As some of you know, I have stepped back from some of my HSP activities (not the research) to write a book on something different, not on HSPs. I already knew I needed to back off, but the pandemic brought it home to me, that I specifically wanted to move away from the job of generalizing about HSPs to the media. I would be asked by some interviewer, “How are HSPs handling the lock down?” and I would say (a bit gruffly, I fear): “I don’t know. Each differently. Some suffer, some love it. We are in the same storm, but very different boats.” Then to be polite I added some generalizations.
I don’t feel bad about the generalizations I have made about HSPs. They are all based on research or my long experience, and I know they have been helpful to many. But what keeps standing out for me now is how different we all are. All living beings are, but even within the group of HSPs, or maybe more in this group, we are so different. After all, if our trait is about being more sensitive than others to our environment, that should mean that we vary more than others coming from similar environments.
The idea that every human is different is such a cliché that I hate to touch the subject. It is an obvious scientific and spiritual fact (in that most spiritual traditions mention using the unique gifts that God or our karma gave each of us). I used to joke that psychology is the study of whether people are more the same or more different. And I love the bumper sticker, “Be yourself. What are the options?” That sums it up so well that it seems like there’s nothing more to say.
But I don’t think people take the idea of individual differences seriously enough, and my knowledge of high sensitivity is what brought that home. There is a huge difference between HSPs and those who are not, and it has been so difficult to convince the world of that. But what about all our other differences?
I’m not going to blame our society or even human nature for failing to take into consideration individual differences, although I see that improving. Both science and medicine, for example, move forward mostly through studying what is generally true. And we all develop our inner hypothesis about how people generally are (usually we think they are like ourselves), and then carry around those stereotypes when we meet someone new.
We do think differently about people according to their age, gender, and ethnicity, but within those groups there’s the same problem: We do not see the differences among individuals. However, this is all inevitable, because we need generalizations in order to make predictions, plans, and just to understand and empathize with someone else until we know more.
Your Differences Are You
However common generalizations and stereotypes are, we do not have to accept them about ourselves if we know they don’t apply. But first we must notice them. My eleven-year-old grandson has learned to sail expertly, and when he’s going out or coming in, adjusting his sails, people say “I can’t believe someone your age…” When we go out together, I hear about myself, “I can’t believe how agile you are on that boat, at your age.” Last time he and I went out and heard things like that, we decided to start weeding out ageism from our own speech!
It is your job to have a very clear idea of yourself and be ready to share it or correct the views of other when it is appropriate. You might need to say that you can or cannot do a certain job, like a certain situation, perform well, and so forth. Above all, what follows from knowing ourselves clearly is that what is good for us and what is good in us can guide how we can be most useful in the world.
An Inventory, if You Want
If you want to (you may vary on this!), spend some time soon thinking very seriously and objectively about yourself—your traits, traumas, skills, strengths, preferences, dislikes, quirks, flaws (I call flaws those things that do not work for others, unless they don’t work for me either), etcetera. Maybe write the list down. Think of it as an inventory of yourself, like an inventory of the items in a store–don’t you deserve that much attention? You do not have to be that thorough, but what fun to end up with such a list.
Add to your inventory your age and how much of your life is still before you and what you can expect to happen to some items on your list as you age. And there’s your physical health and financial resources, any chronic burdens. Maybe include the support you can expect from others. Stop when you are tired.
If the inventory includes (and it should) flaws, problems, or just things you wish that you were and are not, you can do at least three things about them, probably more: One solution is to reframe them if you can, in that they may also be strengths—maybe you said you are stubborn (but then aren’t you also persistent?), vulnerable (but also sensitive?), “codependent” (but also devoted and empathic?), impulsive (spontaneous?), distractable (alert to opportunities?) and forgetful (living in the moment or wise in other ways?).
A second solution for the problematic items is to weed them out if they are habits, or heal the source of them–another topic. And a third solution, after applying solutions one and two, is accepting those flaws that are still there. Hey, it’s a package deal. No one is perfect. Someone else may treasure these quirks of yours. No accounting for tastes! There may even be some way to put them to good use–become an expert on that problem.
Now look at the finished inventory. If you are disappointed, ponder that. You may find that once you face your disappointments, you can forget about them. You are who you are.
How Can We Make Use of This Person?
Now look at that list as an objective outsider who needs someone to do a job. Any job. Run a library, be a caregiver to a sick relative, walk dogs, study astronomy, teach reading, be a good friend, write poetry or lyrics to songs or lines in greeting cards. By job I clearly only mean what this person, given this inventory, could do when not sleeping, eating, and all that stuff. Can this person be someone with a beautiful garden that makes them feel good (or that people walking by it can enjoy)? Can this person be someone who makes dogs and cats happy? Someone who is simply cheerful and radiates that? Someone who is funny, or who dresses delightfully, or who enjoys kids so that their parents feel good about their offspring, or someone who cares about the environment in big ways or small?
Can this person be someone others can depend on, for food, clothing, education, love, a visit now and then? Or can this person be someone others hardly notice, yet can feel grateful for what they have been able to do given their inventory, maybe one with many burdens?
We all need some purpose in life. Some would say firmly that we were all put here so that we could live that purpose. Have you found the right one yet, one that fits you perfectly or close enough for now? Because of course the fit changes as circumstances change. Perhaps your purpose now is to raise your children or retire and enjoy your accomplishments so that others can take your place or take new pleasure in the new you, the one no longer working so hard. You decide.
After my last blog, on impermanence, many people wrote comments and I enjoyed reading them. You talked to each other and gave your own solutions for dealing with the fact of change and loss. So, I welcome any comments on this post, as you explore the joys and difficulties of being unique.
Jodi Wyner-Holmes says
Long before anyone knew of HSP, certainly decades before I learned of it, back in the late 60’s I started saying to those who expected me to be like everyone else, “I am me; who else could I be?” and stopped trying to meet those expectations and fit in, be like everyone else as it was obvious to me I couldn’t be and I liked who I was. I was perhaps 9 0r 10 at the time.
