By John Hughes
Why can’t I just be normal?
That question resonated with me. Deeply.
It came from one of the men attending the first highly sensitive men’s conference this past March in Scotts Valley, California. I wrote it down. And I’ve thought about it since then. A lot.
It truly describes how I feel about lugging around this thing called high sensitivity.
Those of us drowning in HSP-ness experience life so very differently from everyone else. It shows in how we come across to others, and it shows in our career and relationship struggles.
I’ve had a hard time finding my way and place in this world. Some may say that I’ve succeeded, but inside the struggles linger. It just doesn’t feel like success.
I no longer want this burden. I no longer want the weight of soaking in everything I hear and see and feel. And then having to process all of that input without any say in the matter.
But it gets worse. That dreaded sense of responsibility soon arrives telling me that I have to do something about all of those thoughts spinning around inside my head. It’s a mental and emotional burden that wears me out and, quite frankly, makes me mad at times.
The trait is tiring.
I just want to be normal.
(Yes, Dr. Aron reminds us that the trait is normal, that we’re normal, and I’m certainly not in a position to disagree with her, but I don’t feel normal.)
A Zombie Apocalypse
What would happen if I woke up one day and discovered that I’d been “healed?” That I was now, finally, “normal?”
And not just me, but you too would be free of your own burden of always over-thinking and over-feeling and soaking in every subtle (and not-so-subtle) stimuli to the point of being so over-whelmed that you just want to run screaming out the door and down the street and off a cliff.
What would happen if we were in fact healed en masse, as if a zombie apocalypse swept the earth and sucked the high sensitivity right out of us?
Ahhh… Now wouldn’t that be nice?
I already feel the stress and burden falling away…
We could then just sit back, relax, and let the winds of life blow hard against us, against the world, and, like the in cognizant around us, those without the trait, not care one whit about it. We could leave it to others to feel deeply the responsibility to ponder and wonder and worry and care and serve and innovate and create. We’ll be in our beds eating ice cream and watching reality TV.
Who’s with me?!
Of course it wouldn’t be nice.
Well, maybe it would be nice, but it wouldn’t be fair. Not fair to the world and those who inhabit it, both now and tomorrow. And it especially wouldn’t be fair to those closest to us.
We certainly wouldn’t be laughed at anymore, or given odd looks as if we’re a couple characters short of a full tweet, or asked thirty times a day if everything’s okay. But our contributions would be missed.
So, surrender the idea of being “healed.” Let go the thought of ever feeling normal.
I honestly don’t think we’d like the result anyway. The world certainly wouldn’t. It would miss us. It would miss our uniqueness. Our contributions to all that is good.
Yeah, I get it. We’re taken for granted. It sure would be nice if the multitude of those around us who do not have this trait would look past our peculiar natures and truly see our value and talents and care and heart. Unfortunately, though, our oddities shine, not our hearts, as if the oddities defined us, as if we are the beast to the rest of the world’s beauty.
This sucks, I know. But that’s just another burden that we carry.
A Higher Calling
I really believe that we have a higher calling. And with any higher calling comes a related call to set our own selves aside and use the gift that’s been wonderfully woven into us, even if on the outside we look like a Picasso in the flesh—an oddly angled and contorted being that incontrovertibly justifies the need for a permanent six-foot social distancing rule.
Yes, we are different.
But let’s accept this as a higher calling. Welcome it. Embrace it. Pursue it as if it’s part of who we are. As if we wouldn’t be able to breathe if we denied the fact and purpose of our high sensitivity.
The world needs us. Even if it can’t utter those words.
The world needs you.
It needs your unique way of thinking. Your heartfelt emotionality. Your creativity. Your ability to connect deeply with others. Your ability to care beyond what even seems humanly possible.
And it needs you to continually show up, to actually risk becoming overwhelmed—which strangely produces the raw material of our creativity—the creativity that moves the world to new, unique, and more worthy heights.
No, you’re not normal. So stop trying to be.
And let the gift of you flood the world.
Ellen Main says
Thank you. This brought me to tears. I am an HSP and so is my four year old son I suspect. I hope he can learn early to be an authentic person and speak his truth despite not always being accepted by society. I am only learning this now a bit late but better than never. I will always be there to try to create the space for him to be himself and tell him he belongs here.
Ellen in Cincinnati Ohio
This brought me to tears too. I am so utterly tired of being midunderstood, misjudged, scapegoated & hurt for being a HSP. Nice to know there are others on the planet from the same tribe!
I know how you feel. When I was a little girl my parents used to have parties and I would always sit in the corner. Often I would hear someone say ‘what’s the matter with Ruby’, my mother would reply, ‘oh she’s just shy’. From these experiences I grew up to believe that because I was shy I could sit ‘in the corner of my life’ and not say a word because I was labelled shy. As I struggled through life I wondered what was wrong with me, why was I so different to everyone else. Now I embrace my differentness and know who I am. And I make it my mission to support and affirm others. Moments, when I do feel hurt, lonely or scared I say in my heart and mind, ‘I am me and I’m okay’
SAME to say from inner me,
I hope to meet other HSPs , as I am too tired to be alone as a HSP,
your words touches me. I am HPS and have just started to embrace that and find my place in the world. You child is lucky.
Robert Stamey says
Truly, I am extremely blessed by God to have been given this beautiful gift. I’m 63 years old, and just discovered this about myself only about 6 months ago. My emotions and my mind have been totally out of control for over 33 years now. By God’s grace I’m learning day by day how to rest in His grace and enjoy my life and be a valuable asset to the world we live in. On May 31, 1987, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, there’s been many painstaking abusive situations that have plagued my heart since I was 3 years old. I’ve had many childhood fears that I thought were going to overtake me many times in my Christian life, but God reminds me of the truth. Jesus said in John 8:32, And ye shall the truth, and the truth shall make you free. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:17, Therefore if any man be in Christ he is a new creature; old things are passed away, behold all things are become new. The truth and the truth alone delivers me in my moments of feeling desperate. I have always been a highly sensitive person. I remember things, feelings, people, places, and everything else that I experienced from about 18 months old until now. I experience everyone’s emotions everywhere I go. Being a highly sensitive person gives me the emotional insight to the turmoil of others around me. I love it and most of all, i genuinely love people! Robert
Kenneth Kugelman says
Wow. My memories don’t go back that far, but as my counselor therapist says, the limbic system recalls all, and with a direct thought, time disappears and we are right back emotionally where and when it happened to us. I release my pains, sorrows, griefs, regrets, emotional scars, into the nails, wounds, thick thorns pressing into the head, the shredded back, which are the places where they belong and have already been dealt with – not only the ones done or said against me, but even sadder, the ones I have done or said against others. I don’t know what I would do if I had to continue to bear them and hold them inside of myself alone, I think they would eat me up from the inside out. This is an ongoing process. I personally believe I deserve far worse (judgement) than I have or ever will experience (mercy), this belief helps me to have an attitude of gratitude. If any of this helps a reader, very good. If it doesn’t help a reader, please pass it by in peace, and take no offense, for none is intended. Blessings, K
Sarah Laslett says
It helped me a great deal. I am really struggling a the moment
Your words resonated with me so well. I’ll be 64 this month and only learned that I’m an HSP several months ago. I became a born again Christian on April 2, 1979. My childhood was fraught with instability, emotional abuse and rejection. I had even developed Tourette’s Syndrome at nine years old. Only by the grace of God did I overcome so many emotional traumas. It took years for God to heal me. But I still struggled with what I now realize has been the wiring of an HSP. It’s still a very lonely walk at times, because my family doesn’t get it. But I take rest in knowing that God designed me this way and for that, I am thankful. God bless!
wow, i always thouht that i was the only one like this ,like an HSP (and and christen) i would always hide who i am but now that i’ve read this it made me so much better that i can be me. I am really thankful
There is grace in your acceptance of this magnificent gift you and very likely your son, has also received. I realize that each one of us was uniquely crafted with faults and strengths, not for us but for the betterment of this tired and selfish world. Yes, embrace your gift. You’re a better person with this gift, than you would be without it. You and I and many others are blessed to have these gifts because they are spiritual as well as emotional assets.
Joder lo leio en un bar y casi me pongo a llorar aqui en medio
Estoy eb un momento critico aunqie me da la sensacion que ya estao en este mismo sentimiento… El caso es que tengo problema para tener rwlaciones estables no se si alguien puede ayidarme me encuentro solo e incomprendido
Claudia Carrillo says
This also brought me to tears, going through a hard time during covid19. Glad to feel understood and appreciated <3
Victoria Anderson says
I feel the same way for much of my life now I’ve been medicating to try and block out my gifts, but growing up my mom always knew that I had it. I’ve tried medicating to block my gifts, but it no longer works at all. I’m on medication for stress/anxiety, but nothing blocks it, and so I’ve learned to live with it.
Right there with you…I’m an hsp with a 9 yr old son. My son feels things deeply even more so than me….my mission is to always be his safe place even when the world isn’t. I had no one to nurture my HSP and I don’t want the same for him. I’ve spent the better part of my life wondering what was wrong with me because that is what society and family told me.
Anon HSP says
It’s so painful being sensitive. If I had the choice, I would surrender the privilege after sixty-five years. It just isn’t worth it to me. I am not willing to sacrifice myself for the greater good any more.
Im 60, and it began to get better when I stopped resisting to my sensitivity some years ago when I began to study Core Energetics. Not fight it, (it hasnt been easy) allow myself to cry deply and then enjoy the rest of the time. Even if its 4 or 5 times a day (in these times). We were tought it was “wrong”, but if it was “normal” to cry all the time, we were no different. So the problem is the contrast with others. We are many. Cry! Feel the releive after it. Hope you can! Big hug for you!
Kathleen Sullivan says
I am 59 and just realizing how highly sensitive I am. It’s been a scary life at work, home and in the public. Now it’s terrifying.
Kathleen, do you think it was scarry cause you felt like people wanted to attack you verbally at work, at home etc ?
Debra Ann Metz says
I can identify with you and what you say about allowing yourself to cry deeply and feel the relief. I have had to rely on doing this more frequently in these times too.. I have always been identified as being the Sentimental Sal of our family. After reading this article I understand more about me at the age of 68 than I ever have before. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.
Hsp here! Always felt like something was wrong with me although somehow I would attract people since childhood. People would share their problems with me. It’s a gift to be empathic but it can wear you out. I have tried to make others happy my whole life but when I realized I am not good to myself I started to look for ways to do nice things for me and as a mom of young kids that’s even more important because burnout is a real thing! Been there and had to learn the hard way. God bless you all. We just have to accept this as a gift which it is and be good to ourselves.
Yes! Thanks for saying this. I believe the struggle we sensitives have is in resisting our emotions. We will not be swallowed up by them. We are strong and can release them. It’s those around us who must learn to become comfortable with emotions. Ours and their own. The only reason they get angry and lash out at us is because our display of emotions trigger their deeper emotions that they are unaware of. We can have compassion for their fear but we must be brave enough not to let their fear stop us from processing through our own emotions. Thank you all for this community. I’m so happy to have found it!
A day does not go by that I wish I could pass-away in my sleep to leave this physical world on to the Spiritual world so I can be free from the weightiness of these enhanced HSP traits,
But then I see a beautiful woman, or a colorful sunrise and sip sweet wine with gratitude knowing its not all that bad being so friken wierd and lonely all the time.
I love this post, Eddie. It’s a lovely reminder to us HSPs that we just feel things more deeply than others; there’s nothing wrong with it, and it can be quite enjoyable.
You know, after a few deep breaths and a moment of relaxation and realization.
People always remind me to “stay in the moment,” but sometimes the first moment seems like it happens too fast– I need that second moment.
Keep enjoying those beautiful things and living in your second moment!
