Ai Takaoka / Calligrapher Kyoto

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苦楽一対 joy and sorrow

HSP as a personality trait

One day, I learned the word “HSP”. It is the acronym for Highly Sensitive Person, and it means “a person with a highly reactive and sensitive temperament”. After doing a quick diagnostic test on the internet, I found out that I myself also fall in the category of HSP.

Knowing that, I was able to understand my life up until now. The pain and the pleasure in my life so far. That’s because I learned that many things are due to this temperament.

It is said that HSP people tend to blame themselves and become depressed because of their strong reactivity. As a matter of fact, I had a period like that too. I still suffer from cold sores and mouth ulcers. In addition, although it does not apply to all HSPs, there are some specific characteristics that may appear, such as sensitivity to light or not being able to drink coffee.

Every morning when I wake up, I take time to meditate while walking around the neighborhood shrines and castles, and I always wear sunglasses. If someone sees me wearing sunglasses, they might think I am trying to look cool. But actually, that’s not the case. Rather, the white of the pedestrian crossing is too bright and there is too much information flying around from people and cars around me, so it’s necessary to block it out to a certain extent.

I want to walk, I want to let my ideas flow, but I want to clear my mind of idle thoughts.

HSP people tend to be very sensitive when perceiving a lot of information. What is the other person thinking now? Are they saying what they really mean? Are they putting up a front? I worry too much about it, and I can’t communicate well. What is the best way to phrase this? I should have said something better then.

As an HSP, I never stopped worrying about interpersonal communication. Even if it’s not a big deal for the other person, I am constantly thinking about it.

But of course, it’s not all bad. It is precisely because I have this temperament that I can feel and hear things. I began to realize that HSP is not a disease but a personality trait and it is up to me to make the most of it.

Compose one’s spirit with calligraphy

I’m not good with people, but I actually like humans. However, I hate being cunning and calculating. I’ve been suffering and thinking about this for a long time.

But at the same time, it becomes an explosion of emotions towards my work, and it becomes the energy that is born as an expression. So now, I think it was a good thing.

Even if something is incredibly painful, that feeling only exists at that time. It makes me want to write. And by writing, a work is born and I am healed.

I met a Ukrainian woman after the 2022 Russian-Ukrainian invasion began. She is also an artist and held an interest in calligraphy. As she faced her own heart through calligraphy, she said, “My calligraphy is my medicine.”

The students who attend my calligraphy class are also seriously working on facing themselves, composing their spirits, and calming their hearts through calligraphy. I think there are many people who have a sensitive temperament like me and think about various things and worry about it. They tell me that the time in the classroom is an important healing time.

I myself have a habit of rinsho (practice to write faithfully to the model) in the sense of improving my skills, but at the same time, it also has the meaning of a routine work that resets my mind. By writing single-mindedly, I become nothing. It’s a painful habit, but it’s also a habit that leads to the joy of being able to write as you want. And above all, your mind will be calm.

For the Ukrainian woman, for my students, and for me, calligraphy is medicine, healing, a guidepost to a mind that composes one’s spirit, calms suffering, and finds joy and happiness.

Pain and pleasure are two sides of the same coin

Because of this personality trait, I feel many things and often think too much. It’s painful, but it’s also a catalyst for gaining a lot of insight.

In the past, I might have focused only on the “painful” part of this personality trait. But now, I understand that it is precisely because I am sensitive that I am able to notice the state of people’s minds and receive energy from the natural world.

And above all, for me, it means being able to express it in calligraphy. Producing is painful. But it’s also a lot of fun.

Calligraphy is a different approach to life. Experiencing pain is living. Experiencing pleasure is living. Because we are alive, we have emotions. Various emotions during the course of our lives. I don’t want it to end with only the negative energy of suffering. We should go to feelings of hope.

We tend to think that pain and pleasure are separate things. But in reality, suffering and pleasure are two sides of the same coin. For me, it is an important premise that even painful things lead to joy.

I’m sure there are many people around the world who feel the same kind of suffering and who focus only on suffering.

I want to be an advocate for those people. I hope that my work will move people’s hearts and help others.