The Highly Sensitive Person

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Back to Comfort ZoneMarch 2014: Comfort Zone ONLINE
News, updates and short article from Comfort Zone: HSPs can be present with the Dying. Plus article from the past: HSPs and Shadow.

Dear HSPs,

Here is Comfort Zone, caught mid-transformation from long newsletter to blog. The new website is not quite ready. For it, I will not be writing the lengthy articles that I have in the past--I hear blog posts should be about 500 words.

It's going to be a challenge to be that brief, but as a start, there's one below this letter. There's also a link to another, longer article from the Comfort Zone archives, in case you miss those really long ones.  This one, on our "shadow," also balances a bit the perspective of the article below.

Here's the news:

The Merry Month of May (more or less) offers you two opportunities, in two different parts of the country, to spend time with other HSPs.

In Texas, the 28th HSP Gathering is set for April 27 - May 1 at the beautiful and elegant Red Corral Ranch. Think spring and wildflowers, peacocks and cardinals, hot tubs and outdoor swimming pool, all in 1100 acres to roam about. Already we know HSPs are attending from San Diego and Napa, California, plus Texas, Colorado, Mississippi, and Canada. I will join the group via Skype on Tuesday morning (April 29). Register soon as the price goes up after April 1. This should be a superb event, especially just right for those of you in the middle of the country.

In western Massachusetts, May 30 - June 1, I will be at Kripalu, the lovely retreat center near Tanglewood and Lenox. I keep threatening that this will be my last, but in 2013 we had to close enrollment at 70, leaving some people disappointed, so we're doing another. I will just say that this is an unusual chance to be together. I will discuss the latest research and answer all questions, but mostly we will keep it easy and restful as we get to know each other. You will like the nourishing food and soft energy at Kripalu, just right for HSPs. Read more about the weekend here.

Other Gatherings

A note from Jacquelyn Strickland:

It is quite hard to believe that this is the 13th year of the HSP Gathering Retreats! I don't think Elaine, nor myself, had any idea that these beautiful and unique HSP Gatherings would still be relevant and meaningful after so many years. Retreat venues for the 29th and 30th HSP Gatherings have been selected. I am so very grateful for the HSP Gathering Co-Hosts. These retreats would not be possible without them.

The 29th HSP Gathering will take place November 20-24, 2014 near Bowral, Australia at Hartzer Park. HSPs are already coming forward with offers for ride sharing from the Sydney Airport.

The 30th HSP Gathering will take place December 4-8, 2014, just outside Wellington, New Zealand at Tatum Park

Registration details will be up soon. Check:

By the way, although I mentioned a gathering in the Pacific Northwest as being in the planning stages, I am delaying that a bit. Watch for it later.

Deal of the Century continues! Ten issues for ten bucks!

Be surprised. For only $10 (plus shipping), you will receive ten different issues that we select of the old paper-only Comfort Zone, 1997 through 2003. There's nothing wrong with them. We simply printed more of some for no particular reason, and we're just cleaning out the cupboards. You will receive the ten issues that we still have the most of.

[EDITOR'S UPDATE 2016: Paper-only Comfort Zones are currently unavailable.]

Coming Soon

In the next month or two you will receive another email like this (probably with another blog post) announcing that the DVD recorded last October is finally ready, thanks to the diligent perfectionism of Shari Dyer. This video is of the day-long seminar that I gave on Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person, reduced to about four hours of information on three discs. Although anyone can watch it, the package is mainly intended for mental health professionals, who will be able to take an easy test on it as they watch, and then be "certified" and listed on the website. That will make it much, much easier for HSPs to find an understanding therapist.

I will also be announcing the publication, finally, of the article on HSPs having more brain activity in their mirror neurons than non-HSPs, and other nicely captured differences in how our brains operate.

What have I been up to?

Besides working on the DVD, I have written a new "Author's Note" for The Highly Sensitive Child. I have already done that for The Highly Sensitive Person and soon will write one for The Highly Sensitive Person in Love. These are for the Norwegian, Swedish, and Japanese translations, but should appear in the English versions, too, when these books are next reprinted.

I have also written part of a chapter on "Temperament and Counseling" for the Oxford Handbook on Temperament and Counseling. Last year I wrote a chapter on "Temperament and Psychotherapy" for the Handbook of Temperament. If you wonder when I will ever write The Highly Sensitive Parent, well, I wonder the same thing. But it will happen.

And my November 2013 lecture in Wellington, New Zealand, is online now as an audio.

Here's the short article:

"Would you be willing to sit at the bedside of a dying stranger and comfort them?"

When I wrote the 60 or so items that eventually became the 27 items of the HSP Scale, the line above was one of the items. Obviously I wrote it because I thought HSPs would be likely to agree with it, and I was right. I don't recall now the reason we did not include it, but I think it captures something larger about us.

Of course, not every HSP is comfortable in this situation. Further, if the dying person is a very special person to you, for example a child or a partner, it will be unique to that relationship. The ability to be with the dying is simply a tendency of ours. Perhaps it is the "priestly advisor" part.

I have sometimes joked that when the king is lying on the battle field with a mortal wound, astounded that this could be happening to him, he calls for his priestly advisor--priest, shaman, Brahmin, or whomever (and I have said before that often the persons given these trusted positions were probably HSPs). The king knows this is the person who can explain the meaning of it all.

More likely, an HSP would try to help the king find his own meaning of it all. I suppose the reason we are comfortable in that role is partly our empathy, those highly active mirror neurons you will soon know more about. Perhaps it is also our preference for deep conversation. Very often at the bedside of a dying person, the chit-chat ends, or at least the person wishes it would end. Sometimes the person doesn't know it, but still needs it to end. Nervous people not knowing what to say will go on and on, but the person who can go deep is the person needed at that moment.

I think HSPs also understand something I heard said in a course on tending the dying: "Each person needs to have what is, uniquely for him or her, an appropriate death, not an appropriated death." That is, others often think they know how the dying person ought to die--with or without "setting things right" with estranged family members, with or without resuscitation or pain medications, with or without others around, at home or not, with prayers and music or not. These should be decided by no one but the dying person, and HSPs are much better at understanding this and finding out what the person wants.

I think to myself, "Is this subject too morbid for CZ?" Then I remember the above item and how HSPs tend to answer it. This is not morbid to us. We are drawn to the depths of the soul and to the mysteries of life and what lies beyond it. We are willing to be present. To hold hands, massage the feet, listen to the breathing, and wait for the moments of consciousness and the desire or thought whispered from the border between life and death. We can't handle hours and hours of it. No one can. But we often know especially well when to be present and when to go rest, and how to make it okay that, if the person dies before we see him or her again, there will be no important things left unsaid.

Obviously I have had a recent experience of this--in fact, of an HSP doing this for someone I love and whom I cannot be with. But I have had my own experience at the bedside of others. If you have not had such an experience, it will come, and you will feel your strange, surprising strength. I have tried to explain it here, but can't really. It is simply part of who most of us are.

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Missing the old Comfort Zone with the long-winded articles? I've selected an article for you from an old issue--way back in 2005--that you might enjoy. If you want to read others after that, click the link at the bottom of the page. I chose this one because the article above is so in praise of our virtues. What about our "shadow side"?

August 2005: With Depth:
The Shadow Side To High Sensitivity

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