Finding out about HSP, empaths and other traits helped me explore the why, not the who. It’s the why we share in common, not the who.
Cynthia Testa says
I was diagnosed HSP when I was in 3rd grade. I had a fight with 85 percent of the people when we moved to a project. At the time the project was all white and they were integrating black, Muslim and Hispanics families one at a time. It turned out I was an activists. I stood up at 5 years old and spoke for people who could not defend themselves. My mom had no idea she brought me to a therapist. I was diagnosed as highly sensitive around 1979.
Hi Cynthia, for context, how many people were there? You understand if there were only 10, then 8.5 people is not nearly as many as if there were 100 and you had to fight 85 people. I once had a fight with two people but they were quite small. I am an HSP and I am ND which is why I am obsessed with maths and numbers
I hip to what you throwin down DJ… I’m Flo
Pamela Ransom says
What a GIFT to know so early in life Who you are and not only to accept but Celebrate Your HSP traits.
I can’t imagine how Wonderful Your loving experience of yourself has Helped You Thrive in life.
I am 65 years young and just now hearing about HSP and (at this time) grieving the trauma of my little girl when my parents, teachers and others who judged me to change me left me feeling so broken and not enough.
I know this too shall pass and I will accept and LOVE my uniqueness and learn to CELEBRATE it.
Blessings to YOU! Could I ask you to please pray for me?
Thanks 😊 🫂
I totally understand you because l suffered all my life not knowing l am an Empath/HSP
It doesn’t stop there l am a natural born psychic medium.
I suffered like hell at school and at home with abusive parents.
I am 66 yrs old but one determined lady and came through this suffering all alone, but wouldn’t change my gifts for the world.
I’m still on my journey embracing my gifts as all my life l was made to feel they were a curse.
We all owe to ourselves as Empaths/HSPs.
If the world had more of us it would be a better world.
Love and light to all of you.
Christine from UK
Colin Alan says
Same with me. I thought I was nuts, over self medicating. I’m awake now.
I’ll pray for you Pamela. I’m a HSP as well and am just learning about it. We were created this way for a reason. God has big plans for us! ♥️
Kimberly Worthington-Kirsch says
I also will pray for you, Pamela.
I’m excited to have a name for my traits. My child’s psychiatrist once told me that I am “too sensitive and I should just get over it”. For many years those words chiseled a hole in the progress I had made in embracing myself. Now, to her I say “Ha!”.
I’m praying for you, Pamela. I am 62 & only judy finding out about HSPs, empaths, & narcissism. I wàs told all my life that i’m too sensitive & always made to feel there’s something wrong with me. I was treated by famuly members as one big nuisance. Life has been such a struggle, starting with v.violent homelife, school bullies, marrying out of one narcissistic family with violent narcissistic father, & into another with a v.controlling manipulative materiarch. I have consequently ended up with cptsd, M.E. & fibromyalgia. How wonderful that i can now celebrate what i always thought of as my ‘flaws’
Nicky, I feel you. I have the same. I hope to start working on restoring my self and discovering self love.
I have and will!
Rachel Clarkin says
I have been called “too sensitive – suck it up” ALL MY LIFE. I am three weeks shy of 64 and I am now just finding out about HSP. Better late than never. I have always had a difficult time fitting in with my very large family. I act, on stage, without issue, but put me in a room full of people and I am awkward and uncomfortable. A childhood filled with some really bad stuff. I was doomed! I finally moved 800 miles away from family and began to blossom. While I still have those issues, I am representing myself better and being accepted for who I am. I still have a ways to go, but it is nice to know that this is not just me and something I have to fix. I am a really good person and I don’t need to fix a thing!
This is a medicine I didn’t know I needed. The past 2.5 years have been spent in the havoc of cancer, its very intense treatments, a paralysis (in remission and now walking imperfectly), recovery, chronic pain, and new illnesses and injuries on the regular. We don’t talk about this much but cancer and treatment can do a lot of damage before we get to live again…if we are so “lucky.”
I find myself with two intense questions right now. The first is was it really worth “fighting at all costs” to suffer so much or will this ever get any better? And the second question is who am I now or what is next?
While there is no real answer for the first question/s, this post however is a map to help me begin to answer the second question/s. Maybe with a little magic answering the second question/s will lead to clarity surrounding the first question/s too! Thank you.
Suzanne DiCicco says
I am struggling with this as well. I have a blog in which I share, not just updates, but my thoughts, dreams, and pondering. I also have started making dolls. I enjoy the hand sewing, as it relaxes me. I enjoy the creativity of making them look like certain pop culture characters. I am now good enough to give some away as gifts. If my illness will allow, I’d like to eventually sell them. I hope that you will find hobbies and avenues that will allow you to connect with others safely and will bring you joy!
Anna Chinappi says
AJ, I’m with you. Also a cancer patient/victim/survivor with experience similar to what you describe. I’m here, but most definitely not whole. The surgery, the treatment, the trauma, the dissociation of shock — I really have never recovered and I bristle at the word “remission.” The definition of remission is “the cancellation of a debt, charge, or penalty.” Rather an ugly state of being after been given a death sentence. I ask myself those questions you ask as well–you are not alone. And these days I embrace my innate sensitivity, heck I’ll go to the mat for it, but in my own way and usually alone. Best wishes to you AJ, I hope life presents you with the clarity you deserve. Take good care.
Thank you Anna.
Elizabeth Brooks says
Thank you Elaine for sharing your unique gifts with us! Your loving, wise, mentoring voice always speaks right to my heart—bringing me peace and joy.
I am continually thankful for you; you help guide me through life as I become the wonderful HSP I was designed to BE!!!
