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The Highly Sensitive Person

What it Means to be a Highly Sensitive Person

It finally makes sense! I figured it out. I’m a highly sensitive person.

Yes, that’s a real thing. I have mixed feelings about it because on one hand, it seems a key to understanding myself, yet on the other hand, an embarrassing label to claim that makes me feel damaged and needy.

So what does it mean to be a highly sensitive person? In the simplest terms, it means to be more sensitive to stimulus in your environment than the majority of the population. Oftentimes, this results in individuals being introverts or developing shyness and even being seen as aloof or neurotic. Research shows that around 20% of the population is highly sensitive, so it is likely that if you are not an HSP, you have a close friend or loved one who is.

The expert in Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) is Elaine Aron. I recently read her book, The Highly Sensitive Person, in which she expounds upon the strengths of HSPs including their ability to think and feel deeply due to their sensitivity. She highlights how many HSPs are teachers, religious leaders, artists, judges, and, like me, therapists.

In previous cultures, she notes, there has been a balance between the kingly/warriors (more outgoing and assertive) class and the priestly advisor (highly sensitive thinkers) and a symbiotic relationship between them. Although this relationship has become more dominated by the kingly/warrior class in recent years, members from both groups can naturally fit with one another and benefit from one another. As with all relationships, empathy and growth in understanding can help these relationships prosper.

Areas that are sometimes difficult for HSPs include small talk, small groups, and the workplace. This does not mean that we are doomed in these areas, but that we need a game plan to avoid shortcomings we may fall into.

Some quick tips for these areas from Dr. Aron include:

*Finding another HSP at parties to talk to one on one to establish a meaningful connection.

*Figure out if you want to be a speaker or listener in small talk. As a speaker you can guide the conversation and discuss topics that are more meaningful to you and take less effort.

*Let small group members know you are taking in information, and voice agreement so that they know you are not silently stewing.

*Find work that suits you and work with your employer to maximize the contributions you have by allowing yourself time to remove yourself from stimulus.

*Take breaks as needed and have it be a part of your identity as a deep reflective person.

If you are an HSP like me, let me reassure you. Yes, we often feel we do not measure up to the standards of the charismatic leader admired in our society. It can be hard to feel valued. But remember, you have a unique skill set that allows you to understand and feel on a level inaccessible to 80% of the population. Claim this aspect of yourself as a way to bring light into the world!

If you want more information or are interested in taking a quiz to help determine whether or not you may be a highly sensitive person, visit Dr. Aron’s website at

by Mark

#Counseling #Mark

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