Winter/Spring 2007 | Table of Contents

An Insider View of the Extravert High Sensation Seeking HSP

By Jacquelyn Strickland  

  Note:  This article was motivated by "What to Do About Extravert Envy" in the November 06 issue of The Comfort Zone, Dr. Elaine Aron's online newsletter.  If you didn't read it you can go here: She was not writing about extraverted HSPs, so I am taking this opportunity to provide a glimpse into just who we, Extraverted, High Sensation Seeking HSPs might be.

 I will also try to explain why we do not necessarily envy either the introverts or the Non-HSP extravert..  If you are not familiar with exactly what is meant by the "high sensation seeking" HSP, please go here: to read an excellent article - again by my HSP mentor and colleague - Dr. Elaine Aron. 

I do want to add that this inside view is from my point of view only and it includes not only a description of myself but other Extravert, High Sensation HSPs I have known and worked with. For brevity sake, this term will be abbreviated as E-HSP-HSS in the article. And finally, I should add,  to best understand this article, you will need a working knowledge of the following concepts:  the IN and OUT continuum; the Myers Briggs Type Indicator; the empowered vs. unempowered HSP; and the high sensation seeking HSP.  

  First, E-HSPs-HSS do not have introvert or extravert envy - HSP or Not

      Why?  Because we are able to go IN anytime we want.  In fact, we chose to go IN just about as much as we chose to go OUT.  If you are not sure what I mean by IN and OUT, you can go to Elaine's first book, How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, pages  47-54.  There she describes the In-Out Continuum I am referring to. 

      Going IN for the E-HSP-HSS is like finding an oasis of inner calm and beauty … an oasis filled with a deeper spiritual meaning of the world and our place in it.  While IN this inner oasis, our thoughts and feelings are processed with reverence for their complexity and depth.  We are renewed, centered and strong and are just as deeply reflective as the Introvert-HSP can be.  It may seem ironic that an E-HSP-HSS would actually seek to go IN that much…but what I have found is that being IN can be quite spiritually expansive and exhilarating…something the "inner high sensation seeker" thrives on.  So, really when we are totally IN, we E-HSPs may not be that much different from the I-HSP.

      Sounds lovely, doesn't it - that inner oasis?  There is a drawback however.  Being IN too much for an E-HSP (especially a HSS) can bring on a sense of lethargy that if left unnoticed can lead to feelings of restlessness, moodiness or irritability.  It can also lead to a dwindled sense of motivation, even sometimes to rumination and a sense of low grade depression.    I think this might be true for the introverted HSP as well.  I mean, I think we can all relate to the fact that "we can only take so much of our deep processing without wearing ourselves out." 

 So is there a myth about the Extravert HSP being as "social" as extraverts in general? 

      Well, yes and no.  First, let's take a look at Jung's definition of the Introvert-Extravert scale.  Extraversion means focusing one's attention and energy on the world outside of self.  Introversion means focusing one's attention and energy on the world inside self.  Of course, we all do "extraverted and introverted things" though we do not do them equally as well or as often.  Jung's definition is correct in the broadest sense, however for the E-HSP-HSS, we draw energy from the outer world only if it fits with our intuitive and subjective sense of our inner reality and knowingness.  Let me explain.  At a recent dinner party, reluctantly attended by an E-HSP-HSS, it became (almost painfully) draining.  It was draining because of the seemingly endless social chit chat, niceties, and surface exchanges about a myriad of unimportant topics.  When sharing an automatic authentic response "be grateful you have a mother who is still alive" to someone who was joking and complaining about an elderly mother, it was one of those awkward HSP moments when we unassumingly speak our truth - only to have the other person stop in mid-sentence looking at us as if we were being too serious.  Well, you get the picture? 

   Like many HSPs, we E-HSP-HSS's have a deep sense of intuition especially if that is our dominate Myers Briggs preference, and when it is, watch out - our clarity of seeing can be powerfully accurate, and at times uncomfortable if we dare speak our 'truth' out loud.  And although we may not withdraw as much as the Introvert-HSP, we can see the world through our own subjective lens, especially if our dominate or auxiliary preference is an F (Feeling) on the MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Inventory) scale. 

Are Extravert HSP-HSS more grounded in reality?

No we E-HSP, HSS's are not necessarily more grounded in reality (whatever that means?) and although we may seem to be more effective, decisive or spontaneous that is not always the case.  We do our fair share of processing information deeply before acting..  Unless of course a value is threatened, then we may speak out of our passionate convictions which can be both a positive or negative experience depending on the situation. 

On Being Very Sociable

      Yes, it's true.  We E-HSP HSS's, when in the right circumstances, can hang out, laugh, joke and enjoy animated conversations.  See this picture of me and my friend, Beckye, from first grade.  We had a reunion at her childhood home.  Beckye was actually reading about us from her 4th grade diary.  Such loyalty, depth, love and expression - all wrapped up in a beautiful evening.  Maybe something only an E-HSP HSS would enjoy?  Hard to say.

      Again, we-EHSP-HSSs can make new friends easily, but only in the right environment.  When I visit my beloved city, San Francisco, I am always amazed at the HSP connections I make there.  I'm convinced the Bay Area has the most concentrated population of HSPs.  Just riding the bus, eating in a restaurant, or at a beach, the people I've met and the conversations I've relished have been amazing.  I'm not sure the Introvert-HSPs would have the same experience while on "vacation" - even in the Bay Area.

