William Allen is an author with a writer’s heart and researcher’s mind. After getting a degree in Psychology with an eye on doing psychology research, he recalibrated for a career in Information Technology. He found himself in a thirty-year career as an Information Technology manager at Wells Fargo who enjoyed managing highly intelligent, often difficult staff, many of whom were highly sensitive.
He retired early from his corporate job to start his Hypno-coaching and neurofeedback brain training business, BrainPilots, in Bend, Oregon. In late 2016, he began his blog, The Sensitive Man, about his experiences, as a highly sensitive man. The blog became the genesis of his first book, Confessions of a Sensitive Man. His new book, On Being a Sensitive Man, is the follow up book, which focuses on how to live in the world as a sensitive man.
William feels that HSP males need to take their keen insights and intuition and make them public. He would like to shed more light on highly sensitive males and the much-needed role they need to take in our society.
💝 Key Takeaways
- What are the problems HSP men struggle with the most
- How do HSP men challenge traditional masculine stereotypes
- What William recommends for HSP men to relieve stress, anxiety and overwhelm
- How HSP men can help redefine what masculinity is
- What we can do to help HSP boys
- How being highly sensitive helped William in both his corporate life and in his coaching business
- What William considers is his greatest highly sensitive strength
📚 Resources Mentioned
🔗 Where You Can Find William
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/zallenw
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/thesensitiveman
[00:00:00] Rose: Hey, it’s Rose and welcome to another episode of the Sensitive CEO Show and our next episode; I have the pleasure of talking with William Allen. William is an author with a writer’s heart and a researcher’s mind. After getting a degree in psychology with an eye on doing psychology research, he recalibrated for a 30-year career in information technology.
Bill retired early from his corporate job to start his Hypno coaching and neurofeedback brain training business brain pilots in late 2016; he began his blog, the sensitive man, about his experience as a highly sensitive man; this blog became the Genesis of his first book, Confessions of a Sensitive Man.
And William now has a new book called on being a sensitive man. And it’s the follow-up book, which focuses on how to live in a world as a sensitive man. So welcome, bill. I never know whether to call you Bill or William. I’ll call you Bill if that’s okay.
[00:01:11] William: Oh yeah, you can call me Bill.
That’s what everybody calls me. Hi rose. It’s good to see you again
[00:01:17] Rose: good to see too. It’s wonderful. Wonderful to talk to you today on this topic as well. And, I guess to start with, I mean, I know a little bit about your journey, but can you share a little bit with the audience, please?
[00:01:32] William: Yeah. I have always known there was something different about me.
I grew up in a very traditional household and a very traditional part of the United States. And boys were supposed to be a certain way, and I was a little bit more emotional and sensitive. So I knew there was something different about me I wasn’t quite sure I didn’t, couldn’t put my finger on it.
[00:01:55] William: And back then, there wasn’t anything written about being highly sensitive. That was years and years to come when Dr N Rover’s book in the mid-nineties. So it was always something that I found myself trying to modify who I was. To fit into the mould to fit into the boy code, the man code.
And I had to do the same thing when I got into corporate work and found myself putting my feelings behind me and trying to be stoic and warrior-like and all that stuff. Well, it wasn’t until I got out of corporate work. I was able to start my own business and really kind of focus my attention on what I wanted to do and what I thought was authentic for me. I began to realise that this gift of sensitivity was just that it was something that was going to help me do what I did, which was to help other people.
I was very fortunate to learn about Dr Aaron’s book, probably in the early two thousand, and I started reading that. And it resonated with me just like so many people find out for the first time when they read your book that that’s who they are. But because I was a man, embracing this high sensitivity trait was difficult.
[00:03:09] William: It took me about ten years to get my hands wrapped around it. And that’s about the time I started writing the blog and the blog was me trying to figure out some questions I had because there wasn’t a whole lot about the highly sensitive man. Even in 2016, there’s a lot more that’s coming around since then.
