There is a weird monster out there. Being sensitive is great, but this particular little monster can drive you crazy if you don’t know how to handle it. It’s called ‘Highly Sensitive’.
Explanation from the experts:
‘A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high sensory processing sensitivity (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Jung originally coined it. According to researchers, highly sensitive people, who compose of about a fifth of the population (equal numbers in men and women), may process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems.’
I have to battle this little monster and I can tell you that it’s not easy to feel everything so very deeply.
The strange thing about this monster is that it can be both a blessing as a curse.
Being a HSP does NOT mean that you are weird or that there is something wrong with you.
In fact, the highly sensitive person is born that way, with 15-20% of our population being genetically predisposed to higher levels of mental, emotional and physical sensitivity.
There are different kinds of High Sensitivity. I will mainly focus on the emotional part, since that is the kind that I am familiar with.
High Sensitive Persons:
1. They feel more deeply.
A HSP is very intuitive, and goes very deep inside to try to figure things out. Some HSP’ers even have the ability to ‘feel’ the emotions of others and respond to that. They can participate on what someone needs before they ask. Sometimes they can even pick up physical symptoms from other people, experiencing the pain that they go through.
2. They’re more emotionally reactive.
People who are highly sensitive will react more in a situation. For instance, they will have more empathy and feel more concern for a friend’s problems. They will also have a special connection with the ones they love and care about. Sometimes they can sense that there is ‘something wrong’ with a loved one without even being near.
3. It may take longer for them to make decisions.
Highly sensitive people are more aware of subtleties and details that could make decisions harder to make. Even if there is no “right” or “wrong” decision, highly sensitive people will still tend to take longer to choose because they are weighing every possible outcome.
You know that uncomfortable feeling you get after you realize you’ve made a bad decision? For highly sensitive people, that emotion is amplified because the emotional reactivity is higher.
4. They’re extremely detail-oriented.
Highly sensitive people are the first ones to notice the details in a room, the new shoes that you’re wearing, or a change in weather.
5. They’re more prone to anxiety or depression.
If you’ve had a fair number of bad experiences, especially early in life, so you don’t feel safe in the world or you don’t feel secure at home or at school, your nervous system is set to ‘anxious’.
Being Highly Sensitive and having PTSD is an awful combination.
6. They can get “overwhelmed” by joy when they experience great beauty: A beautiful sunset, an incredible musical performance, art.
High vibrational sensitivity is not always triggered by “negative” experiences.
Positive, beautiful, sublime experiences can also awaken that sensitivity.
7. They can feel threatened or uneasy in large crowds or big cities.
Being in a calm, peaceful environment is very important for a HSP.
8. They like to spend time alone.
Highly sensitive people often feel better when alone because they don’t get influenced by other people’s mood or behavior. But the downside of this ‘retreating’ can result in being lonely or pushing people away. One of the pitfalls of a HSP is to lock their feelings away and become ‘numb’.
9. They can experience dramatic mood swings, sometimes for no apparent reason.
Highly sensitive people are more sensitive to both their own emotional content as well as the emotions of those around them. Their emotions might be unintentionally “tuning in” to the emotional content of someone else.
Misconceptions about this little Monster:
Misconception 1: HSP’ers are introverts.
We both like to reflect deeply, and both have vibrant internal worlds, but not all introverted people are necessarily highly sensitive. In fact, 30% of the total number of highly sensitive people are actually extroverted.
Misconception 2: Being a HSP is just another word for being shy.
Just like introversion, the highly sensitive person is often mislabeled as being shy. Although the two share things in common – such as sensitivity to overwhelming social situations, they are essentially not the same thing.
Misconception 3: “HSP” is a mental disorder.
Really? Come on!
From the description, all the way to the shortened label (HSP), it’s easy to mistake the highly sensitive person as a sufferer of some strange mental condition. What mental disorder allows the sufferer to be endowed with such genuine joy as being more empathic, spiritually orientated, and appreciating the details of life more fully?
HSP’ers are born that way. Their brain may work differently, it’s not faulty.
Misconception 4: They are fragile people and are easy to break, so they should be handled with care.
This one just makes my skin crawl! Just because a HSP feels everything very deeply doesn’t mean that they are fragile or not strong. We are not labile! In fact, some HSP’ers are the strongest people you will ever meet because they have to deal with a lot more than an average person. Not just their own emotions, but also of those around them.
And then there is this: Everyone should be handled with care. We are all humans you know!
Misconception 5: They are overdramatic.
Being a HSP doesn’t make you a drama queen. They don’t want to drag attention, they tend to avoid it.
Tips for when you are struggling with High Sensitivity
When you are a HSP, you have to learn how to deal with yourself and your sensitivity.
1. Set a bedtime and morning routine.
For at least an hour or two before bedtime, shut down all electronic equipment and engage in calming activities, such as reading an uplifting book. Keep the morning calm, too. Yoga or meditation can be helpful to find some inner peace before you go to sleep or when you wake up.
2. Identify your triggers.
All HSP’ers are different, so it’s important to determine what stimuli trigger your discomfort. When you have identify your triggers, you will have a better understanding of yourself and may want to minimalize them.
3. Plan ahead.
If you’re sensitive to loud noises and crowds, avoid going places at peak times.
Planning ahead doesn’t mean avoiding the activities you love. For instance, to tune out triggering noises, bring your iPod or phone with calming music and earplugs.
4. Remember your gifts.
Even though being highly sensitive isn’t a flaw, you still might feel bad that you’re easily bothered by things that others aren’t.
But HSP’ers also tend to have many positive qualities, including being creative, conscientious, loyal, empathic and deeply appreciative of the arts. Focus on that instead of the bad!
5. Take mini retreats.
Enjoy nature (if you live in an urban area, visit a park) or get a massage. Add calm into your week with activities like aromatherapy, a bath, yoga or meditation. Give yourself permission to relax with some music for a couple of minutes throughout your day. Take time for yourself!
6. Speak up.
Non-HSP’ers simply don’t notice loud noises or other stimuli that might be bothering you, so speak up.
HSP’ers also tend to get more upset over hurtful comments. If someone has an abrasive personality, speak up. But remember to be polite.
7. Learn to value yourself.
Be nice to yourself. Learn to value your qualities and gifts. Realize that you’re the one and only master over yourself, and no one can have power over you unless you let them.
8. Don’t take things personally.
Yes, this is a hard one! But it is essential for mental and emotional happiness. The highly sensitive person, prone to getting hurt easily by other people and their words, frequently finds himself on edge in social situations. When we take insults and the moods of other people personally, we blame ourselves. To overcome this dilemma, you can take a step back, breathe and think about the person, and why they said or behaved the way they did. Are they going through a hard time? Did someone do something that outraged them today? 9 out of 10 things aren’t personal and you can’t do anything about it.
Never be harsh: the high sensitive person will do his best to avoid harsh people. If you shout a lot or if you are a little aggressive in dealing with people then rest assured that you won’t get along with the over sensitive person.
Make minimal critical comments: Instead, give positive and constructive feedback. When you are criticizing, don’t forget to be positive as well. Start positive, give feedback, end positive.
Never use violence: Not in words and certainly not physically.
Be comforting: the more kind and nurturing you are the more will the over sensitive person love you. Make them feel safe and loved. Make them feel worthy and appreciated.
Be understanding instead of judgmental: don’t force a HSP to do something that will trigger him or her. Understand that some things are hard and help and encourage them. Understand that, even if you are okay with the way they are, they might not be. If they want to change things for themselves, support them.
Don’t Judge, just Care.
Lots of Love,