in Midhurst and Chichester
Are you a 'Highly Sensitive Person' (HSP)?
Do you sometimes feel that you seem to be more 'sensitive' than most other people you know? Do others often say that you’re ‘too sensitive’ or do you say this about yourself? Do you sometimes struggle or feel overwhelmed in stimulating environments with high levels of noise and movement? Do you tend to have very strong emotional reactions (both positive and negative)? Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
It’s possible that you are a ‘Highly Sensitive Person’ or 'HSP' (scientifically known as having ‘Sensory Processing Sensitivity’). This is not a disorder or impairment, but simply a character trait shared by 15-20% of the population. In the same way that some people are ‘introverts’ and some people are ‘extroverts’, some people have a high level of sensory sensitivity, which is accompanied by emotional intensity, a tendency to process thoughts and feelings deeply, and a proneness to over-arousal of the nervous system. People with this trait also usually score highly on measurements of qualities such as creativity, conscientiousness, loyalty and empathy. The existence of the trait and its effects has been confirmed by numerous scientific studies. This online test can indicate whether or not you have the trait.
Being Highly Sensitive affects people in four main ways:
1) Highly Sensitive People process thoughts and feelings more deeply. They tend to reflect on their experience a lot more than others, and are naturally disposed to think things through in a complex and multi-faceted way.
2) HSPs have a nervous system that is easily over-aroused. If you have this trait you may end up feeling frazzled and over-stimulated by situations which most people would take in their stride.
3) HSPs are emotionally intense: the range of their emotional responses to both good and bad situations tends to be unusually wide.
4) HSPs are highly affected by sensory stimulation. They tend to spot finer details and make more more subtle differentiations in what they see, hear, feel, taste and smell. They may also find that some types of sensory stimulation (such as bright lights, traffic noise, rough clothing etc.) bother them more than other people.
If you think you might be highly sensitive try this online test. While not 100% accurate it can give an indication as to whether or not this trait might be part of your makeup.
Benefits and Drawbacks
High Sensitivity is a trait that comes with many potential benefits, but because Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are in the minority and live in a culture which is not attuned to their needs or way of being in the world—and because this trait is often viewed negatively by others—they may at times struggle with issues such as:
- Low Self Esteem: Sensitive People may take on a negative view of themselves if negative attitudes towards the trait are prevalent in those around them.
- Unrealistic Lifestyle Choices: lack of understanding of their true needs, pressure to conform, and a wish to fit in and please, can cause Sensitive People to make life choices which do not work well for them. As a result they can end up frazzled, overwhelmed and unfulfilled.
- Difficulty at Work: most workplaces are not set up to meet the needs of sensitive people! As a result, HSPs can struggle to fit into a work environment and may end up performing below their best. This is a shame because often their best is, in fact, very good indeed!
- Problems in Relating: High Sensitivity is not in in itself an indicator of relationship problems, but difficulties in relating caused by other factors may be exacerbated by the emotional intensity and tendency to nervous over-arousal that highly sensitivity people often experience.
In spite of these potential problems, research has shown that when Sensitive People are validated and supported appropriately they can often be among the most high-functioning and productive members of the community. HSPs tend to particularly excel where the positive aspects of their trait such as creativity, conscientiousness, loyalty and empathy are valuable and make a difference.
There are many helpful on and offline resources for High Sensitivity. The go-to book for finding out about this trait and how to thrive with it is 'The highly Sensitive Person' by Elaine Aron. Elaine also has a lot of information on her website here. There is also information and activities/workshops etc. on the National Centre For High Sensitivity's website.
Growth work for Highly Sensitive People
As a sensitive person myself I have a particular interest in working with and supporting people with this trait, and in helping them reach their potential. Alexander Technique can be very helpful for improving self-image and confidence and self-expression. It can also help us set and maintain boundaries, stay grounded and deal with stress — areas that many HSPs struggle with. It can also improve performance and enjoyment of creative pursuits, such as music, art and dance which many HSPs enjoy.
Alexander Technique can be a very good fit for HSPs where sensitivity to subtle qualities and differentiations in your body and surroundings gives you a real advantage. You may find that the quiet focus and depth possible in this sort of work suits you very well!