Sometimes I read a book or an article or something and it punches me right in the feels. This morning was one of those times. I read an article in Psychology Today about “sensation seekers”, people who have an above average drive to do things that seem a little, umm, unwise. Cliff divers, mountain climbers, cross country cyclists, partiers, etc. Apparently, people like this fall into four broad categories based on how they respond to boredom, their disinhibition, thrill/adventure seeking, and experience seeking.
I’ve known for most of my life I was a little more of a sensation seeker than others. I went skydiving on my 18th birthday, joined the US infantry to see if I “had the balls”, have quit two secure jobs without a back-up plan to cycle across the country, have done naked bike rides, been in orgy domes, and I would literally jump on a plane in one hour to go to a foreign country if presented with the opportunity. On the “Sensation Seeking Scale” I max out the experience-seeking section and score above average in the other three measures.
What I found particularly interesting about the article is it hinted at something that I’ve suspected about myself. In some ways, these more extreme experiences aren’t about seeking an above-average rush, it is that these above-average rushes are needed to reach a level that is normal for others. The article mentioned that high sensation seekers have lower arousal systems, our norepinephrine amounts are lower. I think this is why sexual variety and experimentation, MDMA (and other drugs), and travel are so appealing. When I have those experiences I can start to understand the passion and lust and racing heart that others feel with more common experiences.
Another area of the article that spoke to me is this line: “One of the things that I heard over and over from high sensation seekers is “Analysis IS paralysis.” Instead of analyzing situations, they jump headlong into them and trust their bodies and minds to respond as needed. The goal is to not think about what to do too soon.”
There is a danger to all this. I imagine injuries, death, addiction, and other consequences are common. But, like the article points out, people like me aren’t doing this because we have a subconscious desire for death (sorry, Freud) but it is because we have a very conscious love of life… particularly the quality of our lives, even if we risk the quantity of it.