I believe this is my favorite post. It was beautiful, thank you. I will be attending grad school in 2023-2024 and I want to figure out a way to study HSP peeps and their relationship to nature and how we can bring children into nature, as they are becoming more and more attached to their electronics. I haven’t quite figured out a way to correlate all of the above so that it could be funded. University of North Texas or UT Southwestern. Any suggestions are welcome. I desperately want to help children and parents of children who have gone through what I have and my parents raising me. My dear mother, bless her, had a heck of a time with me. From the tags on my clothing to hating shoes to crying every single morning before school because school was a literal hell for me. Nobody understood. My father tried, he knew something was special about me and was a little more patient because he would see my sensitivity manifest into beautiful things. My art work was displayed at the white house when I was in elementary school, I taught myself to play the piano and could imitate music just by hearing it. He bought me a cheap beat up piano because he thought it would help me, even though we couldn’t afford it. He loved my creativity and sensitivity but was worried for me. When I became a teenager he told me that I would need to find a man that could take care of me, and it was the look on his face. I was so offended and didn’t understand at the time, it kind of hurt me when he said that. If my parents had been prepared for me or we weren’t so poor and my parents were not so stressed and overwhelmed I wonder where I could be in life right now, how much further along. Relationships never working, being taken advantage of by not so nice people, not being able to assimilate into society in a healthier way that would progress my life and well being. So, on to grad school to learn to help others! I send you all love and a warm hug and blessings that this life and others are kind to you. Thank you Elaine for being so brave as to bring this to light in a world of disbelief regarding the importance of sensitivity. My sons are also sensitive and struggling in this world. I am glad they have me 😉 and all of you.
Love and light,
Madeline – sonderling 🙂
Hi Madeline, I wish you much success in grad school. I am 57 and only discovered I was HSP about 7 years ago, and it has only been in the past year, since becoming very sick, that I have been able to actually learn more indepthly about this trait and begin to nurture myself accordingly. I was raised to play outside and to be active, despite neither of my parents being very active. (The first time I saw a computer was in University in 1986 and I couldn’t even figure out where the on button was! ) I tried every sport. I became discouraged with many. I realize now, it is the team sports, the competitive sports that caused me discomfort and problems due to my HSP trait. I enjoyed 1:1 sports better, Tennis, ping pong, badminton or solo sports like swimming. Being unable to work at the moment has me craving to be outside and enjoy the fresh air. It’s like I can’t get enough of it. I am still recuperating, so I even need to monitor my physical activity levels so I have energy for the rest of my day. My first thoughts or suggestions for your grad school endeavours would be to research whether or not there exists educational courses and information sessions available for doctors, teachers, parents, and children of all ages, so that right from the beginning the adults in our lives can identify an HSP baby, an HSP infant, an HSP toddler, HSP student. If there aren’t any such educational courses and information sessions, then develop one! that is mandatory for doctors, nurses and teachers so they can better inform parents and children. The more I think about it, the more I realize this sounds almost like the whole school system is going to need to be realigned to incorporate the needs of HSP children so that they aren’t discouraged along the way. When sports, indoors and outdoors, became competitive in highschool, I stopped gym class. Well, gym class needs to be mandatory and teachers need to find alternative physical activities for youth, both indoors and outdoors so that the HSP ones remain active and happy. And the HSP students must not be forced to participate in physical activities that overamp their nervous system. I hated dance class, absolutely hated it. Too noisey, too complicated for my uncoordinated body, and way too embarrassing. You mentioned your artwork has been displayed in the White House. This may be an interesting connection for you someday. I live in Canada, but am aware that The White House often welcomes guests of great vision and achievements. Maybe your story as a child growing up and your artwork being displayed at the White House can provide you with an opportunity to share how important the needs of HSP children are and to get the word out that much more needs to be done. Maybe a letter to Oprah…ahh…is she still interviewing people? I don’t watch much tv anymore. But first and foremost I guess is to be an example to your HSP sons and take them out into nature. Maybe start a community group of other parents and HSP children where the focus is outdoors and your sons can meet other HSP children. You could also put together a study on HSP adults and their health, comparing lengths of years that these HSP adults have known about the trait vs their quality of health, to provide further argument that the HSP children of today need support and direction to become healthy HSP adults. On a personal note, I can relate to your struggles of wondering that if your parents and you knew about the HSP trait how farther along would you be and about not being able to assimilate into society, So far , other than these online HSP websites and blogs, I have only met one other person who realizes she is HSP. A relative’s wife…who is 72 is HSP. We have been talking for months now and it is like we have known eachother forever. So finding a way to meet other HSP’s I guess is of extreme importance instead of trying to assimilate into the non HSP world. I see online that there are HSP communities where HSP people can meet. Universities are progressive institutions…maybe start an HSP group so you can meet other HSP students. Again, I wish you all the best. I sincerely hope you will have much success. oh…ps….maybe in your studies as you continue to introduce the ‘sensitivity’ trait….you use along side of it the secondary term that I believe Dr. Aron also refers to…sensory processing overload trait…something to that effect. It helps to reframe the negative stereotype attached to the word sensitive . Our nervous systems are just different and it’s inherited. I hope you find many other like minded friends along your journey to help you with this goal of yours . And remember….to keep nurturing your own HSP needs along the way so you stay healthy!
Dana Gooch says
Your words resonate deeply with me. Under two years ago, I made an important decision and radically change my life. After 28 years with the man whom I had devoted my life to since I was 15, I took the difficult, yet necessary step of leaving. So out the front door I went, the morning of New Years Day, 2020, with a small bag of clothes. Closing the door on the only world I had know for the majority of my life, yet knowing this was the only way I could being to know and be me. My life had not been my own, it had been his. More than once as a young child, I had experienced intuition so strong and compelling that it couldn’t be ignored. The outcomes of these situations quickly validated the messages. Sadly, during my 28 year relationship, my ability to receive and understand energy, energy that usually became loudest when attempting to warn me of dangers, had become muted. Muted is likely too soft a word, more like imprisoned within the deepest parts of me, with no path to the case.
