Watership Down’s HSP Rabbit

I just started rereading Watership Down by Richard Adams last night. Normally I wait to write about the books on my Classics Club list until after I’ve finished them, but I’m also rereading Elain Aron’s The Highly Sensitive Person In Love and I was struck by a connection between the two books.

In her research on high sensitivity (also known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity), Aron discovered that it’s found in 15 to 20% of the population. And it’s not just humans. The trait “can be observed in all higher animals — mice, cats, dogs, horses, [and] monkeys” at about the same percentage. I’m going to add rabbits to the list as well.

Research on HSPs had barely started by the 1970s, so I doubt Richard Adams would have been familiar with it as a scientifically validated trait when he published Watership Down in 1972. I think he was writing about it anyway, though, with his character Fiver.Watership Down's HSP Rabbit | marissabaker.wordpress.com

When publisher Rex Collins acquired the book, he wrote to a friend saying, “I’ve just taken on a novel about rabbits, one of them with extra-sensory perception. Do you think I’m mad?” Fiver’s insights do go beyond simply being a highly sensitive rabbit, but it’s also true that Fiver would pass the HSP test. Easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input? Check. Aware of subtleties in the environment? Double check. Made uncomfortable by loud noises, startles easily, has a nervous system that feels frazzled, and so on down the list.

He was small, with side, staring eyes and a way of raising and turning his head which suggested not so much caution as a kind of ceaseless, nervous tension. His nose moved continually, and when a bumblebee flew humming to a thistle boom behind him he jumped and spun round with a start that sent two nearby rabbits scurrying for holes (Fiver’s introduction, Watership Down)

As a Highly Sensitive Person myself, I know that feeling all too well. The heightened awareness of the smallest noise. The tension so familiar you barely notice it until an unexpected sound startles you out of your chair (in fact, right after writing this sentence I jumped at a Facebook notification on my phone). And it’s kind of nice to see a character like that in a book, especially one with friends who don’t tell him he needs to change. They accept him for who he is, work with his weaknesses, and appreciate his unique strengths.

Can you think of any other HSP characters in fiction?


Click here to get a copy of Watership Down. Please note that this is an affiliate link. This means that, at no additional cost to you, I will receive a commission if you click on the link and make a purchase.

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What Are The Books That Have Influenced You The Most?

One of my Facebook friends shared a post about the ten books that have most influenced his life, which I thought was a great idea. But it took me two weeks to figure out which books I wanted to write about and by the time I hit 500+ words I thought, why not just make it a blog post? So if you are reading this and care to share your most influential books consider yourself “tagged.” I’d love to see what books have had the biggest impact on your lives either in the comments or on your own blog (there’s an article topic you don’t have to come up with on your own!). The original list was 10 but I ended up with 8, so post however many you like.What Are The Books That Have Influenced You The Most? | marissabaker.wordpress.com

The Bible

What Are The Books That Have Influenced You The Most? | marissabaker.wordpress.comA rather obvious first choice for a Christian blogger, but this book definitely deserves the top spot when talking about books that influenced my life. It’s still influencing everything I do and I fall more in love with this book and it’s Author every time I read it. It’s the greatest love story every told, the best handbook you’ll ever find for life, and an incredible source of hope and purpose. Since more than 50% of this blog is devoted to talking about this book I’ll stop now. You know I could (and have!) keep going on about it for several books worth of text.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

What Are The Books That Have Influenced You The Most? | marissabaker.wordpress.comI could have put several books by C.S. Lewis on this list, but this is the first of his non-fiction I read and it’s the one that’s been most influential (with Screwtape Letters a close second). I just love the way he writes about his faith. Not only is he firmly grounded in scripture, but he’s also a persuasive speaker to those who don’t already put their faith in the Bible. In the words of Anthony Burgess, “C.S. Lewis is the ideal persuader for the half convinced, for the good man who would like to be a Christian but finds his intellect getting in the way.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

What Are The Books That Have Influenced You The Most? | marissabaker.wordpress.comI started researching my personality after starting college and realizing I was even more different from “normal” people than I’d previously thought. This is one of the first books I read on the subject and it literally changed my life. Like many introverts, particularly INFJs, I always felt there was something off about the fact that I couldn’t seem to socialize the way so many other people did. This book pointed out how introvert brains are wired differently and that there are strengths in that personality. In other words, it shows that we’re not broken extroverts and introversion isn’t something to “fix.” Read more

Let’s Get Real About Fantasy

Daydreaming is often considered a childish activity. So it might come as a surprise that studies indicate at least 96% of adults engage in daydreams and/or fantasizing on a daily basis. These daydreams typically last for just a few minutes while the mind wanders, but they can also be more involved, frequent, and lengthy. And getting caught up in daydreams is not, as previously thought, as sign of tending toward mental illness.