Being not far behind, at 62, I feel your pain. And it seem to become more pronounced as the years go by, and social media grows. I have noticed as I stop trying to fit in (especially in work settings), my agita goes down. I sorta melt into who I am, and no longer fight it.
The loneliness is tiresome, and I think I’m resigned to the “tragic tale” – a life of near-hits, close calls, and almost-theres. Always feeling like despite perceived outward evidence, inner success remains elusive…
Kathleen, do you think it was scarry cause you felt like people wanted to attack you verbally at work, at home etc ?
I turn 65 this month and I always hoped at this point in life I would come to terms with my over sensitivity but it never happened. I am this way but unfortunately feel the rejection of it still. Thank goodness for wine and a sense of humor. But sometimes I just cry
No, Just ,No.
HSP is not some kind of sacrifice. If you look at it like that then you’ll surely fail to understand that its a gift. I can cry after just seeing one bad remark on somebody’s life. How many can do that. We are unique for a reason. Even us in this one tribe are unique. We can only connect so far. But we have compassion still. I hope I make some kind of sense.
I have given up on holding my back tears during movies. I my very sensitive and my
sensitive daughter is amused. She checks me for tears every time a movie gets emotional, and I’m a faucet.
For a male, that was curse when I was a kid. Desensitization, was almost a competitive ritual… then the military…
I like being a sensitive Dad better.
Sarah Laslett says
Yes you do make sense. The danger and the tendency of HSP’s is trying to sort it all out by ourselves and get in an even more lonely and anxious and defeated muddle as seems to be the case in many of the comments. We HSP’s have to be very diligent in fixing our eyes on Jesus. Otherwise we can regularly drown in our difficulties. Our sensitivity level has been given to us by the Lord and I believe is needed by the Lord for His purposes on this earth. Only by abiding in Him and regularly feeding on His word can we cope with this nature of ours. God is a loving Father and Jesus is a faithful Lord and friend and the Holy Spirit really
wants to help us.
I agree wholeheartedly. I hate the way i am i rather be normal. It hurts too much and I don’t enjoy life.
Dee S says
I very much agree with you Aussie!😢
Absolutely beautiful. Cried my eyes out.
Describes so well the way I have felt my whole life, even before I knew about or identified as HSP.
Thank you so much for writing this!
Thank you for these thoughts and reflections. Growing up a simple poen with this message changed my life:
Poem – The Plum
You can learn that you cannot be loved by all people
You can be the finest PLUM in the world,
RIPE – JUICY – SUCCULENT
And offer yourself to all.
However you must remember there will always be people who do not like plums.
You can learn to understand that if you are the world’s finest plum,
And someone you like does not like plums
You have a choice of becoming a banana.
However, you need to be warned that if you choose to become a banana,
You will be a second-rate banana,
However, you can always be the best plum.
You need to understand that if you choose to be a second-rate banana,
There will always be people who do not like bananas,
Furthermore, you can spend your life trying to become the best banana (which is impossible if you are a plum),
Or: You can seek again to be the BEST PLUM!!
Thank you! HSP too, and it is helpful to read and connect with others. Felt shame most of life on being a plum but today I feel at peace and not alone.
GREAT GREAT GREAT I love it.I do not know if I understand what is the exact meaning under the plum and the banana for you but I have my own feelings about something similar in my life.Love it
Saima Ansari says
Thank you I’m an HSP too, I really find myself a very abnormal and weird person. Nobody ever tries to understand me. I’m always misunderstood by all of my loved ones. They all think that I’m abnormal and I should ignore things which bother me. But I’m not able to ignore. Everything feels like a burden to me
I just want someone to understand me.
Kathleen Sullivan says
My family always tells me it’ll be fine. Have a beer, relax, etc. I’m also highly sensitive alcohol, ha ha. It’s so hard.
Your last comment: I just want someone to understand me – really hit home. Due to our HSP ability to tune into things more deeply than others, it would be nice to experience the same from others. But they are on a different wave length and don’t seem to be able to respond like we can.
Thanks to all who have shared their comments so we can help validate ourselves and each other as we struggle to accept our gifts. I envy those who can cry easily and have a release, as I don’t cry easily and often need a cathartic outlet.
There are times when I know that the catharsis of a good, hard sob is what I need to feel relief from emotional overwhelm, yet it won’t come naturally. I hear your frustration with that. What I’ve found helpful is a special “tissue” playlist of songs I listen to in those moments that unfailingly offer release.
Haha. Love it!😄
Simply beautiful! Of course I teared up reading this poem. This is how I have lived my life…being someone I am not. I don’t want to be a second rate banana…I want to be a plum.
Hendrika Pauley says
I am a HSP. I am also a vegan and carry the burden of the suffering of all animals, in addition to the suffering of people. How do I deal with this? Are there other vegans here who can relate? I feel so sad to know thatso many HSP-ers are loving towards people and their pets, but not towards the animals that suffer for food, vivisection, etc. Only kind responses, please. Thank you.
I completely understand that, I’m vegan as well, and even when I was a kid, eating meat made me nauseous. I don’t have much to suggest to help with the emotional struggle of knowing animals are always suffering, though. Sorry! The thing I do the most about this is being kind and compassionate and caring toward the animals in my life and encouraging the humans around me to do the same. It irks me when someone yells or snaps or pushes a cat, simply because the cat was being a cat, and sometimes I can’t help but comment after seeing the hurt in the cats expression after being somewhat aggressively corrected. I think it’s better for everyone around, including the cat, to correct destructive feline behaviors with gentle actions. If your cat’s scratching at something he shouldn’t, don’t yell or throw things at him, just go over and pick him up and move him. Or move the thing so that it’s not as tantalizing for him, as he’s just responding to things in an environment he has little control over.
I have only very recently become aware that there is such a thing as an HSP! And it is starting to transform the way I treat myself and the way I interact in the world.
At the age of 60 I finally understand why I am “weird” don’t feel connected, wish I could be “normal” and have never felt understood, appreciated or accepted (by me as well as others!!). Everything you’ve said in your article resonates deeply and has brought me a strange sense of peace that there is a reason why I feel the way I do.
I have become very isolated over the last 10 years – mostly by choice because I just can’t stand the feelings and emotions I experience being around others. I have actually thanked the universe for the lockdown and whilst I am deeply saddened by the loss of loved ones for so many thousands of people, I have also felt a profound joy in the lack of traffic,the empty beaches where I live and the social distancing has been an absolute blessing on some levels. I have missed hugs from my daughters and grand daughter but I have not missed being looked at by them with frustration and irritation because I am me!!
I am going to read your book and anything else I can find on being a HSP – I also don’t want to feel overwhelmed by too much information though !!
Thank you for writing this article. And to all who have commented here.
I now look forward to finding a whole new way of being in this world and potentially finding myself!
Saima Ansari says
Happy for you
kathleen johnson says
So relating to your pain!!
Recently diagnosed with borderline personality disorder. I am 64.
Highly sensitive & always felt like something far more than depression was in play. I stated that to healthcare professionals since my 20s who continued to prescribe new antidepressants as I had bad reactions to many meds. (Age 12, told my mother something seemed not right, she said in a belittling voice, “you are 12….what could possibly be wrong…”)
For last 12 years, I have had no relationships, not even my family. Married a few times, no children.
In early January, I was watching a tv show called Second Opinion & discovered my diagnosis. Confirmed with current therapist & prescriber.
Your story and need for isolation are pinging my soul. Just a thought to consider.
Let me say, at this moment, I truly love you in my being and so want to reduce your pain.
Do you think you were misdiagnosed or hsp and depression, anxiety can come into play? Reading this I feel my friend could also be hsp. He and I are similar in background stories and connected deeply right away. He feels he could have depression but I wonder? Thank you.
Feeling things more strongly and being stongly activated to respond are part of HSP. Depression and Borderline may be more likely with HSPs, but are not part of what it means to be sensitive. I do hope you find some good help, both the depressed friend and the BPD diagnosed person. I suffered from both but discovered over many years that they were related to chronic adverse experiences, mostly as a child. Codependency also can contribute greatly to our suffering. The “burdens” of being HSP do not need to include these mental health challenges. Studies have shown that HSP who had positive parenting are actually more tuned to positive emotions in others and the world, not negative ones! So bringing the HSP awareness into the picture can help us understand our sensitivities so we can learn better coping ways to not feel overwhelmend. But the psychological work to undo some of the negative experiences is something we can accomplish so we do not feel so burdened today with being alive with such incredible “feelers”. Good luck and Godspeed, as folks used to say.
A kindred spirit! I have not been in public since February, after being hospitalized in an isolation unit aka quarantined section because I have a mysterious virus and a bacterial respiratory infection. I hit a rough patch the second month in but once I got over it, it’s been the best time I’ve had in years. I am grateful to my spouse who does the shopping, to WFM, Target and Kroger for food deliveries. I’ve put my annoyance with Bezos on hold for now and enjoy online shopping more than ever.
Our back yard is my oasis. It is my Eden. I have enough books, cameras, art supplies and an imagination that sustains my need of creativity. My iPhone keeps me in touch with the outside world via FaceTime, e-mail, messages, and I do blog. Life is good. There’s always a silver lining to pandemics.
There have been deaths in our family but I wouldn’t have attended the funerals anyway but I am saddened by the many passings. We cope.
I am grateful for this space. My therapist recommended the book several years ago. I thanked her again yesterday. We have learned that we am not alone. We are wonderful people, you and I! Discovering who we are is a wonderful awakening. And I intend to stay woke.
Kathleen Sullivan says
I am 59 and found out why I’m so different. How do I restructure my life so that I may live peacefully?
Jeanette Heer says
Dear Kathleen, I am 72. I had the life-changing opportunity to discover that I am a HSP, at age 64. Many thanks to Dr. Aron. I was compelled to answer your question.
In my journey of these past 8 years, I feel that I have “evolved” to the best version of myself. I only hope to continue that sense of empowerment. My advice to you is to read the blogs, newsletters, science-based articles, whatever source addresses HSP. And these well-springs are proliferating, out of necessity.
It is so comforting, leading to self-awareness and self-acceptance. Since I am the only HSP in my immediate family, NONE of them “Get Me.” It’s like I am speaking a foreign language. Be your own Best Friend. I have a lot of inner dialogues, because I understand myself. Since you are new into this discovery, I wish you the peace of mind that I have found. Once you achieve it, you will be the first to know!
Deborah Nowicki says
I’m with you! Vegan and HSP, what a combo!💔 but we’re just extra special😘
Implying that we are of a similar mindset, this is where my mind wanders on veganism and animal cruelty:
I have no qualms with veganism, however, veganism doesn’t necessarily help the plight of farm animals.
Would not your energies and efforts be more productive and effective by focusing on convincing the government or the FDA to implement better legislation for the treatment of animals, harsher laws for their abuse (industrial, domestic etc.)? Maybe your passion can influence you to develop a plan or organization that would provide better oversite of the farming industry?
You could become an independent humane (modest) farmer whose business model services your community to limits industrial consumerism in your area. That’s where my critical thinking goes…
Anyway, omnivore, vegetarian, or vegan, none is loftier than the other. Neither saves lives, nor ends abuse. Both suggest a see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil resolve or an overwhelmed emotional paralysis in the face of a serious problem. Being a hsp, it gives that echoing pang of conscience, a deep reminder, as most injustices do. The nearly imperceptible candlelit window of a distant lighthouse on a dark, foggy night in the back of your mind. The tiniest irritation, you earnestly want to ignore: ” What is this I see, and what shall be done about it?” Shall I put on my cape? Sigh.