Irronically enough, after long and deep reflection, I now suspect that my life long perpective and belief that every person, past, present and future, is unique, resulting in me convincing myself that my wants, needs and morals should not be set above those of others, but instead, below those of others. Who was I to determine mine ‘were more important’ or valid? As a soul who strives to see and understand the perspectives, origins and ‘internal wirings’ of others in order to going insight into their unique ways, it may have been that I thought this was needed to fully embrace others ways as being “not better, not worse, just different”.
This I now recognize as very self damaging, not to mention faulty. It could never deliver the intended and desired outcome. In part, this was one way I deluded myself, telling myself this lie to the point of staying 28 years in an exsistence consumed and ruled by an abusive, deceptive person (with NPD not diagnosed). This fact, I have come to terms with. Funily enough, my long-term life lesson (NEVER to be forgotten 😉), has not changed the core of any of my beliefs; however, my applications and interpretations have most definitely been modified. Frequently when speaking with friends, family and strangers alike, I share my thoughts on the subject of humans and their individual differences. It seems to me, this is a message that could use spreading like a contagion. My opinion is this. Equality is a place, time and mentallity when/where people as a whole recognize and embrace that EVERY single person is different. Furthermore, they see how this is a fabulous thing. If we were all the same, the world would look much different. Many advancements wouldn’t exsist. Many inventions, concepts, arts, professions, etc., wouldn’t exsist. We would all desire the same car, house, job, haircut…well you get it. Boo to that world. This is not to say that I think everyone should hold hands and be friends with ever other person they meet. No, certainly not. It means to recognize, appreciate and embrace that variety is great. Leave those who don’t resonate with you to do their thing. If a person is doing, saying, dancing, driving…or whatever, in a way you don’t like, ask yourself, ‘Are they hurting someone or hurting themselves?’ If the answer is no, then leave them be. It’s no ones job (nor do I think anyone has the right) to determine how others live their personal version of life. If we could all let others be their true authentic self, as well as live our own lives that way, I suspect we would all find ‘Our people’ and as a result, individuals would have almost no shame for being a particular way, doing a certain job, singing in the shower or car. If you ask, ‘Why wouldn’t they?’ The simple answer is, because they would not have been told since the beginning of their lives that to be accepted, loved, worthy, etc., they had to be what they are not! This false rules would no longer apply to themselves, or any one else.
One of my personal saying is, “I judge people as an individual.” There are many times I elaborate with statements such as, “What matters to me, is who you are, inside”, “What kind of person you are”, “Not what you do (as a job)”, “Just because someone is a doctor doesn’t make better, and just because someone digs dirt, doesn’t make them less important.”
Love and acceptance can prevail and florish.
Yes, absolutely!! I cannot judge another person’s decisions or behaviour because I am not in their shoes. As long as what they say/do hurts no one, all is acceptable
Linda Lee says
As both an HSP and INTJ, I used to cherish my stark uniqueness. However, despite some much-needed affirmation, I’ve “progressed” to cynicism. Perhaps the relative lack of mirroring and compatibility with the general population accounts for this. So I have few friends, and most people simply aren’t bothered by the loud, obnoxious, talkative woman at work, for example. Maybe the takeaway is that uniqueness is both a blessing and a curse.
Oh, my, Linda Lee. I’m an INTJ, too. I’m just learning about HSP. I keep to myself most of the time, because if I open up at all to people, they invariably say — sometimes sooner, sometimes later — “you are SO SENSITIVE!!” Never as a compliment, of course.
I’m ALSO an INTJ!! Actually I took the test a few different times total and at one point I scored as INFJ. I think that happened within the same day actually… but I also suffer from BPD and apparently HSP so my moods tend to be a bit all over the place at any given moment so possibly that explains the “Thinking” changing to “Feeling” in just that one category that day. But then I scored INTJ again when I took the test again years later… so the other was likely a fluke! I just thought it was interesting how many of us have scored that type and also discovered we’re HSP! I’ve also become quite cynical from all the personality disorder and emotional dependence problems I’m struggling with as a result of being so “different” and feeling as intensely as I do. Until now discovering about this HSP being a thing, I had actually just thought my high level of sensitivity regarding my emotions especially was a part of my BPD since part of the definition of that is an inability to properly regulate emotions. I scored very high on the test here for HSP though, and that included even some of the more physical effects from HSP as well as emotional ones.
Hi Brooke! I am also an HSP struggling with BPD. I am an INFP but have some very close relationships with some INTJs—not to place people into boxes, but I love my INTJ friends for how insightful, intuitive, unique, thoughtful, and gifted they are. One thing I struggle with while having BPD and being an HSP, is “splitting” between feeling special and enjoying my uniqueness and feeling worthless and hating that I’m different, internalizing the negativity and toxicity from those that don’t value sensitivity. Also, I used to be more optimistic about myself when I simply identified as an HSP. That positivity has slowly devolved into cynicism when I found out that some of my sensitivity is actually due to a personality disorder. It made me feel flawed at my core. I’m slowly trying to make my way out of this hole to restore my faith in myself and my unique abilities. We can carry a lot of shame with the label of a personality disorder, but that same “disorder” also affords us so many strengths, such as the empathy and passion that the world generally lacks. I want to get back to a place where I feel like I have something special to offer, because I really believe people like us can have such a positive impact when we embrace our unique abilities. We just have to find a place for our gifts, where they will be needed and appreciated. Anyway, thanks for sharing!—you aren’t alone in your BPD struggles(:
Thanks Elaine for this lovely blog post. Your writing always seems to speak directly to me – and yes I am one of those people who makes dogs and cats happy – that seems to be one of my life purposes. It’s so satisfying (and so rare) to find a website that makes me feel understood.
