HSP (The Highly Sensitive Person)
Hi, I found this website in a search for stress management techniques. So I thought I would share. I have summarized (with excerpts from different websites) below for those who do not wish to search for it.
A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high psychological sensitivity (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Jung originally coined it). According to Elaine N. Aron and colleagues as well as other researchers, highly sensitive people, who comprise about a fifth of the population, may process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems.
Your trait is normal. It is found in 15 to 20% of the population–too many to be a disorder, but not enough to be well understood by the majority of those around you.
It is innate. In fact, biologists have found it to be in most or all animals, from fruit flies and fish to dogs, cats, horses, and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting. The brains of highly sensitive persons (HSPs) actually work a little differently than others’.
You are more aware than others of subtleties. This is mainly because your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply. So even if you wear glasses, for example, you see more than others by noticing more.
You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.
This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy.” But shyness is learned, not innate.
In fact, 30% of HSPs are extraverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibitedness, fearfulness, or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do so and not the basic trait.
Sensitivity is valued differently in different cultures. In cultures where it is not valued, HSPs tend to have low self-esteem. They are told “don’t be so sensitive” so that they feel abnormal.
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Recently I have been trying to re-program my “flight, or fight” response by attempting some breathing, relaxation, and meditation exercises. I am also training myself to be able to “forget” things (which is hard), so that I can disassociate the thoughts that cause this autonomic response. Sadly, the only thing that works sometimes is to hide under the covers in my bed (as goofy as that sounds) until I can “re-combobulate” myself.
Definitely, definitely, DEFINITELY ME. Discovering this not too long ago has really helped me understand myself better. I’ve always known I was “different” but just thought I was “shy”, which never explained everything because sometimes I love socializing. This definitely explains why it almost physically pains me to hear people complain or talk shit on their friends, and why I need time to think to know whether I liked or disliked a movie and why.
Acronyms make everything better! =D Most people just saw my behavior as immature. I always knew it wasn’t, because at age 5 I was contemplating things like -if all people actually saw things the same, if the kids in my school were racist because of family, and what on Earth will we do to save endangered species? People thought I was just reciting something I saw on T.V, and to this day, the way I see and feel GREATLY effects how people view me. I have always gotten this sense of outside stimulation. Sometimes it is very positive! At a party, if everything is going smooth, and there’s a good crowd- I become ecstatic!!! If the vibes around me are bad, however, my body feels really tense. Like I can’t move or breathe… When I’m alone I don’t feel this… this burning sensation running through my nervous system. The minute I’m around people, my neck tenses up, and I have the eyes of a hawk after that…. It seems introverted, but it’s not. It’s my nerves!!! I’m pretty confident with who I am, my social skills, and my talents, but that does not matter if you are like this… Whenever I’m in the presence of another human being, my whole body just feels strange… Very uncomfortable as well… I mean sometimes painful… I can’t explain this without people saying I’m “bipolar” or something along those lines, so I just spend most of my time alone…. talking to people I don’t know and probably never will meet… All I know is as much as this has effected my life negatively, it has also given me a lot of material to use for art, and this deep connecting with everything… I try to photograph the most simple and pure beauty as my therapy… Thanks for sharing this info, I knew there was something different about me but NOT WRONG WITH ME!!!!!
@dick, who ever said anything about victimhood? It’s simply a different way of experiencing the world, and it’s very real. Where others have immediate reactions to things, I need time to process each factor. In addition to soaking up negative vibes like a sponge, I also see beauty and opportunity in things that others may consider “mundane” or not noteworthy by others. This can be overwhelming, but I’ve never considered myself a victim of heightened sensitivity.
@filipek; you’re absolutely right, staying centered is VERY difficult…but not impossible!
One of the key things for me, in trying times, is to take deep breaths and remind myself that I am in full control of my thoughts and actions, regardless of how intense or screwed up the things around me get.
I actually posted an article just yesterday morning, which is totally applicable to staying centered in trying times, titled “How to Deal With Uncertainty, Negativity, and Limiting Beliefs”: http://www.thinknowlivenow.com/how-to-deal-with-uncertainty-negative-emotions-and-limiting-beliefs
Personally, yesterday was one of the most spiritually intense and testing days I’ve had in a long, long time. I knew, for the majority of yesterday, that my willpower and focus for action would be tested, and boy were they ever! You’re absolutely right, though; it’s VERY easy to talk about, but when the time comes to step up, you’ve got to be on the ball or negativity will consume your thinking.
The more experience I get with dealing with difficult emotions, the more I realize that the reasoning behind them is completely irrational, unreasonable, and based in illusion. Initially, we may objectively feel negatively towards something, but it’s almost ALWAYS due to an incomplete understanding or perspective of the totality of the situation. If/when we know more about what’s going on, we have more “pieces of the puzzle” and we soon realize our initial reaction wasn’t really necessary in the bigger scheme of things.