E-HSP-HSS are not Comfortable in Crowds

      Notice the connections I mentioned making in San Francisco were made in relative solitude - alone while riding the bus, alone while eating in a restaurant, or alone while on the beach.  We E-HSPs, even HSS's, are definitely not comfortable in malls, at national conventions, at board meetings.  And we would never think about running for public office, though sometimes our passionate convictions make us seem as though we would be a likely candidate.  Yes, I did spend two years on the Commission on the Status of Women, as part of my local city government.  But I was on a small subcommittee and our overall commission had only about 12 women - great, enlightened, caring, and passionate women I might add.  So, again, the environment was "right."

Do E-HSP-HSS ever feel lonely? 

      Probably not as much as our Introvert-HSPs friends can at times, especially if we are empowered HSPs.  Why?  Because we usually do have a variety of friends, both HSP and non-HSP who have come to know us very well. They have come to know us well because we have allowed them to do so.  By "allowed" I mean it is our very nature to share and disclose our authentic selves.  I think many of us would agree with the saying "we wear our hearts on our sleeves."  Luckily for most of us, (if we are empowered HSPs,) we have learned who is "safe" and who is "not safe" to share the more intimate parts of ourselves with.    If you aren't sure the difference between an empowered HSP and a non-empowered HSP, you can read the descriptions in a past ezine, here:

      So, if we E-HSP, HSS's do feel sad, lonely or discouraged, we may first turn to our journals, but sooner than later we do find that avenue for coming out and for most of us that means sharing with a trusted friend. 

E-HSP HSS's Do Need Our Time Alone

      Yes, we E-HSP HSS's, need our down time alone to do what feeds our souls as well.  We need our solitude to read, reflect, create, listen to music, write our poetry, paint our pictures, take our walks in nature,and take our much needed naps!  We also then love to share our creative thought process with others to gain validation of our ideas, projects and visions. 

      We also need this collaborative process to share our fears of putting our authentic selves "OUT" to the world.  Our inner visions are just as fragile and susceptible to perceived (or real) judgments as any other creative artist.  We also enjoy the collaborative process because of our sincere curiosity which can sometimes lead to probing questions.  I think this comes from our natural tendency to want "to know and be known" and to connect in an authentic way with others. 

Do E-HSP HSS's Experience More Positive Emotions from Introverted HSPs?

      I would disagree with the current dogma in psychology that extraverts, or E-HSPs, experience more positive emotions than introverts.  I think it is safe to say that we HSPs, introvert or extravert, experience more emotions in general - whether positive or negative - than the population in general.  And I would add the emotions we do experience are exactly what our sometimes beleaguered society needs more of:  feelings of deep connection with nature, music and the arts, feelings of concern for the planet and the pain of others who are less fortunate.  I think we also experience more gratitude, poignancy, irony, forgiveness, and deep love just to name a few. 

      Elaine cites in Hoard et al, 1989 Journal of Personality & Social Psychology (p. 321-333), that there are plenty of (neurotic) extraverts who report feeling great as they rush about from thing to thing, and from person-to-person.  I agree that this type of somewhat "frantic" lifestyle which can often be seen in the dominate culture is actually a defense that keeps them from feeling what is really happening inside. 

This now leads me to a discussion of the dominate and the non-dominate culture and how the media tends to portray those in the dominate culture as "happy, proactive, decisive, efficient and successful."

What About the Dominate Culture? 

      It is interesting how those in the dominate culture may be perceived as appearing more energetic, happier, decisive and effective than those in the non-dominate culture.  Again, let's take a look at Jung and the Myers Briggs Type Indicator and what preferences mainstream culture tends to value.  As we know, there are eight preferences on the MBTI scale, and four of them come more naturally to us.  These eight preferences are:

Extraversion or Introversion

Sensing or Intuition

Thinking or Feeling

Judging or Perceiving.

Now ask yourself a serious question - Which four preferences does mainstream America tend to value most? I would definitely say the  E-S-T-J type is the dominate model of mainstream America - although I do think that is changing, albeit slowly. My informal research shows that most HSPs are of the NF temperament.  The further one is away from the dominate paradigm (ESTJ), the more one might have experienced a feeling of swimming "upstream."  Or… what it is like being a minority in the dominate culture. 

Do E-HSP-HSS's Envy the Dominate Culture? 

      No, we do not.  If we are empowered HSPs, we are often angered by the dominate culture value system being imposed on us.  Many of us are "social justice activists" working hard to make changes in our world either politically, socially, environmentally and spiritually.  Many of us are inspirations in our families and within in our own spheres of influence.  Many of us are "empowered priestly advisors" as defined by Aron, The Highly Sensitive Person Workbook, pages 17-18.

Are E-HSP-HSS's the Real Ones to Envy?

      Again, the answer is no.  Yes, it is easier for we E-HSP-HSS's to be both extraverted and introverted, and we most likely have an easier, if not more enjoyable time being "out" in the world -- especially if it is a "world" we have been fortunate to create and which honors our own values …  However, if we are not very careful and conscious of our intentions, when  we are "out" in the world we can be found wearing our emotions on our sleeves, making ourselves unusually vulnerable.  Just like all HSPs, we E-HSPs can also be vulnerable to taking on unwanted energies of others.  One E-HSP, HSS recently shared with me " You know, it's just not safe out there in the world…I have to continually be aware of who I'm with and what I want to share." 

In closing: 

In Elaine's article, she quotes Carl Jung as saying:

    " Everything we know is subjective because it comes to us through our mind.  So the subjective is, in a sense, the source of all reality."

 Yes, the subjective can distort things but so can the "facts" as perceived by someone - and they always are - perceived by someone - so we might as well honor our own sense of interpretation - at least for ourselves!   Jung also reminds us that this enthusiasm for the objective and bias against the subjective is all around is. 

So, in closing I like to say :  
"Trust your subjective view of your own HSP reality…it is needed in the world - whether you are an Introvert, Extravert or High Sensation Seeking HSP."  

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