Paisley Fletcher says
I wish that much earlier in life I understood that being different did not mean being less than. If I had not spent so much mental and emotional energy trying to fit in, I would have had more energy to expend on fun.
Roundball Shaman says
“…what keeps standing out for me now is how different we all are. All living beings are, but even within the group of HSPs, or maybe more in this group, we are so different. After all, if our trait is about being more sensitive than others to our environment, that should mean that we vary more than others coming from similar environments.”
This is a fact of life that most people really do not take seriously.
No person experiences life just like any other. We were each born with certain physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual qualities that are totally singular to ourselves. Further, quantum physics teaches that there is NO outside objective World, much as we are fooled into thinking there is. All of our lives happen INSIDE OUR OWN HEADS and through the process of being a singular Observer which ‘collapsed the wave function’ of infinite potentials down to just one for each of us.
As HSPs, we experience things differently. We process information differently. We are wired differently. We have different genes and social interactions that direct our brains and emotions and that create the filters that we have our experience of Life through. The fact is that we cannot view Life without experiencing it through filters. The best we can do is try to reduce those filters through meditation and being mindful as to quiet down the chatter of thoughts in our head that won’t give us a moment’s peace.
In many ways, we are all more different from each other than we are alike.
“It is your job to have a very clear idea of yourself and be ready to share it or correct the views of other when it is appropriate. You might need to say that you can or cannot do a certain job, like a certain situation, perform well, and so forth.”
Many groups today are playing the ‘Victim Card’ and they seek special social status because of some purported violation that has been performed against them.
But as HSPs, that is not what we are doing when we advocate for ourselves. We simply interact with life on a different fundamental, much more sensitive level than most people. And this absolutely requires us to be our own and best advocate in every situation we encounter. This applies to our family, friends, loving partners, workplace environment, social groups we may belong to, medical treatments that are being pitched at us, etc. We are different from the rest of society and they either need to be accommodative to our sensitivities or we need to stay far away from them and social settings that are at odds with our ability to live comfortably and to prosper.
We do not have to apologize for who and what we are. People who live like “bulls in a china shop” do not apologize for who they are and what they do. Bullies never apologize. Narcissists do not apologize. And these types are offensive and harmful to the people around them. We are not.
We as HSPs just want to live in peace as our Creator made us to be as a more sensing, reflective, discerning persona. And we are blessed to be that way. It is a real gift. We want to live in peace and with integrity and be able to fulfill our Earthly purpose. And we are the ones who have to make that happen.
Paisley Fletcher says
“We are different from the rest of society and they either need to be accommodative to our sensitivities or we need to stay far away from them and social settings that are at odds with our ability to live comfortably and to prosper.
We do not have to apologize for who and what we are. People who live like “bulls in a china shop” do not apologize for who they are and what they do. Bullies never apologize. Narcissists do not apologize. And these types are offensive and harmful to the people around them. We are not.”
Heather Smith says
Thank you for this post. It is very pertinent to my current phase in life.
I’m 52 years old and I have social anxiety disorder. I’m also a psychiatric nurse practitioner, my second career. I have a masters in counseling psychology I was a therapist for many years. This is the first time I’ve read about highly sensitive people. I’ll leave it at that and thank you.
Edward Caissie says
A question: is there a correlation between HSP and BPD?
From a quick read it appears there are a great deal of similarities although I don’t have the research you may have to draw from.
I would have to agree with you, Edward. Having learned about BPD for numerous years now in an effort to try to improve myself, and having just now come across this site and been reading about HSP there are definitely similarities! HSP also appears to have more traits that could be described as falling along the autism spectrum in a sense however, due to the actual PHYSICAL and TACTILE sensitivities described as well amongst the emotional ones. Both myself and my daughter scored quite high on the HSP tests here. I struggle with BPD and AvPD (and an obvious problem with emotional dependency in my former romantic relationships) also and I meet most or all of the mental/emotional effects experienced by being HSP while my autistic daughter meets most-all of the physical and tactile effects described.
Anyway I’m glad to have found a community dedicated to helping HSP and making us feel not so alone and “weird” because of the unique differences we face which not everyone can relate to. It’s nice to feel a sense of belonging and being understood!
Cheryl Blum says
The self tests on this website inquire about sensitivity to bright lights, loud sounds, and having a lot to do in a short amount of time, etc. But what about sensitivity to emotions? For instance, if others’ pain causes someone to suffer or if loss takes a long time to recover from or if cruelness of others deeply hurts. I’m trying to learn about coping with emotional sensitivity rather than environmental input or sensory sensitivity.
Does that type of personality fall within the definition of HSP? Is there a method to gauge this?
I’m in the same boat Cheryl. Very sensitive to others’ emotions; not so much to physical stimuli. You are not alone.
Dawn Zill says
From what I’ve found there are HSP that are also Empaths. The Empath part would explain the emotional sensitivity. Empaths can even soak up other’s emotions, feelings that aren’t their own, even of strangers. I was struggling so bad with this at one point I couldn’t go to crowded places & was diagnosed with agoraphobia. I still only go where I have to
Liane Valentine says
Hi, I am 59 and was born HSP. Luckily my parents were very supportive and I have had a good life until age 52. I have not coped well with the symptoms of menopause. The excess adrenaline response, digestive upsets, migraine and brain fog which most people just find annoying, I have been overwhelmed by it. This has to do with my inability to cope with pain and being too aware of my bodily functions. I have been down the medical path, and hormone replacement does take the edge off, but I’m still too unwell to leave the house most days. Any suggestions for this?
Sounds like fibromyalgia symptoms
Dear Elaine, your suggestion to take an inventory has left me with a strong feeling of uneasyness. I thought “is it all about this?”. Then, I took your book about HSP’s, chapter 10. Here I found the answers. Thank you Elaine.
Duma Andrada says
I want to start by saying I am extremely grateful for discovering Elaine’s book about HSPs.