According to an article in the Dartmouth Undergraduate Journal of Science, we’re learning that daydreaming is “a normal part of our cognitive processes.” In fact, it’s pretty normal to “spend one-third to one-half of our waking hours daydreaming, although that amount can vary significantly from person to person.” I was honestly pretty surprised to learn this. I mean, I know I do that, but I wasn’t expecting such a large percentage of the population to also daydream so much.

But while reading different articles about daydreams, I realized something else. They’re talking about people’s minds drifting into fantasies about their real lives. For example, it’s considered healthy for someone approaching a job interview to daydream about getting the job or for someone in a high-stress job to spend time fantasizing about how all their conversations for the upcoming day could go well. Other studies asked people to daydream about taking vacations or their childhood home. These daydreams are about things that could happen or have happened. I have those types of daydreams, too, but that’s not what most of mine are.

Let's Get Real About Fantasy | marissabaker.wordpress.com
this picture is part of a psychological self-portrait I made in a college art class

Extreme Fantasizers

While studying hypnotic suggestibility in 1981, psychologists Theodore X. Barber and Sheryl Wilson discovered that the 27 women they identified “as extremely good hypnotic subjects … all had a fantasy life so intense that it seemed ‘as real as real.'”‘ After more research, people in this group are now described as having a “fantasy prone personality” (FPP). On the more extreme side, where fantasies start to take over reality, it’s called “maladaptive daydreaming” (click here to read an interview with a maladaptive daydreamer).

According to researchers, about 4 percent of people spend half or more of their waking hours absorbed in reverie. The fantasies are not mere fleeting daydreams but something of a cross between a dream and a movie, where an elaborate scenario unfolds once a theme is set. (from a New York Times article)

Reading about this group is where I start to recognize myself. Read more

These Aren’t My Feelings: Absorbing Emotions as an INFJ

This past Friday I did something I’ve never done before and which provided my father with much amusement. I danced at someone’s funeral. More precisely, it was at a memorial service for a man I didn’t really know. I’d seen him at church services, but we never spoke. His wife was on our dance team, though, and she asked us to open the service by dancing to Bo Ruach Elohim.

At first, I didn’t really feel much about this man’s death beyond a rather abstract sense of sympathy for those who loved him. But as soon as I was surrounded by those who were grieving, I started to feel it as well. Layering on top of that were the emotions I imagined other people I cared about feeling. I won’t go into any details, but some of the things this man’s wife and daughter mentioned when they spoke about him directly touched on struggles I know two other friends are going through. And my heart ached with/for them all.

INFJ Empaths

These Aren’t My Feelings: Absorbing Emotions as an INFJ | LIkeAnAnchor.com
Photo credit: Milada Vigerova via StockSnap

INFJs are inherently sensitive to other people’s emotions. On top of that, many describe themselves as an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and/or empath. This trait, “empath,” isn’t simply a person who feels empathy. Here’s a description written by Jennifer Soldner, an empathic INFJ:

An empath is a person who feels exactly what others feel. This is not to be mistaken with sympathy, which is trying to understand what someone is going through, or even the very similar word empathy, which is actually just being familiar with what someone else is experiencing. An empath literally feels exactly what someone else feels, even if they have never experienced, nor can they relate in any way to what the other person is going through. (from The INFJ Empath Explained)

Talking about being an empath is kind of tricky. Going back to my opening story, suppose I told you that I didn’t start out having feelings of my own about this man’s death, but when I walked into a room of people grieving for him I felt grief. Someone who reads that and assumes I’m an empath would say it’s because I was picking up the other people’s energy waves and feeling their grief as if the emotion were my own. Someone who doesn’t think I’m an empath would say I’m mirroring the other people’s grief because I observe it and care about them, or that I’m projecting my ideas of what they are feeling and then responding to that. Read more

An Open Letter to Socially Timid Highly Sensitive People

I’m so excited to share with you my first article published on Introvert, Dear. Read an excerpt below, then follow the “Read More” link for the full article.

Dear fellow highly sensitive person,

Like many of you, I didn’t know I was a highly sensitive person (HSP) for a long while. I just knew I was “different.” For me, this was particularly marked in social situations. Other people went shopping together to unwind, but I felt tense in brightly lit malls bombarded by flashing advertisements, milling crowds, and heavy perfumes. My friends didn’t wince at dances when the music was turned up, they danced harder. My classmates in college seemed like they could relax and focus, while I noticed the flickering lights, the quality of air, the spot on the professor’s shirt, the scratch of pencils on paper.

