The greatest work of the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) will be to fall back in love with his sensitivity. Or, to start the love in the first place if that is indeed the case.
This is assuming you are one of the many HSPs who are quite pissed off at the world for truly misunderstanding what it means to be sensitive. No, we’re not cry babies when people raise their voice at us. What we are is sensitive to the subtleties of this world. The things that 85% of the people miss, we don’t. It makes us more reflective and certainly more inward focused.
Another truth could be that we ourselves haven’t fully understood our own trait, so a part of us questions if we are to blame. Bottomline: We are highly aware, which can make us more creative. But we are also quick to getting highly stimulated, a frequently occurring state that often blocks out that creativity.
In parts 1 and 2, we explored the inward world of HSP. This article will elaborate on those ideas. Can we chart a plan that leads us to be at peace with ourselves? How should we get comfortable with who we are and eventually lead a life more in alignment with that?
We can. It starts with 6 Decisions.
1. Call it over stimulation, not fear
Are you always afraid and anxious? No. You’re sensitive and over-stimulated. It feels the same, but it’s not the same. And this is an essential reframe. If you label over-stimulation as fear, it will surely become fear. You know why? Because the mind is foolish. It can always conjure up something to be afraid of. And, once a state is labeled as fear, we rush into flight or fight and start scrambling for survival.
This takes us very far from what’s really true. We’re not fighting threats or dangers. All that’s happening is that we’re a little over-stimulated and in need of downtime to bring ourselves back to comfort. The best way to start is by actually removing the word “fear” from the picture. Don’t get me wrong. Fear is not a bad emotion, and in fact is a necessary one to keep our survival safe and intact. But over-stimulation is an overload on the nervous system asking us to slow down for a little bit. There’s nothing to be afraid of here.
2. Don’t try to “overcome” over stimulation. You’ll just add more to it
If you try to overcome your trait, how do you think that’s going to go? You’re asking yourself to stop being you. Not only is that not going to happen, but it’s also giving you a very distasteful message about yourself.
Telling yourself not to get over-stimulated is a losing battle. It’s like asking yourself to not see a red car when you see a red car. It’ll never work, and you’ll just add more to your over-aroused state. Your trait, your high awareness, your sensitivity to nuance, your depth of processing are all innate. There are ways to get your life on board with your plans, but that cannot happen if you insist your inherent and intrinsic makeup has to change.
3. Let go of your need to be like the non-HSP.
It may seem unfair that we come with a trait that makes us so sensitive to the environment, when maybe instead we want to be happily ignorant of it. Like Sandy, the non-HSP, who escaped from noticing everything at the party except the missing piece of cake!
We have to try to remember that we also gain advantages because of the trait. If you’ll allow yourself, appreciate that HSPs actually have a big advantage with their inherent, intrinsically-handed-down, don’t-have-to-work-for-it, higher awareness of subtleties.
The higher awareness provides HSPs with greater opportunities to be more creative, perceptive, empathic and thoughtful. When you notice things that most others miss, that’s an opportunity to do something novel. It is no surprise then that many of the world’s most creative artists are highly sensitive people.
“HSPs are all creative by definition because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.” – Dr Elaine Aron, who discovered the HSP trait.”
Yes, it’s true. We feel things more intensely than others including difficult emotions like anger, fear, and pain. But, like Dr Andrea Wachter says “…you get to feel the sweet things in life very deeply too. While you may have to use more tools to weather the storms of life, when the storms subside and there are calm moments, you get to feel those more fully.”
4. Find ways to bring yourself back to your optimal range of stimulation
This is really what we are asking for.
Take a short walk. Leave the room. Mentally check out. Watch TV. Read a good book. Sleep. Meditate.
You need some mental space and it is critical you get it. How? This is a very individual matter, and the good news is that as an HSP, you will know best what activity helps achieve this.
For me, it’s going silent and politely asking people around me to excuse me. It is not always meditation although sometimes it is. Often, someone comes along who doesn’t understand. Sometimes, I offer him an invitation to read about HSPs, and other times if he doesn’t get it, I also offer him an invitation to go to hell (I don’t say it like that, but I sure as hell mean it like that).
The point I’m trying to make is that we should stop apologizing for our need to check out for a while. Look at it as nonnegotiable for yourself. We are taking in 80% more than others do. Your friends and family should understand exactly why you need private time to reboot.
5. Introversion helps.
70% of HSPs are introverts. They get their energy from being inwardly oriented. The sooner you graciously accept that you prefer looking inward to recharge, the happier you’ll be.
But too many HSPs have kept their introversion a deep, dark, hidden secret. Society has given them the message that their desire to take time off for downtime and go off into their own private space makes them weird. And in the end, they’ve bought into it.
The majority suspects that we need to do this because we are “afraid of” or “shy of” people, and they show little hesitation in making this known to us. “Why are you so anti-social? Why would you want to leave the party already?”
If you don’t understand your trait holistically, you will forever be left feeling like there’s some flaw in you. It’s the reason why some HSPs are in ill-suited relationships, marriages, friendships, and professions primarily because they try to portray themselves as the opposite of who they are. As Extroverts.
Ironic and tragic at the same time, this has made HSPs more miserable than peaceful. And why wouldn’t it? You haven’t been able to wrap your head around why exactly you have been labeled as “flawed”, “shy”, “timid” when deep down inside you truly feel you are not.
There comes a time when you’ve had enough pretending. If you’re an introvert, accept it, own it. Choose your own ways of navigating your path. In the process, you will find your peace. If society gets in the way, train yourself how to say “Screw it. I’m doing it anyway. From now on, I’m being me.”
Decision 6. Forgive your past by reframing it.
If while growing up your sensitivity was received by people, particularly by close family and friends, as a problem that needed fixing, then you are rightfully angry. We’re angry at them for asking us to change who we intrinsically are, and we’re also angry at us for believing their flawed verdicts about our value. And now, after we’ve understood our trait, we are angry at how much of our life got wasted in this whole, painful ordeal.
This anger can be toxic and can keep our healing from starting. This is where forgiveness can help us. Forgive the people who did not understand sensitivity as a trait. Isn’t it true that if we HSPs are just now understanding it, how could anyone else have known any better? Forgiveness doesn’t mean I like what happened, forgiveness means I no longer take it so personally. When we do this, the act of forgiveness is more in our favor than anyone else’s, because it empowers us to finally move on with our life. That has otherwise been put on hold.
“Don’t be so sensitive” can now be answered as “I will be. Thank you very much.”
Off we go into a life of our choosing without a flinch of disrespect for our sensitivity. Finally.