I have always thought that I am a damaged person due to the fact that I take into account everything that people say and it hurts me so hard when there are misdoings in this world.
After reading Elaine’s book, I started to look at myself from another angle and the most precious thought that I extracted while reading was represented by the fact that I am a special person (in a very good way) and that this world needs people like me.
I am extremely proud of myself for succeeding in switching the way I looked at myself: from considering myself a damaged person to considering myself as a special, worthy and distinguished person.
Reading “The Highly Sensitive Person” changed my life and was one of the most healing experiences I’ve had and continue to have. I’m an HSP and an INTJ and knowing those two facts about myself have seriously changed my life. Although I’ve learned not to talk about being highly sensitive to other people, I’ve finally been able to understand myself (most of the time) and reframe thoughts that are holdovers from my earlier life.
But I have a problem that has caused trouble for me my whole life: I am a night person. If allowed to keep my natural sleep cycle, I go to sleep about 2:30 a.m. and get up at 10:30 or 11:00. Obviously, attending school, working 45+ years in jobs that started at 8 a.m., some even earlier, was really hard on me, although I managed to be a good student, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and was successful in my career. I spent most of that time getting 5 or 6 hours’ sleep every night and feeling like I was sleepwalking at least some of the time. People who knew about my both natural and preferred sleep cycle made it clear they saw it as a great big character flaw.
I’m 71 years old now, retired 6 years, and I’m currently encountering my old problem again as the result of having to have a portion of my house rebuilt after being destroyed by a large tree. Most of the time, when someone comes to work on my house, I need to let them in through the front door. This has meant months of not getting enough sleep again, b/c I am simply incapable of going to sleep early.
I wonder how many other HSP’s are natural night people, and if they have figured out how to cope better with this characteristic. As this wonderful article posits, we are indeed all unique.
Some people who have been in 12-step programs read the Big Book before they go to sleep every night. Some who practice their faith read their religion’s materials. I read “The Highly Sensitive Person” in the same way those mentioned above practice, devoting my attention, time and energy to this book that has helped and healed me more than any other.
Hi Margaret. There is a group on Facebook about Elaine Aron and HSP. You should subscribe. I found it very useful. I’m also reluctant when it comes to go to sleep. Never before midnight. Be happy.
Verna Vogel says
Can you ask the workers to arrive at noon? Maybe they can at another site in the morning, and at your place in the afternoons… your rebuild would take longer, but you would get more sleep.
My brother is a house painter and actually struggles also with arriving to job sites early, he would love a client like you!
I’m a natural night (ish) person, usually go to bed 12-1am and wake about 8:30-9am. But if I am reading a good book my eyes can stay open and my mind engaged for many hours into the dawn.
Never have been able to hold down a full-time day job, partly because of being NOT a functioning morning person. In the now-distant past I was fired many times for that “shortcoming”.
My solution has been self-employment: there I can make my own hours, and nobody tells me when to eat! *laughs*
My work life has consisted of many creative endeavours, often centered around making physical objects and selling them. It took me some years to figure out a feasible way to live like this, without any sort of guidebook.
But now I’m 52 years old, and, astoundingly, find that I have just the most fortunate life imaginable.
For 20 years I am a practicing visual artist, and also children’s art teacher in public schools for about 6 years, and during covid also a seamstress making masks when I could not teach.
For 15 years I work one day per week at an art-supply shop – minimum wage but an excellent discount on art materials . We are all working artists at the shop, so there is plenty of consideration for quirky personalities. My shift starts at 11am – totally doable. Also, conversing with a script (centred around the worlds of possibility in use of art materials) suits me much better than open-ended social situations.
So, that’s how I deal with my own circadian situation.
I discovered about HSP a few years ago, it was quite an “aha!” moment 🙂
When I was younger various people in psychiatric offices wanted me to take various sorts of medications for bi-polar, ADHD, etc. Which I did for a short while… but then I decided that rather than try to fit myself into someone else’s idea of “reality”, it made more sense to create my own.
Once I made that decision, life got better. I was born into a very poor immigrant family who did not support my creative impulses – “practicality” was the Word – but I eventually found that being who I am, and doing what I love, is really the most practical way of living.
Thank you Elaine for your newsletters and books, which I continue to learn from. Just put your book about parenting HSP children on hold at the library, because I’m certain at least one of my siblings is HSP, and our parents were very loving and good providers, but not attuned to the HSP personality, a situation which has had its resonances in our lives.
Wen Hong says
I watch the videos, people talk in some topics. I see the different emotions from them. Then leaving a message, saying something about my thoughts. I confused that people can’t see clearly. I feel I can comprised in very few words, easily. But too clear that terrify me.
It’s difficult to get along with people.
Most of time, I feel if it is just my illusion when I stimulated by something strange.
It’s also hard to control my life when bring this kind of trait. Too much words to say.
I am not a native speaker, hoping it’s not that hard to understand.
Elaine, as a researcher I know how challenging it can be to move from describing group differences to denoting individual differences, and then some. It seems that you have stepped into a beautiful awareness of just how truly individual we all are. You are absolutely right in saying that your generalizations about HSPs’ experiences of life have helped many– they truly and deeply have. I am eager to see and read what comes of this latest reflection and lived awareness of yours. Thank you for your ongoing contributions as a researcher and individual who identifies as an HSP. Your worth has meant the world for so many.
I found out I was HSP a few years ago. I felt safety and extreme happiness for the first time and experienced physical heartache and pain. Since then I’ve taken antidepressants and haven’t felt them since. I can’t remember most of my childhood, just that it was unhappy. Now, I don’t think I can be happier. I’m afraid that if I stop taking the antidepressants, I will feel physical pain from happiness. Is this a normal thing?
Phillip Dacus says
I just learned of HSP. This is very interesting to me. i work with a mental health condition called Avoidant Personality (Avp). I have researched Avp for over 10 years. I have been looking for the key to unlock the reason why Avp develops in some, but not in others.
