After taking last week’s quiz, you might have determined you’re a “highly sensitive person,” or HSP. Or maybe someone special in your life is.
Psychological research and social norms have come a long way in understanding (and even defining) HSP’s. As recent as two or three decades ago it was a different story. Not understood, treated as a disorder. Fortunately, that’s changed for the most part. Even so, it’s easy to feel different and “strange.”
Because we judge ourselves based on feedback from others – and most others are not HSP’s – it’s no wonder you might feel misunderstood, and question yourself.
Sensitivity is mostly inherited, just like your eye color and height. Under the same conditions, people react very differently. Which is good and bad news. You have a greater awareness of subtlety, see details most people miss, tend to work future situations out in your head. Your intuition is likely highly developed; your brain multitasks in the background as you go about your day. How many times do you “just know” things without any obvious clues? Yep, it can lead to a lot of frustration when you know but others blow you off because you have no “proof” to offer. This is the “sixth sense.” Maybe it’s not 100% accurate (neither are our eyes and ears, to be honest). Visionaries, artists, wise and conscientious people tend to be highly sensitive.
The bad news: you get upset by things that for most people are just small pebbles in a stream. Sometimes, you might feel out of control; maybe your body goes into panic mode in public places – an unexplained sense of fear or dread, or even panic attacks. If you’re aware of the reason behind these feelings, you have strength do handle them.
It’s not all bad, though. Controlling your exposure to stimulation empowers you to avoid triggering situations. With that said, HSP’s do more of the things that make us “human.” Creativity, awareness of our own thinking, spiritual awareness, invention, art and other forms of self expression. Of course, HSP’s don’t have a monopoly on these, but we have them with more consistency and intensity. We have to be careful to not wallow in solitude. The world desperately needs your talents.
Highly sensitive thinkers have served an important role in history. From Elaine Aron, Ph.D. The Highly Sensitive Person:
For societies to survive, however, they need that priest-judge-advisor class as well. This class balances the kings and warriors (as the U.S. Supreme Court balances the president and his armed forces). It is a more thoughtful group, often acting to check the impulses of the warrior kings. Since the advisor often proves itself right, its members are respected as counselors, historians, teachers, scholars, and the upholders of justice. They have the foresight, for example, to look out for the wellbeing of those common folks on whom the society depends, those who grow the food and raise the children. They warn against hasty wars and bad use of the land. In short, a strong advisor class insists on stopping and thinking. And it tries, I think with more success in modern time, to direct the wonderful, expansive energy of their society away from aggression and domination. Better to use that energy for creative inventions, exploration, and protection of the planet and the powerless.