I eat meat because, I reason that the animal really DID just suffer and die in vain, if it sits in a freezer and expires. Most food stuffs, products, and plants end up in the trash. No farm to table, farm to trash. Not in the food bank, not in a starving persons belly. (In fact, the food bank throws most food away.)There is no real reason why animals are overcrowded on farms when, many of them, end up in landfills. Fruit is thrown away based on its aesthetics. The ground loses nutrients, indigenous people lose land, rainforests are burned for oils, and seedless nutritionless fruit. I am not encouraging protest, but maybe you could submit a well researched letter or petion. If it’s within your abilities, become Temple Grandin 2.0…or buy that farm we talked about…
I don’t see how veganism makes much impact on animal cruelty. You could just bury it down deep. Send an eastern wind to blow the candle out in your lighthouse unless you have a plan. Take a deep breath and if there is nothing you can do about it, within your power, than there is nothing to be done by you.
That’s how my overactive thought process works. Search your mind and if it is beyond you, ignore the guilt. It will come back around. Just Remember. Rinse. Repeat. I continue to develop my spirituality to keep me from the sadness of the world. If you let all the injustices consume you, you wouldn’t eat anything. If you dwell on the animal, next its the food, the children, everything. I believe that there is a better life. That is what helps me. And I work on improving issues based on my skillset, occupation, and hands on involvement.
In response to your question: “Would not your energies and efforts be more productive and effective by focusing on convincing the government or the FDA to implement better legislation for the treatment of animals…?”
I just felt like it was important to say that one can be both vegan and fight for the humane treatment of animals. Those two things are not mutually exclusive, and being vegan does not take so much energy as to make such activism more challenging. I am also a vegan, and I find it very easy to be vegan. I would feel needlessly tormented by choosing to be something other than I am. And that torment would spill out in unintended way on the people around me.
Whether it saves a million lives, or just one, or not a one at all, I will not eat meat, because I feel very ill at the thought of eating the flesh of a sentient creature. Beef is also contributing to climate change, which many vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians feel equally as strong about when making their decisions about meat. Not only that, but it is one of the least economical sources of protein, and the vast research documenting the health benefits of a beef-free diet are undeniable. People are choosing to eat less meat for very valid reasons. It is not true, like you say, that eating meat keeps it from going in the garbage, at least not in the long-term. All products require demand in order for the industry to be sustainable, and meat consumption has declined by 25% since 1980 in the U.S. It’s true that recently, for the short-term, the beef industry has made up for some of these losses through more exports to Russia and the rest of Asia, but not entirely. And it can only be a matter of time before consumption in the rest of the world starts declining, as well, for all the reasons mentioned.
I think you were only trying to help, but it felt very critical, telling the subject of your post that she should be more like you and just “bury it down” and eat dead animals. It just came off as lacking in empathy. It’s okay to be you, and to feel justified in your meat eating for all the reasons given in your post. It’s okay for you to not understand or feel angry at the vegan for holding a different point of view. Your feelings are valid. It’s just that this is supposed to be a place of non-judgment, and your words came off as being judgmental and invalidating. Perhaps you didn’t realize it. Please just remember that everyone here is sensitive just like you, and nobody here is going to be helped or benefit psychologically by feeling judged for their type of senstivities– especially by the very people they came here to experience a connection with. I hope you can understand that.
Suggesting to a vegan that they would be better off if they started a farm to kill animals humanely is like trying to convince a kindhearted Catholic nun she’d feel less burden for humanity if she just converted to atheism. Even if you succeeded in convincing her, you would have stripped her of one of the most cherished parts of her identity, and perhaps the very thing which helped make her so beautifully kind. Just because you can also be kind and fulfilled as an atheist does not invalidate the feeling of compassion and interconnectedness one may experience as the result of religion.
Just as it is okay to be an omnivore like you who doesn’t believe in veganism, it is ALSO okay to be the HSP vegan who feels tormented and cries about the farmer mentality described in your post. From what I can tell, HSP people are as different as any other kind of people, and while they share the trait of being empathetic, their empathy may move in very different directions.
You may not share the burden of caring so deeply for animals that you couldnt possibly imagine eating one, but if you are a HSP, then you likely care just as deeply for some other aspect of life on Earth. And how awful would it be for someone to tell you that your cares were unjustified? Having your feelings invalidated is the thing that HSP’s struggle with most and I hope that we won’t make a habit of doing that here. It only takes the reframing of our words to share our opinions without hurting, shaming, judging, or invalidating someone else’s feelings, and we would all do well to practice it by spending our energies and efforts lifting people up– by seeing our differences as being just as beautiful as our similarities.
Thank you for your perspective.
Myself and partner are vegan HSPs (well – ‘bee-gan’ atm – we eat honey from well managed hives).
I too feel the/your pain of other people’s suffering and the animals. It leaves me feeling frustrated, angry and helpless if I see an injured animal, or even a dog being shouted at because the owner has not learnt how to respect and train the dog properly.
I think the HSPs you mention have perhaps developed a coping mechanism of a self protective ‘boundary wall’, or succumbing to rules/law/legislation boundaries of where they can and can’t tread, of what they can and cannot control, or from their own fear of intervening and then being responded to unfavourably?
I’m afraid I do not agree with all that ‘Mand’ said…if we all think like this, the cycle will not be broken. I do, however, agree that practical actions can be taken to enhance and use all this love and compassion within your heart to be able to make a genuine difference to many more animals and people than within your immediate sphere. What, where, how…is your choice! If you feel compelled to take action, please do! Be safe in the knowledge you really are making a difference, even if it’s to one animal’s life. You were maybe the kind soul that made ALL the difference.
I also recognise that taking action can take huge courage and you feel your neck is on the line! Sometimes as an individual, it can feel far too overwhelming to be so confrontational with companies or authorities (and individuals representing them etc) who just don’t seem to care at the level we do. However, remember every little helps. Follow your gut instinct. Remember self compassion and care. Don’t let others tell you you are wrong! Find your inner strength and reasons to follow through with a decision you made and then remember those reasons ‘why’ when you hit a challenge.
Let your money talk. Choose sustainable, fair trade and ethically sourced products. Plenty of people are doing this now…zero waste movement etc too. You will find compassionate people who support causes close to your heart (and new friends!) within these groups. Stronger together. Grow your own food (organically i.e. no chemicals and pesticides) which will in turn help the wildlife to thrive. Know the small part you are playing IS helping, do more than that if you can. Find like minded people who will either sign the petition, help you to create one etc, or whatever your dream for helping may be. Get involved with people who genuinely care for the land, for they have respect for the Earth and Mother Nature and therefore usually the cycle of life and animals. You will learn wisdom from natives of the land, or researching their ways. Remember we also can’t control everything and ‘play God’. Some animals must die for others to live. Trust that the universe has that web carefully balanced and the less greed and ego etc from humans, the better! So, develop yourself and your beautiful natural talents and know you are one of the ‘good guys’! 😉
It may also help you to think/feel we are all souls having a temporary physical Earth existence and that we will feel no pain on them other side’. (Which, after being a previous sceptic, I found DOES exist…and that bought me great peace when close loved ones died). Whilst it is not nice to experience animals physically suffering, if we cannot take it to a vet etc etc, I think the best we can do is to wish it well on its journey, hope it finds peace and it’s suffering will be ended soon. For anyone thinking this is a bit woo-woo, we are all interconnected (energy) and science is perhaps just yet to fully explain everything yet in logical terms for others.
Also, please, do not personally carry the burden for all of this! It is not your fault!
It is also a blessing to the suffering that you have noticed, where others have failed. It is then your choice to do something about it, or not.
Reiki can also help. Sit and be still and send love and healing first to yourself! And then out to the world. It will be felt. There are also many ‘alternative’ practises (ancient wisdom) that can help, so research and delve into some of these that resonate with you and see what new path it takes you on.
I wish you all the best on your journey and hope some of these things that have helped me to cope with it, also help you.
This article resonated with many of my feelings. It’s a relief to read so many comments. I just came to this realization after my husband said “why are you so sensitive?” I considered Rejection Sensitivity Disorder at first since I have ADHD, but think I’m more HSP now. Hmm..
Wow Steph… I feel the same way about animal cruelty and eating meat. My family always teased being I am not big on pets or anything or them licking me or anything….I just want to open an animal sanctuary for cows that can’t milk anymore etc to stay with the calves and not get ripped apart from their parent.
I’m in my early 30s and hate that it took so long to figure this out! The older people in the comments are an inspiration to keep on going. Thank you all
Debra Ann Metz says
What you said..!!
David J Mackey says
I am counting into my 80th year of life. Only in the past couple of years did I discover that HSP had even been defined and validated. Duh! I suddenly realized that my lifetime of struggles had reasons why. Now retired I no longer need to swim up current continually. I can be me exactly as I am. No pretentiousness. I am ok being me. I like me. And yes, tensions exist in my marriage of 20 years, but mostly about preferences about recreational choices of the moment – my preference for a quiet walk in the woods verses my wife’s preference for a walk in a neighborhood. Personal space is important for me. Thank you HSP folks for my whole new confidence and mental peace.
David, thank you very much for sharing here. I just turned 58 years old and despite a few years of helpful and compassionate therapy, I felt an important type of validation when I recently discovered (happened upon) this definition and explanation for my way of being. I find particularly inspiring the age at which you also made this discovery, and the wisdom of your insight is something positive I am taking to heart. Again… thank you.
Jane Mills says
I am an HSP, ADD, a social worker and a Christian. This is a weird card ive been dealt, but i trust i will do some good in this. I work with women in unplanned pregnancies. I am pro-life and if people know about the Holocaust of abortion and exactly what that entails, their hearts would be saddened forever. You talk about killing animals and i get that. No one loves animals more than me. But imagine a baby being torn from limb to limb, and you will understand my HSP heart. I do not sit in judgement of these women, because most of them would choose life if they could. This is hard.
Suzan Hill says
Thank you for this! I’ve been feeling like such a weirdo even among my family with whom I’m sheltering. There are 2 TVs on the house from the time people wake up until the last one goes to bed. There’s a great deal of alcohol consumption each evening – which while tempting, does my nervous system no good!
Fortunately I have my own little travel trailer on the land and can retreat there where I spend most of my days. Yet in this time of isolation I feel a little guilty not hanging out with them more. Sometimes it gets interpreted as me judging them, but mostly just that I’m being too sensitive. I get so tired of that interpretation and it starts to skew my perception of myself. I’m grateful to have this beautiful and safe place to shelter, but the family dynamics are taking their toll!
You’re not a weirdo! Xxx
Alcohol and media skew THEIR perception. (They are not fully conscious in this state and being ‘fed’ ideas from external sources too, which in turn rub off on you).
I hope you find the time and peace within yourself to do what you love to do, or something which relaxes you, that you become so immersed in, that time becomes ‘lost’. Try to let go of the guilt, it doesn’t serve you! You can make better use of the time you do choose to spend alone. 😉 (You are also likely staying away from them as a way of recharging your batteries and coping with it yourself! …I truly am a HSP through and through, experiencing a similar experience with my Mum at the moment. I don’t watch any TV, when it’s on at hers I find it more and more upsetting and overwhelming and I choose not to fill my brain with all that stuff! Being in nature TOTALLY helps me!).
Also, they probably drink alcohol to numb the pain or try to suppress instead of address their problems? (Or at least that’s how it may have started before becoming a habit). …That’s their way of dealing with life and going to your space is yours and you could possibly point that out to them (In a very gentle HSP worded way!?! …That this is how you choose to live your life). I hope they respect that!! You need down time. No one should have the right to tell you how to live your life! Sounds like they may also put a lot of extra pressure on you; their expectations… you feel a pull from them because they are relying on your help. Who is being responsible?!…Please look after yourself and your own health! Xxx
As non HSPs they also may never ‘understand‘ us (some people also may choose not to learn/be open minded too). So, failing that, just tell them you are tired and retreat! (You can be as tired as you want, all you want! (And you likely will be if you don’t pay attention to your own needs (I also speak from experience!)) Eventually that may turn to concern from them, but you need to stay sane and strong for all of you!) Please don’t feel guilty for the time you choose alone. You have more to experience in life and learn and to ‘be’ and do in this world as a fellow HSP than sitting in front of some meaningless (to you) TV program!
