Highly sensitive people get the sense at a young age that they are different. They don’t fit in. They are not interested in the same things that other people are interested in. They are not motivated in the same way.
This profound sense of being different is life long. It does not go away, and can cause pain when the sensitive’s differentness is treated badly by family, peers, and early authority figures.
There are many reasons that the highly sensitive person will get the message that they are different:
- physical sensitivities like loud sounds, too much noise, light and tactile or touch sensitivity may cause discomfort or pain, which is not necessarily true of non-HSP’s.
- a highly sensitive person often needs time to themselves to rest after interacting with others. Non-HSP’s often recgarge with other people.
- social interaction can be draining unless it is for a short time, with a few people in a quiet setting. Non-HSP’s are more comfortable with big noisy social engagements.
- the highly sensitive person hates small talk, something that non-HSP’s thrive on.
- competition and the highly sensitive person are like oil and water. Non-HSP’s are more comfortable with competition.
- highly sensitive people are sensitive to the feelings of others and have a tendency to absorb the feelings of others causing much discomfort and unhappiness.
- HSP’s are known for their empathy. Empathy in sensitives is more than a feeling for others – it is an active way of knowing the world .
- HSP’s are right-brained. Non-HSP’s are more left-brained and analytical.
- HSP’s can have strong psychic and intuitive abilities.
- HSP’s dislike pressure, which non-HSP’s accept more easily.
- HSP’s need egalitarian social and work environments. Non-HSP’s are more comfortable with hierarchical and competitive systems.
- highly sensitive people do not like someone standing over them.
- HSP’s need a simple lifestyle. Non-HSP’s are more comfortable with busyness, stuff and activity including multitasking.
- HSP’s need stillness. Non-HSP’s often avoid stillness.
- many highly sensitive people are introverts.
- HSP’s often feel a deep connection with nature and all the creatures in it.
- highly sensitive people can be deeply spiritual.
- many HSP’s will have physical conditions and allergies of one form or another.
- HSP’s can form deep bonds with animals.
- harm and abuse of all kinds are harder for highly sensitive people to heal.
- many HSP’s dislike rrelationships and find them difficult based on values and lifestyle.
- a highly sensitive person belongs in occupations that bring out the best in them: healing and creative occupations are among the best for HSP’s.
- HSP’s intuition and sensitivity causes them to have profound insights and has the potential over time to lead them to great wisdom.
Deciding That You Are Highly Sensitive
Dr. Elaine Aron who pioneered the category of the highly sensitive person has written extensively about the highly sensitive trait. Her books are must reading for anyone wanting to know more about the trait – it is her life’s work. She estimates that 15-20% of people on the planet are highly sensitive. That is a huge number of people: more that 1 billion! Therefore it is highly likely that you may be sensitive or know someone who is.
There are many HSP quizzes online including the one on Dr. Aron’s site which you can take that can help you decide if you are highly sensitive.
However, in reading this list, you will notice how you feel around others: enhanced or drained, your relationship with nature and stillness, your values and attitude about competition and the type of environment that suits you the most. These are telltale signs that you are sensitive. If you are, you have an important journey ahead learning about yourself, and what you bring to the world.
Many see the highly sensitive person as vital to the changes we are making in the world, and I believe that it is true. The wisdom and empathy of HSP’s is badly needed.
So although being highly sensitive has been treated as a curse, it is now finally being seen as valuable as it should be. As our problems get worse and the need for wisdom and creativity rises, being a highly sensitive person will finally be welcomed in the world.