Dealing With HSP

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” ~ Bertrand Russell

Sensitivity is your ability to pick up on sensory information with your nervous system. It is neural. It is like a sensitive microphone; it picks up on subtle sounds. Not good or bad.

Psychologist Elaine Aron has been researching a temperament category she describes as “highly sensitive people” (HSP). Her work has been gaining increased attention in recent years. This little understood inherited temperament could be impacting your life or someone you love in surprising ways. According to Aron, this trait is not a new discovery, but it is something that has often been culturally devalued, making life challenging for people who live with it.

HSP experience everyday sensory input in a uniquely heightened way that can cause them both pleasure and pain. HSP feel emotions deeply and, as they tend to be empathic, find themselves affected by the emotions of others. We often think of sensitivity as weakness for three main reasons: it is out of our logical control, it makes us vulnerable, and we don’t know what to do with it, which means that we suppress and judge it – so it has manifested in weakness.

Could you be among the 15-20 percent of the population that make up this group? Here are six tell tales that tend to be associated with HSP:

  • You were described as sensitive as a child.
  • You pick up subtleties in your environment.
  • You can easily become overwhelmed.
  • You fall hard and fast (as in love).
  • You are conscientious.
  • You have a vivid imagination.

Some HSP develop animosity toward their way of experiencing the world. Yet it is not a curse, but a path to wisdom. HSP who deny their sensitivity can lead to unhappiness but exploring its benefits can lead to positive change in yourself and others.

If you sense that you are a HSP and would like to experience more of your sensitivity, here are three ways to strengthen that awareness:

  1. Distinguish between sensations and emotions. A sensation is neural sensory information in your body (butterflies in the stomach, tension in the shoulders). An emotion is a personal response to a sensation (I personally feel scared about this).
  2. Give yourself permission to feel your sensations, then engage with them. For example, “I feel my body shaking right now and that is okay. I can shake.” Rather than judging it by saying, “Why am I shaking right now? What’s wrong with me? I shouldn’t be nervous now!”
  3. Remind yourself that you are an active life participant. See yourself as being on the chessboard rather than viewing it from above. Allow yourself to feel in response to the position you are in. Ask yourself “What would feel better right now?” and then let that come to you.

Your body knows more than you think. Consider starting where you are and taking a step in the direction of trusting your body and its nervous system. I have. 🙂

26 thoughts on “Dealing With HSP

  1. Thanks Eric. I think I might be an HSP but perhaps I’ve learnt to cope by being harsh, hard-hearted, garrulous, and cynical. I shall review the matter…

  2. Thank you Eric for sharing here. When I first learned about HSP people I was amazed to find out that I was one! We tend to think of HSP’s as illogical and emotional … but it can manifest (as in me) with being highly sensitive through the senses themselves. I am highly sensitive to light, noise and touch… and yes it can trigger an emotional response and stress.
    Its good to know because it the responses and stress can be managed!
    At the same time it is a gift to embrace as it connects me more to the world and others 🙂
    Your 3 pointers to increase awareness are really good.
    Val x

    • Thanks, Val. In a (relatively) short post, it is challenging to highlight much about HSP and traits. to your personal experience, many HSP are highly sensitive to myriad sensory stimulus, to the point of pain in some situations. Here’s to your continued connecting. 🙂

  3. For years I considered this my own personal curse as I was often told not to be so emotional, sensitive. I’ve learned to embrace it and consider it a gift most times. I know I’d rather feel deeply than to not feel at all. This does help me my life in perspective and not base my actions solely on what I want for me, but how my actions and words affect others. Still, I find it terribly upsetting to watch high drama movies etc…I steer clear of those and or situations involving large crowds. Or if I must be in a crowd, I keep myself in check so that I’m not over stimulated. Otherwise, my energy is zapped along with my mood.

    • Indeed, Suzi, this is equal parts about self-awareness (as a HSP) and how HSPs relate to and interact with others. It sounds as though you are now well ‘tuned-in’ to how it affects you and how to sidestep settings in which you could become overstimulated. Bravo! 🙂

  4. An HSP here too and I have found it very difficult to cope with in the past. Only now I am learning to deal with it and not be buffed around by feeling the emotions of others. I don’t take ownership of emotions that are not mine whereas before I used to unconsciously suck them up and live through them – this was to my detriment working in mental health and took a toll. I now put up my own energetic boundaries of sorts.

    • Good on you for setting boundaries and no longer living vicariously through other emotion vampires. You’ve acknowledged the toll, moved on and are now comfortable with your present perpsectives and awareness. Woo hoo!!

  5. Hi Eric,

    I found this post educative. I can see that a heightened awareness of how HSP manifests can improve how we could interact and support such individuals. I also realise that in the past , a lack of awareness on my part might have led to my not being able to do this effectively.

    Thank you for sharing.

    Shakti

    • Always glad to share and inform, Shakti. To your awareness observation. kudos for acknowledging the past and how it has allowed you to shift forward, constructively. Thanks for contributing to the conversation thread.

  6. I don’t think I have HSP as you described it. But I do experience it once in a blue moon. I think that after awhile of having gone through obstacles and challenges, and having tolerated unwelcomed people and what comes out of their mouths :D, it makes you more insensitive. Just know the time to have a thick skin and time when to care. 🙂

  7. Eric, after a few years of blogging, I seldom go after a request to have notices of posts sent to my email. In fact, I don’t surf the blogosphere as I did in earlier days. However, I signed up with you. Your subjects have me intrigued, but equally enticing is your gift for good writing. Makes me sigh, “ah yes…feed me.” Thank you.

    • Amy, I am equal parts humbled and appreciative. Thank you for your warm felt comment. Now I feel compelled to raise the messaging bar higher. 🙂 I hope that going forward, what I choose to share will be of value while illuminating your days and journey.

  8. Sensitivity is a double edged sword for me. It’s a gift to have so many channels open to experience. But my experience is rarely “direct.” Thoughts and emotions quickly give rise to stories, fantasies, and others twists of interpretation. I hope to cultivate more direct experiences of life and the world around me that aren’t mediated by ego or self. Then I’ll be truly grateful for my sensitivity.

    • Tom, thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughtful, personal views. I happen to be intrigued by your “other twists of interpretation.” They sound as if could well be unique learning experiences. For your consideration, perhaps you could be grateful now for your sensitivity absent other worldly challenges. Continue working on what you choose to and appreciate what is already present in the moment, then look to what may still be. Just another perspective.

  9. I read about this a while ago… And I recognized myself as an HSP-person. I have always wondered if there was something wrong with me. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Now you know. 🙂 And the added upside is that there was and is nothing wrong with you. As the post highlights, HSP can be a blessing and a curse. Once we know more about the trait, it’s easier to understand, co-exist with, and appreciate. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience, Malin.

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