Dec 08

It’s Really Not Personal (Probably): HSP’s and More

It’s really not personal.

Whatever happens around you, don’t take it personally…Nothing other people do is because of you. It is because of themselves. Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom

If you take things personally, you make yourself a victim of anything that others say or do. This is like riding bumper cars and feeling outraged that others are colliding into you! Some may hit you because they are being careless or they have no control over their car. Others may crash into you deliberately. It would be quite silly to feel upset about this because we know that when we ride bumper cars, we are going to get hit.
Likewise, in our lives, we will inevitably be struck by the criticisms and oversights of others. Will you be disturbed and flustered by what other people do? Realize that it makes no sense to give people such power over you.
Matthew D. Della Porta, The Huffington Post

Ever feel hurt by something someone said or did? You took it personally?

He or she may have actually said, Don’t take this personally, but…—and you still took it personally. Or the opposite: This time…It’s personal. So, of course, you took heed. (But maybe that only happens in the movies.) (It’s the tagline to Jaws: The Revenge, to be specific.)

How can one practice Miguel Ruiz‘s wise and strong advice in The Four Agreements (1997): it’s really not personal? Maybe read his book, for one. Also, how about taking a peek at psychiatrist Abigail Brenner‘s recent Psychology Today blog post, aptly titled “How to Stop Taking Things Personally.”

If you have more trouble than most learning how not to take things personally, however, you may benefit from the research of Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person (1997). The review of her seminal book by The San Francisco Chronicle notes, “At book signings, people have come up to her and said, ‘You’ve saved my life.’”

Reportedly about 15-20 percent of us may be highly sensitive persons (HSP’s), probably genetically transmitted. “It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way,” states Aron, an HSP herself.

Another quote: “Our trait of sensitivity means we will also be cautious, inward, needing extra time alone. Because people without the trait (the majority) do not understand that, they see us as timid, shy, weak, or that greatest sin of all, unsociable. Fearing these labels, we try to be like others. But that leads to our becoming overaroused and distressed. Then that gets us labeled neurotic or crazy, first by others and then by ourselves.”

Want to know more about HSP traits? Amanda L. Chan lists a bunch in a Huffington Post article. Click on the link for more details.

1. They feel more deeply.

2. They’re more emotionally reactive.

3. They’re probably used to hearing, “Don’t take things so personally” and “Why are you so sensitive?”

4. They prefer to exercise solo.

5. It takes longer for them to make decisions.

6. And on that note, they are more upset if they make a “bad” or “wrong” decision.

7. They’re extremely detail-oriented.

8. Not all highly sensitive people are introverts. 

9. They work well in team environments.

10. They’re more prone to anxiety or depression (but only if they’ve had a lot of past negative experiences).

11. That annoying sound is probably significantly more annoying to a highly sensitive person.

12. Violent movies are the worst.

13. They cry more easily.

14. They have above-average manners.

15. The effects of criticism are especially amplified in highly sensitive people.

16. Cubicles = good. Open-office plans = bad.