I hope you manage(d) to stay strong! I think some sort of ‘outlet’ for you, be that art, writing, whatever ‘hobby’ you have should help divert your attention? I think self care helps greatly and also keeping connected with other friends if you have close, understanding ones, or being able to connect with some groups of like minded people online etc. Nature and staying grounded/connected helps greatly too and is relaxing for your soul! Try gentle exercise, like a walk, yoga, Tai Chi or gardening…whatever works for you.
It is wonderful you have gratitude for your place of solitude. You are a wonderful, kind person to help shield them.
Article made me cry, I am not a highly sensitive person at all Iam, lol
Laureen Lange says
Oh my gosh! I have been waiting for this article all my life. To hear someone say exactly who I am. To say how tired you get of being the different one. Seeing and feeling your friends and family avoiding you because they never know what or who they get. It doesn’t help to have Bipolar I on top of it. You have to understand I
was born in 1958 and raised in a small farming community. Highly sensitive people and Bipolar were not even known of or talked about. Learning disabilities were not addressed,nor depression and ADD. Which I also have. I was diagnosed at 41. So all those years of struggle and pain and knowing I was different but know one to talk to.
I have a wonderful therapist who understands and encourages me to embrace the empath I am. It’s not easy but I try. The isolation orders have been a blessing and a curse. I no longer have to try being normal at work, but eventually my true self comes out. But on the other hand I am alone most of the day with my thoughts, which can be just as bad. I lost my favorite Uncle two weeks ago. When I found out he was dieing the emotional pain was debilitating. Knowing I would never see him again.
I wasn’t able to go see him or be with my cousin to help him through the days before he died. By the time of his death through prayer and my own thoughts on dieing I was able to come to terms with his death and re-enter the world again.
Would I change myself if I could? No! I have a unique mind, and for whatever reason, I believe we are chosen. There are days I would choose to not be me, but by the end of the day I am glad for who I am.
It isn’t easy but it’s who I am.
Kenneth Kugelman says
Beautiful. From the heart. Thank you for sharing some of your story.
Amen! Thank you for these words! Needing to read something like this at a particularly troubling time (not related to Covid-19).
Beautiful words. Not really anything to add but to say thank you.
Thank you tremendously! Just turned 57 &read your book. It fit 100%. I cried, giggled & admire your honest, encouraging, direct words & expressions. It’s as if you wrote about me. I’m glad you’re helping HSP, really glad. I’m sick of being called “abnormal or weird.” I’m unique as I’ve said for years. You are too. It’s a gift to see for the 1st time, there’s hope. I now have a mission, to recognize how to recognize, when I’m overaroused. I know why small talk bores me, & I don’t blend as I should. Just want you to know, I’m finally getting peace, knowing many are like me, & wonderful & talented too. Thank you from my heart! I can actually breathe knowing, it’s going to take work, but I’ll keep being unique as I should. Take care. Terry
Kathleen Sullivan says
I don’t blend well either. I’m 59 and struggling with all the fears right now. When I talk to someone I want it to be of substance and that scares people off. I only have a couple of friends. Even my husband and children tell me to just relax or chill out. I can’t!!
Love what you said about wanting to talk about substantive things. I hate chit chat, but that’s what most people seem to feel most comfortable with. Do they not have the more meaningful thoughts? Or do they not care? Or are they afraid? Sometimes it seems like other people are encased in cotton — some kind of filter that I don’t have. They seem numb and dull compared to how I perceive the world.
Kenneth Kugelman says
Yeah one can only talk about the weather or sports or politics or the news so much – it becomes clutter. Since we live in the depths, we are already filled – overfilled at times – from those depths. But I must be as gracious to less sensitives as I expect them to be to me. I think many folks really are less comfortable in the depths, so they swim in the shallows, where the current is lighter and the water is warmer. But find a topic they are interested in as a hobby and, voila! they will get into the depths of that at least.
Anne Van heule says
This is exactly what I experience with my clients, a lot of men find it difficult to accept to be HSP. But when I slowly guide them during the sessions of therapy, they learn to accept their feelings, and learn to understand themselves more and more. Only this start is yet so refreshing and eye-opening for a man, but it needs time for men to act differently, and to start not having to be so tough and extra masculine. Women find it great to have conversations with sensitive men, but between men it’s still difficult for them, because it’s a habit between men to laugh with sensitivity, and that habit will need another generation(s) perhaps.
Women also have to change because we like to talk with a sensitive man, but a partner must be tough enough! So that’s what also makes it difficult for men at the moment, in my experience.
Let us women, help men with that change.
I try to be part of this change, among many others here in Belgium, for Elaine’s work is well known here.
Thank you Elaine for your books and work.
I appreciate a lot.
Regards from Belgium
Anne Van heule – To Feel Good
Jim Maine says
I am a 57 year old HSP. Just recently found this out and everything makes more sense now. Women my age want nothing to do with me, and years ago I had a fiancé leave me because she wanted a “real man.”
There is hope for the next generation though. I have many 20 and 30 somethings, both men and women, direct a lot of attention at me. They are drawn in by my sensitive caring nature and my willingness to help them. They are my new base of friends. And every HSP knows it’s hard to come by friends!
I really appreciate this message. My therapist has determined that I’m an HSP, but I knew that long before I could afford therapy, lol. I find it difficult to really appreciate this trait, though, being a people pleaser with diagnosed social anxiety. I’ve felt walked on and used and unappreciated most of my life. The thought of being needed is upsetting to me, not because I don’t want to contribute to society in a positive way, but because for most of my life, it seemed like people only really needed me when they needed some way to unload their emotional baggage and couldn’t find any other outlet than me. I always felt trapped in those situations, like asking them to stop talking was ridiculously rude or cruel—even though it’s what I needed. I would just sit there silently and take it all on even at the same time as, inside, something was screaming for me to just run away. Even as a child, random kids—and sometimes even adults—would come up to me and unload their darkest traumas onto me. I don’t begrudge them the need to be heard, to be seen, but damn that stuff hits me hard every time, when I also have my own traumas that I struggle to process. I’m a writer, so I deeply agree that being an HSP can lead an individual to a creative field, and I’ve had so many people tell me that my writing expressed emotions they didn’t know they had. I know I have a lot of work to do to process my traumas, and that progress isn’t linear or easy, but I still can’t shake the “I want to be normal” feeling. I think, now as I’m typing this, that it’s probably more because of my PTSD and all the emotions that come with it that I crave having even just one day of not being constantly overwhelmed by sensory stimulation and being around people, probably because I struggle so much so often to find and believe the positives of being an HSP when traumas are constantly weighing down my experience with the trait. I do have hope, though, that with time and a lot of effort on my part, I’ll start to see it as a more positive trait than I do currently. I feel like I owe that to myself.
I feel the same way often. I don’t believe that I have any trauma, but for as long as I can remember small children and animals would follow me. Older people/friends would take turns inviting me for tea to console and unload their life history, culture, burdens, failures/successes, and trauma. I was a human time capsule at age 5. The confidant of anyone who had a question, secret, or regret. I felt privileged to receive such oral history. I felt like Hans Christen Anderson, but then I started to become loaded down and strange among my peers and no one cared.
People sense my compassion, and even more so, my empathy. My empathy motivates me to act. It creates safety. Sometimes 10+ people a month will divulge hours of the most harrowing and painful experiences. I can’t feel them as if they were mine, but as close to my heart as it can get, I experience pain for them. I walk through every scene, a silent bystander. People can sense that, so they divulge even more detail. I try to help them resolve whatever needs to be reconciled, because a resolution is more comforting than loose ends. If they leave without a sense of comfort, I feel that too. So, I try my best.
As a defense mechanism I do not feel or relate to my own emotions deeply, nor share my innermost thoughts because I thought that others would FEEL the way they make me FEEL when they confide in me. They stab my heart.
I happily go out into the world only to come back through the door afraid, anguished, and in need of isolation. I love people but I have turtlelike reluctance to interact.. Here it comes! It’s about to happen. I am everyone and anyone’s instant best friend in times of solace. I resent that sometimes I am not remembered for the fun. Now, I’ll have to hide in my home to decompress. I am terrified to pick up the phone and continue where we left off. I am overstimulated. I feel like even my skin hurts.
My empathy helps others. I know I have prolonged, enhanced, and even have saved lives. However, sometimes I can feel more than the endurer of pain. Sometimes, their pain also victimizes. To throw their entire baggage all on you. “If you can not hold it, how am I supposed to hold it,” I have wondered. How to bear the unbearable? God has given me the ability to do this. I am often the coat check attendant awash with the coats of others. Loaded down, expected to solve problems, often over relyed upon to the point of being invisible. If I am not there, how is it that you manage to still throw your coat on me? I am so deep down in the pile. When I analyze it I feel and sound selfish. When I analyze it, my associates are being selfish.
I have tried to exist and ignore others emotions.
I don’t think it is super power to be perceptive. The gen. pop just tunes it out. It doesn’t serve. They ignore what we obviously see. I pick up everything like lint. I have tried to ignore it to only dangerously find out that intuition was correct.
I work with a vulnerable population so I don’t get respite at home, work, or with friends. Sometimes I will go out with someone new once or twice to give myself a break.
When the laughter dies down and someone gives you a gaze that is about to bare their soul to you you listen because you know how much it means to them. I have never formally shared my feeling of overwhem before.
Jim Maine says
“I am often the coat check attendant awash with the coats of others. Loaded down, expected to solve problems, often over relyed upon to the point of being invisible. If I am not there, how is it that you manage to still throw your coat on me? I am so deep down in the pile. “
That is such a beautifully crafted paragraph that so defines many HSP! Have you thought of using this creative gift for writing as an outlet?
Also, I’ve wondered what is the “tell” that HSP put out there that says”unload your baggage here?” But think of it this way, you can’t adopt all the puppies because ultimately you and them will all suffer. You need to learn to divert your attention and respectfully disengage otherwise you run the risk of burning yourself out. That mean you can no longer help anyone at all.
Also I completely relate to the invisible thing. It seems like you offer help to so many people and yet they don’t call you, or invite you to events. Deep down you feel like you are a good person but then when you get that kind of treatment you don’t feel it on the inside.
I am with Jim you have a real gift, not just as an empath but a person who can accurately describe what we HSP feel, an almost “insiders view” told in story and imagery, I am honing my super powers through creativity, knocking down that creative barrier of “what if it doesn’t come out like I see it in my head?“ I have an incredible husband who accepts me even if he doesn’t understand me, lol and I have a true friend who “sees” me… what blessings! Find courage to share yourself, let go of the burden of being a sounding board, what you attract you create, attract people who appreciate you and give you a voice and a safe place to speak it, blessing to you and all who speak in this safe place! BTW Jim, you rock!
Yes it’s incredibly draining and very difficult at times…but…the pros outweigh the cons. Life is magnified for us. We take on board both our pains and others, so much more, but oh how we see the sunset more beautifully. We feel more awkward in a social gathering and get asked constantly, are you okay, but the love of our family is exquisite to us. The barking of our dog hurts our ears but the violin in that piece of music takes us to a place of peace. I could go on and on. We are the blessed ones to feel so deeply and so powerfully. I’ll take the bad so I can have the good. Even though the bad can be agonising, the good is absolutely superb! 😀
What a beautiful way to look at life as an HSP! Thank you for the positive spin.
