Study in Gold
Are You an HSP?
Text and Photos, Copyright ©2001, 2009 by Carolyne Butler
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If you are, you belong to an often unrecognized and misunderstood minority in an increasingly aggressive society. HSPs make up only 15 to 20 percent of the population, and many HSPs don't even know that they are HSPs. All they know is that they are, well . . . different. If you're wondering just what an HSP is, and how to find out if you are one, read on.
If any of the following rings your bell, you may be an HSP:
- You have been (negatively) labeled shy, quiet, inhibited, timid, fearful, too cautious, too sensitive, introverted, slow, spoilsport, scaredy-cat, not aggressive enough, not assertive enough, coward, clumsy, crybaby, unsociable, neurotic, weird, crazy, or other similar labels.
- You have labeled yourself with some of the above labels.
- You feel different from other people, often inferior to them, and sometimes (or often) wonder what's wrong with you.
- You are prone to low self-esteem.
- You are often more sensitive to hunger, extremes of temperature, pain.
- You have more vivid or bad dreams than most people.
- You are more easily overwhelmed by highly stimulating surroundings or activities than the average person.
- You prefer avoiding people in highly stimulating circumstances, such as large crowds and loud, swinging parties.
- You need more "downtime" or time alone than most other people.
- You are often aware of certain subtleties in your environment and in human relationships that many others seem to overlook.
- You often think about your own thinking, your own inner reflections.
If you recognize yourself in any of the above statements, you might be an HSPa Highly Sensitive Person. You may also want to take the self-test on Elaine Aron's Web site (see link below).
The subject of being a Highly Sensitive Person—or more exactly, an SPS, for "Sensory-Processing Sensitivity"—has been explored in recent years, and much has been learned about HSPs. Being an HSP is an inherited physical trait, shared about equally between men and women. It means that physically, genetically, HSPs are highly tuned to the physical world around them. HSPs simply notice a lot more, and are in tune to more subtleties around them than non-HSPs. The downside of this is that HSP's usually do not handle the stresses of daily living as well as non-HSPs, especially if one is unaware of even being an HSP or of the methods of coping with being an HSP.
To any HSPs who are interested, for starters I recommend reading a book written by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D, entitled The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You (Broadway Books, New York, ©1996). The suggestions in this book have been helpful to many HSPs, both in recognizing their trait for what it is, and in providing suggestions for coping with it and making the most of its positive aspects (yes, there really are some positive aspects to being an HSP). Above all else, the author helps the HSP to appreciate his or her own self worth and societal worth in a non-HSP culture, one that doesn't generally understand or recognize the unique value and contributions of the HSP.
In her book, Aron explains that the basic quality (and difference) in HSPs is their sensitive processing of subtle stimuli. HSPs have nervous systems that are more sensitive to stimuli, both external and internal, with the result that HSPs are more easily aroused than non-HSPs by new or prolonged stimulation. This overarousal often leads to the HSP becoming out of sorts, frazzled, stressed out, overwhelmed, and even exhausted in situations that most non-HSPs have little difficulty in handling. This sensitivity of HSPs, however, also contributes to their being more intuitive, having a "sixth sense" about things, with an acute awareness of the past and future. HSPs often "know" without knowing how they know. Aron likens HSPs to those with a built-in "pause-to-check system," those who in the old Indo-European cultures were the priest-judge-advisor class for the majority in their warrior-king society. Aron says HSPs tend to fill that advisor role today, being "writers, historians, philosophers, judges, artists, researchers, theologians, therapists, teachers, parents, and plain conscientious citizens."
Disclaimer: I have no connection to the author or receive any profits from the sale of her books. I believe, however, that HSPs (and friends of HSPs) who want to learn more about the subject will find Aron's book an interesting and enlightening read. ~ Carolyne
Elaine Aron's Web site (includes the self-test):
Two Short Articles about HSPs:
"Attributes and Characteristics of Being Highly Sensitive"
"Being Sensitivein an Insensitive World"
Highly sensitive person
YouTube: Elaine Aron Summarizes Sensitivity (3:11):
About the Highly Sensitive Person
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