Awareness, acknowledging what is going on, is the first step in the process of healing.
When you learn more about a certain subject, you go through different phases. These phases of awareness help you in the process of learning to deal with what you are dealing with, such as high sensitivity and/or misophonia.
What did my awareness process about sound sensitivity look like? In 2015 I went to therapy with a psychotherapist. I had already sought help for various reasons in the past and yet I was again at the doorstep of a psychological practice with a request for help. I wanted guidance in finding and keeping a job. I had been out of work for a long time, there were really only a few euros left in my bank account. Keeping a job and work stability just wouldn’t work for me.
Exercise: What are your daily challenges?
What are you experiencing yourself? Write everything down. Start at the top of a blank page and think about what’s been bothering you this week. Then check your list. Circle the topics related to each other with a specific color. Then check it again. What do you notice? It may be that what bothers you has a certain theme. Maybe you find certain places or people difficult to deal with or maybe it’s just something that happens in those places. Like many movements, impulses, light, and/or sound.
In the conversations with the psychotherapist, we naturally discussed my past and we also discussed weekly what had happened that week. I would then describe what had happened, what I had done next, how I felt, and what I thought about it. We also looked at how I would feel and what I would think if I had behaved differently. Classical cognitive behavioral therapy. The noises in the workplace turned out to be the cause of a lot of stress, frustration, fatigue, and also conflicts in all the situations we discussed.
Exercise: What did you think and feel about certain situations that happened this week?
Look at the list you just made. Pick a situation and write it down. The situation is neutral, for example: “My manager spoke to me at work while he was eating a sandwich”. Think back to that moment. What was on your mind at that moment? What sensations did you feel in your body? What did you think about that? How did you feel? What did you do next? How did that affect your peace of mind and the situation you were in? Could you or would you have responded differently and why?
Annoyed by sounds
The result of all the conversations was the realization of how much noise bothered me. Sounds made me tired, cost me energy, and often made me very angry.
Sometimes I wanted to hit people or just want to get away and hide from all the noise around me. It was then that I really noticed that many soft human and repetitive sounds could disturb me so much that I could actually say that I hated these sounds. For example, a manager spoke a lot, didn’t ask me anything and showed no interest, and only commented. That alone gave me a lot of tension.
Exercise: what really bothers you?
You may sometimes think, “He or she just doesn’t get it!” because you feel irritation. The annoyance you sometimes experience in certain situations may have to do with environmental stimuli. Take a good look at your list and also the situation you analyzed. What is the common thread?
For all the situations you described, it could be that something happened or preceded it at that time that caused you to suffer. When you’re trying to make something clear and you’re not being listened to, it may just be that the sounds that are there at that moment annoy you. This can make you even angrier. Recognizable? How’s that for you?
Allergy to sounds
I then went online to find out what this ‘sound hate’ could be. Among other things, I searched for allergies to sound. Now it is not an allergy, but I thought this term fit. In the weekly therapeutic conversations, I started to share my findings and insights and we started researching together what I wanted to do with it.
I also registered at the AMC for group therapy. I quickly came to the conclusion that I and the others in the experimental treatment group were the experts in the room. The therapeutic conversations helped me the most in the awareness phase and I then started researching myself.
In recent years I went through the phases described by Carl Rogers*: awareness, interest, evaluation, experimentation, and choice. I myself have come to call them ‘recognizing, discovering and choosing’‘. It wasn’t until I knew what was going on and started to accept it and recognize that it is my challenge to cope with misophonia that I was able to take the next step.