Sensitive people have depth in thinking and, therefore, take their work seriously; their nervous systems are fine-tuned, therefore they outstand whatever task they have at hand.
By Vidya Hattangadi
Albert Einstein, Nicole Kidman, Jim Hallowes (founder of HighlySensitivePeople.com), Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland and Martin Luther King Jr are some famous personalities known as highly sensitive people (HSP). It is worth noting that HSP account for 15-20% of the population who are highly creative and brilliant. The people mentioned above are great artists, actors, scientists, social reformers, etc. Sensitive people have depth in thinking and, therefore, take their work seriously; their nervous systems are fine-tuned, therefore they outstand whatever task they have at hand.
Dr Elaine Aron, a clinical psychologist, coined the term “highly sensitive” in her 1996 book “The Highly Sensitive Person”. She explains that high sensitivity, or sensory processing sensitivity (SPS), is an inherited, genetic trait that affects approximately 20% of the world’s population. HSPs have a sensitive nervous system, so they absorb and process more information than average, and they ponder on it more deeply. This trait is often mistaken for being introvert and highly emotional, standoffish, insecure, apprehensive, neurotics, depressed, etc. A study by Dr Aron shows that high sensitivity of a person is misunderstood as his/her weakness, but the fact is that HSPs are highly capable, diligent and aware people, who are just more accustomed to their environment and others’ feelings than most people. HSPs are empathetic by nature. It’s just that they are biologically-wired differently. They have an entirely different approach to their physical environment, and that is not a weakness, but a strength.
They are highly intuitive: Although this may be a rephrase of his thoughts on the subject, Einstein has been widely quoted as having said: “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant.” We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift. In my opinion, even Steve Jobs was HSP. The co-founder of Apple had said that he believed intuitive heart leads to success. The opposition to Einstein’s landmark theory of relativity in the 1920s was unprecedented and extremely fierce, but the physicist followed his instinct and stood by his work. Einstein’s general theory of relativity is now renowned as a pinnacle of modern-day physics.
They are shy and prefer to withdraw from the crowd: These sensitive people jump to help people easily because they understand needs of people easily. The “King of Late Night” television show host Johnny Carson was in total control during his shows, but once he stepped away from the spotlight, he was shy and aloof. Carson rarely gave interviews and remained a very private man, despite his public persona. He once revealed, “I can get in front of an audience and be in control … backstage, I’m aloof because I’m not very comfortable.”
HSPs have a different approach to their physical environment: Being considerate and well-mannered, HSPs tend to get affected when someone is not. They are detail-oriented and notice things others may miss. In addition, they are gifted, they can read people well, and know when they are lying or deceiving. The tone, pauses, body languages are all clues that they easily catch. They get stressed with over-thinking, which leads to low immunity, which may result in frequent cough and cold. They don’t like anything in exaggeration; they don’t like to be in large groups, too many lights, strong smells, loud noise. They are not party persons. A lot depends on how they feel. With incredible intuition, they work according to their gut feeling.
They are more expressive in their relationships: HSPs crave for deep connections. According to Dr Aron’s research, sensitive people tend to get bored in marriage than non-sensitive people, mostly due to the lack of meaningful interaction. Dr Aron adds that HSPs tend to withdraw from a relationship that lacks meaning and involvement. They look for meaningfulness in all that they do in life. The key to a successful relationship for an HSP is communicating what they want out of a relationship, and finding a partner who understands their emotions. “Sensitive people can’t help but express what they’re feeling,” says Dr Aron.
They are a boon to the society: People often react adversely or get reticent around HSPs. What they don’t realise is that the extremely sensitive person is vulnerable because he/she is hurt in the past. Many feel that such people are fragile and unable to handle themselves, but they have their own reasons for behaving the way they do. At such times, it is best to give them space to analyse the situation and get a hold of themselves.
SPS (HSP) is not a condition, a disorder, or a diagnosis. It is a neutral trait evolved in 20% of the human population and many non-human species as well. HSPs process stimuli deeply due to a biological difference in their nervous system. As a result, they easily get overwhelmed and often need more self-care than others.
If you are an HSP, be proud because you’re alive in every sense of this word in this wildly beautiful world. Sensitivity is your strength. Keep soaking in the light and spreading it to others.
The author is a management thinker and blogger