Written by therapist Sarah Heinss
Have you ever been told you’re too sensitive? Do you feel like days other people seem to handle just fine, are totally overwhelming to you? Do you find yourself retreating to restrooms to cry? Are you sensitive to subtleties in others’ feelings, and shifts in your environment? Do experiences like listening to music sometimes overwhelm you with emotions?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, there’s nothing wrong with you. You may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
The trait of high sensitivity, also known as sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), was first identified and researched by Dr. Elaine Aron. In her book, “The Highly Sensitive Person,” she defines an HSP as a, “person who has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
In our culture that values extroversion, toughness, and, “emotional strength,” it would be easy for an HSP to internalize negative messages about their trait, and almost all do! However, this trait really does make you special.
Highly Sensitive People really are special
- HSP’s process, reflect, elaborate and make associations of events and people round them with more depth
- HSP’s are better at spotting errors and avoiding making errors
- HSP’s are highly contentious
- HSP’s intuition is razor sharp, sometimes having other people feel like they can, “see into their souls.”
- HSP’s are able to concentrate deeply (when there are no distractions)
- HSP’s are more “right brained” (more creative)
- HSP’s are especially good at tasks requiring vigilance, accuracy, speed, and the detection of minor differences.
- And the list goes on!
Reframing your highly sensitive experiences
Think about times in your past when you heard or internalized messages like these:
- “You’re too much.”
- “You’re such a mess.”
- “Why are you falling apart?”
- “You need to calm down.”
- “This isn’t that big of a deal.”
- “You’re overreacting.”
This trait is real and it’s okay. You’re highly sensitive and it’s okay. You need more time to process, and you do so more deeply by instinct, and that’s okay. When you are having big feelings, or in a state of over-arousal, that something to listen to, acknowledge, and appreciate, not ignore and talk down to. You “falling apart” is not an indicator of emotional weakness, it’s an indicator of your limits. Your body’s dashboard indicator lights are going off, not as a sign you were built wrong, but as a sign that something needs tending to.
Being a highly sensitive person isn’t a weakness; it’s a superpower. Wondering if you’re a highly sensitive person? Take this free online test.
If you’re curious about being highly sensitive and need help reframing some of these negative messages, I’d love to connect with you and support you on your journey to wellness. Give me a call today to ask questions, inquire on availability, or schedule an appointment.