A highly sensitive person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high psychological sensitivity (or innate sensitiveness as Carl Jung originally coined it). According to Elaine N. Aron and colleagues as well as other researchers, highly sensitive people, who comprise about a fifth of the population, may process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to a biological difference in their nervous systems. (Wikipedia’s definition)
Wait… I’m a WHAT?!?!?!
About one year ago, I found out about the concept of “highly sensitive people” (courtesy of Havi, who is one). I was puzzled… but something inside me said “You? No way!”.
So I tried to take the online self-test…
By which I mean I took a cursory glance and something inside of me said “you? Sensitive? Impossible. You? A delicate flower? No way. You? When your Mum has said a million times how IN-sensitive you are and how you don’t care about anyone other than yourself? You fragile? Nah. You are tough! TOUGH, I tell you! TOOOUGH!!!”
Then yesterday, I read this.
And I landed on this line “I find that HSPs actually start at the top with transcendence needs and work down to the physiological needs last.”
You mean, my tendency to care almost exclusively about my “Search for Truth” despite the fact that I’m facing homelessness could be a trait of this HSP thing?
That would make sense
I can explain Neoliberalism in 10 sentences or less, I have a strong grasp of the Euro crisis, I understand Patriarchy and Capitalism to the tenth decimal point…
But yeah, as of January, I have no idea where I’ll be living.
I’m also unemployed. I haven’t had a good job in my life.
And despite spending countless hours of writing and having more understanding of politics than you can wrap your mind around, I have never been paid for any of it.
Then memories came up…
Me, aged 10, trying to explain to my parents why it mattered that I didn’t remove my earring until my birthday because I’ve had it on since my uncle’s wedding. It mattered!
Me, aged 11, tuning down the (ridiculously loud) music at parties because WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU DO THIS TO YOURSELVES?!?!
Me, crying whenever I listened to the Canon.
Me, needing to look away during violent scenes. Or s3x scenes. Or any kind of “heavy stuff”.
This would explain why I don’t like cities. Why, when I find myself inside Victoria station, I feel like screaming “What Fresh Hell is THIS!”.
This realisation is bringing up a lot of… conflict.
I believed there was a Monster, lurking in the shadows of my subconscious, trying to convince me that I’m not a “hsp”. Doing it for my own sake, of course. Misguided, as all monsters are*, but well intentioned.*Imo is an exception
So I had a conversation with it. I asked it:
Me: “Do we have any associations with the whole “highly sensitive person”?”
Monster: “Oh, boy! Where do I begin!
+ China roses + China teacups + English roses (women) who are very white and pretty and delicate + skinny women + women in fine, delicate, posh clothing + women who have never done stroke of work + blonde + meek and shy + quiet, delicate voices”
Monster: “They are the ones who are sensitive! You, on the other hand, are all… brown and rough around the edges. And you have big hips. And your sweaters are cheap-o and horrible. Much like all your clothes. And your underwear! And you have curly hair. And let’s not get started on how loud you are! SO LOUD! Also, social anxiety. I bet these HSP are all nice and polite and lovely”.
Oh. I see…
Of course, when you read it written like that, it’s obvious my monster is… misguided. None of the above has anything to do with being a HSP.
Here’s what I think is going on: being “tough” has been my coping strategy. Perhaps it’s because society has a very clear idea of who is “sensitive” and who is not.
Perhaps it’s because I couldn’t articulate my sensitivity.
Whatever the reason, I don’t need this coping strategy anymore. I have the resources to work with my environment so that my sensitivity is allowed to be there.
Hopefully one day it will be a super power :D
“So what now?”, asked the Monster
We recalibrate… everything.
We’ve already been doing this, kinda. We have been validating the pain and taking it seriously.
But now, we can do more of it; we can validate smaller sensations, that may or may not be “pain”, but still need noticing and validating.
I can begin to practice trusting that there may be a good reason for having sensations around stuff.
We can ask “am I sensing stuff around this?”. Or “Hmmm… I’m believe I’m sensing something. What would happened if I trusted my senses and followed through on what they suggest?”
Ask, very gently, “Could there be a reason for sensing stuff here? What would happened if I assumed there was a reason for sensing stuff here? Perhaps I’m perceiving something that’s not easy to interpret rationally.”.
Or “I sense some part of me thinks this is somewhat important. It may not be, but I’m going to consider it, just in case”.
What am I sensing? Or rather, what am I zzenzzing? Or “could I be… zzenzzing?”
It means rethinking everything we hate. Everything we don’t like. Which, I’m beginning to see, is going to be tough, because I have spent my entire life “adapting” and forcing myself to tolerate and accept stuff. (Which is hilariously ironic, because I have also spent my entire life hating everything…)
So, rethinking everything I hate… This should be fun.
NOTE: If you suspect you may be a HSP, you need to know about Ane Axford, from Sensitive and Thriving.
She has lots of info on HSP on her site, so make sure you check it out.