We the highly sensitive people
I’ve just spent the evening with my local psychology colleagues, learning about about Highly Sensitive People (thanks Claudia).
Apparently 15-20% of us are considered to be ‘highly sensitive.’ High sensitivity isn’t a psychological weakness, but is an innate trait…. the brains of highly sensitive people are actually wired differently to others’.
Highly sensitive people:
- feel things deeply
- can feel overwhelmed by strong smells, loud noises and chaos
- are intuitive and empathic
- have a rich inner life
- avoid violent movies and TV shows
- are affected by other people’s moods
- tend to burn out and develop chronic conditions like chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia
- enjoy deep conversations with individuals rather than small talk in large groups
- react strongly to caffeine, medication and drugs
- were often called ‘sensitive’ or ‘shy’ as a child
While my colleague was describing the attributes of a Highly Sensitive Person this evening, I found myself nodding to a large number of the items, and when I interrupted her halfway through to confess that I fitted the description, I noticed that the majority of my colleagues joined me with their own nods of self acknowledgment.
You see, high sensitivity is not a weakness, it’s a strength that makes us intuitive and empathic (and not surprising really that it would be common in therapists). Highly sensitive people are in the minority, enough so that we’re often misunderstood and dismissed as overly sensitive, but we’re a large minority, and we have a lot to offer the world.
Highly sensitive people actually process the world more deeply and are more aware of subtleties. And as a result we’re also more easily overwhelmed, as we get overstimulated when there’s a lot going on. Our nervous systems are easily over loaded. We need time to ourselves to unwind and unravel from all this stimulation.
Dr Elaine N Aron says it’s important to recognise if we’re highly sensitive, so we can make full use of it’s advantages and compensate for it’s other effects. Elaine suggests:
- reviewing our past, and taking note of times when we felt we failed, and reinterpreting the failure in light of being a highly sensitive person in a world that does not cater well for this trait (perhaps being overstimulated at the time)
- stop living like non-sensitive people – you may need more down time and more meaningful work
- work on your self esteem (our culture largely does not always value high sensitivity, so our self esteem can take a battering at times)
- help the important people in your life understand your needs as a highly sensitive person – such as your need for down time and for gentler communication (and that these needs are just who you are, they’re beyond your control)
Are you (or someone you love) highly sensitive?
Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts……
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