“I was told that I was too sensitive as a child. Sure it took me a while to warm-up, but I wasn’t shy. It’s just that I needed to take my time and learn the rules before jumping in.”
“Yep, I’m definitely the guy who tears up when listening to Story Corp on NPR. The previews to movies seem to get me, too, as does music and art. It’s a running joke now among my children.”
“I need time to think deeply before making a big decision…sometimes even for small decisions. I work hard to avoid calamity.”
“Sometimes, I get so overwhelmed by stimulation. I feel myself shutting down. The lights, the sounds, the smells; they all seem to zap me of energy if it’s all happening at once.”
“My family just don’t seem to get me; they just think I’m weird.”
“I’ve been told that I’m too sensitive.”
These are common experiences among Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP). Never heard of it before? Don’t be alarmed. Only about 20% of the general population have an HSP temperament. What does that mean? It means that the odds are that most people will have a hard time getting you. The secret is, of course, being an HSP is a superpower!
The HSP temperament is characterized by four qualities:
- Depth of processing (i.e., thinking deeply)
- Over-arousal/Overstimulation (i.e., getting flustered when too much is going on at one time or too much stimulation at once)
- Emotional reactivity/Empathy (i.e., feel things deeply)
- Sensing the Subtle (i.e., highly observant to small changes)
We can grow up feeling like we’re the “black sheep,” “the odd one.” Perhaps we were called “weirdo” for enjoying quiet time alone, curled up with a book or enjoying playing alone in the woods. Perhaps you were chided for your sensitivity to others, including animals. All of these painful experiences add up and become especially problematic for HSPs. Why? The research suggests that HSP children are more negatively impacted by traumatic histories or dysfunctional families than their non-HSP siblings.
Conversely, HSP children are more positively impacted by nurturing and highly functional families compared to siblings.
This is where we come in. As you come to understand your HSP temperament and harness its potential while living in a non-HSP world, you can begin to heal those old wounds and live more fully. We offer the acceptance that you needed, the understanding that you deserved, and the patience to walk with you along this journey.
Unsure or uncertain if you’re an HSP? You can take the test at the Highly Sensitive Person website. For men, I highly encourage men to take both the HSP test and the HSP test for children. Given the domestication process that men undergo, men can learn to suppress their sensitivities. By taking the child version, which asks you to reflect on what the male was like as a child, the man might score differently.
Just learn that you’re an HSP? Congratulations and welcome to the tribe! We’re here to serve you.
My favorite thing about psychotherapy is how much of a difference I make and how quickly. Some of my most successful clients were only in need of some understanding and some tools. Watching the pieces come together for lasting happiness really makes me love doing what I do.