Jun 21

“Sensitive”: New Book About the HSP

Sensitivity is defined as the ability to perceive, process, and respond deeply to one’s environment. This ability happens at two levels: (1) perceiving information from the senses and (2) thinking about that information thoroughly or finding many connections between it and other other memories, knowledge, or ideas. (From Sensitive by Granneman and Sólo)

In this year’s Sensitive: The Hidden Power of the Highly Sensitive Person in a Loud, Fast, Too-Much World, Jenn Granneman and Andre Sólo have written about something they know well, sensitivity and introversion. Granneman has the previous The Secret Lives of Introverts (2017) and with Sólo cohosts the online community Sensitive Refuge at https://highlysensitiverefuge.com. Sólo‘s pertinent blog is located on Psychology Today. And those are just some of their credentials.

Like the authors, could you also be a highly sensitive person (HSP)? (See my previous post on this topic.) Take their test here.

From the publisher:

Everyone has a sensitive side, but nearly 1 in 3 people have the genes to be more sensitive than others—both physically and emotionally. These are the people who pause before speaking and think before acting; they tune into subtle details and make connections that others miss. They tend to be intelligent, big-hearted, and wonderfully creative; they are wired to go deep, yet society tells them to hide the very sensitivity that makes them this way. These are the world’s “highly sensitive people”…

The authors note that to be sensitive is too often likened to “a defect that must be fixed.” But in actuality, although it can be a liability at times, it’s also an asset. For example, sensitivity is linked “to increased empathy and creativity” and “finely tuned observational and processing skills” (Publishers Weekly). Another plus can be “advanced sensory intelligence (a close awareness of detail in one’s environment), though this can also result in overstimulation.”

Guidelines suggested for how to lessen overstimulation include developing an “early warning system,” taking breaks, using calming techniques, having a “sensitive sanctuary,” setting healthy boundaries, and making fun time.

Special attention is given in this book to “the pain of empathy.” As sensitive people may be prone to compassion fatigue, it is important to prioritize self-compassion for balance and to “focus on catching positive emotions” around us. Various unique challenges in dealing with relationships are also addressed.

Selected Quotes:

The Sensitive Way is the belief, deep down, that quality of life is more valuable than raw achievement, that human connection is more satisfying than dominating others, and that your life is more meaningful when you spend time reflecting on your experiences and leading with your heart.

Sensitive people, it appears, are not hothouse orchids who wither in anything but the most perfect conditions. Rather, they are akin to succulents: No drop of nourishment escapes them, and they continue to absorb it until they swell with lovely blossoms.

Physical and emotional sensitivity are so closely linked that if you take Tylenol to numb a headache, research shows you will score lower on an empathy test until the medication wears off.

Jan 17

Highly Sensitive Persons: The HSP Research

If you have more trouble than most learning how not to take things personally, you may be one of many highly sensitive persons, reportedly about 15 to 20 percent of the population. You may benefit from the research of Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person (1997).

If you’re one of the highly sensitive persons, it’s probably been genetically transmitted, says Aron. “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.

Selected Quotes by Elaine Aron About Highly Sensitive Persons

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.

…(T)he writers, historians, philosophers, judges, artists, researchers, theologians, therapists, teachers, parents, and plain conscientious citizens. What we bring to any of these roles is a tendency to think about all the possible effects of an idea…We have to ignore all the messages from the warriors that we are not as good as they are. The warriors have their bold style, which has its value. But we, too, have our style and our own important contribution to make.

In my opinion, all HSPs are gifted because of their trait itself. But some are unusually so.[In]…study after study of gifted adults: impulsivity, curiosity, the strong need for independence, a high energy level, along with introversion, intuitiveness, emotional sensitivity, and nonconformity. Giftedness in the workplace, however, is tricky to handle. First, your originality can become a particular problem when you must offer your ideas in a group situation. Many organizations stress group problem solving just because it brings out the ideas in people like you, which are then tempered by others.

Are you an HSP? Take Dr. Aron’s self-test. Check out her website (at same link) for additional resources.

Another way to learn 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.