Recently I discovered that I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), possessing an “innate sensitiveness” as Carl Jung originally coined it. In 1996, Dr. Elaine Aron’s groundbreaking work confirmed that 15-20% of the population has this trait of high sensory processing. The work of Dr. Ted Zeff explores how the trait of sensitivity, specifically in boys, has been received in cultures around the world. Through these pioneers I have discovered a false belief I carried for a long time; the lens through which I experience life is not “wrong” . The validation that sensitivity is neither an asset nor a flaw has given me the ability to reframe the way I perceive life.
1. HSPs intimately experience the subtle details of life.
Delighting in color, design, texture, visual expression and music are all ways that this trait manifests itself as an absolute blessing. Many HSPs discover the depths of appreciation through animals, nature and the universe. There is often reverence and awe for the myriad ways life is experienced through the senses.
2. HSPs pick up on things that might go unnoticed by others.
Subtle sounds like the buzzing of lights, radio or TV static, air fresheners or scented candles, or even attuning to “bad vibes” can nudge an HSP into overload. I am particularly sensitive to clothing tags, fabrics and seams. I am also mindful of the cleaning and hygiene products I use since my skin and body are incredible sensitive to chemicals. The taste, smell and visual appeal of food has been an ongoing challenge throughout my life. As an adult it is wonderful to be able to shop at a local market that offers fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. It is of utmost importance for an HSP to eat well and lovingly care for their body.
3. HSPs experience a more saturated range of emotions.
It is not uncommon for HSPs to experience both positive and negative emotions more deeply than non-HSPs. Many HSPs tend to be “big reactors” . There is a legitimate struggle on the part of many HSPs to be in control of their emotions. I have no doubt that one of my soul’s journeys during this incarnation as Melissa is to learn how to be a master of, rather than beholden to, my emotions.
4. HSPs have strong intuition.
We all hear our inner wisdom in different ways. Most HSPs have an inner knowing that speaks from a place of love, trust and surrender. This personal guidance is what allows for the most serendipitous of relationships and experiences. Many people, non-HSPs included, have been “talked out” of their guidance by well-meaning parents and adults. If you feel shut down to your own personal truths it’s within your power to reconnect in whatever way feels best to you. You might want to cultivate a meditation practice, begin working with a coach, or consider working with a professional therapist specializing in Highly Sensitive People.
5. HSPs need time alone.
It is easy for an HSP to dip into overload after an afternoon of running errands or a dinner party with friends. Often a bit of alone time to read, meditate, daydream, garden, create, stretch, nap or simply “be” is all that is needed to get grounded. Without taking care of yourself you will not have anything to give to others. It is crucial to find a modality of self-connection that works for you.
6. HSPs avoid violent movies and TV shows.
The media is often permeated with gory, scary or gruesome imagery. HSPs might do well to eliminate extraneous violence from entertainment sources and avoid overindulgence in news.
7. HSPs make wonderful coaches, therapists and healers.
Many HSPs are natural caregivers since they are so often in tune with the needs of others. Frequently sensitivity and empathy travel together, therefore it’s common for HSPs to pick up on the emotions of others. Friends in need of a shoulder to cry on might call upon their HSP friends because of our innate ability to love and soothe. HSPs must be mindful not to read too deeply into things or give away so much love that they themselves become depleted. It is a delicate practice to beam love onto another while maintaining your own well-being.
Understanding how you “work” as an HSP is a necessary step towards becoming a self-actualized being. Lovingly establishing routines and boundaries that honor your temperament is a highly personal process. As you cultivate your practices and become more comfortable embodying the most “successful you” , a newfound appreciation for the trait of sensitivity is sure to follow.