What Everyone Needs To Know About The Highly Sensitive Person

Chances are that many of you are not familiar with the term “Highly Sensitive Person.”  It is very likely, however, that you will (or already have) come into close contact with or develop an interpersonal relationship with a Highly Sensitive Person.  You may even be an HSP yourself and have yet to realize it.

In her book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, Dr. Elaine Aron states that HSPs comprise 15 to 20 percent of the population (50 million in the United States alone).

It is my firm belief that understanding is one of the fundamental components of compassion.  And what the world needs today, at least as I see it, is a lot more compassion.  The better we understand ourselves and each other, the better chance we have of living in a world that is a little more tolerant and a lot less difficult. That being the case, let me (an HSP of the highest order) take this opportunity to share with you what I know about this gift that is not always a gift.

Highly sensitive people are very conscientious, hard working, and meticulous.  They have rich, deep inner lives and are often very spiritual.  They are extraordinarily intuitive and, often, highly empathic (able to detect other people’s emotions).  Creative, intelligent, and well-organized are other adjectives that commonly apply to the HSP.

Along with these characteristics, however, come the “less desirable” aspects of being an HSP.  Highly sensitive people are bothered by intense stimuli, including loud noises and too much activity in their environment.  They are extremely uncomfortable with chaos and disorder.  Those who are highly empathic often feel overwhelmed by emotion (their own and that of people around them); and they process information on such a deep level that their response time to a particular situation is often delayed.  When subjected to trauma and/or severe chronic stress, HSPs are much more likely to develop neurological disorders, including P.T.S.D. and Fibromyalgia.

Dr. Carl Jung, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Mother Teresa, and Eleanor Roosevelt are just a few of the more famous people in history who researchers say demonstrated signs of the high sensitivity trait.  I refer to it as a “trait” because, according to Dr. Aron and other researchers like her, high sensitivity is an innate trait (one present at birth).

That is the academic description of what is meant by the term Highly Sensitive Person.  Now, let’s get personal.

For 43 years, I have lived in a world that constantly overwhelms me.  Not understanding why I am “so sensitive” and repeatedly pushing myself to prove that I could handle anything anyone else could handle (and even do it better) was my undoing.  As it turns out, I needed to be undone because the life I was living was not much of a life at all.

I have been told many times, by many people, that I am “too sensitive” and “too emotional,” that I “care too much,” and that I “think too much.”  Ironically, most of the people who have said those words to me have turned to me (time and time again) when they needed a shoulder to lean on or advice in dealing with their own problems and emotions.

In short, it has generally been the case that people love to be around me and to soak up all that insight, compassion, and sensitivity I have to offer . . . but only for brief periods of time.  It seems that my particular brand of “sweet” makes me appear too fragile or weak; and it makes some people uncomfortable, at times.

Those who really know me, however, know that I am anything but weak.  I have fallen down many times; but I have also found the strength and courage to stand back up more times than most people could have managed.  Yes, I am emotional; but I am also resilient.  I can always find the good in anyone I meet; and most people find me particularly accepting and nonjudgmental.  I try my best to see every side of any situation as objectively as I may, and I try very hard to always be fair.  It is relatively easy for me to take other people’s feelings into account before I speak or act (even when I am hurt or angry); and I do.

None of this makes me a saint.  It just means I am . . . (yes, say it with me) SENSITIVE.  While it is not easy living in the world today as an HSP, I do not begrudge it.

I see things many others cannot see.  I feel things many others have grown numb to.  I care and I love in ways that many people long for.  Because of these aspects of my Being, I know what it means to truly be Alive.  To paraphrase a lyric from one of my favorite Jimmy Buffet songs — while some of it’s magic and some of its tragic, I’ve lived a good life, all the way.

The purpose of sharing these very personal aspects of myself with you is not to invoke sympathy on your part for me but to help you understand what it feels like to be on this side of the HSP trait.  And, if you are an HSP yourself, to let you know that you are not alone; you are just as valuable and lovable as anyone else on the planet; and you can bring a lot to the table in just about any relationship you enter into.

If there is a chance that you or someone in your life is a Highly Sensitive Person, I encourage you to learn more about the trait.  In addition to Dr. Aron’s book, I recommend you visit the following sites for more information (including a self-test).

http://www.highlysensitivepeople.com/

http://www.hsperson.com/pages/test.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highly_sensitive_person

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=highly+sensitve+person

© 11/13/2013

 

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38 Comments

  1. As to not be to wordy I’ll make this short and say thank you from the depth of my soul for posting this.
    Sincerely
    Benjamin

    Reply
  2. I understand all too well! Thanks for sharing.

    BE ENCOURAGED! BE BLESSED!

