Journey of Life

the place formerly known as control your destiny

The Highly Sensitive Person

In my continuous search for answers to why I go through spells of low moods and anxiety I have found some clues and answers, the most obvious of which would be some level of depression. There is a chance that is part of it but I am not convinced this is the only answer. I also think that the term depression has been rather misused especially in recent years.

I have not been diagnosed with depression but that is likely to be because I have somehow neglected to visit a doctor in the past 6 years! Yes, I know!

I have now registered with a doctor close to where I live (my previous doctor de-registered me, I guess, through lack of contact on my part, the poor lonely soul!!) and I am hoping to get an appointment with my new doctor next week as I feel perhaps it is time to suppress my stubbornness to do everything on my own and seek some professional help. This was largely helped along the way by a meeting with my boss in which I embarrassingly broke down in front of her. Thankfully she was very caring and supportive and made me realise that it is time to take a different approach. She also changed the format of the meeting from being a performance review to trying to find ways of making life a little easier for me at work. She came up with some good ideas that will take some of the pressure off and also reassured me that they would not invest that level of money into recruiting and training someone only for it to collapse. I managed to get myself into a downward spiral of worrying about being out of a job, which from a rational point of view is a little odd because I have fully come to the conclusion that working in a high pressure industry is not suited to my personality.

I have no idea what to expect from the appointment with the doctor and for once this doesn’t fill me with anxiety, at least not at the moment. I do, however, feel a little reluctant about going because I don’t want a label stuck on me. I want to understand if what I am going through is down to a physiological condition such as an overactive thyroid rather than a psychological condition.

The search for answers has continued throughout this week and has taken me down a path of research/learning about the condition referred to as HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) as well as Dabrowski’s concept of over-excitability in his theory of Positive Integration.

Attributes and Characteristics of Being Highly Sensitive

Emotionally, Highly Sensitive People (HSP) are mainly seen as shy, introverted and socially inhibited (or can be socially extroverted). They are often acutely aware of other’s emotions. Sensitive people learn early in life to mask their wonderful attributes of sensitivity, intuition and creativity.

Physically, HSPs may have low tolerance to noise, glaring lights, strong odors, clutter and/or chaos. They tend to have more body awareness of themselves and know instinctually when the environment they are in is not working for them.

Socially, introverted HSP may feel like misfits. They actually enjoy their own company and are totally comfortable being alone. Both introverted and socially extroverted HSP often find they need time alone to recover after social interactions.

Psychologically, HSPs compensate for their sensitivity by either protecting themselves by being alone too much, or, by trying to be ‘normal’ or sociable which then over-stimulates them into stress.

Work and career is particularly challenging for HSPs. They are often overlooked for promotions even though they are usually the most conscientious employees. They are excellent project oriented employees because they are responsible and thorough in their work.

Relationships can be difficult. In relationships they may be confronted with their unresolved personal issues. They can however, offer their partner the gifts of their intuitive insights.

Culturally, HSPs do not fit the tough, stoic and outgoing ideals of modern society and what is portrayed in the entertainment media.

Childhood wounds have a more devastating effect on HSPs. It is important for them to heal their past hurts because they cannot just forget them and go on in denial.

Spiritually, sensitive people have a greater capacity for inner searching. This is one of their greatest blessings.

Nutritionally, HSPs may need more simplicity in their diet. They may be vitally aware of the effects of food on the health of their body and their emotional stability.

Used with kind permission by www.sensitiveperson.com

I can relate very strongly to every single point. In fact it pretty much sums up how I feel most of the time.  I am not a big fan of being labelled or categorised, but this has provided more clarity than anything I have studied before this and with this clarity I have felt acceptance and relief to an extent I haven’t felt before.

It explains perfectly why I so often crave solitude, especially after being at work where I get so involved with other people’s lives. It has helped me explain why I shy away from conflict and big crowds and why I am finding it so difficult to conform to modern society, which incidentally, I see as a good thing.

The not so positive side is the anxiety and spells of low moods, but right now I am beginning to see these in a slightly different light and perhaps I can learn to see these as a part of me instead of seeing them as feelings to fight and to be avoided.

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16 responses to “The Highly Sensitive Person

  1. Joseph Moore July 6, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Wow…you’re killing me, here! Again with the similarities. I think we must have been separated at birth. :-) Suffice it to say that I’ve been down this road and still struggle with many of these issues. The description of HSP sounds a lot like an “INFP” on the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator scale, which is where I have consistently tested every time I’ve taken it over the last 15 years. Like HSP, INFPs have a hard time in today’s world and require a lot of solitude in order to recharge.

    I have been on medication twice for mild depression (technically, dysthymia), but I have to say that, while the medication did seem to help my mood somewhat, it was not a panacea by any stretch. The medication did nothing to assuage the general moodiness and often overwhelming doubts, but it did seem to even out the lowest of the lows. I hope you have better luck — dare I say even an epiphany? — with medication.