If anything, negative emotions are your clue or “alarm”, notifying you that a change in perception is needed!
The thing to remember is that ALL circumstances are temporary; they key is recognizing this and realizing that sometimes, time really IS the answer. This realization alone allowed me to “flip” a very difficult day into one full of absolution, understanding, and clarity.
@lalamakays, that’s a very good way of looking at it. A way that a year ago I wouldn’t have even been able to understand where you are coming from.
I think perceiving the world in this way in our society really leaves people vulnerable to becoming emotionally numb. Your nervous system is already processing its maximum amount of information, and then when you get into a new situation, you’re already automatically on overload. You just shut out the experience. You see it, but don’t really feel any of it. In my experience it’s a pretty shitty way to live life. The problem that if you’re like me, you don’t even know that anything is wrong because you just assume everyone else experiences the world in the same way. So you never really say anything or even realize that there are things you can do to make your life so much better. You have to find a new way of processing and looking at the information presented to you. It’s not that we need to become less observant or dumbed down to all this sensory stuff, we just need to learn to process it in a different way. I’ve been to psychiatrists and psychologists, and nothing produced any results for me really. What has really worked is what @otingocniman, said basically.. meditation rewires the nervous system.
@tangledupinplaid21, I know exactly what you are talking about. I think the fact that I am struggling with my own identity is due to the fact that my whole life I have been ‘taking’ other people their feelings/emotions, which led me to great confusion. The greatest example is my dad (from who I believe I got this ‘gift’ (I prefer to say gift rather than curse), who could change the mood of the whole family with his great negative tension. I think we, as HSPs, take over a lot more emotions/feelings/habits/traits etc. from other people during our childhood, than non HSPs. Therefore it is a lot harder to form our own identities and I think we are all more prone to developing anxieties, depressions and the like.
I really hope to get more insights into this and I think ‘we’ as HSPs should get more attention from the scientific world. Schizophrenics, people with MPD, ADHD, OCD etc are all mentioned in the DSM, but why are we not? I do not think HSP is a disorder, because I see it as something positive, but it would be helpful if we would have some ‘general’ guidelines to focus on. I mean, it would be easier for us to deal with it if we would know what this ‘it’ is.
Furthermore I think that nowadays there are a lot more HSP persons than in the past, also due to the ‘spiritual shift’ that I think is going on on planet earth. More people are interested in these kind of subjects and therefore these kind of skills are also being developed more.
Basically you just have to learn to let things go and go with the flow. Sensitive people tend to hold on to everything. It’s like every single negative experience (and positive) just builds on the past one inside of you until you just stop feeling anything except anxiety. That’s probably why I’ve DETESTED any sort of change my entire life.
I’ve had this all my life, and it’s good to know I’m not alone : ) I’ve dealt with much anxiety, fear and doubt in my own life, and these experiences have afforded me much wisdom and foresight in dealing with myself as well as others. “Flipping” the negatives into positives is not only true for sensitive people, but for personal progress in general.
I have always known I was more sensitive, empathic, etc. than most others. What you guys say about ‘mimicking’ and feeling the mood of other people, beeing extremely sensitive to surroundinds, and/or just being very sensitive, fits my descreption very well. I’ve struggled with trying to fit in in social groups and society it self all my life. I’ve been depressed for many years and have been trying to solve my problems for equally many years. Depression have been a part of my life since very young (I’m now 21) and I’ve always just had temporary solutions, which made me think that I may be bipolar, because of the many ups and downs.
The last couple of months I’ve been really depressed and the feelings I’ve had is just getting overwhelming. It’s been really tough a couple of times before, but now it’s just like ‘WOW’. Allthough I’m not the biggest fan of psychiatrist’s giving diagnosis’, because I feel they conclude things way too easy and often lack empathic skills and so on, which I see as being very essential when understanding other people’s problems, I’m going to speak with a psychiatrist soon (which I’ve checked out and she seems very intelligent and empathic, also she is a big fan of buddhism and meditation which is a big +) just because I need someone to talk to who can really understand what I’m talking about when I’m talking about my deepest thoughts and the way I see the world. I RARELY get that kind of stimuli when I’m socilizing (allthough I have to say that this site often gives great stimuli) and sorely need it.
I want to thank you guys for this post which have shed some light into a otherwise very dark and depressed mind.
- Greetings from Norway.
@apples30, I know how difficult it is, but I know most of the time it is the only solution, simply talk.
And think about this: you can better regret something that you have done, than regret that you have not done it and you will never know the outcome.
What is the worst thing that can happen? You will be rejected? You will be laughed at? You will be abandoned? So what? It does not define YOU as a person, no matter how difficult it is. You prefer to live in a constant lie and illusion where everything is fake and you do not know how to make a distinction between what is real and what is not?