Sound familiar? If you were like me, you were sure this wasn’t normal—but you weren’t sure what to do about it. I couldn’t understand why it was so hard to get over my shyness and start acting like other people. I had discovered my Myers-Briggs personality type was INFJ when I was preparing to graduate high school as a homeschooler, but it wasn’t until I was floundering through the social landscape of college that I started really researching it. I began at the library, desperately digging through books, looking for ways to cope with my introversion. …. Read More

One For The Extroverts

Extroverts are Just As Amazing As Introverts | marissabaker.wordpress.com
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This is a great time to be an introvert. We see articles and books popping up all over the place defining introversion, listings wonderful qualities of introverts, and making sure the extroverts know that introverts are just as good (and dare we imply, better?) than them. Introverts Unite (separately)! Introvert Power!

But I wonder when reading some of these articles if we’ve done the extroverts a disservice. Are we introverts in danger of taking our quest for recognition as extroverts’ equals to the extreme of thinking we’re “better than them”? If people could ever be balanced in a quest for equality, it should be those who study type theory. The very fact that introversion and extroversion is hard-wired into our brains should tell us that not everyone thinks the same, and that’s okay.

So with that in mind, here’s a post for the extroverts. You’re awesome, too. Most of the introverts posts like this are addressed to extroverts with the goal of debunking myths surrounding introversion, so we’ll try and do something similar for assumptions we have about extroverts.

1. Extroverts are Intelligent and Sensitive

Let’s get two things straight right from the get-go: introverts don’t have a monopoly on intelligence or sensitivity. Extroverts can be intelligent (and introverts can be unintelligent). Extroverts can be sensitive (and introverts can be insensitive). In fact, the Sensory Processing Sensitivity trait is independent of introversion and 30% of the people who qualify as Highly Sensitive are extroverts. At least two of my extroverted friends are HSPs, and even the ones that aren’t are way more in-tune with their own and other people’s feelings than most introverts give them credit for.

2. “Extrovert” Doesn’t Equal “Social”

Extroverts are Just As Amazing As Introverts marissabaker.wordpress.com
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Introverts tend to think of extroverts as the people who crave the society of others, and who have an annoying habit of trying to drag introverts out of their shells. But extrovert doesn’t necessarily mean someone who is always social. It means someone who is oriented to the the outer world of people, places, and/or things. They are more likely to recharge among other people than alone, but not always. This is especially true of the more “introverted extroverts” like ENFJs and ENTJs. As one article puts it, ““Extrovert” is not Latin for “has Red Bull flowing through veins.””

3. Extroverts Can Be Shy

Often, the extroverts who tell introverts that we can “recover” from our introversion think this because they were shy as kids and assume “introvert” is the same thing they experienced when they were shy. Shyness is not the same  as introversion, and it isn’t an uniquely introvert phenomena. Extroverts can also suffer from shyness and social anxiety. It might actually be harder for them, because at least as a shy introvert you are oriented to living inside your head, whereas an extrovert who is shy wants to be around people but is also terrified of them at the same time.

4. Extroverts Get Things Done

Extroverts are Just As Amazing As Introverts marissabaker.wordpress.com
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I recently saw someone ask what the world would look like if introverts were in charge. Most of the responses (all from introverts) were along the lines of “peaceful,” “harmonious,” and “quiet.” The first thing I thought? Nothing would ever get done. We’d be so busy trying to avoid conflict that the world would fall apart. As a society, we need extrovert’s energy to connect people, force conflict resolutions, advocate for change, and step-up as leaders. Can introverts do that? sure. But many extroverts thrive in those roles and find that it comes naturally to them.

5. Extroverts Do Think

This should be obvious, but even for those of us who know deep-thinking extroverts there can still be an assumption that most extroverts just word-vomit whatever pops into their heads and dash through life acting instead of thinking. Granted many extroverts do love to talk and sometimes words get out that haven’t gone through a filter yet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t think deeply about things. If you’ve spent any one-on-one time at all with an extrovert, it quickly becomes obvious that they aren’t all shallow. Most of my closest friends are extroverts, and I’ve learned to value their insights and thoughts on a wide range of subjects.

If you’re an extrovert, what is it that you wish people understood about you? If you’re an introvert, what do you love about the extroverts in your life?