Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Highly Sensitive Person

I used to think that when I was called 'too sensitive' it was an insult. I was thrilled by challenges and a hint of danger. Perhaps, subconsciously I was attracted to doing things that required sensitivity but were also seen as 'tough'  - acting, humanitarian aid, social work etc....

A month back, my GP said to me 'you're too sensitive to be a social worker' and I did take that being highly sensitive was a character flaw.

The day my GP said this to me I went upstairs to my neighbours place to check on everything for her (she was away in the UK for a while). I glanced at her bookshelf and a title leapt out at me.....'The Highly Sensitive Person in Love'

Hmmmm....I thought .....I better check that wasn't so much the 'in love' bit that interested me but the 'Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)' bit....what's all that about???....

The author, a HSP herself, has a doctorate in clinical psychology and a thriving psychotherapy practice. She explains that being an HSP is a distinct personality trait that is innate - your brain is wired differently as is your central nervous system. In other words you're born that way. It's a survival mechanism for the species ensuring that a percentage of the population will respond differently to the others.

I found reading her literature liberating. It's not a weakness, it is apparent in 15-20% of the population and in other species. It is a trait that is to ensure survival - we respond differently to our more uninhibited non HSPs. It is revered in some cultures....however not so much in ours....we are often told to 'stop being so sensitive'. Perhaps that's where I picked up my negativity about it.

I wonder how many people who struggle with CFIDS and FM are also HSPs? Those whose brains are wired differently and central nervous systems are prone to being easily overwhelmed by over stimulation - sensory overload.

For a self test and more info check this out....

We are a sensitive tune to the subtleties of our environment.....I knew living in London had had such a profound impact on me on every level of my being and I did think it was a weakness at not being able to cope. Now I see that the environment was not right for me - it was too chaotic, violent and harsh. We must be careful of where we spend our time and energy. I just can't do cities....and I'm happy with that!

Another innate trait she acknowledges is the High Sensation Seeker (HSS) ....and you would think that they would be mutually exclusive....but they're not apparently...I scored fairly highly on that one too.....but not as high as the HSP.

So basically I live with the innate inner conflict of being easily overwhelmed AND easily bored - craving adventure.....this helped me understand why I loved the thrill of being in the front line overseas but my body could not handle now I have the challenge of discovering how to thrill seek in a way that does not overwhelm me......sounds like an adventure to me!


  1. This is so me. Very interesting Bex

  2. i've wondered this too...from when i was tiny i was 'over-sensitive' in every way, especially to anything emotional. a lot of people with CFS seem to be the creative and highly sensitive types - it makes sense to me that our CNS would either be more sensitive from birth.

    answering the questions though was tricky - a number of them i wondered what my answer would have been without the illness...i.e. is the CFS responsible for many of those sensitivities? my mum actually has the book about highly sensitive children sitting here so will have to have a look sometime. one about love would be very interesting i imagine.

    love your writing bex.

  3. Yep I am one of these too. There are quite a few yahoo groups on this and some facebook ones I think. It's interesting stuff and I think for many of us it may be part of the reason we got sick in the first place.
    Great post, thanks 4 sharing. xx

  4. another HSP'r here :D,
    I enjoyed and understand you/article very well.
    I need a lot of adventure in my life. More than most, so I seek it in sports in the sea. These are the things I do to help me. Challenges that require only myself in nature.
    I also love paranormal "anythings". Rescuing animals, wild or domestic is another challenge that is not overwhelming. I use to volunteer at Native Animal Rescue in the town I live in. I only did the wilder, challenging rescues that nonHSP'rs wouldn't do. Mine were mostly out at sea or in the surf, etc... No one was around so I didn't get overwhelmed, working with animals is perfect (we "feel" like they do), it was very exciting and challenging changing all of the time, and emotionally rewarding. I'd pick up anything injured, from Bats too Owls, Possums to Pelicans.
    I love nature the most! Hiking and exploring helps me so much!! Go with someone at night (a safe place), that's exciting!! Kayaking alone or with a quiet person is fun in the rivers or out at sea. Very challenging and quiet too.
    Sometimes we just get in the car and take off in an unknown direction and drive for the entire day, get lost in some strange adventure and come home late or sleep in the car. We crossed over a mountain road all dirt made for 4-wheelers only in my Toyota Corolla! Took us 6 hours to go 15 miles!! It was so scary and crazy! But we were alone and it was thrilling yet quiet and peaceful.
    Maybe this helps?

  5. Thanks Wendy! It certainly is a challenge to find the balance...but I think I am finding it now...sounds like you have a fab time!!