Thank you! Someone finally spoke to the barking issues. Last summer I asked to be hospitalized because I could not sleep. Neighbors on both sides and behind us had a total of fourteen dogs. They barked and howled from ten at night until the early morning hours. I hadn’t slept in three days.
The entire was deeply traumatic. The hospital was a nightmare. One night a patient was admitted with her a “comfort” dog and none of the staff did anything about it. They wanted to allow the dog to stay and basically told me they preferred the dog. I threatened to sue. They moved the patient and dog to another unit but I was treated like a piranha. I had a seizure and the only person to help me was another patient.
Being an African American HSP is hell at times. It actually compounds the trauma of being Black.
I have been reading all the comments and mostly agreeing with all of them, but yours is what I needed to hear today, September 15, 2021
I trust you are doing well and keep hearing violins over barking dogs and I will try to do the same!
Thank you for this article. Finally, after almost 48 years I know it’s ok to be me and I can connect to others who understand. My parents tried, but never knew how to deal with me. They tried to “fix” me, they tried to tell me how to act so others would accept me and like me, but it only made me feel more self conscious. With these new connections, I am now able to accept myself.
I came on here this morning feeling desperate to not feel alone, looking for hope, after a challenging night of bodily-reactivity. Thank you, John Hughes, for your open and heartfelt writing. I can even relate to the fear of throwing up… Wishing you peace.
At the risk of this becoming a confessional…I guess I need to admit to 25 years of discriminatory hiring practices in the direction of favoring HSP’s. In my defense I didn’t know there was such a thing for most of that time and neither did the applicants. HSP’s care what I think. They are courteous. They are good explainers. They are reliable. They take longer to train because they consider so many variables, but once they are trained they do great work because they consider so many variables. I try to let them play to their strengths, that is, indeed, if they even know of their strengths. (I wonder if the HSP’s who play to their weaknesses are more likely to become basket cases.) Management roles are not usually their strength. But being the “right hand man” to a manager is usually a strength I have noticed, and I like it when those roles develop organically. The manager has to be ready to occasionally hear some unexpected things from her HSP right-hand and the HSP right-hand needs to be ready for the non-HSP manager to occasionally miss the nuance and disregard the HSP’s advice maybe with a little coldness even.
CARMEN SILVIA BUZ says
JR, all you said is all true, is like you have not only already met me but know me for ages. And that thing with ” the right hand man” to a manager, that hit me. I always felt and been one, without knowing. This thing, I think, helped you to pass the test. Which one? Well, we, HSPs we are sometimes a bit suspicious.Thank you for this post. Is very helpful to clarify lots of things in my mind, it helps me knowing is nothing wrong with me.
Wow I agree with your observation -like if i had a choice i’d be Mary from the supremes not Dianna Ross- trust me i’d shine almost as much on stage because i do love to perform but jive better lifting Dianna up along the way and not always center stage.
Kenneth Kugelman says
JR, spot on. And with some HSP comes some INFP (16 personalities) and some Abstract Sequential (Gregorc) flow chart thinking (“all the variables!”) and some ADD (Attention Deficit). Too detailed. Emails too long. Too much information. Didn’t leave any room for questions or guessing. The overwhelmed overwhelming others, unintentionally. The wounded healer. Too compassionate yet too exacting. No favorites yet too inconsistent. No communications game playing or relations game playing, only table games and non-competitive sports. And I am definitely not a leader, in the common understanding of the term as having the higher pay grade and being the supervisor and person ‘in charge’. Support staff ‘behind the scenes’ all the way. And the lower salary that comes with that. I am fortunate to have a great boss who appreciates my quirkiness and attention to detail, passion for accuracy, and embrace of the rule of law (truth) when it comes to concrete things – and to the rule of love (grace) when it comes to abstract persons. Although I’m getting tired of hearing “you’re killing me smalls” when I don’t even know what it is I’m doing that’s eliciting that comment.
Don Bentz-RYT says
Beautiful words ty! I believe we are a new race with a higher purpose… but what is it? I see the world differently than most people. I see colors and feel light and sense everything so deeply it hurts. But what higher purpose do I have–the eternal question…
Keep exploring and learning who you are. I promise you the realization will come. And when it does, you will thank God. Because to whom much is given . . .
I have suffered from depression since I was a child. I am now 63 and I have just discovered thaT I am an HSP. I have been on antidepressants for 35 years and scared to death to go off. I have had like all people many obstacles to overcome but the most recent and devastating one is that our 31y/o son whom I have always had a great relationship with cut us out of his life 3 months after his first child was born. He is our only grandchild and we last saw him at 3 months. He just turned 2 May 7th. I could go on and on but I don’t want to make this too long but we tried talking to him, texting him and finally last Sept I sought him out and he told me I was toxic and unhealthy and didn’t want me around their child then finished it off with a letter a week later telling us to never contact him again. He has blocked our numbers, even our daughter’s. Needless to say, I’ve been devastated and hating myself for being so abnormal and then I discovered a book on HSP. I’m still processing everything….
Kenneth Kugelman says
Sorry for the loss you are currently enduring, and that your own son thinks you are toxic! I have no children or grandchildren to be cut off from. I can only imagine. Hope you do not mind me sharing some of my story. I was very depressed in my high school years. Spent many nights weeping myself to sleep. Later, for a few years, I cut off my Mom, because of how she pushed my emotional buttons, we had a little bit of emotional incest going on there. But I had to forgive her eventually because my unforgiveness was only hurting me, and my wife. Years later, following the death of my Dad, I agreed to go on antidepressants at the urging of my wife. I think my dark moods were too dark for her. Fifteen years later, a year after my wife’s passing, I was learning about grief and I hadn’t been feeling it – I took an unusually bold step and decided to see if the antidepressant dose I had been on for 15 years was doing more than managing the depression, but actually supressing the grief. Sure enough, I gradually went into deep grieving, over my wife’s death and my dad’s death many years earlier, reaching the bottom in the summer of 2017. Thankfully I was still able to function at work (for the most part) and had a great blessing of support among family, friends, church, coworker, boss, and a grief group. I found out grief groups aren’t just for death, but for all kinds of losses, cut off from family, loss of job, loss of health / new chronic illness, divorce, etc. Now I permit myself to weep freely if something so moves me, and no longer stuff it down inside. I can no longer grant myself the luxury of worrying about what other people think or if they are uncomfortable with me being myself. When my counselor therapist suggested to me that it was possible that I was exacerbating my own natural depression by suppressing my emotions, it was quite a strange thought at first. But everyone’s story is different, and all grief is unique. I am glad you shared, and thank you for letting me share also. Blessings, K
Beautiful thx you
I have suffered my entire life being a HSP. I’m approaching 49 and still suffer a great deal. After 23 years on the same job I have become job scared because I’m so sensitive. I can’t wait to clock out everyday so that I can rush to my car and literally fall apart into a million peaces. I finally get myself together enough so that I can drive home and then I cry until I fall asleep thinking of every single second of the days events that brought me to this point. I do this every single day I work and I honestly do not know how much more I can take. I have felt alone in my situation for my entire life, I feel like something is wrong with me. I want a miracle, something magical, I don’t care what it is, I just don’t want to feel anymore, I don’t want to care so much. I’m so tired of feeling humiliated by my co workers that laugh at me at my expense sitting at a desk in the same room.
I’ve tried to control it, I’ve tried talking myself into not being this way anymore but it doesn’t work.
Maybe I’ll learn one day, but honestly I’ve really just lost hope.
Please don’t give up hope. I am 28 years old and male. I worked at a shipyard for two years, in a room with 10 to 15 loud people that constantly needed to talk to relieve there emotions. Little did they know I needed the exact opposite. Your comment touched me, you are not alone. I quit this job at the shipyard six months ago, to pursue a job that is better suited to an hsp’s strengths. I haven’t found a job worth my time yet, but I will. If you need a change make it! The world doesn’t understand or frankly care about our traits. So don’t listen to the world, listen to yourself. Sensitivity is a strength, and when others don’t understand, they seek to destroy that sensitivity in you. Do not let them! You are beautiful and strong, period.
Jakob, you are young and wonderful and wise! You are strong and I admire you for having the courage to walk away from your shipyard job to follow your heart and own path and for believing in yourself!
Go Jakob! 😉 xx
What is your occupation, if you don’t mind answering?
So sorry to hear of your pain.
Over the past two years I have learnt some things (after searching for ‘answers’…because I went through a period of about 10 years of my life feeling some of the things you have. I have cried at work nearly every day, hated my life, felt I couldn’t cope or go on etc).
Important: What you focus on/ think creates your emotions.
…And you will act or react to a situation in response to your emotions or feelings.
It may be a long road to changing things…either take the leap of faith and change your job to remove yourself from immediate pain…but it will follow you to a new job if you don’t deal with what’s going on underneath too. Start focusing on what IS good about your life! You have a car. You have income. You have a bed, a home or place to sleep. You are a strong person because you manage to go to work each day. But you need to leave work at work and find pleasure at home! Perhaps a new hobby? And it needs to be something you become absorbed in to forget about work! Baby steps. Little by little. Train your brain to look for positive things in your day instead of allow yourself to become emotional due to all the ‘rubbish’ that’s thrown at you! (These things have worked for me..it’s been a long process..it’s about your own mindset to deal with what happens at work).
We can not control external things. Poopy things happen to everyone. What we can control is how we deal with them. I had to learn how to calm my inner self! (Tai Chi, gardening, creating space for myself away from other people and their demands and immersing myself in hobbies).
You said you are waiting for a miracle! The bad news? It most likely won’t happen. (I was waiting a long time too!)
The good news? You can MAKE it happen! We are creators. What is your ‘miracle’? What if you could wave a magic wand? How would it look? Allow yourself to venture into that beautiful land. Feel it. Live it. Smile about it! 🙂 Write it down and then…the VERY important bit…EVERY day take a small action towards it. Baby steps towards your dream life. You will have setbacks and challenges, as we all do, but you CAN CREATE a ‘better’ life for yourself.
All the very best, Christy.
Remember fellow HSPs are with you every step of the way, no matter how lost you’re feeling, we’ve felt it too! (Nothing is wrong with you! You are feeling pain because you want a ‘better’ life for yourself! So move towards it. Only YOU can do that and change it! You have the power 😉 Xx
Jim Maine says
Amazing response Steph! Simply heart felt and so HSP!!
Steph! I want to be friends w you! haha. What a lovely and perfect response. I couldn’t have said it better myself. haha. Humor gets me thru my HSP life, btw. HUGS to all.
There’s a positive to every negative. It’s how I resolve inner conflict. It’s utterly exhausting.
I’m 60, self employed for life, still creating and hurting, and cried like a baby after watching “SensItive” today for the first time.
I don’t even know how to describe the discovery
I found out last night that I was HSP. I was reading as much as I could find online. I started crying because I now know there is nothing wrong with me. I realize that there are more people like me out there. I understand what I feeling is normal I understand that it’s overwhelming at times and I understand I feel so much more then others do.
All my life I have been told YOUR TOO SENSITIVE. Why are crying what did I say? You walk into a room and all you feel is tension anger love sadness joy. You stay way from that one person that you know is having a bad day and you can’t help so you keep your distance because you feel so much of the pain coming off them but you feel Horrible because you can’t help them.
I have always wanted to just turn the world off. So thank you all for your words your story’s and your HSP.
JIM ROBERTS says
I’M SO GLAD I CAME ACCROS THIS BLOG. I’M TEMPTED TO SAY I HAD FORGOTTEN I WAS AN HSP. I THINK IT WOULD BE MORE ACCURATE TO SAY THAT I FORGOT THERE WAS A NAME FOR THIS THING THAT MAKES MY LIFE SO DIFFICULT. IT AMAZES ME HOW HELPFUL IT IS TO SIMPLY FIND A NAME FOR THE THING THAT BURDENS ME! ODDLY, IT LIGHTENS THE BURDEN.
