The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Hits the Mainstream
Aug 29, 2011 03:53PM
By Beth Lambdin
“You’re too sensitive. Toughen up. Relax. You really shouldn’t let that get to you.” Many people may have heard these admonitions, implying there is something wrong with them. But, thanks to a recent article in Psychology Today, a wider, mainstream audience now has the framework to better understand the Highly Sensitive Person (or HSP), introduced by Elaine Aron, Ph.D., in her 1996 best seller, The Highly Sensitive Person, How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You.
Science is finally validating what Aron said 15 years ago: a significant percentage of the population, about 20% (equal numbers of men and women), are Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), people whose nervous systems are biologically wired to experience the environment with heightened awareness.
Aron’s HSP work grew out of personal experience. In 1991, Aron’s therapist suggested that her “outsize” reaction to a minor physical problem was just because she was highly sensitive. Light bulbs flashed, and ever since Aron has championed this “condition,” not as narrowly pathological, but one with gifts as well as challenges.
The thin skin of HSPs covers a highly sensitive nervous system that may include a heightened sense of touch or smell. Dr. Judith Orloff says, “It’s like feeling something with 50 fingers as opposed to 10.” HSPs tend to have rich, internal emotional lives that shape not just their personalities, but all aspects of their personal and professional lives.
HSPs typically need extra time to sort out and process experiences. Psychology Today provides practical tips for HSPs, as well as non-HSPs, to navigate life and relationships more easily. For HSPs: Designate Downtime by limiting stimulation and using meditation to de-stress; Talk Yourself Calm by using techniques like a checklist of rote questions to gain clarity in the midst of emotional turmoil; Change Your Interactions by cutting off energy drains; Arm Yourself by using methods like visualization to keep negative input out; and Rewrite History to acknowledge and have compassion (not condemnation) for your sensitivity.
And, for the Non-HSPs: Skip the Tips and be aware that observations may sound like put-downs; Modify Your Views to consider that you may be making inaccurate assumptions about your partner or colleague; and finally, Respect Their Space to allow HSPs plenty of time to recharge, rebalance and replenish.
Beth Lambdin, MBA, MS, Brennan Integration Practitioner and LMT, offers a variety of services to help HSPs and Non-HSPs to recharge, rebalance and replenish. She is in private practice at the Cocoa Beach Wellness Center, 236 N. Atlantic Avenue. Contact Beth at 321-298-2743, [email protected] or at www.bethlambdin.com.