Understanding The Highly Sensitive Person
“You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.”|Warren Buffett
With the extra time I’ve had at home, I finally got to catch up on my book list, as I’m sure many of you have as well. I never used to be much of reader, maybe it goes back to the fact that I used to hate how long it took me to finish a book, but I fell in love with reading a few years back when I realized when I’m reading about topics that improve my life it’s very enjoyable. Years ago, a book was recommended by my therapist called “The Highly Sensitive Person” by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. Let me just say for me this book was a life-changer! It inspired deep research into this concept that has helped me greatly. Whether you have this trait, love someone who does or even work with someone, this concept not only helps us all understand each other better, but for me helped me realize how common it is, with up to twenty percent of the population dealing with it.
Psychologists, doctors, and educators are starting to understand more and more about this trait, and even more importantly how to manage it successfully. It’s not a disorder or condition, but rather a personality trait. We all need to have self-knowledge, be open to re-framing, accept we can heal and come to terms with what can be changed with our thinking. Extensive scientific research has proven that there are gene variations in highly sensitive people that affect serotonin and dopamine in the brain and are deeply rooted in the nervous system. Having this trait causes the brain to inhibit action, so there’s a struggle with transitions and making decisions. It has no gender or age restrictions. There is no easy fix or cure, but rather is a complicated trait that needs to be understood and managed.
This overall concept of a highly sensitive person has to do with how our brains process information, emotionally react, and handle life in a different way than the average person. They are deeply affected by subtleties in their daily environment. The positive aspects of this condition include creativity, being loyal, thoughtful, emphatic, perceptive, conscientious, imaginative, having good relationships, and high emotional intelligence. But, along with this comes challenges of dealing with an easily over-aroused nervous system that can make daily life challenging. Examples of things that overwhelm a highly sensitive person include strong smells, busy work environments, bright lights, other’s moods, intense entertainment, changes in circumstances and even over-scheduling can be very hard to handle. Highly sensitive people have a hard time with boundaries by extending themselves too much, becoming intimate too fast, and taking on other people’s problems. Being sensitive to the disapproval of others makes them quick to follow rules, be as perfect as possible, and are afraid to make mistakes. Living this way can cause you to ignore your feelings and needs, which causes both long and short term damage. In the workplace, they experience feeling unfulfilled, burned out and this can thus trigger multiple career changes. All of this exhaustion not only causes mental fatigue and anxiety but emotional exhaustion and can be physically draining as well.
Knowledge is key and it’s good to educate yourself. The takeaways of how a highly sensitive person can manage include small daily practices and adjustments. Don’t allow your childhood to keep you stuck, take control of your mental and physical health. Surround yourself with positive influences and environments. Have open discussions in the family, workplace, and friends when your feeling overwhelmed. Use mindfulness and breathing to calm the body when you can’t remove yourself from a stressful situation. Be aware of tension in the body including clinching, bad posture, breath-holding that affects the mind as well. Listen to your feelings, it’s alright to need time alone to process your thoughts. Find relationships that listen and value your needs, not making you defend them. Practice movement that helps you manage stress. Create time daily for quiet and calm. Engage with friends, a therapist, and journal to help manage emotions. Remember you are not alone and that with awareness and time you can succeed.