But anyway, I spent about two years writing blog articles about various topics. What it was like to be a man, what it was like to be a sensitive man and cultural issues. Things like what masculinity is and what it should be, what it’s been presented to us as. And this, as I, as you said in the bio, is the Genesis of the first book, was my journey as a highly sensitive man.
the second book was really kind of. A a trail guide is what I like to call it. there’s I; I don’t think yet there’s been a definitive guide for highly sensitive people just yet, because we don’t know everything we need to know about this trait, but it’s a good guidebook. I think it’s a good enough guidebook.
[00:04:11] William: To help men start thinking about how they can deal with the obstacles and the challenges of being a highly sensitive person, but also embracing the gifts and being positive about this trait and being proud of it and embracing it.
[00:04:25] Rose: Wonderful. Wonderful. What are the problems that HS men struggle with the most, in your opinion?
[00:04:33] William: Well, like most HSPs, we deal with things like overwhelm and overstimulation, kind of fitting a, a, you know, a square peg in a round hole. That’s kind of like how most HSPs feel doesn’t fit in culturally, but men have a unique problem. That being sensitive is something that culturally, I know there’ll be many women who may argue with me on this, but it’s a little bit more acceptable for women to be considered sensitive than for men.
So that’s one of the things that I think men struggle with internally. That’s one of the reasons we have such a difficult time getting highly sensitive men to come out of the grasses and join the ranks and, and, and, and accept and embrace the trade. They’re so conditioned, like all of us were that sensitivity is not something men are supposed to be.
So if I was going to say one thing that stands out above that, it is getting over that hump of saying it’s okay to say I’m a sensitive man. Right. And that is what we’re all trying to do right now. The books that are being written, the blogs, the podcast, everything is to get the word out to men and express it positively.
And your, I mean, your blog and your two books are such a wonderful contribution to HSP men to normalise this trait because 50% of males and females have this trait.
[00:06:08] William: Exactly.
[00:06:09] Rose: So how do HS P men challenge traditional masculine stereotypes?
[00:06:16] William: You know, it’s funny, The thing about us. One of the things I think is great about HSP men and why HSP men are important right now is because a lot of the things that we do we do because we’re wired to do it that way. So we feel emotions deeply right now. That’s not to say that other men don’t feel deep feelings or emotions, but HSP men are kind of wired to do that.
I was talking to a guy the other day. He was a kind of a, he is an HSP male, and he was. Prototypical male, very strong, big guy beard, the whole thing. But he’s telling me that he was watching a movie and at the end of the movie, he just welled up with tears, and he started, he started crying at, in the movie theatre and I thought now anybody else would see him as this big burly guy.
Right? Strong sort of prototypical male-looking figure. But he was showing a very tender side of himself because the movie moved him, and I’ve, I’ve had that happen to me in movie theatres as well. So, because we allow ourselves to express this human side of us, which is very human, is the emotional side.
Right. The feeling deeply. It challenges the idea that men can’t be anything but stoic and unemotional. We can’t ask for help. We can’t be vulnerable. We can’t expose ourselves. We have to be strong and, and, and sort of warrior-like. And I think highly sensitive men, especially those embracing the trait and understanding the dimensions of highly sensitive nature.
They’re the ones that are gonna challenge this whole thing about masculinity. And frankly, I think it’s overdue that we look at those things. The statistics are not very good for men right now. The struggles that men have to deal with as a whole, not just highly sensitive men, but a lot of it has to do with being unable to be vulnerable and open with their emotions.
So I think that’s where we, as men, are. Can challenge some of these old traditional role models we’ve been handed down and maybe help modify them and open it up a bit. So we can be human first and then amen. Be men. It’s not about not being a man. It’s about being a human and expressing that through your masculine major.
[00:08:44] Rose: I love that. So how, how would you suggest men? Help to redefine masculinity.
[00:08:54] William: This is gonna be, in my estimation, a multi-generational thing. It’s going to be something that we need to start challenging. These old role models. I believe that many of the problems we have in this world are a corruption of what masculine is, what the masculine energy is that has been with us for millennia, right?
