Highly Sensitive People: How to Thrive when the World Overwhelms You</span><span> 

Diseases & Traumas

Highly Sensitive People: How to Thrive when the World Overwhelms You 

«… Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few have great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure…. “    - E. M. Forster “What I believe” in Two Cheers of Democracy

Svitlana Danilova, November 19, 2021

“You take everything so personally. You need to grow a thicker skin. You’re just so sensitive.”

If these types of phrases have followed you from childhood into your career, you may be a highly sensitive person (HSP). 

Twenty five years ago, the idea of high sensitivity captured the world’s attention when Dr Elaine Aron published her book «The Highly Sensitive Person. How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You». Elaine Aron Ph D., a highly sensitive person herself, pioneered the research into HSPs. She has been trained at the Jung Institute in San Francisco and now have a thriving psychotherapy practice. She began researching high sensitivity in 1991 and continue to do research on it now, also calling it Sensory-Processing Sensitivity.

Wikipedia defines the trait of sensory processing sensitivity as «a temperamental or personality trait involving an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli". The trait is characterized by "a tendency to 'pause to check' in novel situations, greater sensitivity to subtle stimuli, and the engagement of deeper cognitive processing strategies for employing coping actions, all of which is driven by heightened emotional reactivity, both positive and negative"

According to Dr. Aron, people with high processing sensitivity make up about 20% of the population – too many to a disorder, but still not enough to be well understood by the majority of the population. Being highly sensitive means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been in highly stimulating environment for too long bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way. Thus, being sensitive has both advantages and disadvantages.

In general, HSPs tend to experience most of the following features:

  • Sensitivity to lights and sounds
  • Sensitivity to caffeine and medications
  • Feelings of overwhelm in crowded places
  • Feeling more drained than others after spending time with people
  • Affected by the energy and moods of the people around them
  • Startle easily
  • Difficulty with transitions and change
  • Avoid violence in television and movies

While sensitivity does come with it’s challenges (overthinking and emotional overwhelm to name a few), it’s a powerful strength to have as a leader. In fact, studies have shown that HSPs have more active mental circuitry and neurochemicals in areas related to attention, action-planning, decision-making, and having strong internal experiences. In other words, they have a deep capacity to channel their focus with precision, make thoughtful choices, and spark rich insights to bring great ideas to the table. 

In her interview with Melody Wilding for Forbes magazine, Dr Aron points out that sensitive people are often seen at work as the ones who are stressed and anxious— the ones that people notice and say, “Oh, she's so sensitive. She can't take any criticism.” 

“The high-functioning sensitive people aren’t noticed as much, and for those people, the sky is the limit. The research is very clear about their capabilities, including empathy. High functioning HSPs are usually only recognized because they love their solitude. 

We’re only now seeing workplaces get the hand of individual differences. HSPs in particular need a low stimulation environment and feedback delivered in a specific way. If businesses paid more attention to HSPs and their needs, they'd keep their best employees probably.”

The research and work Dr Aron put into her book is extremely deep and helpful – it shows the impact of sensitivity on your personal history, career, relationship, and inner life. It focuses on advantages you may not thought of, plus it gives advice about typical problems some HSPs face, such as shyness or difficulty finding the right sort of work. 

If you are highly sensitive person or you are raising a sensitive child, study the work of Dr Aron, buy her book, recommend it to your friends. “It will give you a sign of relief and a good sense of where we as sensitive people belong in society.” (John Gray, Author of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus

Here are some helpful on-line resources: Dr Aron official web-site and one more platform for highly sensitive people.



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