For those that dont know what Avp is, it is major depression, server social anxiety and a host of other symptoms. Most everyone that develops Avp has had some sort of trauma happen in their lives.
The problem is why are some people able to handle trauma and move past it, while for others, this trauma take over their lives and Avp, or another mental health condition develops.
I dont have any data to support this, but I know this is the case in my life. I have Avp as well. I tool the test and said yes to most every single question. After talking to and research Avp for so many years, Im wondering now if this is the reason why some can handle trauma and some cannot.
Maybe its because these people that are HSP are also highly susceptible to developing a mental health condition like AVP. I would be very interested in talking to the DR about this Hypothesis and hearing from others that have a mental health condition.
I found your comment very interesting to read. As well as another further above yours which is questioning a potential connection between BPD and HSP. My reason is because I’ve spent a great deal of time doing online research into certain personality disorders, in an effort and hope to better understand myself and try to work on healing so hopefully I can learn more self-love and stop ending up in toxic relationships that continually emotionally destroy me. After 38 years of life and 2 children later, I’d have thought I would have learned by now… but I keep finding myself repeating slightly different versions of the same cycle.
All that to say, although not formally diagnosed, I have self-diagnosed as BPD and also AvPD, as you mentioned. Amongst further research within the past few days, I came upon the term “emotional dependence” which describes me perfectly in regards to my past romantic relationships (as well as explaining my typically quite intense desire/need to be in a romantic relationship at any given time). Somehow my reading about emotional dependence (and how I can begin to recognize and overcome this problem) ended up leading me to this site, where based on my very high self-test scores here, it’s very clear that I’m also an HSP (which is a new one for me that I’m just now hearing about and discovering) amongst my other personality disorders/traits I was already aware of. I haven’t personally studied enough on the subject of AvPD to know much about it, but I know my reason for scoring so high as having that particular disorder (along with the BPD, which were both on a test I took on a different website that covers the gamut of the various PDs and gives you a percentage score ranking within each PD category depending on where you fall amongst others who’ve also taken the test, and my scores were soaring in the AvPD and BPD categories, which I can agree with based on my symptoms and behavior) I understand that it’s my extreme social anxiety that earned me the AvPD score. I’m VERY socially-awkward irl and I have concerns that I have a touch of agoraphobia as well, or at least I’ve begun to live somewhat of a hermit-like existence where I avoid leaving my house much except when absolutely necessary!
Oddly enough, that hasn’t stopped me from finding toxic relationship after toxic relationship since I always first discover the guys over social media, and the AvPD UNFORTUNATELY only seems to keep me avoidant when it comes to large crowds and busy public places outside my home… but not avoidant enough to keep my longing at bay for finding that ONE person who I can grow old with and will provide me with companionship for the rest of my life. Lol Basically the BPD problems kick in from there, causing me to make reckless, ill-advised choices moving the relationship and my emotional investment and dependence WAY too quickly, until it ultimately faces the crash and burn when the guy realizes I wasn’t joking or lying about how crazy and problematic I am, and he decides to peace on out the door despite my begging and pleading for him to stay because I can’t handle abandonment (after experiencing it from both of my parents during my childhood). A bit pathetic of me really now that I’m thinking about it, but that’s seriously how it usually goes! And typically then the HSP and BPD within me leave me feeling heartbroken and rejected yet again!!
Itay Sharon says
Itay Sharon says
sorry, please remove this comment, and also the one above.
(I was checking if I would have a chance to edit after posting, being an HSP you know… 🙂
Leslie Clapper says
Oh my gosh I had to laugh at your comments!!
You’re safe. We all understand the checking and rechecking and doubting! I read my comments after I posted and thought “Oh noooo! Why did I write so much?? Delete! Where’s the delete button?! Aaargh!”
Leslie Clapper says
I’m 57 and only learned about HSP a few days ago when I stumbled onto the documentary Sensitive-The Untold Story while I was curled in a ball hurting from the way my children and husband treat me. My brain is always on the “what is wrong with me” loop while I’m shut down.
I’ve seen counselors (4) and tried probably 7-8 psychiatric drugs including Depakote because everyone said I was too moody. Last ones were Lamotrigine (3 years) and I’ve been on Wellbutrin probably 6 years. I stopped the Lamotrigine and Depakote because I know it isn’t a mood disorder. Nothing made any difference but I figure the Wellbutrin isn’t hurting either.
Everyone says I have a mood disorder not accepting my explanation that my shut downs are a reaction to being overwhelmed by life and people and caring about everything and everyone too much.
I see everything. I hear everything. I feel everything and everyone’s emotions. I don’t sleep well because my brain is always on alert. I’m an empath and intuitive. It’s just exhausting. I talk too much too. Lol! It’s frustrating when I warn my family about people whose intent or personality is not good (we own our own business and employ people) or that something (I’m specific) is coming and they never listen no matter how many times I’m right and I’m always right!!
I had an fMRI probably 15 years ago and all they really noticed that looked like it had oxygen deprivation damage in one area which makes no sense because that’s never happened unless my mom had a bad day when I was a baby but I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.
I only lasted 2 years with the interviewing and burned out like a shooting star. It couldn’t be because I covered 7 counties all by myself and they were all sexual assault victims. Not a great job for an HSP but I wanted to help them. Didn’t help that the prosecutor wouldn’t prosecute because he said children aren’t good witnesses and he didn’t want to damage his win/loss ratio.
I found a local HSP therapist. Filled out her information request form last night. There was no phone number listed on her site. I haven’t heard back yet so of course I’m feeling rejected again but telling myself she’s probably just busy.
Thank goodness for Elaine and all of the voices of her colleagues! What an amazing gift to all of us fellow HSPeeps! Bless your heart and thank you.
Hugs to everyone. It’s gonna be okay.