I APPRECIATE ELAINE’S BOOKS MORE THAN I CAN SAY. THEY ARE NEARLY LIFE-SAVING.
THANK YOU. JIM ROBERTS
HSP, INFJ, dyslexic all in one. Therefore, gifted and cursed, a loner no surprise. Hard to use my talent in this world of normal people. Entering middle age, no clue where to go.
Miss A says
How do you guard yourself as an HSP? I recently realized that I am one of you….I share the experience of overstimulation; just walking into a room where people are not feeling well means a whole day of lost energy for me and a need to cry. Club music and lights make me nautious. My partner accuses me of being unable to be happy. But its not true…..whenever I am out among people, they tell me that my presence lightens up the room. Its just that when I am home I am processing unloading …I dont know but I am not unhappy. I just feel heavy…how do I explain this.
I have worked in a toxic science lab for years and I have been the filter between the highly toxic boss and rest of the crew. No one at work is emotional like me…but its me they would call when things go bad, when they are falling apart and somehow I know how to put them back together again..but then they forget about me when they have power again.
I am drained. How do I protect myself from not giving too much, not over sharing. How do I come home and maintain energy? Few weeks ago an uber driver stopped the car and told me her personal story about how she was forced to adopt away her baby-daugher when she was 15y. I was 1 h late to my dinner and not functional.
Hugs and love to you out there.
Kenneth Kugelman says
I have heard walls down, boundaries up. A wise friend told me we do not need to be all things to all people at all times, as we are not God, and it is OK, when it is not an emergency, for us to say calmly and without any malice or ill will or defensiveness etc, no, or not now, or may we discuss this later this week, or can I think about it overnight and get back to you later, or how soon do you need this, so that I can prioritize, etc. I have also heard people will take as much as I am willing to give, and if I give no signs of being in distress, or if I don’t place limits, they won’t have much of a clue, because I am being professional, etc etc. and they, bless their hearts, might not be as sensitive to my sensitivities, and they will assume all is well, because I’ve done such a good job of hiding my distress. The last thing I need to do is give, give, give, give, and then either explode or collapse – in other words, my ‘all or nothing’ doesn’t always work to everyone’s benefit (everyone includes me). Easier said than done, but gets better with practice; almost always feels awkward within myself at first, like we are being unloving or unhelpful, and then putting trips on ourselves because “i should have been able to do that without any problem or difficulty, etc.” and other small falsehoods we might tell ourselves, having unhealthy somewhat ‘superhuman’ expectations of ourselves, etc. Personally speaking only for myself, I must always be aware of my tendency to ‘drop everything and jump’ and slide into ‘people pleasing mode’. I have also heard we need to be sure to put on our own oxygen mask first before we help others with their oxygen masks. Feels selfish but it’s not. Selfish would be totally ignoring them or shutting them out completely. Just one person’s two cents and I hope this may help a bit. Blessings.
Alison Connelly says
I wrote in my diary when I was a kid…
“what’s so wrong with being sensitive?”
It seemed like everyone else thought it was a bad thing, and I felt like a complete outsider so I learned to pretend I was like everyone else in order to get along.
Thank you for your research. You are helping a lot of people who have been hiding in the shadows for a long time.
Thanks for the article. I’ve been reading much lately about HSP. I’m starting to see the patterns in which I’ve lived as emanating from that orientation. As the article indicates, there’s not much point in fighting HSP. I’ve tried many times, and now just give way to it. It’s who I am.
I look forward to participating in more blogs and perhaps some workshops soon. It would be nice to find a “tribe,” as I think HSPs are largely lonely and feel isolated.
Thanks again for writing… 🙂
I know what you mean…it can be lonely and isolating. I take it day by day. And I find being out in nature is very therapeutic, especially in Pennsylvania where I live.
Cannot believe I am responding! Sweaty palms, heart palpitations, you know… Thanks for sharing, it helps sooooo much! In Nov. 1996 I found The Highly Sensitive Person and requested your newsletter. You also sent me a cassette tape (now well used). You saved ME. Thank you!!! So sorry to read the HSP replies who are “fighting” our “cursed gift”. I am soon 76 and always labeled as “shy” “weird” “too sensitive” “crybaby” you all understand. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder by 3 therapists and put on the med for seizures. I was an absolute zombie. HSP is a “burden, overstimulating, taking on others pain but also makes us good listeners, caring, good conversationalists, etc. Good luck trying to explain this “gift” as I have found no one wants to hear it! Retirement helped immensely, a husband who loves me and gives me space (he is a golfer thank God), and children who have not allowed me to cut ties with them and embracing the beauty and clarity of our world make me love myself as I am. Yes, it is hard to “get out” and socialize and I do love my alone time and the hearty laughter and the sympathy cries over everything I am trying to control! Love yourself and check this HSP site out regularly! God bless and enjoy YOUR life.
For me, after 2 near death experiences,being empathic and highly sensitive and an INFP, i have always felt deeply misunderstood. Round peg, square hole. I was a speaker and would get completely overwhelmed when I spoke as I would take on all the energy of the people who attended. This virus has been in an odd sort of way very comforting for me as I really have not left home for 3 months. I have always struggled with receiving, whether it was with men in relationships, career, etc. There are times where I feel I am just not able to go on anymore. I ask for guidance, a shift happens and I am back to sharing my heart. Your perception creates your reality, however, sometimes can’t the Universe cut us HSP’s and empaths some slack.
I desperately struggle with this question.
Its shocking to see the HSP defined so clearly and feelings described using words and phrases I spent my whole life gathering to gain uderstanding of my experiences. I said “its a blessing and a curse” countless times but the last five years life has dealt me such harsh blows anyone would struggle to survive. No one understands the depth of my trauma and despair. My inability to “get over it” has caused me to lose everyone and everything I ever loved. BUT I AM AN HSP!
Im built for deep introspective self analysis. I got COVID19 and been home alone with no one to talk to for months. My genius HSP mind was either going to die…or not. I’m still here. Im studying HSP, researching coping mechanisms and staring my feelings right in the eye. There is no where to run. No distractions powerful enough. I’m processing it all and im STILL HERE. I don’t know what the future holds. Sometimes the loneliness and pain try to pull me under but my HSP mind soothes and consoles me. It’s a blessing and a curse.
Kenneth Kugelman says
Perhaps fellow HSP’s have some idea of what the sufferings of a fellow HSP might be. And if it’s both a blessing and a curse, it might also be both a gift and a burden. I used to think I wanted neither, but I’m getting more comfortable with accepting both. I am sorry you have had to endure so much loss, and get COVID also. Also sorry you have had no one to talk to. I hope there will be a sibling or a couple of close friends or a counselor therapist or a small church group or a safe and healthy online HSP chat group on facebook or even all of the above. I’ve joined a couple of HSP groups on facebook, and it helps to hear what others are going thru, experiences both very similar and very different to mine, even though we are all HSP’s. But I also take time outs from those groups for myself, as sometimes I find the conversations to be overwhelming, and there’s no condemnation or accusation in that, either from me, or from others – people understand.
Rachel M says
I feel as if you took the words right out of my mouth. I’ve tried to go fast just to keep up with everyone else most of my life. But of course it’s been noticeable to everyone else and myself that I’m unable to.
I can’t cram 50 million activities into each and every day and not expect to be fried by the end. But when I visualize myself as being like everyone else, I realize–that just won’t do. Better to practice self-love. Thank you for the reminder.
Oh wow, thank you for this! My mother had always said I’m too sensitive and we’ve had multiple fights over it.
Plus the feeling of having to be hyper organized at work so i can maintain control of the environment…as if! Anyways thank you and God bless!
Marina lobelle says
Ik wou dat ik het ook kon, normaal zijn. Ik heb speciaal onderwijs gehad en ben dikwijls gepest van wegen mijn beperking. Mijn jeugd was geen leuke periode geweest, ook niet toen mijn ouders gingen scheiden. Ik werd zwaar vernederd door mijn moeder en misbruikt door mijn vader. Ik kwam in kinderzorg terecht. Ik kwam erachter waarom ik werd afgekeurd voor normale bedrijf. Via de bedrijfsarts kwam ik achter dat mijn hersenen traag werkt en meer prikkels opvang dan ik moet verwerken. Toch kwam ik op de werkplaats en kon beginnen in de wasserij. Maar ik voelde me daar niet geaccepteerd. Die vrouwen waren mij gewoon aan het zieken. Ik werkt te langzaam, ik mocht geen wasmachine aanzetten, niet mangelen. Heb ik behoefte om mijn hart uit te storten kreeg ik geen begrip. Die waarnemend voorvrouw schreeuwde continu tegen mij alsof ik een hond ben. Zo ga je niet met mensen om. Ik ben wel 56 maar heel mijn leven voel ik me genoeg benadeeld door mijn beperking. Gelukkig sta ik er niet alleen voor. Mijn zoons hebben het ook. Mijn partner is lief voor mij. En de kerkgemeenschap is ook goed en dat zijn als familie voor mij. En me geloof geeft ook een troost. Maar het is zomer en moet ik er tussenuit.
And let the gift of you flood the world………
Beautiful! I struggled my entire life thinking what’s wrong till I found what’s right!
I’m 16 and I’ve been suspecting for the past few months that I’m an HSP. It’s the only explanation for the way I am, and though it’s nice to finally know why I am this way, it does hurt sometimes to just not be “normal.” I’ve struggled with wanting to be “normal” my whole life, and have had a hard time realizing that who I am is a gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Thank you for this article. You have helped me out a lot, especially in my journey of working out just who exactly I am. I feel a little more at peace now.
Leslie Sloan says
Love this! I see myself in so many of these narratives. I have always felt this unrelenting responsibility to apologize to those who are in my presence for my overly sensitive disposition. It occurred to me only recently (I am in my 50s) that maybe it is not my responsibility to be sorry for simply being myself!
I want you all to know—the world would be a dull, uninteresting, and basically gray place without us!
There are some big changes taking place in our society—changes that are long overdue. The bullying of those who are in some way different than what some perceive as “normal” (whatever that is) needs to stop. Humans are feeling animals—we have senses so we can process the environment that surrounds us. I am certain that each and every one of you knows this already. I want to be thankful for being a “feeler”, and I want to be able to accept that it is also a normal variant to be this way.
We would all be just fine if we felt we were not judged for our natural demeanor, would we not? Maybe the problem is not ours, but theirs. Or maybe we, as humans, should stop comparing ourselves to one another and start recognizing that differences are a good thing.
Mariam Nasser says
I just realized i were a HSP and this article literally spoke to me I cried my eyes out as I felt each word like it was me writing it and pouring my heart out
it feels nice to know that there are people like me out there having to struggle the same things that I go through and without misjudging or even misunderstanding your overwhelmed emotions and your genuinely tiring thoughts every time and just be who you are
let the gift of you flood the world..that’s the purest and most amazing thing to say
Hi Mariam. Just like you, I just found out recently that I am also an HSP. I was so happy and relieved to understand who I am a lot better now and knowing there are other people like myself, analyzing things on a daily basis can be overwhelming. I really like what you wrote, “let the gift of you flood the world” We are very special with our intuitiveness and vulnerability…that’s what makes us amazing people! God bless!
Magda R says
Mi hija y yo somos HSP pero no comprendo porqué leo tantos comentarios y los percibo desgarradores como si ser HSP fuera una catástrofe.
La percepción y sensación de la vida inunda tanto los sentidos que recuerdo haber sentido ningún problema por ello mientras crecía, llegar a la vida de adolescente y tomar decisiones si lo fue.