    Reply
  3. And many blessings to you, Francine! Namaste, Sloan

    Reply
  4. Excellent post, Sloan!

    Reply
  5. Thank you, Kristin! Enjoy the rest of your week. Namaste, Sloan

    Reply
  6. Glad to know there are other people like me. Well written.

    Reply
  7. Thanks for a good article. I agree with you that highly sensitive people are not weak, and I suspect you are not. I wanted to mention that I think the reason that highly sensitive people do not like chaos and disorder is because we are taking in so much information which we need to process that chaos and disorder become distractions to us and make it more difficult to do our processing work. In other words, we take in the chaos and process it; we do not want to live in it. In addition, many HSP’s are very creative. Chaotic environments actually detract from the concentrated effort that serious creativity and in fact any serious work requires. HSP’s tend to be serious about their work. I hope this helps.

    Reply
  8. Thanks for a wonderful post Sloan! Your authenticity, honesty and warmth is much appreciated as always.

    Reply
  9. Thank you, Cathie! Your kind words are much appreciated. Hope your holiday season if off to a fabulous start! S

    Reply
  10. Thank you, Sloan. Today I learned something new about myself. I couldn’t fit your description more perfectly and had no idea until now that there is a name for people like me. The closest I’ve ever come to this awareness before now is the knowledge that according to the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Inventory I am a very rare INFJ (introverted, intuitive, feeling, judging–the judging function does not judge people, but establishes priorities according to the worth things have to oneself). The descriptors to this type come close to yours but don’t adequately explain the extreme sensitivity.

    Would it be okay with you if I repost this wonderful article on my blog? I’m at http://www.jeanraffa.com. If so, please let me know. I’d like to use it next week.

    Again, thank you for a highly informative and extremely meaningful post.

    Best,
    Jeanie

    Reply
    • Jean,

      What a truly wonderful blessing this is for me! Thank you so very much for reading, commenting, and deciding to share. This is exactly the reason why I write — to try to share a bit of my humanity in a way that might contribute to better understandings for all of us. I believe that is how we can learn to have more compassion, for ourselves and others.

      Of course you may share this or any other post on your site. As synchronicity would have it, I took a tour of your site earlier today and signed myself up as one of your followers. It is a great site. I am abundantly happy to now be connected with you.

      Blessings, love, & light,
      Sloan

      Reply
  11. Hm, I feel like reading about me…

    Reply
    • Sabina, so glad that the post meant something for you. Thanks for reading and commenting. Hope to see you back soon! Many blessings, Sloan

      Reply
  12. 1EarthUnited

     /  December 18, 2012

    You’ve explained this trait very well. My sister is a classic hyper-sensitive and in order to co-exist and not kill one another, she’s taught me patience, which led to my understanding, compassion and appreciation toward people who are “different”. Now I totally embrace the differences in all people because it makes my life much more interesting and rich. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful post!

    Reply
    • Thank you, very much, for reading and commenting. As I indicated in the post, the high sensitivity trait is a gift — just not always a convenient one. Day-to-day interactions with loved ones can, at times, become uncomfortable and inconvenient for both the person who is a HSP and the person who loves them. Factors that range from environmental influences to emotionally charged conversations can create difficulties. But these obstacles can be overcome when the two people love each other enough to keep talking and cooperating. I’d say that it’s pretty much that way in every healthy, happy relationship because no two people are exactly the same.

      Each and every one of us is unique, in our own very special way. As Ernest Holmes acknowledged, Unity never means uniformity. That being the case, each and every one of us is “different.” We are just “different” in different ways.

      By learning to really SEE each other, through all those differences, we come to recognize the ways in which we are alike . . . and how we are connected. And that changes everything, doesn’t it?

      Thanks again for your insightful and thought provoking comment.
      Namaste,
      Sloan

      Reply
  13. Thank you for being committed to exploring gratitude, compassion and love. It is refreshing to read your blog posts. Also thank you for liking my blog post Affirmation, Gratitude and Fears! :~)

    Reply
    • Thank you, so much! I appreciate your kind comments and am happy you’re enjoying the posts. Have a Fabulous Week! Love & Light, S

      Reply
  14. Thank you for your warm and kind comments. Have an absolutely Amazing Day! Love & Light, S

    Reply
  15. I would only like to point out that I am a Highly Sensitive Dragon (HSD 🙂

    Reply
    • I’m not surprised, Peter. Not every HSP is kind hearted and compassionate, but you certainly are both. And, of course, your creativity and beautiful imagination are apparent in your work. We are indeed kindred spirits. Have a wonderful day, my Fabulous Friend! 🙂

      Reply
  16. Most of my life “sensitive” was a bad word. So I learned to hide that side of me to people found I was only safe with animals.~*~

    Reply
    • Nancy,
      It is not always easy to live in the world as an HSP or empath; but these abilities allow us to open our hearts to greater levels of compassion and to extend understanding to others — even those who might not understand us. Your love of animals is beautiful, and they need our love too. I hope, however, that you will consider embracing your sensitivity and the gifts that accompany it as part of your magnificent uniqueness. There’s no one like you; and that is a Good thing. Much Love & Many Blessings to you. Sloan

      Reply
  17. Elle

     /  June 26, 2013

    Now I have a better understanding of why I am the way that I am. It is comforting to know that I am not alone! Thank you!

