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The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP): A Bless or A Curse?

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Oversensitive people always complain about their inability to live in our overstimulating world. They are easily bothered, and therefore, many people get offended by how they overreact to problems. Millions of hypersensitive people all over the world feel that something is inherently wrong with them, which leads them to try to stifle their emotions and, therefore, encounter numerous psychological problems. In this article, we will have a good take on being an HSP. We will try to offer HSPs some solutions to their daily confrontations, and most importantly, a full definition of what being an HSP means.

Being an HSP

‘I am fed up with my noisy neighbours and co-workers. Such blasting, abrasive sounds are killing me and causing my nerves to jangle! People are so insensitive as every time I ask them to turn such deafening noises off, they tell me that the sound is reasonably low!’ If you usually experience some struggles of this kind, you might be an HSP.

HSPs have a sensitive nervous system that causes them to feel things more deeply than their non-HSP counterparts. Although most people hate noise, rude comments, time pressure, aggression, and crowded places, these things sound like daggers to an HSP. According to Elaine Aron, a clinical research psychologist, HSPs are more sensitive to pain than other people: A mild headache that most non-HSPs can tolerate might feel splitting for an HSP.

Elaine Aron’s HSP Self-Test

Thanks to Elaine Aron’s efforts, it has become easier nowadays to know whether you are an HSP or not. Answer each of the following questions according to what you really feel. If you mark 12 or more questions as true, you are entitled to call yourself an HSP.

I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.

I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.

Other people’s moods affect me.

I tend to be very sensitive to pain.

I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.

I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.

I have a rich, complex inner life.

I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.

I am deeply moved by the arts or music.

My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.

I am conscientious.

I startle easily.

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I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment, I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).

I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.

I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.

I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.

I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.

Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.

Changes in my life shake me up.

I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.

I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.

I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.

I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.

When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

The Pros of Being an HSP

HSPs are distinguished by their appreciation and enthusiasm for art, music, nature, and beauty. They are known for being profound thinkers, for they love intuition, philosophy, literature, and spirituality. Moreover, most HSPs are hard workers as they easily notice subtleties and minor mistakes. Owing to the HSPs’ own sensitivity to reproach and aggression, HSPs are so much concerned about other people’s feelings. The excessive sensitivity that characterizes HSPs usually leads them to champion a nurturing, kindhearted attitude towards nature and animals. In addition, due to their sensitive tasting buds, HSPs tend to enjoy delicious food more than non-HSPs. According to Ted Zeff, an American psychologist, “if there were more HSPs, we would probably live in a healthier world, with less war, environmental devastation, and terrorism.”

The cons of Being an HSP

HSPs are a minority in our fast-paced world as they only constitute 20% of the population. Unfortunately, most HSPs are judged and discriminated against because of their finely tuned nervous system, namely male HSPs. Since the notion of sensitivity is always attributed to feminine weakness, multifarious hypersensitive men are suffering all over the world. Hypersensitive men find it difficult to comply with the societal man code of pursuing tough masculine activities and are rather attracted to quiet activities, such as reading, playing music, and staying at home. As a result, HSPs try to conform to their non-HSP world by developing a certain interest in overstimulating activities, yet their intrinsic sensitivity keeps pulling from the other end at the cord of their lives.

The Constant Clash between HSPs and Non-HSPs

Many misunderstandings arise between the two dichotomies of HSP and Non-HSP: On the one hand, HSPs always fume with anger when they are mistreated by Non-HSPs. Because of being stereotyped as shy and weak during their childhood, many HSPs tend to be revengeful when they grow up, deciding not to tolerate rude people anymore. By internalizing such vengeful values, HSPs receive an onslaught of over-arousing provocations that ruin their sensitive nervous system which is merely asking for inner peace. Besides, other HSPs, who inwardly believe that they are deficient, tend to act the other way round: They endeavour to cope with suffering, thinking that pain is their due because the fault is in their own incompetent nervous system. On the other hand, non-HSPs regard their HSP counterparts as demanding and childlike, especially because non-HSPs are not bothered by almost 80% of what HSPs complain about. That is why, for an HSP, being open to the possibility of compromise as well as implementing lifestyle changes, such as having noise-cancelling headsets while venturing out to the noisy world are mandatory prerequisites for survival.

Marriages of HSPs and non-HSPs are doomed in many cases; although a plethora of such marriages succeed, many daily conflicts arise because of the two spouses’ personal discrepancies. Imagine if you are a hypersensitive man married to a non-HSP woman who loves to stay awake every night when you are asleep and bangs around in the kitchen to make her favourite midnight meals! HSPs always require a quiet, dark, odour-free room to have a night of perfect sleep, and, therefore, witnessing daily challenges as such can result in them suffering from insomnia. If you are an HSP woman while your husband is a non-HSP who thrives on overstimulating activities and always demands that you try the latest craze, this might wreak havoc on your nervous system. Moreover, non-HSP husbands often judge their HSP wives because of their boring, restricting lifestyle from their point of view. That is why, it is important to discuss your hypersensitivity with your future suitor before getting married because such a marriage can drive you crazy. For more tips, you can consult Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person in Love along with her other books about hypersensitivity.

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