I am becoming increasingly averse to making generalizations about HSPs because I am aware that you all vary so greatly. I want you to be true to your individual self. (That’s why I regret having made those on the “autism spectrum,” in order to distinguish them from HSPs, but that turned out to be hurtful to the individuals involved, each of them unique and some also HSPs.) So, I thought about only what is most certain to be true about HSMs.
First, HSMs develop under the influence of male genes, the main factor being testosterone. Gender spectrum aside, almost all HSMs (and men in general) are clearly biologically male. (Probably I just hurt someone’s feelings again—its good people are speaking up, but keep in mind that some of us need a while to catch up.) Of course, male and female behavior is such that many men do some things women normally do and vice versa. But hormones have to make HSMs and HSWs different in some ways. How do hormones interact with sensitivity? We do not know yet, but they surely do, and we need to learn about it. Maybe that’s phase two of the research.
Looking Back at the Evolution of Male Behavior
Another factor is evolution—what worked? We know sensitivity works enough to be present in 20 or even 30% of the population and in equal numbers in men and women. That means HSMs have been successful at reproducing themselves. How?
We know human males evolved into a strategy found in some birds and in some other mammals, which is staying around after mating to help raise their own young. This method of seeing their DNA goes on to the next generation contrasts sharply with simply mating as often as possible with as many females as possible and not staying around after. Males using this strategy protect and support their family, the mother and children, in various ways, depending on the species. So HSMs, just by being males, are protectors and supporters.
But research shows that sensitive individuals do protect and support themselves and others differently. Birds that are highly sensitive are not aggressive, hence some researchers (Korte, Koolhaus, and company if you want to look it up) call individuals in a species who are like that “doves,” wrongly, I think. I think a better term would be “strategic.” But to report the study properly, we have to go with their term.
Keep in mind these researchers are talking about differences in individuals within the same species, in this case great tits. (Yup, that’s a real bird species, very common in Europe and thus often studied.) Other great tits they called “hawks.” Great tits who are dove types are not aggressive, obviously, and explore their environment carefully. (Think of DOES.) Great tits who are hawk types do a lot of fighting and do not bother with exploring.
When there is enough food, dove types defer to the hawk types, letting them eat where they want and foraging themselves in less obvious places. When there is not enough food, dove types know where the food is! Hawk types, not having bothered to look around, do not easily find new food sources. This is brilliant strategy, even if not conscious.
I think in humans these strategies are planned, but still have an evolutionary basis. HSMs as doves-types or, better, strategic types. plan for their own and their family’s survival. They don’t want to have to fight over resources when things get tight, whether in the stock market or grocery store. They see to it, if they can, that they will have what they need. It may be about making enough money and investing it wisely, living in the right place, heading off problems with offspring, or avoiding health threats. (I’m pretty sure HSPs were among the first, on average, to be vaccinated against Covid-19 and by being careful, were hospitalized less often.)
But how do doves in a species manage to attract the other sex and mate with them without fighting for them? Turn to the Black Wolf of Yellowstone (a film about him can be found online), who was so unusual in his behavior that his DNA was treasured by geneticists wanting to study him. He was famous for avoiding confrontation, yet as his nickname “Casanova” suggests, he mated often, just by waiting for the alpha males to be absent long enough to get the apparently willing females pregnant. What intrigued everyone was his strategic sense in all matters, including the amazing sight of him, when chased by angry alpha males, crossing a paved road that he knew the other wolves would not cross, and with plenty of tourists watching from their cars. What a star. I guess HSMs can have more fun—and charm and strategic abilities. By the way, this wolf lived to be very old, finally dying in a fight with other males. Watch your back.
Bottom Line: Look out, I Have Another Acronym.
This one for HSMs:
S for strategic, or depth of processing in action, since males must act and keep an eye on other males, especially those who are more aggressive.
T for testosterone—you cannot explain an HSM by thinking he is more “feminine.”
Y for wise yielding—to live to fight (better) another day and in another way, and yielding as in “high yield” investments. (Yielding can be misperceived as weakness, but it isn’t at all—as when in the martial arts, especially judo, you use the other’s attack to defeat them almost effortlessly while preserving your own mental and physical energy.)
L for leadership—either among people (see John Hughes’s article on Why HSPs make Better Leaders) or becoming leaders in their fields, in the arts, science, business, athletics, or any field they endeavor, using their unique STYLE.
E for Empathy, which can be used in close relationships and leadership, but also in knowing, for strategic purposes, what others are up to, sometimes even before they know.
P.S. HSM as Designated Survivor
It’s no secret that I like Star Trek, all iterations except the sexist first one, but it’s not so much the science fiction. I like that all the main characters are good people–heroic, kind, etc. I only watch TV while doing my floor exercises every other day, but after watching Star Trek for so many years that I know what happens in every episode, I needed an alternative. Netflix kindly showed me other things I might like, given my liking for Star Trek, so I tried Designated Survivor. I was instantly hooked. It is a relentless thriller, which I would never normally watch and DO NOT recommend for other HSPs. So why was I watching?
The show is about U.S. politics–this quiet guy, never interested in power or fame, becomes President after EVERYBODY in the government (even the Supreme Court) is killed in a huge bombing during the State of the Union address. (Is this everyone’s secret political fantasy? That we start fresh with a good person at the top?) I didn’t know it, but in the U.S. there is always a person, a cabinet member, who does not come to the State of the Union but is hidden in a secure location, just because of this slim risk. That person becomes President if all others are lost.
It turns out this “designated survivor” (Kirkman, read Churchman) and many of those around him, inspired by him, are unfailingly good and wise, in every situation, just like the crews of Enterprise. I was hooked, even though I am overstimulated by every episode. I never watch it at night, but my exercises are taking longer and longer! The big scary problem in Star Trek is always resolved after one, maybe two episodes. This carries the scary stuff forward, so it builds and builds. Not good for going to sleep at night.
I finally had to scroll forward to see if all the good people in danger are still in later episodes! (Spoiler alert: Yes. I will do this with a very tense novel, too–read the last chapter. I know authors decide the outcomes and I will not be tortured by an author who is going to leave me miserable in the end.)
Today I got it—I’m addicted to this show because an HSM has become President, whether the show’s creator knows it or not. And the episode I just watched confirmed it. His wife was having a flashback about how he took the lowly cabinet post of Housing and Urban Affairs. He didn’t want to. He liked just being an architect planning affordable housing. He only took the job, finally, as a chance to be of service to more people. In this episode he’s also talking about his anger towards someone he had trusted who turns out to be a conspirator in the bombing and a total traitor who has lied to him constantly. Kirkman says that for the first time in his life he wants to hit someone. In fact, he’d like to kill this guy, which shocked him. He confessed to his Secret Service guard that he has never hit anyone, ever in his life. As a school kid he was always the peacemaker!
I do not know that I recommend the show, but let us know if you have any way to reach the creator, David Guggenheim, or the actors (especially the lead, Keifer Sutherland, son of one of my favorite actors Donald Sutherland, as in Ordinary People and A Dry White Season). Here I am promoting their show. They ought to at least be willing to talk with me.