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  • High Sensation Seeking

    Posted by John on 03/26/2023 at 6:36 pm

    HSS or “High Sensation Seeking” was a term I avoided for a long time. I wish I hadn’t because, like HSP, it has now helped me understand something important about my personality.

    I assumed “high sensation seeking” would be a bad thing, but just read this:

    “Despite the hazards of certain behaviors, risk-taking has value and serves an important evolutionary purpose. Without the courage to advance into unknown, potentially dangerous territory, human beings may not have found new mates, populated the globe, or flourished as a species.”

    This is a complete reframe for me. When I was 10 and 11, I used to sneak out of the house at night and go ride my bike. And as I entered in to my teen years, there was a lot of risk taking. I got severely punished for a lot of that.

    Imagine if this tendency could be recognized in young adults with compassion….

    Here’s a basic description:

    “Sensation-seeking encompasses the drive for new, exotic, and intense experiences. As pioneering psychologist Marvin Zuckerman summarized it, “sensation seeking is a personality trait defined by the search for experiences and feelings that are varied, novel, complex, and intense, and by the readiness to take physical, social, legal, and financial risks for the sake of such experiences.”

    And what’s really interesting is this discovery about neurotransmitters:

    “During novel experiences, the brain releases more dopamine and less norepinephrine in high sensation-seekers than low-sensation seekers. The high thrill and minimal stress may drive sensation-seekers to repeatedly seek out new, exciting experiences.”

    I had noticed that whenever I’m playing or writing music, I get this intense release in the brain. Now I know what that is. And it explains why, when I come back later and listen to the music, it doesn’t sound as “exciting.” It’s because I’m not having the same dopamine release as was happening in the moment of discovery.

    The other interesting thing to learn about myself is that I feel constantly driven towards new experiences. And to be honest, I’ve had some arrogance about it and wondered why other people are less “exciting.” Knowing now that my brain is wired this way, I can have a much better understanding of myself and others.

    Perhaps I should also mention that Elaine Aron has described HSP and HSS as “the best of both worlds.” Here’s a link to that article and an HSS test: https://hsperson.com/the-highly-sensitive-person-who-is-also-a-high-sensation-seeker/

    John replied 7 months, 1 week ago 7 Members · 7 Replies
  • 7 Replies
  • Jessica

    06/26/2023 at 5:24 pm

    I was actually just thinking about this exact thing this morning on my 3 hour Hike! I never knew it was considered “High Sensation Seeking” (HSS). So, as I was Hiking up onto a new rock I’ve never yet explored or stepped upon, I had this immediate question come to mind: “Why are humans for the most part stagnant living in only 1 spot for the majority of our lives?” …And then shortly after that thougt I was berating myself for not being able to “settle” into one city, and how after 6 months to 1 year I get the itch to move on again. I would never consider myself an HSS, but I can now understand seeking the “newness” in a new city or hike is the HSS part which only clicked after reading your article about the feeling you get when you’re writing or playing new music, it makes sense now! The novelty of exploring the “newness” of a thing is the HSS trait. Thanks for the well written article John and the weblink to Elaine Aron’s HSS test. It was spot on! 👌

    • Georgia

      12/10/2023 at 10:54 am

      This explains why I moved dozens of times from age 16-34. I wasn’t physically or financially able to travel much, I liked having a “nest” but couldn’t stand to stay in one place for even a year so I tried many different living situations, towns, cities and offices.

  • Theresa

    06/27/2023 at 2:21 pm

    I can relate to this as well, especially as Jessica has mentioned with moving or having the itch to change location after a period of time. For me, it tends to be every 3-5 years. There is something inspiring and energizing about the newness of a place. Suddenly there is less opportunity to operate on autopilot and more of a frontier on which new discoveries and changes can be made in one’s life.

  • Unknown Member

    Deleted User
    06/28/2023 at 5:26 pm

    I appreciated John’s post, and Jessica’s and Theresa’s replies.
    I just did the HSS test, now, and I score as an HSS. My parents have told me that, as a child, I did not like change. I’ve always assumed I was not an HSS. Lately, I notice that when I go to brand new places, that I’ve never seen before, the newness is quite an experience. I have “fresh eyes.” Like hiking on a trail that I’ve never hiked before. Or going to see the famous LDS temple in my town, for the first time (last week) (I’m not LDS, but I’m very interested in the phenomenon of cults, and have been studying it). I moved 21 times in 7 years, from 2007 to 2013, because of my environmental sensitivities. It was such an adventure, to have “fresh eyes” like that, so frequently. I am fascinated by movies about other cultures, for the same reason. I love seeing how others “think differently.” There are so many possibilities, for being human, but we tend to be exposed to a very small slice of the possibilities, and we fall into so many ruts. I will never be able to commit to one doctrine, one dogma, one philosophy, one psychology. I am fascinated to explore new angles.

  • Sherry

    12/11/2023 at 3:12 am

    Wow. This is fascinating. Paradoxical.

    Finding sensory overstimulation difficult but also craving change!?

    My family and friends call me “the nomad”. It’s wonderful to read that it’s a thing rather than just me being dissatisfied with my lot, unable to settle, having a lack of commitment or longevity.🤔

    It’s not just moving home for me though; it has been the same with jobs and relationships 😐

    • John

      12/14/2023 at 3:54 pm

      It is paradoxical. It also provides some useful ground for self care. For example, I found out that dopamine supplementation helps me tremendously – because my brain uses a lot of it. That cleared up a lot of unsteadiness for me.

  • Linda

    12/12/2023 at 11:53 am

    So good to see you and Georgia finding out these things about yourselves — always great to be validated for who we are!

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