One of the more prominent characteristics of being highly sensitive is our depth of processing.
“Depth of processing” is a nice way of saying what feels like indecision, flip-flopping, slow thinking, overly hesitant, perfectionistic wanking. Is wanking correct? Wanking is what it feels like when I’m trying to make a decision, make a move, make a choice, do anything.
Sometimes processing things deeply, taking my time, weighing all my options works. Sometimes good decisions are made. But, that doesn’t make the process any more pleasant.
I found an illustration that perfectly captures what it’s like:
I think it’s safe to say that I and most HSP are not one of the people Rand MacIvor labelled “normal”. (Read why Rand doesn’t consider himself normal here.)
You know why my thinking is so maze-like? Because I think there’s a perfect choice to be made. There’s a BEST way, a BEST time, a BEST option for me. And I don’t want to be wrong. Deciding incorrectly just leads to more thinking, more processing, more searching for the WAY. The Truth, with a capital T that will save me heartache and pain and wasting time.
Just writing this frustrates me. Being this way frustrates me. It’s a difficult way to be in our increasingly fast-paced, information-saturated society where we are forced to make choices between hundreds of options and to do it quickly. To avoid making the wrong decision, I don’t make a decision at all.
And I get stuck.
Not always. Again, sometimes good decisions are made and are made quickly because I feel a strong “yes” or “no”. But most of the time I’m like a rat in a maze in my mind.
I’m going to accept that this is the way I am. I have developed some strategies to cope with it:
1. Routines and schedules — I make a routine out of as many things as possible and keep myself to a schedule so I have time and energy to respond to things I don’t anticipate and I can give time to”process deeply” any major decisions.
2. I force myself to make a decision because I can’t stand being in the maze any longer. I anticipate and accept the consequences of the decision so I have less regret. This is where processing things deeply comes in handy.
3. Increasingly, I’m getting out of my head and use my gut. I have to. If I didn’t I wouldn’t be writing this right now or have a blog. I always say that you can never be wrong if you go with your gut, even if the decision ends up being the wrong one.
If you want more advice, read Elaine Aron’s article “On Making Decisions” and Jacquelyn Strickland’s article “Depth of Processing: Friend or Foe?” I found both very insightful. And if you want to feel better about being a slow thinker/decision maker, check out this article by Steve Fleming. An intriguing assertion made by Fleming: “the agony of indecision is your brain’s way of making a better choice.”