the access to do that or the motivation to do that becomes greater. Once we rid ourselves of sensitivity phobia just in the same way as internalized homophobia prevents gay men from having healthy relationships and putting themselves out there to meet other men,
sensitivity phobia prevents sensitive men from having access to well-being both. Yeah. So we need to, first of all, reject all the messages and fully now sensitivity. And so that we don’t constantly fall back into re-traumatizing ourselves or allowing others to retraumatize ourselves. Cause we need boundaries. We need to stop allowing the, the people in our culture, in our circles from telling us that there’s something wrong with us.
Yeah, it is. It’s the same thing as gay men have to stop. We gay men have to stop, had to put boundaries up with people who were saying that they shouldn’t be gay. No. And sensitive men also need to do the same thing. One thing I will say is that this concept of intersectionality play plays a role here. Intersectionality refers to the,
the experience of belonging to multiple, multiple devalued groups. And so you could be an ethnic minority. You could be like a person of color or you could be obviously queer, LGBT, et cetera. And then another divided group is to be a sensitive man. So if you’re sensitive and gay, it’s extra, you have a greater experience of discrimination and you even experience it within the gay community,
which is very disappointing. One thing I will say is when I, first of all, but before I came out, I thought that all gay men were sensitive and I was like, oh, they’re going to be just like me. It didn’t take me long to work out. No that aren’t valued. Many people do not value this tray. And they just wanted,
they looked down upon me. So there’s so much rejection from within the community for embodied, for being sensitive. So I was a very hard within this community. There’s not much space for a sensitive guy, man at like a club or bar this community, these environments to Holly, over stimulating. And if you’re using drugs and alcohol, you often disconnect from your emotional self.
So there’s, you’re not honoring your yeah. Yeah, yeah. You make so many great points. I think it’s been such a game changer for me too. Incorporate acceptance around my, my sensitivity. I think people, even the people that are listening to this, I don’t want to, I don’t want people to think that 20% of the world’s population is sensitive.
And that’s it, we’re talking about sensitive as, as, as far as the processing sensitivity of settler of the sensory dynamic, right? The SPS. But I would say it’s higher for people who are connected to their sensitive nature. Just being sensitive in general, emotionally being sensitive to the needs of others. I think that’s, that’s even higher. And I think the reason why I think it’s it’s devalued in the gay community is because they haven’t a lot of,
a lot of gay men. Haven’t connected to that part of themselves, right. That deeper emotional part of themselves because of maybe trauma or shame or these sorts of things. And I think that what I’m experiencing now is like the more that I’m embracing it and leading with it, it’s almost like people and not just from me obviously, but I feel like there’s,
there’s a lot more consciousness in the gay community. At least that’s how I’m experiencing it. A lot more people that are learning to value these things. And I hear people talking about the traits that they want in a partner, like even in the gay men’s brotherhood. And a lot of them are the traits that sensitive men embody, right? More empathy,
more understanding somebody who doesn’t want to just get fucked up on the weekends and drink and party and this sort of these sorts of things. And so I do think it’s, it’s, it’s shifting. And I think our time to shine as sensitive men, it’s like, it’s coming, you know what I mean? Like we’re, we’re being more understood. And,
and the traits of who we are authentically are being valued. And I just think that’s also because other gay men are doing the work too, whether they’re sensitive or not, they’re doing the work to connect with their emotions. So when you connect deeper with your emotions, it’s easier for you to want to connect with other people who are emotionally available too, because you’re not triggered by their emotionality.
Right. You’re like, oh yeah, like I’ve, I’ve worked on this in myself. So now I want to see it in others. At least that’s how I’m experiencing it. I might be totally off the mark as far as the majority, but I’m experiencing it that way, which feels nice. And people can, people really value. There’s so many traits that people are so many aspects of being sensitive,
which are, which are valued. This is the ironic thing they’re being sensitive. Ax provides access to being able to achieve the needs of the people around us. And we offer so much to the world and the will, the general population does value a lot of that. Yeah. And often they, and I think there’s a documentary that Elaine are in data and she spoke to Alina’s Morissette who identifies as a highly sensitive person.
And she said, oh, they just want everyone wants this part of me, but they don’t want this part. They don’t work with sensitivity, the emotional express, like what my magical music, but I don’t want this. Exactly. But we don’t come as two people. We come as one. So we have so much to offer, but we can’t,
we can’t give that to the world. If this other part of us, if we’re told that we just have to fit in. Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. And most, well, not most, but I would say a lot of the people that are highly creative are highly sensitive. I wrote a definition on my Instagram page about what sensitivity means to me.
