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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@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.
@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.
@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.
@filipek, thank-you so much for asking about my earlier post, I am working on a response for that. But, i wanted to mention this to you because I am just beginning to understand how being highly sensitive has influenced my life, and what you mentioned about feeling the negative emotions of others especially when something about you is bothering the other person, is something that i am dealing with. The most painful is when i feel they dont care about me. I wanted to show suggest this book, I have not read it yet, but the website was very helpful-http://www.drjudithorloff.com/Free-Articles/emotional-empath-EF.htm, as it seems like you are empathaic too. I am hopeful there is something in there that address this pain. Please let me know if you develop mechanisms to deal with this. I am thinking just saying what you feel to the other person, not matter what the realtionship is. I have noticed that saying my feelings does alleviate pain, even though it is so hard. I am just now starting to explore it.
reading these posts have been so amazing. i feel most of you know what i am going through and we are in the world the same. i started doing reiki, with a very intuitive healer, and i have also had an emotional cord cutting after i had a very painful relationship. I also have started group therapy to talk about my feelings, as i have felt ashamed about being so sensitive. Sometimes I am paralyzed as a result of all of my feelings and the other persons feelings at once, and i cant speak. It has felt very embarassing, and i have shamed myself because of this. I am so happy that i feel free to talk openly about my experiences. Thank-you so much for posting.
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!!!!!
@michaelfindel to answer your question, we are highly sensitive because of an extremely efficient nervous system. Therefore, it takes much less to starle an HSP verses a non-HSP. That basically just causes our nervous system to over-react too often, which can be stressful to deal with if you do not understand what is causing it. It actually comes from a genetic survival trait that your ancestors developed through evolution, this caused them to think before doing (or at the promoted it). The problem is that HSP’s tend think about a subject longer before processing it as some hav already claimed.
@lalamakays, that feeling is truly unbearable sometimes. Those are the effects of the stress hormones your body releases in response this perceived threat.
@heartbeat, the best way I can describe it is to achieve a “zen” state of mind. Since it is impossible for me to ignore all of the simuli (noise mostly), (example: last night in class my professor was going over something that required people to keep flipping back a forth between pages in their textbooks, he also kept walking toward the back of the room to talk. Every time he did I went from being able to focus on him to not being able to hear a word he said because then I could see everything that I was hearing and trying to ignore.). Sadly the only way to make this have less of an impact is to spend a large amount of time developing meditation techniques that you can use anywhere. I have mainly been trying to focus on deep breathing, as I find my self taking shallow breathes whenever I am over-stimulated-which compound the effects. My next thing is to be able to focus on an object (That can be anything that you can picture vividly enough to be able to interact with it in your mind) so intensely that I can block out all other stimuli and thoughts( as these too can trigger our over-sensitive autonomic response). I recently read about this technique where you write down the things that are bothering you, and then you light it on fire and watch it burn. This is theoretically suppose to help to calm the Flight or fight response by “destroying” the “threat”. How have you been able to cope thus far in life?
@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.
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.
the whole process of classifying everybody and everything is silly to me (I think a healthy kid SHOULD be somewhat hyper) but it sure sounds like I’m an HSP. I have the “symptoms”. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been accused of having a low fun threshold, and in the “is it OK to cry?” threads I’m a defender of the beauty of being moved to tears. I avoid political discussions because they never leave me feeling good but don’t mind getting heated about other topics.
II think it’s a good thing, that the alternative is being numb/disconnected from your environment. being sensitive means I’m aware of what’s going on around me. but it sounds like some of the other HSP’s in this thread are suffering as a result of their “condition”, am I misreading your posts?
I have read the thread a few times to see what I’m misunderstanding but can’t quite put my finger on it. for those of you who feel like it’s a burden, there is help!! I just am not sure how to offer it, since I never really thought about being overly sensitive as a bad thing before.
this is probably going to roll around in my head for a few days, I’m curious to see what else my brain comes up with.
all of these HSP’s ought to take up writing, when I write it’s like all the shit in my head regarding experience just gets cleaned out. It’s a great release.
@tangledupinplaid21, I’ve often wondered if i’m bipolar too. Maybe? but this topic is making me rethink some things….
@dick, sorry mate, I misread your post
@otingocniman, controlling your autonomous nervous system is difficult, but focus on your breathing, take deep breaths and start meditating if you have not already. Meditation is the key to almost everything.
@apples30, thank you for sharing the book, I will definitely buy it. Yes, communication is so extremely important. We live in a society where it is rude or inappropriate to say certain things, which leads us to a bottling up of our emotions. Very BAD development in my opinion. In every relationship the key to everything is communication! Sometimes we think certain things are so obvious and that the other person ‘definitely knows what you feel and how his or her behaviour affects you’. Well let me take away this illusion: it is not like that at all! Sometimes it is the opposite: what we think or feel about a certain situation can be totally different from what another person feels and therefore it is so important to simply TALK about certain things!
It is extremely difficult especially when you have not learned to develop these kind of skills during your childhood.
For example, I learned to put away all my (negative) emotions as deep as possible because I was always afraid that my parents will be mad at me whenever I will talk about ‘negative’ things. Anyway, that is another (long) story, but my point is: communicate! Speak what is on your heart/mind and eventually it will lead you to a happier existence.
@michaelfindel, I think we are anxious because we are highly sensitive.
@lalamakays, I really admire how you deal with this, because I always suppressed these kind of feelings and was never open for it. Furthermore I think women in general are more sensitive than man and with HSP’s the contrast might be even bigger.
@otingocniman, you talk about an extremely efficient nervous system and while reading this I was wondering if we as HSP’s also have a faster metabolism? What I mean by that is that I can eat whatever I want, but I will not gain weight, at least not in a negative way. Do you think there is correlation between HSP and this?
@heartbeat, I think the first step is to become conscious of the fact that the feelings you are feeling are not your feelings. When you become conscious of this, you will be able to make a better distinction between your own and other people their feelings, and maybe in this way you will process it better and it will not bother you so much.
@mikeyw829, Yes, the problem is that you think other people perceive the world as you perceive it. But on the other hand, since you are HS, you can put it in a positive perspective as well, because you have more empathic ‘skills’ than the average person.
@daveb, I think you are right about the classifications and in general we cannot deduct everything in our lives to the fact that we are HSP. Other factors are important as well, and it is possible that some experience symptoms of depression of anxieties etc. But like with all these kind of things, it is hard (even impossible) to draw causal conclussions.
@filipek, thank-you for your response. i have always struggled with assuming i know what is going on with another person due to my intuition and empathetic nature. however, i understand now that i still need to communicate and investigate my feelings because my feelings remained unresolved, i could be wrong, or i could be right and i still need to talk about. as you say this stems from when i was growing up and the messages that i received at home and school. thank-you!
@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?
@filipek, you are right, i do not want a life that is comprised of the constructions that i have built in my mind, especially when my mind is not very nice to me at times. how you have phrased things has really resonated with me because i struggle with this quite a bit. What keeps me from pushing through it is how it is, but i understand the payoff is to have the life and relationships that i truly want. thank-you, i will think about this often.
As an HSP myself, I invite everyone in this thread to check out my site http://www.thinknowlivenow.com if you haven’t already. I built the resource to help assist others see past and overcome negative psychological “blocks” and “obstacles” which keep them from taking action. Only action can bring the results we truly desire in life, and understanding is the first step.
Great discussion guys!