Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?
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Are you easily startled?
Do bright lights and loud noises make you uncomfortable?
Are you affected by others’ moods?
Are you sensitive to the effects of caffeine?
Do you avoid violent movies, shows, or news?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you may be a highly sensitive person, or HSP.
Many of my clients go their whole lives believing that their sensitivity is a shortcoming that must be hidden or fixed. This can largely be attributed to toxic messaging we receive from our families of origin and our culture about what it means to be sensitive. What many people fail to understand is that being highly sensitive is a neutral, identifiable trait that is shared by many - an estimated 1 in 5!
For some people, discovering that they are highly sensitive can be overwhelming. It can feel like confirmation of a deep-rooted belief that something is “wrong” with them. For others, it can be very validating to realize that there is a name for the way they experienced the world, and that other people share that experience. We all have our own relationship with and story about our sensitivity, so it makes sense that we respond differently when we identify with being an HSP.
I want to clarify that being highly sensitive is NOT a flaw that needs to be fixed in you. As I stated before, it is a neutral trait shared by many. It is simply a filter through which some individuals experience the world. I am passionate about sharing this message...so passionate, that I quit my previous career to become a therapist specifically to empower highly sensitive people. My hope is to offer my clients an opportunity to view themselves through a more compassionate lens, and, in doing so, help them undo some of the unhelpful programming they received from a young age about who they are.
Maybe this is an opportunity for you to see and understand yourself differently. If you are wondering whether you are a highly sensitive person, I recommend you take these 4 steps for yourself:
1. Take the highly sensitive person test.
It will only take a couple of minutes. Many find that taking the test validates their experience. Keep in mind that sensitivity occurs on a spectrum. No matter your score, you will have a better understanding of where you fall on the spectrum. To take test, click here https://hsperson.com/test/highly-sensitive-test/
2. Read The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine Aron, PhD.
If they haven’t read it already, I recommend this book to most of my clients. In it, Elaine Aron, PhD provides an in-depth analysis of the trait as well as research on the brains and experiences of those that identify as highly sensitive. As you read, take note of what you identify with and leave behind what doesn’t resonate. This will give you a better idea of how you experience your sensitivity.
It’s available on Amazon here https://amzn.to/3ciTocu. If purchasing a book is not in your budget, I recommend checking out your local library for a copy. If you are sensitive to reading for extended periods of time, consider renting the audio version of the book.
3. Tell someone you trust that you are exploring your sensitivity.
If you think someone in your life may also be highly sensitive, I encourage you to share the test, the book, or maybe this blog with them. They will probably thank you for it. If you don’t have someone in your world who you think is highly sensitive, I encourage you to still share with a trusted family member or friend. They don’t need to identify as highly sensitive to support you! One of the biggest supports you can have as you explore your sensitivity is simply someone who wants to understand.
4. Challenge judgment with curiosity.
If you feel a sense of judgment coming up in yourself as you take these steps, just notice it. Then consider what it would be like to be curious about what you are learning about yourself instead. Many of us have been programmed to reject our sensitivity and it will take time to rework our relationship with it.
One final note: Know you are not alone in your experience. Trust me, we are out there...turning off overhead lighting and turning down our music while we search for parking spots.