What’s a Highly Sensitive Person?
Have you heard of the highly sensitive person?
A highly sensitive person, or HSP, picks up sensory info—like smells, sounds, and flavors—before non-sensitives can. That’s because HSPs have a finely tuned nervous system. The difference is a biological one, according to psychologists Dr. Carl Jung and Dr. Elaine Aron. So HSPs are born with the trait.
You know that lady at the office who gets sick when a coworker wears too much perfume? She’s probably a highly sensitive person. It may smell like only a hint of fragrance to a nonsensitive. But to the HSP, she may as well have bathed in it.
Brush a nonsensitive with a feather. He might feel it. But a highly sensitive person would feel the change on the air long before the feather touched her skin.
Twenty percent of the human population is highly sensitive. And the trait is equally divided among males and females.
Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?
Have you ever noticed a food’s nasty under flavor that no one else can taste? You might be a HSP.
Have you ever said “What is that smell?” but everyone else just shrugs? You might be a HSP.
Do you notice when the light changes? Can you detect a slight shift of temperature when no one else can? Does the drip of a leaky faucet keep you awake at night while everyone else is fast asleep? You might be a HSP.
Want to know for sure? Take the highly sensitive person test to find out.
Why It’s Great to Be a Highly Sensitive Person
HSPs are essential to human survival.
Imagine a tribe of prehistoric humans. Flea-bitten, exposed, and starving.
They hunt the Serengeti for water, but there’s none to be found. People drop to the ground. Those left standing are too tired to notice. The chief wheezes. Babies are too parched to cry. But someone cries out “look” and points into the trees where water has collected in the bowl-shaped leaves. The tribe is saved.
That guy who noticed the water? Probably a HSP.
HSPs are useful today too. And not just as chefs and perfumers. HSPs are highly calibrated machines. Tech designers, artists, inventors, and surgeons—everyone benefits from the HSP’s precision and observant nature.
But if they’re so great, why isn’t everyone a HSP?
The Down Side of Being a Highly Sensitive Person
Being a HSP is like having a super power. But with this superpower, you don’t need Kryptonite to bring you down. Because the good and bad of being a HSP is built right into the package. Ask any HSP. This super power comes at a cost.
Until they’re saving you from dehydration or fixing the unfixable problem, HSPs are kind of annoying to the general population. Hell, HSPs are kind of annoying to themselves.
They’re more likely to get anxiety. They can’t shop with friends in fumigated stores like Abercrombie & Fitch (Ugh, it reeks in there). They’re less likely to get a good night’s sleep when they’re the ones who need it most. And everyone calls them sensitive when they’re in sensory overload.
Thankfully, plenty of support exists for HSPs these days.
Highly Sensitive People Make the Best Writers and Artists
Want to be a writer? An artist? Chances are, if you’re a HSP you’ll probably be a great one. Why?
You know the subtle difference between similar shades of red. You know which one increases hunger and libido. You know which one invokes anger. That’s useful if you’re a painter.
You know that precise unit of pressure that transforms your lover’s face from pain to pleasure. You know what the light looks like on the trees in November. You detect subtle clues that reveal what people are feeling. That’s useful if you’re a writer.
Precision. Nuance. Empathy. This is your expertise. And these are the qualities that make great artists. Add a little purpose, some determination, and a few powerful writing skills to that equation, and nothing can stop you.
Being a HSP may have its downside. But it’s a glorious burden. Because some of the best people are HSPs.
So “H” is for Highly Sensitive Person.
[This is an article from the 2014 Writers of Kern “A” to “Z” Blog Challenge Series. See the rest of the series.]
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