This is dominant, conquering. As I said, warrior, like a kind of masculinity, has, has, has gotten us into many problems in the world. I think the wars that we see are climate change issues because we’re exploiting things and the planet. I think these are all things that are fundamental, dotted line back to this type of masculinity.
I want to be very clear. This isn’t about being against men. I’m a man. I, I do; I am not against men, but I think there is this sort of toxic masculinity, which is the term I use, not I use, but it’s out there. That seems to be hegemonic masculinity and patriarchal masculinity, which is not giving a fair shake to women.
It’s not giving a fair shake to many people that are not of the dominant culture. As I said, it’s very exploitative, and I think that highly sensitive men have a role to play. And it is helping define that. One of the ways we can do that. One of the things I, I think is most important is having older, highly sensitive men or older men for that matter who are more enlightened about this talk to younger men, you know, express to them, the difficulties that we went through and help them understand that they can redefine what this means.
It’s going to be their generation, and the generations afterwards, that I think will have to live with what happens. And I think they’re gonna be the going who define it in many ways.
[00:10:50] Rose: . And, what about women? How can HSP women and non-HSP help as well? Because I think we play a big role.
[00:11:01] William: Well, absolutely. I, I, and I’m not trying to drop all the childrearing responsibilities onto women. But because we’re just at mother’s day here this coming week. Then, the importance of mothers in raising boys is, is, is huge. It’s enormous. And what I found, too, in some areas, women are subscribing to this old masculine way.
This old, there won’t their boys to grow up to be just like. You know, Clint Eastwood or John Wayne or whatever the idea is, they’re not allowing them to be who they are. They’re not allowing them to be expressive and be able to be emotional because that’s not the image that they have. So the roles that I think of HSP women, particularly because they’re sensitive to these things.
and to all women generally is to be more involved in raising the boy and helping the boy nurture the boy, helping him learn to express his emotions. It might be difficult for some fathers to do this, but then this is where mothers can have a significant impact when it comes to adult males.
Be aware of their sensitivity, learn about it, and understand the trade. If you’re not an HSP female, there’s a lot to learn about how HSPs operate, especially in relationships. And their great books out there on Dr Aaron has written, she’s an authority on love. She and her husband are authorities on love and relationships.
So that would be a great place to start, but the idea is to learn about the trait and be. Engaged with your HSP partner?
[00:12:43] Rose: . That makes so much sense. And I know, Elaine and art, Aaron put a movie out, didn’t they, about HSPs and relationships.
[00:12:53] William: Absolutely. Which I think, and they’ve got a wonderful book, Elaine.
Yeah. She’s got a wonderful book called HSPs and love, which is what it’s called. Yeah. Yeah. That is absolutely, you know, it’s a, it’s a benchmark book for, especially for HSB. Yeah. And
[00:13:06] Rose: relationships. Yeah. Definitely. So, what do you recommend for H S P men to relieve stress and anxiety?
[00:13:19] William: Well, I look at it like this.
Ever since I had my HYP coaching and neurofeedback training business, I learned about resiliency. You know, we always think about spot treatments, and there are many of them out there. And I would suggest anybody who is an HSP or an HSP man to learn some of this spot treat ways of relaxation, where your breathing exercises can be very useful, very quick on the.
And also doing some meditative-type things, but the idea is to keep practising this when you’re not stressed because the idea is that you’re training your brain to be resilient. So when you do experience stress, and you will cuz you can’t live through life without it, the idea is that your resiliency will make your recovery time less.
And that I think is very important. It’s sort of like riding away for a surfer, right? It just rides the wave out. Don’t fight it. Don’t go against it; ride it out. And then when it’s over, you’re back to calm again. And so that’s the thing that I would suggest more than anything else are lots of tools out there right now. You can get lots of apps, you can get it for your phone and stuff, but start building a resilient practice.
Of relaxation, and get out in nature too. That’s important. I think for HSPs.
[00:14:41] Rose: Yeah. If you’re lucky enough to live, live around nature, which I know many of us are, but some of us, I guess, live in cities, and it’s not always easy to get out in nature. Is it,
[00:14:54] William: if you can find a park and a city with trees.
