Highly sensitive people (HSP) are a gift to mankind. Though often perceived as broken or weaklings, they are actually more intuitive, have deeper levels of empathy and carry with them the profound capacity to truly feel. Highly sensitive people are not damaged goods. They possess the ability to resist society’s attempts at desensitization and have remained open, compassionate and alive instead of being cold and numb.
High Sensitivity is genetic
Research shows that rather than just being a personality type, like being shy or outgoing, high sensitivity is defined as having a hypersensitive nervous system. Heightened sensitivity makes a person acutely aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.
I can hear you asking, “but isn’t my personality a product of my genes?” And the answer to that question is yes and no.
To understand this question we first must understand that the essence of who we are is comprised of two parts: temperament and personality.
- Temperament refers to a set of innate or inborn traits that organize and determine a person’s approach to the world. It is the internal processor and is hard-wired into the DNA.
- Personality is what arises within an individual as a result of their temperament, life experiences, value system, education and a host of other factors. Personality is the driver of external responses, social interactions and behaviors.
Simpy put, temperament is an art canvas and personality is the painting on the canvas. The primary point is that personality can be changed and is constantly evolving but temperament remains the same.
High sensitivity is a result of one’s temperament and is reflected through their personality.
Brain activity in highly sensitive people is different than people who are not.
Studies revealed that the key difference between hypersensitive individuals and those who aren’t is the brains of HSP’s are able to process everything around them. They are able to reflect, elaborate and make associations quicker and on a deeper level than non-HSPs. This processing is not always fully conscious and surfaces most often as intuition.
The brains of the highly sensitive are hyper-processing, assimilating, evaluating and synthesizing information all of the time. This is what causes them to become overwhelmed, feel tired and explains their tendency to withdraw for periods of time. They need a break.
Coping with Hypersensitivity
Now that you understand this issue a little better you can begin to take steps to cope with it. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you are or know a highly sensitive person:
- Being highly sensitive is a gift–not a curse. Embrace it. Love yourself.
- Allow for the expression of emotions. Do not bottle your emotions in an effort to be “normal.”
- Understand the world needs your gift. Sensitivity reminds us of our frailties as humans and keeps us from drifting into the realm of inhumane and demoralizing thoughts and actions. It softens those around you.
- Take time away. Highly sensitivity people are vulnerable to anxiety, depression and other mental illnesses that can plague the mind of an emotionally driven person. Understand that your level of sensitivity leaves you open to becoming overwhelmed and mentally and emotionally worn out. Solitude is good for the highly sensitive soul–it helps protect the gift.
- Be aware that an HSP is the best friend you will ever have. Highly sensitive people are kind and thoughtful. But more importantly, they are attuned to and aware of the moods and feelings of those they love. Their ability to listen, understand and truly empathize is one of their best qualities.
“…to feel intensely is not a symptom of weakness, it is the trademark of the truly alive and compassionate. It is not the highly sensitive person who is broken, it is society that has become dysfunctional and emotionally disabled. There is no shame in expressing your authentic feelings. Those who are at times described as being a ‘hot mess’ or having ‘too many issues’ are the very fabric of what keeps the dream alive for a more caring, humane world. Never be ashamed to let your tears shine a light in this world.” — Anthon St. Maarten