For me it is most difficult to deal with the fact that we feel/sense/take over other people their emotions so easily. Concerning the good emotions I am fine with it, but concerning the negative emotions I would really like to learn to deal with that. How to distinguish my own from others their emotions? This feeling when you are with somebody and you simply know that something is bothering the other person. Especially when something about me is bothering that person I feel it extrenely. But I never know how to deal with it and/or how to start about the subject. What if I am wrong? It is kind of awkward then, especially with people I am less close with. I really believe in a sixth sense which shows itself in this way.
Furthermore the concentration problem some are talking about: this bothers me as well. Smoking weed helps to deal with this in the best way for me, but this is not a solution. Of course meditation is something that can definitely help to deal with this as well. Maybe meditation is also a solution for distinguishing your own from other people their feelings?
@tangledupinplaid21, I agree. But overwhelming is just an illusion. I call it experiencing everything. I wonder why people always talk about the negative aspects of this. Hyper sensitive people are more creative and damn… they even feel intimacy on a different level.
@lalamakays, wow I relate to everything you just said SO MUCH. I have wondered if I am bipolar as the result of stuff like this. I have gotten much better in social situations and can actually interact and enjoy it now though.
@BrittanyRenee, I do not experience it in such a magnitude as you do, I used to in the past, but I kind of shut myself off for it to a certain extent, and actually I am trying myself again to be more responsive to these kinds of things. The thing is that you need to learn to find a way how to deal with it, you need to learn to acknowledge which emotions are caused because of something you have done and which emotions are caused because they are caused because somebody else has done something. In general, do not get attached to emotions, because emotions is not something that belongs to you. It is just something that you experience at a given moment in time.
Try to observe what the emotions do with you. Try to observe your body, your mind, your thought process and see how it affects you. Yes, meditation can be a great and helpful tool, I have learned a lot with it, and I am still using it as a tool to deal with life in general. It is something you need to practice continuously though, you have to make consistent effort, just like you have to eat to have a healthy body, I believe you need meditation to have a healthy mind. One calls it meditation, other calls it prayer, and another one calls it something else again. Does not matter. The matter is that I believe that your mind is equally important to your body and we should find a balance to get an equilibrium in which these two cooperate fully with each other.
Good luck finding your way, I know how tough it can be. Feel free to ask me anything.
@thinknowlivenow, I really like your said with all the positive attitude/vibe radiating in all directions. Anyway, I was wondering how good you are in applying all these kind of things to your own daily life? Because I know how easy it is to talk about these kind of things and advice others to do so, but on the other hand how difficult it can be to apply it to your own daily life. What I find most difficult is remembering at some points when, for example, negative thoughts are coming into your mind, to focus and change your viewpoint to something positive.
Anyway, back on topic: how is everybody managing these days? How did this topic influence your behavior/thinking/feeling in the last two weeks? Have you guys been more conscious of your own feelings/emotions? Or did it change something in your social activities?
I would love to continue this discussion. I have always known I was sensitive for as long as I can remember, but I never thought of it as a good thing. It always got in the way of me feeling “normal” and acting “normal.” In my family, nearly everything I said was brushed off with a “Oh, here she goes again.” In response, I have spent most of my life trying to suppress my emotions which has led to periods of depression. Not to mention that it is exhausting always trying to be someone you’re not. I thought I was introverted or had anxiety, social phobia, maybe ADD. It feels really good to find out that other people experience the same thing and to actually see it in a positive light for once!
@filipek, I would like to learn this too. I just posted this in the “vibes” discussion so I will just copy and paste what I said there. I’m dating someone who is really intense and also really expressive so when something bad is going on I feel it like a dagger and it gives me really bad anxiety. Haven’t figured out how to deal with this because one should be able to count on their significant other to listen to them even when it’s not necessarily positive. But too much negativity and I will lose composure completely.
@dick, it seems you have a similar coping mechanism, in the sense that I rarely feel my own emotions, to mine. It is actually quite common. I mistook it for being some kind of psychosis for a while, but have since learned to appreciate it for the benefits that can come from it. However, I do have a question. How do you control your autonomic response? I don’t consciously feel threatened, but I suppose sub-consciously I must because my body starts going nuts (i.e sweaty palms/armpits/ cortisol release, etc.). It makes me feel uncomfortable to be alive sometimes because of this, and the only way to fix it from a biological standpoint is to “eliminate the threat” (which is not productive of course, especially with friends) or remove myself from everyone, or anything, that is causing it.
@aalexcastroo, I did a fair amount of psychedelics when I was younger. I wish I could’ve written down what was going on in my head…It seemed like things would become crystal clear but then I could never remember what I figured out later. What do you mean by lack of self-definition? This reminds me of how I seem to be able to agree with nearly anyone (provided they aren’t a bigot or abusive or otherwise horrible.) There aren’t many absolutes to me and many more possibilities for right answers. I think some people see this as a fault, kind of like I don’t stand for anything (which isn’t the case, I just don’t really care much about what some people want to argue about.) On a different note, I am curious about others HSP’s experiences with alcohol, specifically in social situations. Does it help or does it make it worse for you?