Statistics show that around 1 in 5 is a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP for short), and so it’s possible that you are. This blog looks at how you can find out. My new Theme Thursdays will give more information about what it means to be HSP, and how you can live your best life as one.
What Does HSP Actually Mean?
Sensitivity gets a bad press. People usually think of sensitivity as a as a female trait, and label it unhelpfully with words like, “Snowflake” and “Weak.” Elaine Aron, (Author of “The Highly Sensitive Person”), however, sees high sensitivity as a personality trait rather than a personality disorder.
Some definitions of “Sensitive” can be found here, and one of the examples really struck me…
“Spiders are sensitive to the vibrations on their web”
The heightened sensitivity helps the spider to sense and catch its prey, it survives through doing so.
Even though HSPs are not likely to be catching prey in a web, they are highly attuned to what’s going on around them. They notice the moods and emotions of others, they feel changes in the atmosphere and environment and process all of this deeply.
What Does Being A Highly sensitive Person Mean for Everyday Life?
Every human (and most animals), works best when their nervous system is running smoothly; not too stressed, but also not understimulated and bored.
HSP nervous systems are wired to produce a higher reaction to stimuli than people who aren’t HSP… most people will react to a car backfiring with a hardly a glance, but an HSP might jump out of their skin. And the reactions are usually greater for all the senses; loud noises, bright lights, a big crowd, strong smells, all of these might induce a stronger reaction from an HSP, than they would from someone who isn’t.
It doesn’t just stop there. HSPs process information more deeply too, which means they reflect on everything that’s said in a discussion. They analyse motives and reactions, and have brains that are active at a high level for much of the time, even in the middle of the night. So if you want a late night philosophy discussion about the meaning of life, find yourself an HSP!
Being HSP Sounds Hard, Are There Any Good Bits?!
Yes! This in depth processing means that HSPs have a much more complex understanding of what’s happening in situations. They pick up the subtle clues and nuances that others might miss, and this gives them insight and intuition.
Seeing the world in so much detail can also increase levels of creativity and innovation; so it’s no surprise that many artists, actors and creatives are HSP.
And actually, seeing the world in technicolour and surround sound can be amazing!
What About Overwhelm?
This is one of the more difficult things that HSPs have to deal with. All this nervous system activity can be exhausting. What might seem like a walk in the park for a non-HSP, might feel like wading through treacle if you are.
Take a night out at a concert. Crowds of people. High levels of noise. Lots of social activity. Possibly unusual or strong smells (could be BO or perfume depending on the concert). Then there’s travelling to the venue, differing levels of temperature, along with the excitement of seeing the concert itself. Whilst enjoyable, this also could overload an HSP’s system to the point that they can’t cope.
In future, I’ll be looking at ways that HSPs can manage their nervous systems to reduce overwhelm.
A Different Way of Looking at HSP
Instead of seeing being a Highly Sensitive Person as a curse, it can help to reframe this. Elena Herdieckerhoff talks about this in her Paris TED Talk, which you can see here.
If you’re interested in reading more about Elaine Aron’s work, click here.
My next blogs will look at “Tips To Make HSP Life Easier” and “Managing Relationships As An HSP”.
If you’d like to book a free initial appointment to talk about any of the issues above, please contact me here.