Are You an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person)?

If you are reading this, it is likely you are an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), even though HSPs are only 15 – 20% of society.  Why?  Because some of the primary characteristics of the HSP are sensitivity to the moods of others, intuitive ability and a deep and complex inner life. The HSP is often on an active and highly personal quest for meaning, and may experience visions and voices pointing the way.  Sound familiar?

When I read Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, I not only passed her quiz to identify myself as an HSP, but I was fascinated by the many mentions of things throughout the book that I thought were my personal weaknesses.  It turns out that retreating to the restroom to hide or cry is not a great flaw, but instead is actually typical of this group of people!  The inability to tolerate violence in movies, falling in love too hard, childhood shyness, conscientiousness and avoidance of making mistakes, sensitivity to hunger and pain, a dislike of gambling, all of these are mentioned as normal—if you are an HSP. 

And there’s more: the HSP can be recognized even as an infant, because your sensitive nervous system is something you were born with.  It is not a flaw or failing.  For you, it is completely natural, even if people have told you otherwise for your entire life. 

My mother told me that if she said “No!” to stop me from doing something, I would dissolve in tears.  She had to gently say “uh uh” and I would immediately respond.  The interesting thing I learned from Aron’s book, is that this sensitivity never goes away, we just learn to cope with it.  We HSP’s are still startled and jolted by life, but as functioning adults we have learned how to stop, take a breath, and do what we need to do to get by and to accomplish what is important to us.  

When I walk into a noisy room full of strangers, I recoil inside, then take a deep breath and keep going.  Except sometimes, when I have to beat a fast retreat to the Ladies room to give myself a little longer to breathe and prepare myself for the onslaught to my senses.  And now, how nice to learn that this is actually normal—if you are an HSP. 

Aron sees the HSP as belonging to the priest/prophet/advisor class as opposed to the warrior/king class, and this seems exactly right.  It is normal for us to avoid great risks and the field of battle. So let us give ourselves permission to be who we truly are, instead of paying thousands of dollars to learn to be someone else, someone who is good at risky investments, selling and schmoozing.  Let’s leave all that to the people who truly enjoy it and turn instead to our own amazing gifts. 

I loved this discussion of the spiritual life of HSPs from Aron’s book: 

“There is a new breed of religious beings seeking direct experience, not the lessons of authorities.  At the same time, they know that for some reason others have different experiences, so they do not try to proclaim their experience as Truth.  They may be the first humans to have to live with a direct spiritual knowledge that is recognized as fundamentally uncertain.”

Or, as I might put it:  Embrace the mystery!  I find this quest for self-knowledge, coupled with a deep tolerance for the varying paths of other seekers, to be endlessly fascinating.  And I fully expect it to be a continuing adventure, since every experience seems to simply lead to new levels of discovery. 

I think this may also be one of the reasons that HSPs can struggle financially with their spiritual business ventures.  Not only are we hesitant to proclaim ourselves as experts with the one and only answer, but we may also lack some consistency and continuity, not sticking with one thing long enough to develop a clientèle. 

Instead we can be like an artist—and many of us are just that, of course—who embarks on a new style just as we are beginning to find success in the way we did it yesterday. 

There is great strength and power in recognizing who we are, in ending the chase after being what our society says we should be and recognizing the gifts of being exactly this:  Mystical, awed by wonder, deeply insightful, yearning for beauty and meaning, aching with love, reaching for true connection and clothed in grace.   

Please visit me at my new website www.i-am-this.com to join a group of intrepid, yet highly sensitive, adventurers as we journey into… well, who knows what we may find? 

Love & peace,

Carrie

Comments

Sandra Smyre 5th April 2013 8:22 am

Am I ever an HSP and feeling the effects this a.m. This article is perfect for me and I thank you so much. Have to go be in a large group today and am putting all of the armor in place. Don't know what I was thinking this time around--came in as an incest survivor, ritual survivor, recovering alcoholic, and a gay woman late in life(children not approving)--I'm sure I could come up with something else if I try hard enough(haha). Add HSP to that mix and my work is cut out for me. Thank goodness for Spirit and like minded people. In LoveLight, Sandra :smitten:

sisi 5th April 2013 9:50 am

Hallelujah and thank you! I am this .... through and through. For so many, many years, I tried to "fix" myself to fit in with the world's idea of "normal." Now I celebrate myself in all my glorious sensitivity -- except when I'm faced with those situations that make me want to crawl inside myself until I am invisible to the seeing, human world.

This journey is indeed fascinating and filled with delight. I tell those I love when I am in need of "white space" just to be....and I revel in the very aliveness of the energy of being. What a difference five years have made!

Thanks again!!!!

karlahg 5th April 2013 6:48 pm

I know exactly what you mean. I think that us sensitives are stronger than we realise, esp when we have to over come our natural inclinations when facing groups of people. :thumbs:

COBALT 7th April 2013 10:31 am

"...sensitivity to the moods of others, intuitive ability and a deep and complex inner life." I read this years ago, and even now I am still "it". I'm always relieved to know that others have been tagged too.
Nice message. :)

demonchaste 7th April 2013 11:54 am

Thanks Carrie. I never grow tired of this topic. Being a highly sensitive male while growing up in the sixties was quite a tumultuous adventure. The world was a hostile environment that made no sense to me, the Vietnam war, the draft, televised student riots and the national guard beating them bloody, accepted racism, crazy. Being empathic put me at a disadvantage among my peers, rather than being aggressive I was trying to imagine how another person might feel, constantly falling victim to and betrayed by my emotions in group settings while lacking aggressive behavior made me a target for bullying and left me feeling freakish and ashamed. My emotions were in constant flux and always out of sync with my external situation. It has been a slow journey of self discovery to self actualization that taught me that life experience and realizations were for me alone, and faith in my own existence gave me the persistence of vision to transform, transmute and create that Iam. We highly sensitive are the healers of the world, and it now seems we have found each other, Namaste! ~bob

JackGrabon 9th April 2013 8:40 pm

Carrie,
I've always been an HSP myself and never knew that such a term existed. Sensory overload seems to occur at a much lower level for me than for the average person. Like you say, I think it's important to try to focus on the positive and the benefits that it brings instead of focusing on its limitations.

For instance, I am sensitive to subtle things like energy, intuition, etc. But, what I also find ironic is that I know plenty of people on a spiritual path who are even more sensitive to the subtleties I mention than me. However, they are polar opposites and not at all HSP's! Go figure...

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Carrie Hart

I was raised in a non-religious family and for the majority of my life, had no particular interest in spiritual exploration.  Yet spirit came to me, unbidden.

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