I once told my boss I was overwhelmed with all of the looming deadlines, major projects and personnel changes we were managing. His response, “You’re always overwhelmed.”
When the two small yorkies that live in the condo above me bark for more than ten minutes at a time or repeatedly within an hour I want to jump out of my skin.
A friend asked me why I cry so much, and the tone was evident: this is a problem. I used to be embarrassed about the fact that I cry at Hallmark commercials, beautiful natural scenery, and mostly when I get touched by all manner of human kindness and even by personal aha moments.
A sock or strap that won’t stay in place or an itchy tag on my shirt needs constant adjustment or it will keep me from focusing on anything else successfully.
Though I’m an extrovert (I get my energy from being around people), I need a lot of quiet, alone time.
So why am I sharing all this personal information? Because these things that have sometimes made me feel like a freak, or prompted others to comment, I have recently discovered, are actually just traits of HSPs or Highly Sensitive People. I have heard folks in my spiritual communities use this term for a while now, and I thought it was used to describe people who were empaths or intuitives. I had no idea this was a clinical term that applies to 20-percent of the population! Granted, it is a fairly newly discovered phenomenon in the world of psychology. First documented in 1991 by psychologist Elaine Aron, it has since been validated by a number of scientific studies as well as other scientists. It has significantly changed the way I see and understand myself. You can take a quiz on Dr. Aron’s website to find out if you too fit this description.
I absolutely can’t watch horror movies or even overly violent ones. Just the trailers for some films are tough to get through, short though they are, and I often find myself covering both my ears and closing my eyes when they come on television. Watching the evening news is a very unpleasant experience and I mostly don’t do it anymore. There are so many good things happening in the world, and I have never been able to understand why we only talk about the bad ones. When I was studying journalism in college there was a lively discussion in class one day about whether the definition of news was really “bad news.” That may be a large part of the reason I have never put that degree to work as a reporter. I don’t want to spend my days immersed in all that is “wrong” with the world.
After reading all of this, it might appear that being an HSP is a bad thing. It can be challenging at times for sure. But actually my sensitivity is also what makes me a great listener and a good friend. It also enhances my abilities as an energy healer and a coach because I can sense things that aren’t being said. Sensitivity also encourages creativity which is useful in any situation. There are many other benefits outlined in this blog.
There is a reason 20-percent of the population are highly-sensitive too as it turns out that being hyper aware of your surroundings and being able to pick up on potential danger before it happens is a great survival mechanism. There are both benefits and also challenges to being highly-sensitive, but I, for one, am glad now to know that I am. Knowing that this is a nervous-system trait and not a disorder helps me recognize that nothing is wrong with me, and that I may just have to schedule more down-time and self-care after being out in the world or overstimulated. It also helps me see the gifts in my sensitivity and embrace them. I’m doing exactly the right work for my skills, abilities and personality, and that’s awesome!
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