    Reply
    • Many Blessings to you, Elle! So glad you enjoyed the post! Hope to see you back soon. S

      Reply
  18. This is an incredible article, Sloan. I found myself rushing to the next line to see if it too would describe my thoughts and feelings. I had never stopped to consider my disposition as something tangible — an actual trait, like intelligence or creativity, but yes it makes sense that it would be just as much a part of me as my other characteristics. Thank you for sharing your heart!

    Blessings.
    ~ Cara

    Reply
    • Cara, I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for reading and leaving such a lovely comment. Many Blessings and have a beautiful day! S

      Reply
  19. When I first came across Dr Aron’s work years ago it was a huge relief to me and so began my road back to myself. Articles like yours reassure and help me to remember on a day to day basis that being (very) HSP and an extrovert can be hard work: have to watch those stimulation levels very carefully!

    In addition to the usual personality traits, my HSP area of special interest is food and additives – I’m highly reactive to artificial sugars, colourants, MSG, coffee, meat, alchohol, and most forms of processed foods so I’ve developed an approach to nutrition with a repertoire of recipes based on my HSP-ness which has helped me to gain equilibrium (and over the years has helped many of those around me to reset their hormonal and age clocks). So much so that this hobby is now becoming my life’s work and passion!

    I would not change places with a non-HSP-er for anything in the world!
    Thanks again Sloan for this insightful piece.
    Vera aka @MammaBio

    Reply
    • Thanks for reading and commenting, Vera! I’m glad you enjoyed the post and added some interesting information for other HSPs. Many Blessings to you and all you do! Sloan

      Reply
  20. As usual I am severely delayed in reading this lovely article. You described me to a T.. It has been such a burden for me until I realized what a gift it was but that wasn’t until this last year (at 44yrs old) that I discovered there is so much more to me than I thought.. I love the way you described this trait. Thanks for sharing all your wisdom.. Much love and appreciation

    Reply
    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Sweet Shauna. Thank you for reading and sharing your insights & experience with us. We’re all learning and growing, as we go. It’s a beautiful thing, Life. Have a fabulous day! Namaste, Love & Light, S

      Reply
  21. Reblogged this on From Heart2Soul and commented:
    I wanted to share this post from my friend Sloan Rawlins. It describes The Highly Sensitive person and gives some resources to learn more.. Please go read this post as you may very well know someone who is Highly sensitive or you may be one!

    Much love to you all…
    Shauna

    Reply
  22. OMG! I definitely get that I am “too sensitive” and “too emotional,” that I “care too much,” and that I “think too much.” As a matter of fact, lately, I’ve had to remove myself from certain friends and situations because it does hurt me. There energy and everything about them is like dragging fingers across a chalkboard and I’ve found myself pulling away from people I’ve known for years and not understanding why I needed to do that. You’ve explained it so well and I’m amazed because I’ve never been able to vocalize how I am. You have just validated that I am not crazy!

    This is perfect. I hope you don’t mind if I share. 😉 Thank you for writing this and I’m so glad I came over to your blog from Twitter.

    Thank you,
    Barbara

    Reply
    • Barbara,
      I’m glad the post resonates with you and that you found it helpful. I believe it’s important for each of us to understand who and what we are; and to remember that who and what we are is magnificent, regardless of whether other people “get it.” Establishing healthy boundaries for ourselves often involves letting people who aren’t a good vibrational fit for us to pass out of our experience. Our own peace and happiness must be our first priority, for we cannot share with others what we do not have ourselves. Thank you for reading and commenting. Peace and joy be with you, today and always. Sloan

      Reply
  23. barbaracharles

     /  December 10, 2013

    I’ve learned that I’m definitely one of those people. My friends always tell me I’m too sensitive. Drives me crazy that they seem so insensitive. This is a great post and describes me to a tee.

    So glad Shauna that I came over to your blog from Twitter. Great read!
    Barbara

    Reply
    • I’m glad you enjoyed the post, Barbara. Understanding ourselves in a positive and constructive light is an important step in the healing, happiness, and self-realization process. Thank you for reading and commenting. Have a beautiful day! Sloan

      Reply

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