“What is wrong with you?!” - The Highly Sensitive Person

Maybe your ‘wrongness’ says more about your ‘rightness’ than you yet realise.

Highly Sensitive People

Recent research findings by leading experts in the field show that HSPs - or highly sensitive people - manifest more neurological brain activity when exposed to other people’s feelings, or pictures of emotions in others, than the average person.

About 20% of the population 'suffers' - and often quietly so - from these high levels of sensitivity. Growing up as an HSP can be difficult and confusing. Over-sensitivity and the fussing that can go with it, is seen as a flaw in western culture.

I meet HSPs in my practice all the time. They don’t come in with badges marked HSP. In fact, it’s the secondary stuff  - like anxiety and depression - resulting from the difficulties of living in a continual state of overwhelm, that brings these people through the door.

One little girl recently, had the habit of just breaking down in tears at what seemed unlikely moments. On closer inspection they were always times of great excitement like a school performance, a party or family gathering.

Another girl would not be able to focus on me if there was a fly in the room too, or if she could hear the hum of a computer. The breathing of others in her school dormitory keeps her awake for hours at night.

My Experience as an HSP

Some years ago there was a terrible outbreak of foot and mouth disease in Britain and most of our cattle were killed. My distress manifested in a frightening attack of something similar. For four days my entire mouth was filled with painful blisters and my hands were un-usable for the same reason.

When my dogs suffer distress, my body picks up their pain.

What are the main characteristics of an HSP?

They feel things more deeply than others, get easily overwhelmed and distressed by noise, bright lights, smells or other people’s feelings. Because of their intensity they get more tired from ‘ordinary’ life, including exposure to electronics or electromagnetic smog generally. They are extra sensitive to food and feel more easily let down or misunderstood by others. They connect naturally with the sublime in nature, music, and art.

For a more comprehensive list consult a recent article in the Huffington Post.

 You can find an HSP test  on Dr. Elaine Aron’s website. She is generally considered the leading expert in the field and has written some important books on the topic. Among them are,

The Highly Sensitive Person:How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You and The Undervalued Self 

 Here are My 3 Top Tips for Staying Balanced and Bringing Out the Best in You

 1.      A few hours of ‘drifting time’ every day. This down time can be used for meditation, yoga, pottering, walking the dogs, or washing the dishes. It is very private time, when you are not accountable to anyone else and turn off computers and telephones.

2.     Take one whole day off a week. By this I mean completely off  - to connect with nature and friends, pursue your favourite sport or catch up on your reading. These loosely planned days are often a source of great adventure. (Dr. Aron encourages people to restore the ‘Sabbath’ and take 4 single weeks off during the year. This she says is more beneficial than one long holiday.)

3.     Make time for your real friends, wherever they are in the world. These are your soul-mates or the ones whom you know will sit at your sickbed. They are also easy to overlook because they are either too close or too far away. Make a point of contacting them at least once a week.

 Without this important self-care, a permanent state of overwhelm will lead to neurotic behaviour.

Fields that are left fallow will yield greater crops, or, quoting from the gnostic gospel of St Thomas, I am reminded of Jesus’ profound words:

‘If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you.’