Me ha gustado el artículo sobre la pregunta que me he planteado durante largo tiempo ¿por qué soy diferente? A lo que he tenido que aprender a contestarme…¿Y por qué no?
Magda R says
La percepción y sensación de la vida inunda tanto los sentidos que NO recuerdo haber sentido ningún problema por ello mientras crecía
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Thank you so much to everyone who responded to Mr. Hughes’ comments. I was and am moved by all of you. After a lifetime spent trying unsuccessfully to suppress the effects of my HSP, at the age of 54 I woke myself up seemingly for the first time. I suddenly had a clarity and, again, for the first time I saw my life and all its hardships. They included years of depression and bipolar illness, as well as sometimes fruitless attempts to fit in. It took me a few months to get used to my newfound clarity but eventually I recognized that I had an answer in believing I was an empath. But this came with a general lack of support and understanding from those I trusted. I began to do some serious research and, based on the knowledge that I was an abstract random thinker according to the Gregorc Style Delineator, and that this identification was always spot on, I embraced my abstract random way of processing data. Since this came with the ability to be very intuitive, I reasoned that perhaps empaths were mostly abstract random thinkers as well. A random search on Google under “sensory processing” brought me to the potential that I am just an HSP. Now that I know more about it and have verified by taking 3 scales or questionnaires, I can embrace the empirical concept that I am perhaps, indeed, an HSP and that I am not alone. And after all these years of struggle, that is a good thing, indeed.
Kenneth Kugelman says
That’s very interesting about Abstract Randoms. I’m clearly an Abstract Sequential, along with the ADD and the INFP and the HSP, my mind seems to be a flow chart. People are telling me I am telling them too many possibilities and making things too complicated and my emails are too long; “if this, then this or this, or if that, then that or that, etc”. I’m thinking I’m showing them all possibilities to help them in making choices looking down the road for possible outcomes. I suppose there are ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ to just about everything. Glad you are finding a greater measure of grounding and peace and self-foundations upon which to build and live out life. I’m 58 and feel I still have ‘a long way to go’, but I try to stay away from either pride or shame, but just be. My Dad said there is no time like the present, he didn’t live in regret of the past or fear of the future. I aim to follow in his footsteps to some measure. My wife, by contrast, was a Concrete Random, “Is this really necessary”. There go those opposites attracting again.
I find I need to speak up for every thing other people don’t speak up for. I am constantly needing to say something if I see a situation that may injure a wild animal or it’s habitat. Even if a neighbour has an older dog and says how it’s teeth are all rotten I need to tell them to take it to the vet. I couldn’t give a care about most people but the innocents I care deeply for. It has gotten to the point that I am sounding like a busy body. Does that word mean a sensitive. Or dare I say a Karen. I avoid going to natural areas because I might see someone disrespecting a tide pool or damaging another habitat. I find I get along with many people but truly like only a few. I know I also have my faults and shouldn’t judge others so harshly but I feel physical pain if I don’t speak up and then worse embarrasment and shame when I do.
Ok, maybe I’m being too pessimistic, but I don’t think that there’s any point in me justifying my existence as an HSP by saying that I have a higher calling, or that my contributions to society are valuable. I think many HSPs make wonderful and vital additions to society, but as for myself, I’d much rather be normal. I suffer so much from my sensitivity but I have nothing to speak for what it has helped me in contribute to the world. The only things that my sensitivity have contributed to are my writing and a bit towards my relationship with my boyfriend. Because I’m so private about sharing my writing, it does nothing to contribute to society or to the lives of others, and exists essentially for my own edification. And if I were a normal person, I’d still be able to curate a healthy and loving relationship with my boyfriend. This leaves me with nothing that could outweigh the major personal costs that being an HSP has incurred. In sum, I’m an HSP but I’ve not contributed a single thing to society using my “gift”, and what it has allowed me to create is material that is strictly for my own consumption. Yes, I could share my writing, but I would be arrogant and foolish to assume that my writings would contribute anything to the world around me.
TL; DR the suffering that being an HSP has caused me is by no means outweighed by any good things that have come from it
Kenneth Kugelman says
I relate in some measure to the pain, and the pain about the pain, the compounding of it. As a fairly risk averse I much more settle on the “Why should I do this?” side of things rather than the “Why not?” My wife counterbalanced me, as a more “Why not” than “why” person, she would say things to me like, “Ken, how do you know your gifts won’t contribute to the world around you? While it’s true you can’t assume they will, you also can’t assume they won’t.” I had (and still have) ambivalent feelings to being challenged by her to expand my possibilities; on the one hand I appreciated it as an encouragement ‘thanks for believing in me even when I appear to not be believing in myself’ (according to her, it wasn’t an appearance, it was a fact; I didn’t believe in myself, and still dont); on the other hand I resented it as a criticism and a control, ‘why do I feel like you’re prodding me and trying to tell me what I should be doing, not for my good, but for your comfort level, or you not wanting to be embarrassed by association with my active passivity etc’. She knew she couldn’t make me do anything, but I didn’t know that. What she opened my eyes to, was and remains humbling; there was just about as much risk for me to take a ‘safe’ path vocationally or relationally as there was risk for me to take a ‘more risky’ path; there are costs and benefits either way. (A classic example being a married person wishing they were single, or a single person wishing they were married). I know I have to develop my own foundation before I can risk expanding it outward as an offering (that will either be accepted, rejected, celebrated, ignored, or some of all of the above) into the lives of others, but that doesn’t seem to motivate me, probably because I know instinctively that I will never be completely ready, but I will have to ‘go’ (move foreward) anyway, because part of the preparation for the action is the actual action, i.e. on the job training. Or maybe it’s a timing issue, and it’s not yet time for me to share certain things. Who knows. I pray a greater measure of joy and peace for all of us internally, independent of externals beyond our control or management. It’s tough enough having the sensitivities themselves without also having the additional compounding feelings about the feelings. That we would feel less bad about our selves and less good about ourselves, and just be. My two cats show me this all the time. And I’m fairly sure that one of them is an HSCat. As for being normal, with age I’m getting closer to valuing normalcy less and less. That I desire to make the most of what is, and continuing to have my resentments of what cannot be changed everdecreasing as time goes on. That is, to surrender my unrealistic expectations of change, which I something I remain reluctant to do, yet am continuing to be doing anyway. Blessings, K
I lived in New York for 30 years before the concept of being an HSP was even invented or known. I arrived there when I was 19 and immediately had a major depressive episode. I was told that I wasn’t a “New York Person” a.k.a. being able to shut everything out and make money and attract power since that’s basically what New York is all about. I was shunned by my family for my needing to be alone alot and called antisocial and a misfit.
Being an HSP male in a society that worships men who attract and manipulate wealth is to say the least, a challenge. One message here from a guy whos fiancé left him for a “real” man resonates with me since my first wife left me for the same reason. I didn’t generate enough income for her taste nor did I wield power. I was also called a “softie” by one colleague who later became a celebrity because of his taste for power and the spotlight. Superficiality sells. Just look at the celebrities that populate the news.
I have had to come to terms with my HSP tendencies. I was hospitalized for alcohol abuse a few years back because I tried to drown my depression and sensitive ways. When I came out my wife told me that I was weak and should have died in the hospital. She was ashamed of me. This lead me to seek counseling. I asked her to come to counseling with me but she refused. She wants a “real man.”
Unless society changes it’s perception of what an HSP man is about men like me will always be shunned and ostracized as being soft and weak. Hollywood doesn’t help, it feeds the masses the same message. The masses who unfortunately refuse to think for themselves which is why mass media/entertainment is so popular. It delivers the message of the way people “should” think instead of the realities of the individual.
We can’t all be Rambo or John Wayne, there just isn’t enough room at the top and Jeff Bezos’s job is already taken. In my ripe old age I’ve some to the unfortunate discovery that women/people in general worship power and always will which is why being an HSP man can be a psychological death sentence. I know there are people who do respect us, and I thank god for that, but they’re in the minority.
Much of the income that I made went to either alcohol or counseling, since my family and present wife frown on psychotherapy I drank. I hope that someday society will wake up, but truth be known, I doubt it. We might have social networking and touch screens but our minds are still in the hunter/gatherer stage of evolution.
Kenneth Kugelman says
I’m sorry they frown on psychotherapy. The feedback and mirroring I have received from my counselor-therapist has been of immense value to me, far more than I have paid in money. My therapist helped me ‘think thru’ some things where my emotions or self-talk or self-perception had apparently clouded my cognition, or where my limited one-person perspective wasn’t seeing things from multiple angles, and they questioned things I had accepted as givens, and helped me to receive a great measure of freedom from people pleasing (which looks like service to others, but is really about what others think of me); and also a great measure of freedom from self-lies I had believed (like for 30 years I thought I was an ISTJ, but I am really an INFP). You may need to go regardless. You might be respected by your family and friends for valuing yourself enough to go, with or without their affirmation; or you might not be respected, but need to do it anyway because a healthier you is better for everyone in the long run. There’s always been too much shame and stigma in the world, and I get your point about power and wealth. I’ve not understood the ‘men don’t ask for directions, men don’t go to doctors, men don’t admit they’re human, men don’t weep, men don’t grieve, men aren’t touched deeply in their feelings, men don’t ask for help except privately from their wives, etc etc ad nauseam. Lies! Anyone who says Christ or King David the poet/musician/warrior or Johannes Brahms the melancholy were not manly does not know what they are talking about, imo. I was largely functioning in numbness until following my wife’s passing through the grieving process I cracked to the core and began to heal. My wife made more money than me and that was always a point of friction between us; it bothered her more than it bothered me. She called me a minimalist. I like walls with nothing on them. Her walls in her second grade classroom had hardly any bare places on them, and were way too cluttered for my taste, overwhelming. We compromised. I said money was for saving; she said money was for spending. We compromised. Opposites attract don’t they. I gave up on trying to be John Wayne or Rambo a long time ago. I considered it more important to be myself than who other people thought I should be, and since I value authenticity and understanding above consensus and agreement, I figured if you’re going to like me, it’s going to be the real me you like, not a fake me. So there was a lot of not fitting in in high school. Unfortunately, along with not fitting in, I was also very afraid and somewhat snobbish. Thankfully Dad was a bigger support of my piano studies than I realized at the time. He never forced me to go deer hunting with him, he knew I wasn’t a fan of blood and guns and hunting for your own meat for the deep freezer. Sometimes I wonder how life might have been different if he had insisted I go with him and his friends. Blessings.
Hannah R says
Thank you so much for this. I recently discovered that I am an HSP and I’m 19. I’ve struggled my whole life and couldn’t quite pinpoint what was different about me. Ever since I’ve discovered this community, it has brought me so much comfort and has truly put my struggles into the words that I could never find. You are so right! We are different, but our gentleness can offer such good to this world. I was so hard on myself thinking I was the only person like this, but now I can learn to love myself, understand myself, and use the gifts that God gave me! I hope that all HSPs can do the same.
Thank you 😍😍
I’ve asked myself that “normal” question many times, so your words totally resonated. Thank you for sharing.
HSP HSS Anon says
As someone that’s HSP/HSS I relate to this but also am fortunate in that the HSS side means I don’t care that much what other people think of me and continue to say what I feel, even knowing people will think I am unbalanced or whatever (we know it’s the world that is unbalanced and we are sensitive to that), I do still crave to be understood but accept that will not happen and actuallyfor me it feels correct that it won’t happen because high sensitivity is just one of the gifts that make the universe complete, good / evil, yinyang all these things have to co exist for without one there could not be the other and like everything in the universe it’s all connected as HSP’s most of us can feel that at an unconscious level.