And I define it as a gift that allows you to be highly attuned and perceptive of yourself and your environment. And I think that that’s really the gift that we’ve been given, you know, is, is the ability to be able to be very highly attuned and perceptive to what’s going on, both within us and within other people. And I think that’s a really,
really a powerful gift to have when it’s understood and you can work with it and embrace it. Yeah. Yeah. When you are owning it and when you understand it, you have access to this gift. So the, the term dissociation, I think, is an important term to define for people, the experience disconnecting from one’s emotional self one’s body in order because people dissociate because their body is in distress.
And if they have no other way, because they’re because they’re not getting their needs met. If they have no other way of dealing with their emotion, children dissociate, and this is a hugely problematic thing and behavior, and it’s sub it’s unconscious and automatic sensitive people who are dissociating do not have access to these gifts. So we must reconnect with our body and learn to deal with,
so the emotions, our emotional experience arises within our bodies. We cannot work with it. We cannot have access to our amazing intuition and our creative spirit and when we are dissociated. So That’s a lot of the work that I do. And I’m sure you do the same type of work in my practice. That’s what I work on is plugging people back in head and heart,
head and body getting people plugged back into their emotional world so they can heal. Right. Because a lot of, a lot of people are disconnected. Yeah, absolutely. And I’ll going back to my story. Like I was quite clever and I found refuge in my mind in thinking, you know, academics body was distressed because I was not being welcomed as gay and sensitive.
So I just ignored, disconnected from the body. I just to remember this experience of, after I broke up from my long-term relationship and Sydney being with an emotion focused therapist and they just pointed out, oh, you are, you’re exhibiting these signs of this emotion. I was like, oh, you’re like a magician. So they would point out stuff that was happening within me,
but I wasn’t even noticing it. And then suddenly I was like, the more I connect, I realized, oh, that sadness, oh, that’s fear all that shame. So they taught me to notice these emotions. They took me out of dissociation and through being able to reconnect with my emotions, I gained access to understanding them and moving towards getting my needs met and moving towards thriving as a gay sensitive men.
Yeah. But there’s, but it’s, it’s often. And that, that experience of having someone to help you to reconnect with your body, you know, this is sometimes you may need some extra guidance on that from a therapist or coach on how to do that. Yeah. Yeah. I agree. Okay. Let’s go into the challenges of being highly sensitive or some of the,
what are like the top few challenges that you think you face as, as a highly sensitive person? Well, yeah, I think I just mentioned one of them dissociation. So dissociation comes under the guise of emotion regulation. Yeah. And yeah, so essentially sensitive man who disconnect from their bodies, aren’t regulating their emotions. They’re not getting their emotional needs met.
They become depressed and anxious. So learning to regulate your emotions, learning to process your emotions in healthy ways is essential for a sensitive person. Without that, you kind of, you kind of you’re at the whim of the stone, a world, the external world will sometimes meet your needs. And sometimes they won’t, but if you understand your emotions, then you can take responsibility for getting your needs met.
So you, this is the process. This is a central element of empowering yourself as a sensitive person to learn about your emotions, to learn, to regulate. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah. Yeah. I think for me, probably one of the biggest things was FOMO fear of missing out. I think when I was younger, I was betraying myself. I wasn’t respecting my sensitivity cause I actually didn’t even know I had it.
I felt it, but I didn’t know what it was. And I was putting myself in environments where I was fitting in, but I wasn’t, I, they were overstimulating me. I was like feeling like all crazy. And I’m like going to the club or the bars, or being around a ton of people doing drugs, drinking, these sorts of things.
And, and then I went through a period where I had to learn about my trait and I had to be mindful of the environments I placed myself in. So that would say, I think that’s a challenge. I can, I’m limited in the certain places I can go or certain things I can do because of my sensitivity. And that for a long time was a real big.
It, it affected me. But I think that’s also because I was younger. I wanted to party. And now I’m in my mid thirties and I’m like, I don’t value those things anymore. I want to be out in the mountains, hiking, and I want to do all the things that are conducive to my sensitivity. So I think it’s just maturing for me has been a big it’s it’s helped me embrace my sensitivity.
Cause I don’t want to do all the things that are really gonna, that are gonna set me off as a sensitive person. Hmm. I think, yeah, that’s definitely, I can relate to that a hundred percent. Like that still happens with me. Like I currently it’s pride month in Melbourne, Southern hemisphere. It’s summer still. There’s been a lot of events,
but I’ve had a lot of going on and I’ve been emotionally overwhelmed at times. So I just haven’t had the energy to go out and I have had that. Why they call it a foam ice? I sometimes call it Somo the sadness of missing out. I’ve been wanting to be in it, but it just, I just haven’t had, it just,
hasn’t been right for me to go to these events because they’re very overstimulating. But I think, I think the, the Somo kind of, I can re I, I, it helps me to kind of move on from that, when I remember that if I honor my own needs, then there’ll be more happy and exciting experiences later. Yeah. I like that reframe.
Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I would say another one for me is relationships. Relationships have been hard because of my trade, but I’ve only been in one relationship now since understanding my trait. And that was when I just learned about it. I just started dating. Then when you, and I kind of started connecting and learning about this. So I feel like my next relationship I’m going to just really own it and be like,
this is who I am. This is because it’s, it’s not easy teaching somebody about your limitations without feeling shame. Right. Cause sometimes there’s, there’s limitations about being sensitive. There’s also a of benefits about being it. So anyways, I think, just think that now I’m a lot more confident. I don’t have shame around my sensitivity and it’s going to be easier to be able to teach my next partner about my sensory processing sensitivity and how I need to be treated,
how the needs I have, the unique needs that I have and how they can show up to accommodate those needs to a certain degree. Right? Yeah. It makes a lot of sense that it’s really hard to, in order to do that. Of course, it’s really hard to do that if you don’t value yourself. So I think the journey before moving into having a healthy relationship,
one needs to value oneself and one’s difference and understand how to get one’s needs met. And, and I think the training ground like the, for healthy relationship is friendships. So you don’t have to get into a one-on-one exclusive intimate relationship with somebody to practice this. Ideally you start with expressing your needs and your sensitivity needs in the context of friendships. And if you find your friends don’t value this,
then you might need to educate them and request respect. And if they don’t want to respect, then you may need to change a social circle a bit. Yeah. Okay. Before we go onto the benefits, I want to read out triggers triggers for highly sensitive people. And this is, I’m not speaking for everybody, but these are common things that I see in my work.
So loud noises, bright lights, inauthentic people, itchy, or scratchy fabrics, hunger, not feeling heard or understood working under pressure or not getting enough sleep. These are all really common triggers that I find for highly sensitive people. Anything’s for you. Any triggers that I think the number one thing for me is having too much on Like multitasking or doing too much.
Yeah. Just being totally overstimulated blind. Yeah. Yeah. It’s fun. Yeah. When you’re getting, when you’re being triggered in from all directions, it’s like very hard. So yeah. So, All right. Lastly benefits, what do we love about being sensitive men? Well, I think the thing is that, you know, when we understand ourselves and we can get our needs met.
Yeah. Life is so much more richer and more rewarding. The connections that we make, just, just, just the so much more pleasurable. Yeah. And yeah, there’s so much like, I guess, yeah, this just, this is so much, I just, I don’t even know where to start and to answer that question, to be honest,
what about yourself? I would say rich inner world. I am very, very, I don’t often experience boredom because I just have so much happening in my inner world. I love being introverted. I also love being extroverted to a certain degree. I would say, like I described it earlier as being, it’s like being in Technicolor or being in like high definition.
And I think that’s so amazing. Like when I’m out in nature and I’m like seeing the landscapes and I’m breathing in all the things I’m hearing, the birds and everything, it’s like amazing. So when, when, when there’s sensory processing that’s happening at a beautiful threshold, it’s amazing. It’s when it surpasses that threshold. Right. And birds chirping and you know,
the sound of a Creek, like those things aren’t overstimulating. Those things are amazing. So I hear them in like a really high definition kind of way. I would say creativity. I attribute my creative writing, my creative work, everything. That’s my, around my creativity. I attribute that to my ability to process deeply, to notice subtleties in my environment,
to be able to tune into what my environment needs. I create my content because I’m a very aware of what my, what my audience wants, because I just, I, I observed their behaviors. I observed the way they talk. Right. And I’m able to create something that’s very, very niche for, for my specific audience. So it’s just,
it’s enhanced my life in so many ways. And I do know that like, it makes me a very attentive, thoughtful, compassionate, and empathetic human, but also lover, right? Like I can love in such a beautiful way. I can meet most needs of my partners because I understand them. I’m, I’m always observing them and watching them. And so I know what they want.
