A few years ago, I discovered that I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). One of the key traits of an HSP is that our emotions are tuned a lot higher than the average person which brings about a number of challenges in life, especially in social situations and relationships. Parts of everyday life which many people take for granted can be quite daunting and in some cases quite traumatic for an HSP. We are not only highly tuned to our own emotions we are also highly tuned to the emotions of those around us.

Many people who have focused their studies on High sensitivity have been keen to point out many of the negative aspects which can be very challenging in the modern world. This sensitivity can cause challenges in a number of areas: –

In a social setting an HSP is often in fear of upsetting someone and so a chance remark or negative reaction to something said that many others would simply shrug off can have a strong negative effect leaving an HSP feeling guilty or embarrassed. The tone of someone’s voice could be enough to create a feeling that this particular person doesn’t like you. An HSP will replay a conversation over and over believing that they have done something wrong and will be shunned by friends. This feeling could last for days or even weeks. As such HSP’s often feel like outsiders in social groups, not able to fully engage for fear of the potential upset.

HSP’s often have difficulties in dealing with rejection often making it difficult to apply for a promotion or even ask someone for a date.

In close relationships an HSP will often find it difficult to talk closely to a partner, storing up emotions until one day these emotions come bursting out often taking their partner by surprise. Afterwards the HSP will feel such a tremendous amount of guilt that they will spend an endless amount of time apologising.

All this can often lead to Emotional Fatigue with a desire to escape the world for a time and just spend time alone or in the company of someone that makes them feel safe.

So, with all these challenges in everyday life, then why do I feel so happy?

Turning High Sensitivity into a strength

Much of the studies on HSP’s relate to the negative aspects of their lives, focusing on difficult situations which leads to many feeling isolated form the world. However, if HSP’s are able to feel negative emotions more strongly than others, then it is highly likely that they can feel positive emotions more strongly too. The key is to identify places situations and people that drain you emotionally and limit your exposure.

An example for me is a visit to the supermarket, something most of us do on a regular basis. Visiting a crowded supermarket is something I find emotionally draining especially when I am close to people showing signs of anger and frustration. I have tried shunning supermarkets altogether, but I live in an area which doesn’t offer much of an alternative. To overcome this, I carefully choose the time of day I do my shopping. If I go shortly after opening or in the last hour before closing, the supermarket is generally quite empty. I can collect what I need without having to deal with absorbing other people emotions.

Perform Random Acts of Kindness

There is nothing that makes a HSP feel better about themselves than a feeling that they’ve made someone happy. Random Acts of Kindness can elevate a HSP’s emotions and it’s something that often comes naturally. Just receiving a smile or a thank you from someone is enough to elevate an emotion and create a feeling of joy. These acts can be very simple and require little effort, I recently saw a lady drop a wristband form her pocket, I picked it up and gave it to her “Thank you so much” she replied “ that was a gift from my daughter, I would have been so upset if I’d have lost it”. Just that comment alone made me feel like skipping down the street.

Live in the Moment

Living in the moment is difficult for anyone, but for an HSP to slow down a mind which is continually concerned about passed events and its ramifications for the future this is very hard. On a personal level it has taken me many years to be able to sit quietly and do any form of meditation. However, mindfulness is not just about meditating. It’s not just emotions that are highly tuned to a HSP, but many of the senses are too. Many talk of a high sense of smell, touch, hearing, sight and taste. The key is to find a place or activity that can stimulate the senses, being in nature such as a woodland or by a river will often create a clam feeling. Personally, I get a lot of enjoyment form music, so listening to a good song, a moving piece of music, or best of all to dance to a favourite tune, will take me away from whatever troubles I may have and truly place me in the present moment.

Being Highly sensitive does bring challenges in life and there are times when I would love to be able to totally switch off my emotions, but the good times more than make up for this. By understanding and embracing my sensitivity I am leading a very happy and rewarding life and I really wouldn’t want it any other way.


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The Positive Psychology People is co-founded and sponsored
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