HIGHLY SENSITIVE PEOPLE: WHY ARE SOME FOLKS S000 DARN EMOTIONAL?
You’re too intense, too high-strung, too artsy-fartsy, a drama queen, man up, face the music, no crying in baseball. Although sensitivity often gets a bad rap, without sensitive people, there would be little to no creativity, no cultural differences, no innovation, no social media, no art, and no scienc
According to research psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, sensitivity is a temperament that we are born with it; it is part of our genetic makeup. Aron, who’s been studying this subject since 1991, believes that 15-20 % of the population in the United States is what she terms “highly sensitive people.” This includes people from all cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds and ranges from artists, teachers, writers, mountain climbers, politicians, judges and therapists to philosophers, scientists, inventors, athletes, chefs, entrepreneurs, musicians, social activists and conscientious citizens.
Biologically speaking, highly sensitive people (hsp’s) simply take in and process more sensory information than most people. They are neurologically primed to see more things, hear more sounds and are extra sensitive to light, textures, movement, and color.
Higher sensitivity levels also enhance the ability to perceive deeper meanings within day-to-day experiences both good and bad. With more information and higher processing speeds, hsps are able to pick up more nuances and spot unique patterns in their environment that most people would ignore. It is this way of seeing and being in the world that lays the groundwork for creativity and true innovation.
Brain studies have also indicated that sensitive peeps also have more activity in parts of the brain associated with empathy and self-awareness, have a richer capacity for self-reflection which allows them to make deeper connections with others. Research also suggests that on average, hsps fall in love harder and faster, are prone to intense childhood crushes, often put themselves last, and have an extremely hard time setting boundaries.
Highly sensitive people tend to suffer more
Although there are many benefits to high sensitivity, the emotional flipside is that extra sensory intake can leave the super sensitive exposed to more intense levels of physical discomfort. They also tend to have more difficulty with unpleasant odors, fluorescent lighting, loud people on cell phones, and even low levels of noises such as machines running, or a TV in the background can be very uncomfortable. In addition, hsps are often sensitive to temperature and can quickly get over-heated or too cold and tend to deal with more allergies, fevers, rashes, insect bites, and distressing side effects from certain kinds of medication.
On the mental health side, sensory overload can often lead to intense feelings including fear, isolation, loneliness, and a host of other psychological woes. For example, hsps can easily get overwhelmed, overexcited, overstressed and can shut down much quicker than the average person. Its no wonder research indicates that our sensitive friends typically crave more downtime and solitude than most people.
Sensitivity often fuels creativity and imagination
So yeah, living with a wafer-thin sensory filter can make life a little more dicey, a tad darker and a lot more intense, and can also require an extra expense account for special lighting, softer clothes, and tastier foods. But the truth is, it is this suffering, paired with higher levels of curiosity, imagination and intuition, which can lead to an outpouring of creativity and personal growth as well as a more hopeful outlook on life and humanity. Dr. Aron shares a story about the super sensitive World War II Journalist Etty Hillesum who, when traveling in a cattle car bound for Auschwitz, scribbled her last words onto a small scrap of paper and threw it out the window. The note read: “We left the camps singing.”
Although our sensitive friends can be a little too much at times, without them the world would be much less spirited, less inspired, less surprising, less musical and definitely less magical.