Maria Dofeldt says
Recently I learned I’m HSP, sensational seeker. I realise my traits lead me to help others as a trainer in personal growth. I also connect easily with animals. I’m a dogwisper.
Your way of writing, and describing, feels like honey around my heart. The connections you make and examples that are taken from a broad area of life, so creative and well put. So easy for me to relate to, and I don’t get bored to read. I find it very inspiring.
I have taken a conscious decision to surround myself with people that make me feel good. I run my own business, so I can do that. When people comes to my venue they most often say its cozy, not like other venues. Now I know, as a HSP, I use my creativity to create an environment that works for me, inviting others to my world. The positive feedback makes my heart sing.
Recently I got hurtful feedback, about some of my traits, from an employee that triggered her and it took days for me to recover. I wish I could protect myself totally from others ignorance. I will rice again. Not stronger, but even more attentive.
Thank you Elaine for you wisdom, I feel I’m not alone any more.
Amen to individually – or individual differences- as you say within the HSP world. To me it feels so important to recognise this.
When I read your book in early 2017 I was so grateful to have the context of SPS within which to place and better understand my feelings, emotions, experiences and reactions/ responses. I couldn’t believe that it had published around 20 years earlier! And I so wished I had discovered it back then. What a huge difference it may have made to my life trajectory…
And … as I’ve continued on my life journey in HSP world I’ve become ever more aware of individual differences among us. Sometimes I hear or read something that I resonate with strongly and I get that warm fuzzy feeling of ‘community’, of ‘belonging’. And sometimes I have the opposite experience; I see something I don’t relate to – it doesn’t seem to reflect “me” at all and when that happens I can feel quite alienated – like I’m different even from other HSPs!
When I remember that we’re all different as much as we’re alike, life feels much easier so thank you for highlighting this most important theme!
Elena Ponomareva says
What a delightful piece to read about … biodiversity. I’m writing a Ph.D. in ecological economics, degrowth, communities, and new forms of business with a core relating to exactly that. If we consider ourselves as a network with unique connections between members or “I am’s” with an emphasis on those connections and not on “I am’s”, we got so beautiful form of life.
Not a society where “personality” means much less than a “place” and therefore characterized by robust, unflexible connections which can not adapt to change quickly, losing the essence of life.
But a community that appreciates the exact connection which is needed and therefore looking for specific, unique personality traits.
Biodiversity as an opposite to one-format species domination is such a powerful concept, dear Elain. Thank you for holding the light!!!
The last post on here was in April. Is this blog still active? I would love to correspond with like-minded people.
Thanks for the info, in all the comments I see a larger number of females responding. This is interesting to me as well. I have contained myself rather than let it all hang out. The gifts given are different and some are stronger….
I need some guidance to help to ‘un-contain myself’ an grow correctly.
I just discovered the concept of HSP. I actually fully matched the description. There is almost no HSP like me around me, so my life can be imagined. Even my parents and relatives do n’t understand me. Although they also want to help, they always say, “Do n’t think so much, it’ s useless. ”This kind of trouble has affected me for a long time., But at the same time, I also have deep insights from the world beyond my peers. I always want to be the same as others, but often fail. Now that I have learned about HSP, I finally have comfort. I am not alone! Thanks to Dr. Elaine, I have the confidence to continue life!😊
I just stumbled across HSP and the documentary last night and I cried. It was spot on as to who I am. All my life (I’m 61) I’ve heard that I’m too sensitive, I overthink, and the many other labels that people stuck on me. My family never understood me and I felt like I was constantly trying to explain myself to try to get some sort of understanding. I FINALLY have an explanation and insight to what is me. I had a hard time sleeping last night just buzzing with a sort of excitement to finally have clarity. I’ve already told my son and two siblings to watch the documentary, I hope they do and can finally try to understand. You have NO idea how much this means to me to find this. THANK YOU DR ELAINE.
esteban noguer says
Gracias por vuestros comentarios. El “yo”, en definitiva el “quien soy” es lo más esencial de la persona humana, pienso que desde el momento de la concepción en ese ser unicelular esta todo mi”yo” en potencia. Es necesario en determinados momentos de la vida plantearse “quin soy”. Muchas veces cuando no sabemos que decir es porque no sabemos “quien soy” frente a la decisión. Soy padre, soy mujer, soy estudiante, soy…. etc , cuya definición nos sitúa.
El “yo” nos identifica y es único e irrepetible y en ese “yo” esta la grandeza de “mi persona”.La felicida pienso que es la armonía de eso “yo” profundo sean cuales sean las carecterísticas personales.
Jai Crapella says
Hello, I just learned about HSP the other day. I cried with a sense of relief at getting some answers that resonate on deep level.
So many of the traits Iʼm learning about fit me: super sensitive to smell – I canʼt cook at night because the smell will keep me awake, not a good sleeper, been told I “process things differently”, I notice so much more in my environment that my friends, freeze or get shaky when Iʼm watched doing a task or learning something, very uncomfortable taking the lead on any task, can not handle the pressure of too many details, anxious…but also, deeply connect with music and dance, rich inner life, spiritual, sensitive to plants, caring.
Added to being a Pisces:) INFP-T, and empathetic knowing about HSP pulls together so much for me.
Iʼm about to turn 70 and itʼs really hitting home that there is not a lot of time left, and that the best inner work I can do is to understand and accept what keeps me from relaxing within my life. When Iʼm relaxed, cheerful, accepting, and open with myself I can be that way for others.
Thanks for reading this.
I am 71 years old and I have just spent 7 months researching why I am so fatigued. I have 30 years of medical records showing that almost every appointment with a medical professional was for fatigue. I have had so many tests and procedures, a diagnosis of chronic fatigue and 10 years on anti-depressants.
After retirement (I was a research analyst) I decided to use my time to research me.
I have just found the term HSP and answered ‘yes’ to 21 of the 21 listed traits of HSPs and thought, “Wow! no wonder I am exhausted”. Thank you Elaine!