Could You Be A Highly-Sensitive Person?
Lots of people who find themselves looking for a counsellor or therapist have been told, or thought themselves, that they are very sensitive, perhaps even too sensitive. They are often amazed to discover that High Sensitivity (or Sensory Processing Sensitivity) is actually a normal, innate trait, found in around 15 to 20% of the population, and not just in humans but in many other species too. I am an HSP counsellor with a deep understanding of this trait.
Highly Sensitive Persons are more aware of all kinds of subtleties than others. This is because we have a more finely-tuned central nervous systems and brains that work at a greater depth of processing. This means we think and feel deeply. And we often reflect more deeply before acting, speaking or making decisions than other people.
This also means that we can become more easily overwhelmed; when you notice so much, you naturally become overstimulated in environments where there is a lot going on. This can manifest as nervousness, anxiety or chronic stress, and can mean that you find change particularly difficult.
High Sensitivity is usually noticeable on both the emotional and sensory levels. You might have wondered whether your experience of both positive and negative feelings is stronger than most other people. Or perhaps you have questioned why you seem to cry so easily. On the sensory side you might have noticed that you have a keen sense of smell or taste. Or maybe that loud noises, harsh lighting or rough fabrics bother you more than others.
High Sensitivity Comes With Benefits and Challenges
High Sensitivity is both misunderstood and undervalued in our culture. It is often misinterpreted as shyness, introversion (when in fact 30% of HSPs are extroverts), inhibition, or anxiety. Often Highly Sensitive Persons develop low self-esteem after many years of feeling different (and therefore worrying that there must be something wrong with them) or being told to stop being so sensitive. In fact high sensitivity is a neutral trait with benefits as well as challenges. Once you understand yourself you may find some great uses for those superpowers!
Evolutionary biologists make sense of the trait in humans as pack animals by considering what qualities society as a whole needs to survive and thrive. On the one hand it needs the majority of the pack to push forwards as natural risk-takers. On the other, it needs a significant minority to look closely and perceive deeply; to be aware of dangers, but also of what might need to change in the environment to make it work for everyone.
Are you Highly Sensitive?
You can quickly and easily find out whether you are Highly Sensitive by taking the self-test on the Highly Sensitive Person website. If you find you are, I would highly recommend Elaine Aron’s excellent books.
Finding out about your High Sensitivity can be a fantastic event; many of your past experiences and anxieties might come to make sense in light of this new understanding of yourself. However, it can also be a difficult and at times overwhelming process. You have a lot to think about, such as:
- what to do with this new information
- how and how much to share with the people in your life
- whether and how you want to make changes in your work or career, home environment, social life or relationships
Having the support of an HSP counsellor who has a deep understanding of High Sensitivity can be invaluable as you make sense of it for yourself. If you would like to see if I could be the HSP counsellor to support you, please email me here or call me on 07428 396671. You can also join my mailing list here.