I first became aware of the trait of High Sensation Seeking (HSS) a couple of years ago and immediately began to reflect back on a myriad of ways it has impacted my life:
At age 9, browsing in one of the places I consider most sacred; the library. Excitement building as I contemplated which literacy adventure I would choose, I came across a massive tome — ’Gone with the Wind’. One thousand and thirty-seven pages of Civil War drama and angst, Mr. Butler, I was swept away…
Imagine my chagrin when the well-meaning librarian asked if the book was too advanced for a child my age. Challenge accepted! And, a not so small amount of personal satisfaction when two weeks later I returned triumphant, having read the whole thing.
Fast forward to age 12, when my father and I climbed Mt. Katahdin, the highest mountain in Maine. Standing at the summit looking over the ‘Knife’s Edge’ I experienced so many sensations.
The wind whipping in my hair, the seemingly unending horizon of the Atlantic Ocean and the vantage point overlooking four states simultaneously. The dull ache of my muscles and pounding heart telling the tale of the ascent over roots and jagged rocks.
The pride in my accomplishment.
Or, how I worked for 13 years at a non profit organization, starting as a part-time staffer and after a series of promotions became the Vice President. Only one year after becoming the VP, I decided to pack up everything and move 900 miles away to Texas to begin a new career as a landscape designer.
No family, no friends in Texas, I hadn’t even met the supervisor I was going to work for.
No one understood why, but the timing felt right to me for a new adventure.
Ironically, or perhaps not, many of the people I consider ‘my tribe’ also identify as high sensation seekers. We love intellectual puzzles, risks, physical challenges, tackling the deep philosophical questions, the newness of experiences and pushing ourselves to be disinhibited or vulnerable.
We seem to flock together, as we understand how this trait calls us.
We also understand what it means to be highly sensitive people and the duality both traits (HSP-HSS) bring to our lives.
The constant struggle with taking so much on until we are exhausted and overstimulated, yet at the very same time a part of us completely energized. I heard someone call it, having one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake. Go, wait. C’mon, let me think about it for a minute!
Finding balance between the two traits will undoubtedly be one of my greatest life lessons.
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