We all go through our lives with life lessons revealing more and more that we didn’t understand about ourselves, life has taught me that in order to understand all things, I have to look inside myself, there is plenty there to keep me occupied and as a result when I let go of worrying what others did or didn’t understand happiness emerged, it’s not normal by the way to be HSP according to Dr Anon’s own studies I think it’s like 20% of people, I would say normal would be 50% or greater to qualify that statement from a personal view, so if so we are abnormal, as an HSS I say so what !!! I like being different and able to read the world through feelings, we are all part of nature, life will emerge what lessons there are too learn, if we are free of worry we will be more sensitive to those learnings and hopefully in a better place to contribute in whichever ways we wish to our futures.
Stergios Loukos says
Being an experienced Angelic Healer (besides being a HSP) I am able to comunicate with the Divine and receive answers to my questions posted. So, when I requested (from a desperate emotional state!) some time ago to be healed once and for all from this hypersensitivity, I got the answer: No, we cannot do it, because it will be something against your own free will, it will not be you if we do it! This made me calm down and gave me the courage to go on with my life (which,after all, won’t last for ever!) and bring the best to the world taking better care of myself. After all, it’s my decision, right? 🙂
My advise to all HSP’s is to embrace it and use it to make this world a better place for everyone, because this is a rare talent that brings light, compassion and love on this planet and it’s inhabitants.
MARY JO STRESKY says
The word “normal” keeps popping up throughout these comments, and all the articles/posts/books I’ve read about HSP. Isn’t “normal” subjective according to a person’s perception of their environment? And even today during the COVID debacle, people keep talking about the “new normal.” Therefore, the word ‘normal’ needs to be questioned. A person with HSP should feel good about themselves with their particular, peculiar, and honestly quite beautiful gift of heightened senses, instead of being made to feel bad because they don’t fit within someone else’s notion of what’s ‘normal.’ So when something’s off, and someone or some thing has made you feel ‘abnormal’ (whatever that means for you), ask yourself why you’re allowing yourself (which is exactly what it is) to feel that way. The world has all sorts of labels for what it doesn’t understand or fear (ADD, ADHD, paranoia, hyper-sensitivities, etc.), so don’t allow yourself to be pigeon-holed into someone else’s concept of ‘normal.” HSP individual’s minds allow them to see life in ways other don’t or can’t. I mean, isn’t seeing all the colors, hearing all the sounds, feeling all the feelings, and seeing into depths others can’t just the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard? And yes, I’ve lived a painful, isolated, convoluted, fearful life as an HSP, so I get everything everyone’s saying on here. But the day a therapist told me I had HSP was the best day of my life as I realized I was MORE than normal — I was supposed to see life on the other side of the mirror, which made me special and unique. So now I embrace my “abnormalcy” and pity people who live inside of black and white boxes, whereas I get to see the world in all its brilliance!!!!
Kenneth Kugelman says
Beautifully said! Greatly encouraging! I wholeheartedly agree that what describes us does not define us, and that the words of others only have as much power as we grant to them, and that if others are uncomfortable with our sensitivities, perhaps we can only respond by being an example of accepting both ourselves and them. We are indeed gifted! May we all continue to excel in humility, being neither proud nor ashamed, but just being. Even if every gift is a burden, and every burden is a gift, I suppose they don’t need to be thought of as necessarily good or bad, but just accepted as being, without having to put a ‘qualifying label’ on them. My wife used to say ‘Comparison is the root of all inferiority’. I’m still learning what that means.
Mathews Issac says
Till last week I was wondering why am like “this”. But one search in Google changed my all perspective. And now the unknown thing changed to HSP. I found there are a lot of people like me all around the world. Now am feeling more unique than every others. I got this trait from my Father. He is still struggling to adjust with this world and all the characteristics of HSP matches for both of us. Thanks Dr.Elaine for the efforts and uniting all of us. Also thanks everyone for articles and comments. The more I read I feel relaxed because of the feeling am not alone.
Anon j says
Thank you for writing this. I am so exhausted living like this it’s unbearable.
Oh, it is sooooooooooooo good not to feel so alone anymore! I even think that I am not completely and always a High Sensitive person and it does hurt!
Thank you for this post. Brings the value of this wonderful trait back,
Over the last few months though it’s become harder to be me, espcially at work. I am tired of being misunderstood. My enthusiasm and proactiveness is mistaken for insecurity. People take the liberty of being rude and crossing the line of respect. In my personal life, I am streamrolled as well.
Is it just because I give space and that extra ounce of benefit of doubt.
I am not sure how to deal with this.
I am so tired of constantly trying to understand and being disrespected in return.
I don’t intend to sound pessimistic but sharing a real struggle I have.
Thank you for reading!
I feel your pain, Manasi.
I’m going through a rough time in my relationship, not being understood and disrespected.
Hello colleagues (HSPs)
I read most of the posts here and can relate to a lot of them. As one of the posts mentioned, people tend to take advantage of an HSP with their sensitivity and vulnerability and kindness as well.
I have always shown to be shy, reserved, comfortable spending a good amount of time alone, especially outddoors around nature since I was very little.
People who are not HSPs tend to think I am weird or different. I just found out at 58 years of age that there is a title for our special gift, Highly Sensitive Person.
I really wish I was just a normal person and not have to analyze things on a daily basis….it can be very draining.
I live in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. If there are any HSPs near me, you’re welcome to reach out, would love to hear from you. We all need each other!!
Kenneth Kugelman says
Thank you for your comment. That’s the great part about being outdoors and in nature, on a day hike or series of day hikes, or out on the paved road less travelled on a road bicycle. There’s less to analyze. And it gives us time to analyze the things from the other parts of our lives that aren’t outdoors and in nature, or temporarily set them aside. If short one-day or half-day trips aren’t possible, a longer stay of three or four nights is sufficient time to unwind. Everyone has their own favorite spots. A bed and breakfast without tv, cable, internet, telephone, computer, wifi, dvd, clocks, alarm clocks, radios; a hot springs; a national park or national forest campground without hotels, restaurants, electricity, wifi, cell phone service; or even hot showers, flush toilets, paved roads; where the nearest four lane road is sixty miles away, there is next to no noise pollution, no light pollution, the stars shine brightly on moonless nights, the air is crisp and clear (unless there be forest fires) and the loudest thing you hear is the breeze in the trees and the water flowing in the creek, or the fish jumping or frogs croaking down at the local pond or lake, or the birds chirping in the trees. Just thinking about it is calming. As long as no one pulls up in their RV with their satellite dish and starts their TV or Stereo blasting away or has their generator running at all hours of day and night….
Hi Mary! I am near the King of Prussia area. Would love to connect somehow!
Kenneth Kugelman says
Thankfully I gave up trying to be normal a long time ago. I suppose my desire to be myself won out over my desire to fit in. And so I did not fit in. Even in the world of music where I spent most of my time from 1969 to 2000, I was an ‘odd’ one. In the work field I always had the feeling that I was more valued for what I could do than for who I am. That never quite set well with me. It was so much more about the doing of performance rather than the being of practice. I’d found out in a roundabout way that I had a reputation for being moody. And the college student who asked me when I was going to grow up. And my wife who asked me to decide whether I was married to my work or to her. Thankfully I chose her, and changed professions. And a dear friend to me who said I was the only person they had ever met who was underemployed by choice. And my least favorite question asked of me, why do you have to get so emotionally worked up before you will make a decision? And the second least favorite question, why do you always have to overreact to things? And the third, what’s the matter with you, why don’t you have any ambition? Let’s go for four, when you don’t try, because you’re afraid of failure, you’ve already failed, but you’re not a failure. How about five, why are you so easily disturbed? Let’s go for six, why are you such an extremist? Seven, your thinking is too black and white. Eight, you’re too poor to be a republican. Nine, you’re so smart, how can you be so stupid? Aren’t these such wonderful validating questions? I think not. So I have made it a small ambition of mine to combat all of this perceived ‘negativism’ by having an unofficial ministry of encouragement to others. Because we all need it. HSP or not. But even that has been shot at. “Don’t tell people they did a good job, it is condescending like saying ‘nice doggy’. Ten, “you’re too nice”. Eleven, “you let people get away with too much”. Twelve, “You’re too inconsistent”. When you share a job with someone, because it’s too much for one person to do, you hear all kinds of things. You pick battles, because some things it’s easier to yield than to create conflict between those with whom you are beginning to feel unequally yoked. How bad does it have to get before I will quit? Pretty bad. Thirteen, “You’re stubborn”. No, I’m persistent. Or fourteen, “you’re too resistant to change”. Or fifteen, “don’t feed them a fish, teach them how to fish, you’re being too codependent and too enabling and making them too dependent upon you”. I suppose non-HSP”s wouldn’t care much about a lot of these things because they wouldn’t sink in so deeply. O well. It is what it is. Let us persevere, with a smile and a chuckle. And a lot of sleep.
I refuse. I vehemently refuse. Not only do I reject your idea that wanting to be normal is wrong, I reject every single person like you out there spouting the same glurgy diatribe. I will never stop wanting to be normal. I will never let go of wanting to be normal, and you can’t make me. Every time you tell me to let go my grip only gets tighter. I would rather die than “get over it” because that is who I want to be, and if I can’t have it then I don’t want to live anymore.
Frankly, while I agree that there is no “cure” and that wishing for one is a path of self-destruction via self-hate, largely the message reads to me both very saccharine and as a form of societal apologetics. Before I say anything more, though, this anger is almost certainly not really meant for you; I wish you well, whether you’re part of creating/hosting the article or just happen to be reading this.
Can’t say that I’m interested in being a designated sacrifice for yet another reason. My generation and younger are being largely screwed over economically. The human habitability of the world is being eroded, both in terms of climate and in pollutants, to say nothing of the fate of many other species. Minorities of all sorts are largely ignored on good days and attacked/milked for all they’re worth the rest of the time; if you’re poor, you may as well also be a minority half the time, too (but “You better not act like one or sympathize with Them! Just keep working hard and you will be fine!”). And I can see a web that interconnects these and more, with generally common sources underpinned by greed, thoughtlessness, and a lack of empathy (if not outright cruelty).
I refuse to give myself to another abuser, in this case society as a whole. I refuse to freely share my gifts to those that would merely try to exploit them without any appreciation, kindness, or acknowledgement; to consume me until there is nothing except maybe a hollow shell. Just as society refuses to accept me for how I am, I refuse to accept society for how it is. I understand that I cannot change it (by myself), but I won’t stop trying to and encouraging others to do the same. But I don’t do that for humanity; screw humanity at large. I do it for myself and for those would return the compassion and care that I wish to give others. For the possibility that a society I want to live in might exist someday, inhabiting a beautiful and cared for world.
Jim Osterman says
All I know is I’m weary to the point of physical pain
Pietro Reynaud Bersanino says
After more than three years of psychotherapy in which, in addition to understanding that there are dysfunctional thoughts in my head, I am learning to control them, change them, and “silence them!”. Discovering HSP and realizing that some of so called “dysfunctional thoughts” are in fact subtle senses of reality and not fantasies and thoughts, and therefore not only they are concrete things, but I have to learn not to be afraid of them. I hope my psicotherapist can help me.
Priscilla Castro says
Im in tears right now. All I can say is, this is defintely a gift, and when you embrace it you realized how extremely enormous, out of proportions it is, that actually makes me feel like a superhero, and sometimes thats overwhelmig too, its kinda scary too…. its like too much JOY, which makes me feel a lot of times that I dont deserve this amount of blessings, what did I to be gifted like this? Am I good enough to embrace it with sll the power it needs and push higher the potential of this gift, can I? cause in some point you realized that if you truly love it, so you are also aware of its power and how good to the world is in your shoulders!
Sara Gustafsson says
Thank you so much for existing ❤