What is a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP)? Highly Sensitive Person is a term used to describe 15-20% of the population who are born with a unique sensory processing trait that allows them to notice more subtleties in their environment, resulting in both deeper processing (thinking & feeling) and a tendency toward becoming overwhelmed by stimuli more quickly. If you’re unfamiliar with the concept of high sensitivity you can start here: The Highly Sensitive Person: A Form of Neurodivergence.
Isn't Everyone Like Me?
As an Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), I used to assume that everyone noticed all the things that I noticed—like subtle social cues, for instance. I also assumed that everyone was a deep thinker, needing plenty of alone time in order to work through and understand the meaning underlying their experiences. But I now know that’s actually not the case!
Understanding this led me to two other useful realizations:
1. That if the non-sensitive had nervous systems that functioned like those of HSPs, they, too, would need more down time.
2. HSPs and non-HSPs experience communication, specifically conflict, differently.
HSPs, We Need to Cut Ourselves Some Slack
It seems to be a nearly universal phenomenon that HSPs living in the Western world feel badly about their sensitivity and see it as a liability. And it’s not difficult to see why we’d feel that way, living in a culture where outward productivity (outward being the key word here!) is moralized and intimately connected with our perceived worthiness.
Highly Sensitive People do need more down time, more alone time, more time to just “be.” But we need this time for a good reason—our brain is working in a way that requires more energy; we are doing more invisible heavy lifting. On the flip side, there is also a good reason why non-HSPs don’t need as much down time; their brains aren’t taking in as much information and they aren’t working internally to synthesize this information as deeply.
So, the next time you find yourself saying, “I just don’t know how my partner does it, she can just go, go, go,” remind yourself that she might have more energy for external activities because her internal workload isn’t as heavy!
But what’s the benefit of all this deep processing? Who needs it? I just want to be “normal.”
Wisdom. Creativity. Big picture thinking. Self-awareness. A deeper understanding of our world and of human nature. Compassion. These are the benefits of subtlety and deep processing. As with anything there are pros and cons, and the same goes for high sensitivity and non-sensitivity. Accept your limitations and embrace your strengths!
Turn Up the Volume
As HSPs we naturally and unconsciously pick up on subtle social cues. This can be a tremendous gift because it gives us the ability to attune to others in a sophisticated way. This is why HSPs are known for being particularly good with small children and animals—we understand their non-verbal messages.
Because of our ability to pick up on subtlety, HSPs don’t need much to receive a message. In fact, what may feel like normal, appropriate directness to a non-sensitive person, can come across as aggressive and overly-direct to highly sensitive nervous systems; and vice versa, our way of asserting ourselves can be completely missed by non-HSPs. Basically, the sensitive and non-sensitive have different volume preferences when it comes to communication.
New to the World of High Sensitivity?
Here's some more reading!
- Highly Sensitive Person Self-Test
- The Highly Sensitive Person: A Form of Neurodivergence
- Five Common Misconceptions About Highly Sensitive People
- Self-Care for Highly Sensitive People
- Why are Highly Sensitive People Prone to People-Pleasing?
- Imitating Non-Sensitivity: The Number One Pitfall of Highly Sensitive People
- Being Highly Sensitive: How to Navigate Emotional Overwhelm
Looking for an Online Therapist in Kansas?
Would you like to turn your attention inward and deepen your self-compassion? My Lawrence, Kansas counseling practice specializes in providing therapy for highly sensitive adults, therapy for self-esteem, therapy for anxiety, and therapy for codependency, and grief and bereavement counseling.
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Other Services Offered By Sacred Circle Holistic Healing
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