I think that’s the key part of it: trees and grass. If you can get out and do that, it’s not, maybe it’s not the equivalent of walking through a beautiful forest, you know, on a 10-mile hike, but there are benefits of doing that. The things the trees release, the kind of energy, the oxygen they release, there are things that you gain from doing there, and that’s calming and something that I think all HSPs should look at.
[00:15:27] Rose: , definitely. We’re, we’re very blessed where we live. We’re surrounded by beautiful gum trees, and I’m always just in awe of how majestic they are and yeah. And the smell. I love the smell of the eucalypt as well. It comes off. Oh yeah, absolutely. Very blessed. So I would love you to share what prompted you to start writing your blog, which then led to your book, your first book.
[00:15:56] William: Well, as I mentioned earlier, there wasn’t a whole lot of material on men. And, and I had questions that were just, I went to different blogs, read books, and so forth. Dr Ted Seth wrote some great books, and those are kind of standards. Tracy Cooper, Dr Tracy Cooper’s written some great books about HSP men, but I had questions outside of that.
Some of them were, how are HSPs politically? How do they interface with things like sports and traditional items that guys do? How do you know just all kinds of topics, relationships, work, you know, things that were going on politically in the environment? When I was writing the blog. My reaction to those things.
So one thing led to another, and as I would do my normal daily walk, I would start getting ideas. They’d just come to me, and I’d write ’em down and to come back. And I built a nice little log of things I was going to write about. I found it to be a way of understanding my trait, and I would do some research on it and so forth, and I’d write the blog.
And that became, you know, the foundation for the book, the book, again, the first book was about my journey as an HSP male, and the blogs were sort of the initial inquisitive. Questions that I had about where I was gonna go, what I was gonna do with that. And it just, it all came together. It was wonderful.
And when I wrote the book, I was surprised at how easy it was to write. I mean, the words just came out of me as if they were coming out of some magical place. So. It was something I needed to express, and it was something I needed to do.
[00:17:43] Rose: Wow. Amazing. And, and I love that you get a lot of your inspiration when you’re out in nature and you’re out walking.
[00:17:50] William: Absolutely. Absolutely. I love nature. Yes. So
[00:17:54] Rose: when you take notes on your walks, do you have an app that you
[00:17:58] William: use. You know what, typically, if I got something good, and it’s a little complicated, I’ll just record it on the phone. I mean, I have the headphones, I have music going.
It’s very calming music. It’s very, almost like white noise music. I use that to kind of get my brain in a state where I can think, But if I have things I need to capture, I’ll just record it on the phone. I’ll come back and get it. It’ll be like an idea. And the idea will prompt me when I get back, and I’ll take that and massage it and write it down as a, as a thought, a hypothesis or something.
And then I write the article from that.
[00:18:34] Rose: I love that. I’ve, I’ve got a little app called brain toss that when, when I come across things, when I’m out walking, you can record, you can take a picture or you can write a short note, and I get back, and I’ve got all these brain tosses that I have to process in my, it goes straight to my inbox and my, tu planner.
There are so many wonderful apps out there to help us absolutely capture these ideas. Isn’t there?
[00:19:03] William: Absolutely. I have to look into that one. That sounds like an interesting one. That’s a great
[00:19:06] Rose: one. Yeah. I’ve been using it for about a year now, and yeah, it’s great. It’s a good app. Yeah. So I would love to ask you how you think being highly sensitive helped in both your corporate career, but also in your coaching business.
[00:19:25] William: Well, in the corporate career, you know, here’s, here’s a funny thing after all these years, I, when I left, retired from the company I, I worked at, and I had been there for a long time, and I’d managed a lot of people. When I finally sent out the note that said, okay, I’m leaving in two weeks.
I got flooded with all these people who sent me these excellent, thought-filled, loving, nurturing notes that said, you know what? You were the best manager that I ever had. And it was because you cared. And I think being a highly sensitive person; It was hard for me not to care about what my staff was doing.
I would have talks with them. I would know how many kids they had and what they were doing for vacation. I would ensure they were taking time off work because we were all technical people. We were all logged in at night. We all worked remotely just about, and this was before COVID.
You have to stop people, or else they’ll keep working all night long if you, you know, so I had to make sure that was the kind of thing I did. And I found my style was different from so many of the rah. managers that just won’t go all the time. And I was more; I was more human-centred and, and less, results centred in terms of, yeah, we got our results in, but that didn’t so drive me.
I wanted to make sure that these people were happy. So that helped me a lot as a manager, in my Hypno business and in my, Neurofeedback brain training. I was connecting with a lot of people who were coming in. A lot of the people that I had, the clients, were highly sensitive people and didn’t know it.
So I had a connection with them. The minute they walked in the door, I found that being one-on-one with people and working with them was my sweet spot. It was easy for me to talk to them. I could build rapport with them very quickly, and they trusted me. I had some different equipment, some things that are not normally found in a Hypno hypnotist office, but things that worked well.
And they had to trust me on these things, and they did it and loved it. So it opened me up to wanting to help people. And it aided me in the style that I had to communicate and build rapport.
[00:21:48] Rose: Amazing. I wish I had you as a manager when I was in my corporate job.
[00:21:54] William: I would’ve loved to have had you on, on staff
[00:21:59] Rose: and it’s such a natural gift of ours.
Isn’t it to it is to care about people and ask about their lives and what’s going on with them, and yeah, it’s, it’s so natural for us that we, I guess, often take it for granted.
[00:22:15] William: I, you know, it that’s the, isn’t it, the funny thing about having a gift? If you’re the last person to recognise how exceptional the gift is?
It’s because it’s natural for you, right? It’s easy for you. And I think many times, highly sensitive people overlook the fact that what we do so naturally. It’s hard for many people to do. And it’s hard for people to be able to reach out and connect with people at a very deep level. And that’s something I think we all can do very well.
Well, this has been an amazing talk bill, and I’ve got one final question before we wrap up. Okay. When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, what do you do?
[00:23:04] William: Well, I, what I try, the things that kind of things that I had talked about earlier is I, I do some breathing exercises. So one of the things I learned when I was working corporate is that if you can get oxygen into your blood, it’ll get to your brain.
And once you oxygenate your brain, It relaxes naturally. There are a lot of techniques and hypnosis you can use to do as you know because you’re a hypnotist as well. Hypnotherapy is to help calm the brain down; breathing is one of those things that I do. I, I, it really works. It’s always worked for me.
It is about getting out in nature. I, I, I need to take a break. I’ve worked at a computer in front of a computer for most of my career. If you don’t get up and you don’t get out and walk away from stuff, that can be overwhelming at times. And sometimes, we feel obligated to finish something, even if it’s stressing us out.
There’s nothing further than the truth. You can take the time to get out of your setting and walk and do something else. So anyway, those are the kind of things I would do. And I meditate every day. Again, that builds up resilience over time.
Meditation is wonderful. I love, I love meditation.
[00:24:20] Rose: It’s my go-to modality. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, and I will be popping all the links to your blog and your books, both of your books, in the show notes. Is there anything else you would like your, like the audience today, to know? Go
[00:24:46] William: well, again, I think the biggest thing that I think we all need to recognise is especially highly sensitive people, or if you know, somebody who’s a highly sensitive person is that it really is a gift.
And it really is how you perceive this, this trait. Some people think it’s a burden it’s. It has its challenges, but the things we talked about today, about how to neutralise the overwhelm and how to calm yourself down, are all techniques that, unfortunately, most of us didn’t learn growing up and how we regulate our emotions.
These are all things Dr Aaron talks about as well. These are all learnable things. These are things you can learn to do that can help you counteract what you consider to be the overwhelming part of the trait so that you can focus on the beautiful gift. That you have this ability to understand people and to reach out and care about people, and the world needs us right now.
[00:25:42] Rose: beautiful, beautiful, parting words. Thank you so much again, and it’s been wonderful talking to you.
[00:25:50] William: Thank you, Rose. I appreciate it. Thanks for having me.