HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE
Hey! Did you know that there are about 1.4 billion Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s) in the world? What that means is that about 1 in every 5 people have the HSP trait. What is an HSP? HSP’s can be easily overwhelmed in situations where there is loud noise, when watching violent movies or TV shows. They react to bright lights, intense food flavors, upsetting situations, deadlines in work situations and even to extreme’s in the weather. Stress can be more intense for an HSP and they may need to find coping mechanisms to avoid burnout. Sometimes for an HSP time spent in front of a computer can become overwhelming and can also be difficult for an HSP to participate in long conversations for example on Skype. And there are times when an HSP is seen as valuable especially when labeled as gifted. Usually it is because they are better able to see life in a much deeper way.
In the early 1990’s Dr. Elaine Aron began researching high sensitivity also called Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS - which is the scientific term) only to discover that the trait is more widely spread than had been discovered. Genetic and brain research began to validate the sensitive gene. The trait is not a disorder and can be found in other species. HSP’s are usually observant before reacting to a situation as for them this is considered a survival mechanism. The reason for this is that HSP’s brains process information differently.
Often HSP’s are seen as shy or super sensitive which is not valued in some cultures and can be told to “stop being so sensitive.” In cultures where being seen as sensitive is considered to be of high value HSP’s will flourish. They may also appear introverted or withdrawn. When HSP’s begin to realize that they are not alone they are more comfortable opening up to new people and situations. So how do you know if you are an HSP? Perhaps it is time you do some research and you can begin by taking the test offered by Dr. Aron on her website www.hsp.com. Should you need more information check out the resources available for HSP’s.
One of times that HSP’s really struggle is at holiday time. For others, holidays are a time of big celebrations, large family gatherings, and a time where people look forward to spending time together. For an HSP this can be overwhelming, too stimulating and can lead to searching out downtime which others can see as withdrawing. Families especially may experience an HSP as someone who does not like to be included and an HSP may find themselves excluded.
HSP’s need to be take a different approach to life. They may need to structure times of quiet and plan out what events they can handle. You see for an HSP they feel things more deeply. They may not know what is needed until they take a moment and do some reflection as to identify what works best for them. Downsizing holiday events into more manageable bite size pieces is preferable for an HSP. And once the HSP figures out what works best for them, they need to take a moment and let their loved one’s know what is going on.
In the1990’s when I discovered that I was an HSP it was met with relief and curiosity. I’d often find myself going off alone during parties for just a few minutes just to enjoy the quiet. The discovery brought relief that I was not going crazy and with it curiosity as I wanted to know more. You see before this discovery I had often heard I was being too sensitive and that I needed to get over it. Or, in business situations I’d hear “I’m not your therapist” when I would share I was an HSP and needed down time. Growing up I often heard I was not enough as what others considered shyness was my way of retreating from chaos. For me, holiday’s and time spent in large family gatherings were too intense. Too much noise. Too many people. Too much conversation. Often I felt like I could feel everyone’s emotions all at the same time. Feeling overwhelmed I’d retreat to a quieter place. At the time, I did not have the answers and would often seek out time alone only to be met with criticism. Meditation provided me with a way to calm my inner world. Later in life I’d build in hours of silence and found that provided the same benefits as a vacation.
The discovery that I was not alone left me exhilarated. I’d go onto to discover that many artists (Van Gogh), business people (Albert Einstein), musicians (Alanis Morrisette) call themselves/or are thought to be HSP’s. The HSP trait has value as sensitive people are often attuned to others emotions, they are also creative, imaginative, empathic, intuitive and passionate as well as independent thinkers. Being sensitive is a trait that is often misunderstood and where others thrive almost anywhere, an HSP does best in the right environment especially in places where they are valued and where there is a balance.