Being Highly Sensitive
According to lead researcher Elaine Aron, (www.hspersons.com) about 15-20% of the population is what is known as highly sensitive. That number means we are too many to be considered a disorder, but also few enough that the world does not necessarily understand us. So what does being sensitive mean? It means that we perceive the world in a very different way. How I describe it to my clients is that essential we feel the world on a much deeper level. Think about it this way: if there were 10 people in the room and you had extra sensitive hearing, and someone blew a dog whistle, maybe one person in the room would hear it. The rest would tell you you were crazy, being “too sensitive” or that the whistle wasn’t really being blown. Being highly sensitive is like that, except we (Yes, I am a highly sensitive as well) pick up on subtle changes in our environment, that 8 out of 10 people do not. It can be things like subtle smells, lighting, temperature changes, sounds, or physical or emotional cues from others.
Highly Sensitives are touched emotionally by the world in a way that non-sensitives are not. We don’t just hear a news story on the television, we feel it…which can often lead to us imagining what the person in the story felt like, and cause us having difficulty shaking off the feelings associated with the story. Due to this connection, Highly Sensitives are frequently told thing like “You cry too easily”, “You are just too sensitive” “You take things too personally, I was only joking” ….If these sound familiar, you are probably Highly Sensitive.
It’s all in your head…well yeah, kinda…
Things that may be moderately arousing to the majority of people around you, like loud noises, groups of people, bright lights, fabric textures, being tired, or hungry can be set a Highly Sensitive Person’s (HSP) nervous system on edge. Research has shown that our brains are wired differently and that it not that we are are choosing to be “too sensitive” but that our right hemisphere perceives information in a different way.
For some HSP’s, especially if they are unaware that they are HSP’s, the constant data input can be overwhelming and physically or mentally distressful. This is where the judgement of non-sensitives come in…and we are called “too” sensitive or perfectionists. The truth is, we are often just trying to control our environment, so we don’t feel quite so agitated. Here is the thing, HSP’s need more down and outdoor time to replenish. We need deeper relationships to feel connected. While 70% of HSP’s are considered to be shy, another 30% of us are extroverted. However, even as an extrovert, we need our “me” time. Studies have shown that men and women are equally highly sensitive, but due to cultural conditioning, it displays differently.
Here is the thing, we easily imagine putting ourselves in another’s place. So things like boundaries, standing up for ourselves, or saying “No” can be difficult because we don’t want to hurt someone else. A lot of my highly sensitive clients report that once they realize they are an HSP, it becomes easier for them to begin to express what they really want because they realize that it isn’t going to impact others the way they imagine….because the majority of people around them are not as sensitive as they are. As a therapist that is an HSP, I can help you begin to understand this wonderful quality about yourself, all while helping you begin to really align with the type of life you want.