Are you often times feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information that comes at you? The moods of people, the energy in the room, the sounds, the smells that you know many others do not realize. Are you distressed by crowds, jammed streets and places, clubs, loud music, large parties, contentless smalltalk? Are you aroused, feel like you want to escape and it even affects your sleep at night? If this is you, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) like I am.
I have always known, and I was told time and time again, that I am a sensitive person and that “my antennas are very fine-tuned”. I am introverted, too, which means I charge my energy by being alone and not by exposing myself to people. I need a lot of alone time. Yet, I have also known that it was much more than just being “sensitive”. When I enter a room, I immediately feel the energy in there. If there is tension, competition, aggression, if people are at peace with themselves and with each other, I will feel it. If someone is in a bad mood, I will immediately sense it. In the beginning, I would just tell myself that I was making up stories and would try to ignore my sensations. Over time though, I came to trust my “intuition”. If I felt there was tension in the room, there actually was tension in the room. If I felt someone was down, she actually was down.
It is quite a challenge to have access to all this information without volunteering for it. Most of the people will not understand you when you try to talk about this. They will dismiss you as being overly sensitive and will tell you to stop worrying and start having fun. They will totally miss the point as this is not a matter of having fun or not fun. So, you will end up feeling not understood and for the future you will decide to keep your feelings and sensations to yourself. Another challenge is to not to take any of this personally. It is so easy to think, when you see someone upset or aggressive, it is about you. It is a human condition to centre us around ourselves and take things personally. It is also very easy inherit all of the tension in a room, because you are sensitive. There is tension and immediately you get tense.
I have been becoming increasingly aware of these things about myself over the years and I did not know what to do about it, how to deal with it. I had developed some strategies for myself, by trial and error, for self protection. If I sense some tension at some place, I will leave the place soon enough if I have the option to. I try to avoid people who are chronically in bad mood. If someone is upset, aggressive, bad-tempered, I will repeatedly tell myself silently “it is not about you”.
While I was trying to learn from and grow into this condition, I stumbled upon a book by Elaine N. Aron, called “The Highly Sensitive Person“. It was a relief. Reading the book, I understood there were many other people in the world out there, who were similar to me. Elaine calls this condition a “trait” and it is nice to see it that way. Frankly, I have never viewed it as a defect, or something being wrong with me, but I was confused about it. I guess that is how you feel often times, if you belong to the minority about anything.
Reading the book set me free. It also explains the reasons why someone is an HSP, which is pretty much a mix of multiple reasons. It is genetic on the one hand, while it also depends on the family and societal conditions on the other hand. It is, for example, possible for even twins that one is an HSP and the other is not.
I am no longer confused about my trait, rather I am celebrating it. I love to feel if someone is not feeling OK because it might give me an opportunity to stand by her side and listen. I love to feel the joy that someone expresses because I can feel it at great intensity. I also like being analytical about it. If I feel something odd in a room with people, I start to observe them. How do they sit, how do they talk, how do their faces look like, how does the tone of their voice sound? I get curious about these things and these observations may then give me so much insights, which are all learning opportunities small or big.
I also know though, that I must manage my trait. I cannot get nervous each time I realise that someone is nervous. I do not go to clubs and parties with lots of people and extremely loud music. I try to be very mindful about what makes me feel aroused and what gives me a soft sense of calmness. Meditation is a wonderful tool for that. I love to wake up early and start my day in peace and silence. Ultimately, I try to take care of myself as I would take care of a sensitive yet joyful child.
If I was going be born again today and could decide, I know that I would choose to be born as an HSP. For me, the world is so much more exciting, even if utterly overwhelming at times, when living it that way.