I know what’s going to make them feel good. And so I just think HSPs tend to make really great lovers when they feel their trauma. I think that’s the caveat heal your trauma when they heal their trauma. Because I think absolutely. Yeah. Like trauma will fuck with your relationships. Anybody doesn’t matter if you’re HSP or not. And I think when an HSP heals their trauma and they learn to love themselves,
you will be an amazing lover because everything about being HSP is like conducive to being a good lover like right. And being in good in relationships It’s conducive to em, empathic attunement being able to be, be with another person at multiple levels. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. So I made another list and this is things HSPs love, soft, soft fabrics,
spending time in nature, feeling, feeling understood a great night’s sleep, a warm meal, listening to their favorite song on repeat time alone, controlling the pace of life. I hate being rushed. It’s like the worst thing being around authentic people and doing things they want to do. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So before we wrap up, let’s let’s share the course are course.
What do you, what do you have to say about the Aerie course? All right. So we created that. The cause last year, the course runs over an eight week period, two and a half hours a week. There is a one week gap and week five. It’s an opportunity to meet other people who are highly sensitive and to let go and to understand you’re not alone.
And I think that’s the crux. And to understand yourself, to reject all the messages that you got when you were a child that said that you all from the community that said that there’s something wrong with you, where you learned to stop avoiding aspects of yourself when your emotions and you start to embrace them, embrace yourself and own yourself and embrace an, an,
an and work towards getting your emotional needs met. Yeah. Yeah. Most many of the participants from last year told me that it was transformational. It was a game changer. Yeah. It’s quite a remarkable experience. And it’s really what I wish I had had many years ago. I’m offering, I’m offering now to the world, what I wish I could’ve had.
And isn’t that funny? How that always, it always goes that way, where we create maybe what we didn’t get or what we didn’t get to experience when we were younger. So yeah, I’m really proud of this course. It’s, it’s, it’s a huge, huge honor to be able to deliver this and to be able to introduce people to their sensitivity because it’s a game changer,
like, look at what I’ve done. I’ve changed my whole business because of learning about this trait, because it was that important. And, but yeah, so the, the course for me, it’s like, we’ve what we’ve done is we’ve merged emotion, regulation and authentic relating into one course. And we’re all about empowerment and being your most authentic self.
The first half of the course is going to be all about teaching you about the trait, the science of it, what it, you know, we go a lot in more depth of what we share today. And then we build, we build that strong network in workshop one. Then we talk about social conditioning and how to unpack the social conditioning that we’ve inherited from the different systems that isn’t helping us.
And then a workshop three and four, we talk about healing trauma and learn and how to emotionally regulate. And then we have an integration week. And then we go into the, the last three workshops, which are all about authentic relating, which is being present, listening skills. And self-expression so all of these are really, really valuable tools to have as a human being.
But they’re very, it’s very specific and geared towards highly sensitive people. And so I definitely know people would benefit from, from attending one of our workshops. Yeah. Anything else that you think is important before we wrap up, Well, we’re running one start of April. That’s the other thing to mention this, the next one we’re running. Sometimes we run these by ourselves.
Sometimes we run with without together or by ourselves. Yeah. So yeah, I guess the, the key thing is to reach out to us and we’ll let you know the details, Lincoln, the show notes so that people can go to the landing page and they can see the course offerings. Cause I’ll be offering one and you’ll be off and we’ll be offering one together in April.
And that’ll be the last ones that we offer until probably fall, at least for me, because I’m going to be taking the summer off of, Did you say full or was that you made North my fault and hemisphere Back into winter, you Know, we’re heading the days are getting shorter here. So hopefully one day we can run a retreat and I was thinking that we should do something in Alberta.
There’s lots of places here. Beautiful to be in the nature. Yeah. Yeah. Banff, Alberta, Kenmore Waterton. There’s like endless duty here, so. Okay. Well I’ve really enjoyed this. I want to just thank you again for coming on and sharing your story and sharing all your knowledge and yeah. And from the bottom of my heart, I thank you personally for just the,
the impact and the effect that you’ve had on, on my life and my both professionally and personally. So I value you, Mr. Chris, I value you, Mr. your authenticity and willingness to put yourself out there. Inspires me to be braver. Hmm, good. That’s my mission. That’s my, that’s my purpose. That’s my purpose.
Inspire courage and others to be their authentic self so that you’ve benefited from that and yeah, to the listener or viewer. Thank you for tuning into another episode of gay men going deeper. If you’re listening to us on your favorite podcast network, please subscribe and, and leave us a review. We’d love to know your thoughts on this, this episode. That would be awesome.
And for people on YouTube, thanks for tuning in and subscribe to our channel. We release new content each week and leave a comment. Let us know if you’re highly sensitive. Cheryl, maybe a little bit about your sensitivity story, how you’re relating to your own sensitivity, because I always love to meet new sensitive people. You are my tribe. So I welcome you with open arms and yeah,
much love to you all take care.