So what is High Sensitivity and who is a Highly Sensitive Person?
Have you been told your whole life that you are “too sensitive?” Does it seem like things are too much for you: crowds, noise, bright lights, even annoying smells? Does it seem like you are too emotional, think too much, read too much into things?
Have you ever stopped to consider, “I’m too sensitive compared to what?”
What if being “too sensitive” is actually A THING. A natural, innate thing like having blue eyes and brown hair. High sensitivity has been researched by Elaine Aron for over 20 years now. According to her research, high sensitivity refers to a highly sensitive nervous system. She refers to it as a temperament trait ~ not a disorder of any kind.
Before I go into what high sensitivity IS, I think it is important to point out that in her studies Dr. Aron has discovered that high sensitivity is a trait that occurs in 15-20% of the population. This is important to realize because we live in a non-sensitive world full of non-sensitive people.
So, remember that feeling of being “too sensitive”, and the sinking sensation that there must be something wrong with you because everyone else is fine? That’s why – you may be in the 15-20% population of HSPs.
Clients who discover this concept tell me they suddenly sigh in huge relief once they understand that there is absolutely nothing wrong with them at all.
Have you ever walked into a place or a group of people and felt like you were “home”? Spaces created by, for, and filled with Highly Sensitive People (HSP), often feel like an uncanny kind of homecoming for HSP’s who spent most of their lives in non HSP spaces.
Let’s Define HSP ~
In a nutshell, a person with a highly sensitive nervous system takes in more stimuli– the five senses and how they are processed in the brain are the major parts of the nervous system– and processes it deeper than the non-sensitive person.
HSPs cannot help this ~ they notice and process it more deeply than most people, naturally. As such, they can be more perceptive, both at a thinking, conscious level and at a neuroceptive level – something “feels” off but they may not be able to intellectually pinpoint why. They can become overstimulated easily with so much information coming at them.
The term “Neuroception” describes how neural circuits distinguish whether situations or people are safe, dangerous, or life-threatening. Neuroception explains why a baby coos at a caregiver but cries at a stranger, or why a toddler enjoys a parent’s embrace but views a hug from a stranger as an assault.
As such, they may be emotionally reactive and tend to have rich inner lives and the tendency to be deeply moved by art, music, and natural beauty. The tendency to pick up subtle cues and feel things deeply means that they tend to be incredibly empathic and able to sense and feel what others are feeling. Again, they aren’t “doing this on purpose” it is just a part of who they are naturally.
Helping Highly Sensitive People Thrive ~
So now that we have discovered what HSP feels like and what it actually is, let’s look at how we can help HSP thrive in a non-sensitive world.
In the HSP world, we think sometimes in terms of a trained HSP and a non-trained HSP. Think in terms of ninja training, to understand how your nervous system works and take care of it and give it what it needs. This can help you turn your so-called “over-sensitivity” into a superpower.
How to train your highly sensitive nervous system –
Understanding how your nervous system works
- Your brain takes in way more of your environment than other people
You may need more time to absorb and process information, feelings, and perspectives
- You may feel others feelings and perspectives just as your own
This can be very confusing and overwhelming.
- You will process information deeper and make more associations with the information
This overthinking is not on purpose or something you can control. Your brain does this automatically.
Caring for your nervous system
- Protect yourself from overstimulation or take steps to mitigate it
For example, if you will be in a crowd, stay anchored in your own breath. You can use earplugs. Limit yourself on how long you will be in the crowd.
- Practice daily meditation to deal with overwhelm
Meditation will help to learn the difference between having your thoughts vs your thoughts having you.
- Maintain your interpersonal boundaries
Know what are your feelings vs picking up other people’s feelings.
What your nervous system needs
You need to understand and accept there is nothing wrong with you
Daily practices – dedicated self-care practice to care for you and your system
- Interpersonal awareness
Educating the people closest to you about this trait and what your needs are without feeling guilty.
The difference between a trained and untrained HSP can be staggering. Once you understand and accept high sensitivity and learn to take care of yourself, you can begin to develop its gifts.
The world needs what Highly Sensitive People have to offer!
If you would like to explore the possibility of having the HSP traits – let’s schedule an intake session so you can take a quick test, and then we can discuss it further and how to turn your oversensitive into a superpower.
Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash