All your life you thought something was wrong with you. You were uncomfortable around noise. No one understood your need to be alone. You seemed to know things without being told. The good news is that you are not dysfunctional. You are a highly sensitive person (HSP). You are not the only one; you share this trait with at least 20% of the population who are referred to as shy or touchy.
Empathic people do have observable traits that are easily identified. Interestingly, the traits are a set of characteristics that have always had their own air of mystery. Referring to a set of psychological traits that has never been adequately explained before. These characteristics are commonly referred to as emotional sensitivity.
Sensitivity is a set of character traits that has just begun receiving attention from the psychological community within the past few years. This is strange, because it has always been fairly prevalent among the population. Nevertheless, it has not even been officially recognized as a personality type. Following is a list that describes the attributes of emotionally sensitive people.
1. Emotionally sensitive people feel emotions often and deeply. They feel as if they “wear their emotions on their sleeves.”
2. They are keenly aware of the emotions of people around them.
3. Sensitive people are easily hurt or upset. An insult or unkind remark will affect them deeply.
4. In a similar vein, sensitive people strive to avoid conflicts. They dread arguments and other types of confrontations because the negativity affects them so much.
5. Sensitive people are not able to shake off emotions easily. Once they are saddened or upset by something, they cannot just switch gears and forget it.
6. Sensitive people are greatly affected by emotions they witness. They feel deeply for others’ suffering. Many sensitive people avoid sad movies or watching the news because they cannot bear the weighty emotions that would drive to their core and stick with them afterwards.
7. Sensitive people are prone to suffer from recurrent depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders.
8. One the positive side, sensitive people are also keenly aware of and affected by beauty in art, music and nature. They are the world’s greatest artists and art appreciators.
9. Sensitive people are prone to stimulus overload. That is, they can’t stand large crowds, loud noise, or hectic environments. They feel overwhelmed and depleted by too much stimuli.
10. Sensitive people are born that way. They were sensitive children.
There are a couple different responses kids have to their sensitivity. One type of sensitive child is the stereotypical kid who gets picked on by bullies, and is a well-behaved, good student because she cannot stand the thought of getting into trouble. The other type of sensitive child more often experiences the stimulus overload mentioned in the previous paragraph. These children are thus over stimulated and have difficulty focusing, which causes them problems in school.
Sensitive people typically exhibit all or nearly all of the above descriptors.
One of the sure signs of a truly sensitive person is that he feels animosity toward his sensitive nature. Most sensitive people whole-heartedly wish they were tougher and more thick-skinned. They feel like their sensitivity is a weakness. They wish things didn’t bother them so much. They wish their emotions weren’t so obvious to other people. They wish they could let things go and not worry so much. They aren’t comfortable with their sensitivity, and wish they could do something to get rid of it (or at least get rid of the negative aspects of it). Therefore some sensitive adults have learned how to hide their sensitivity from others.
Highly sensitive persons respond strongly to external stimuli and become exhausted from taking in and processing these stimuli. They are born with a nervous system that may see, hear, smell or feel more than others. As adults, they may also think, reflect or notice more than others. The processing is largely unconscious or body-conscious. Highly sensitive persons grow up feeling flawed, especially when loud music, crowds of people, or simply a busy day stresses them. At such times, they need quiet time alone to recover.
Problems can begin in childhood if highly sensitive persons sensitivities are not recognized. They can be deeply traumatized, even in the womb. They may know it if they are not wanted. The baby is more peaceful when alone. Certain people terrify them, toy mobiles upset them, rocking irritates them, and changes in weather make them restless. They may be colicky, and their digestive systems may not tolerate food that is too hot or too cold. If the needs of the baby are ignored, the child becomes insecure.
Sensitive babies are also very creative and aware. They may walk early or smile a lot. When they begin to crawl they search out ways to alleviate their apprehension. When old enough, they spend time alone to regain their balance and energy.
What Works and What Doesn’t
This hyper-awareness to their environment makes highly sensitive persons cautious. They are not known for being rash. They foresee the consequences of words and actions. Any kind of change can be difficult. Highly sensitive person s can feel happy in their hearts on a joyous occasion but are often unable to express it. They are seen as inhibited or unsociable. They do not like social situations and prefer having deep intimate conversations.
Rather than forcing themselves to fit in and be more outgoing, highly sensitive person s need to learn to appreciate their sensitivity in non-stimulating ways. Developing boundaries for safety and comfort becomes important. If they are sensitive to bright fluorescent lights, chemical odors or certain kinds of people, highly sensitive person s need to use their creativity to find ways to avoid such stimuli.
Highly sensitive persons often try to hide themselves. They rarely appreciate that many other people share their traits. Sharing quiet meals and talking about spiritual matters can become intimacy heaven. Accepting that they really do prefer long walks in nature to tennis matches alleviates stress.
Highly sensitive persons tendency towards withdrawal presents unique difficulties in relationships. Highly sensitive persons turn inwards for protection against what they are experiencing. Relationships of mutual respect provide a safe, consistent haven of acceptance. Highly sensitive persons must be wary of being people-pleasers. A lack of self-esteem can turn into a habit of satisfying the needs of the other person. They can end up feeling overwhelmed and alone in a relationship they cannot let go of.
A sensitive person’s ability to pick up subtle cues and ambivalence in the unconscious processes of the other can affect communication in relationships. Even though they can tune in to what is going on, they either can’t say it, or they blurt out a negative judgment. At these times, they are acting out their own past experiences of being humiliated for their sensitivities. The way out of this dilemma is to become more conscious of their habitual reactions and to take more time out to be alone. They need partners to accept this strategy. They may require an entire night’s sleep to be clear enough to express how they feel about an issue.
Highly sensitive persons appreciate intimacy. They actually prefer talking about their feelings and spirituality but often believe no one else is interested. An open and sharing relationship – preferably with another highly sensitive person – can be of great benefit in providing awareness of what does and doesn’t work. This applies to both the spiritual-social areas and the physical body.
Entertainment and excitement are not what holds a sensitive relationship together. Highly sensitive persons are more interested in deepening their self-awareness and never become bored of listening to their partner’s dreams. A sensitive partner will notice subtle changes in the other’s mood or behavior.
Food and Diet
Highly sensitive person s are very sensitive to food and physical environments. Food needs to be looked at from a different viewpoint than the food rules of the government. Not all foods are going to be equally tolerated by their bodies. Stimulating substances such as alcohol, coffee, sugar and junk food are usually highly toxic to an highly sensitive person. Diets need to be tailor-made and regularly modified. There are no right diets that sensitive people can follow permanently. Their level of sensitivity is anything but static and rigid. It requires a change in attitude to accept the fascinating refinement process continually being experienced by their body-mind-spirit. Generally, simple, frequent meals work best.
Once highly sensitive persons stop trying to be like the strong and tough extroverts, they often develop a keen interest in and gratitude for their consciousness, which benevolently takes them into unexplored realms. These complex inner realms, largely avoided or ignored by others, become their individuated paths to wholeness and happiness.
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