    But, like you, I’m not convinced that depression (in the sense of a chemical or other physiological imbalance) is the “cause” of my feelings…I think it is actually the result of the way I’m hard-wired to view and interact with life. After all, when I look around you and see a world I don’t really seem to fit in, who wouldn’t be a little depressed? When you see the absurdity of things most people take quite seriously, and see that others don’t take seriously the things that are most meaningful to you, how can you not feel disconnected?

    I could go on about this…and perhaps I will in a full-fledged post sometime. But, suffice it to say, you are not alone with this. I will be curious to hear the outcome of your doctor’s visit.

    Joseph

    PS – check your “sensitive person” link. I think you may have missed a “w” in the URL. :-)

    • J July 6, 2010 at 10:29 pm

      Joseph,

      Firstly, thank you for pointing out the missing “w” in the link..

      I do seem to require a lot of solitude but since I live on my own, I have an abundance of it, at least after work.

      I am not a fan of medication and I would much rather find a different way of dealing whatever I am going through. Simply writing down stuff in my journal tends to help..it’s mostly word salad but it still helps..

      “When you see the absurdity of things most people take quite seriously, and see that others don’t take seriously the things that are most meaningful to you, how can you not feel disconnected?”

      I couldn’t agree more which is why I enjoy spending time on here connecting with people like yourself..

  2. Viv July 6, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    which came first…chicken or egg….

  3. shiona July 7, 2010 at 10:47 am

    The comprehensive description of HSP you’ve quoted fits me like the right size of glove.

    I wish I could assure you that high sensitivity is a blessing and perhaps it is in certain ways, but my own sensitivity has rendered me completely useless in various situations where other people of average sensitivity have been able to react adequately. It is impossible not to feel a misfit when you are hurt and distressed at things that others will simply ignore and forget about them, thigs that cause insomnia for you can turn out to be insignificant for those around you.
    I often tell myself I have to live with it because all my attempts at suppressing sensitivity have failed. Perhaps the only solution is to develop a mechanism to compansate for the pain with an equal amount of joy, but how do you do this?
    XXX

    • J July 13, 2010 at 6:07 pm

      I do think that there is a blessing in high sensitivity, but this comes at a price and I am trying to understand whether or not the price is worth the blessing.

      “Perhaps the only solution is to develop a mechanism to compansate for the pain with an equal amount of joy, but how do you do this?”

      That is a good question, a question to which I have no answer but that said, the search continues!
      XXX

  4. Barb July 7, 2010 at 5:26 pm

    just recognized myself in all those symptoms… went to the shrink for 6 years (1996-2002), but didn’t really help. Going part-time with my day job did. I did 10 years full time, have been part-time since (another 12 years)… pays the bills and allows all those other creative pass-times that eventually might allow us to earn a living! ;-)
    Nice meeting a kindred soul…

    • J July 13, 2010 at 6:10 pm

      I’d love to be able to go part time although not in my current job and would love to have more time ti pursue creative work…maybe one day eh??

      Nice meeting a kindred soul too ;-)

  5. fibi July 14, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Wow… Amazing how many people who read your blog are similar.. Maybe we should start our own little HSP or INFP club.. How cool would that be.. We wouldn’t have to leave the safety of our own homes, or have to deal with crowds.. Ooooh.. Love it…

    xxx

  6. Lindsay July 20, 2010 at 9:15 pm

    This describes me to a “T”. It also helps me feel ‘validated’ and not just ‘weird’ because I don’t feel into society’s norms. Thank you for posting this! I read the book about HSPs quite a while ago and hadn’t though much of it again until I came across this entry. Thank you!

    Lindsay
    http://thebestyearofyourlife.wordpress.com

  7. Pingback: Halves « creative barbwire (or the many lives of a creator)

  8. opoetoo November 9, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    Are these people often the youngest of their families?

    I am guilty of all those

    Such a shame to have to learn to hide it just to get by.
    Maybe this is why I work with kids at church ( I never learned to hide it very well) :)

    Great post!

    • J November 9, 2010 at 10:55 pm

      I am not sure if they are often the youngest of their families….I am the eldest in my family.

      I agree it is a shame that one has to learn to hide it in order to be accepted in our current society but at least there are some of us that never learned to hide it.

      Thank you for popping by :-)

      • Loi Butron February 5, 2011 at 9:00 pm

        You have outlined my very self I never get a chance to see. I gone through that levels in the past unconsciously. I disciplined my self not to acknowledge it, somehow as lately, I begin to come to terms that there is a part of me a by product of what I have done over the years.

        I was in a very important meeting and I felt a rush of blood and heat gushed inside me, with cold clammy hands and I was unable to control it. However, I did manage to present I needed to present in that meeting and came out normal but within me I was in turmoil. I knew I could have done a better job, more fluid and substantiated.

        My goal now is to find my way out by coordinating the highs and lows in a more productive subtle ways. Thought processes can be redirected.

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