Have you ever heard that? Has anyone ever said that to you? You’re SO sensitive! Isn’t it annoying, frustrating and irritating?
If I AM sensitive, do you think saying that I’m “too sensitive” will make me less sensitive?
It’s not something we choose to be. It’s not as if we want to be too sensitive. We just are! Sensitivity is a trait you are born with. You can’t “snap out of it” or “stop over-reacting!” It can actually be very painful emotionally to be so sensitive.
From introvertdear.com, “Your brain and nervous system actually work differently than those of someone who is not highly sensitive.” Highly Sensitive People (HSP’s) are “more aware of subtleties in your environment….you notice more, you can become more easily overwhelmed.”
I’ve come to realize through the years that yes, I am sensitive in many ways, many of them positive. I am sensitive to your feelings, which means I will do my best not to hurt them. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen; I may inadvertently hurt your feelings. I know it is not my responsibility to worry about your feelings but I don’t want to deliberately hurt you if I can avoid it.
I am sensitive to the energies of others. That means when I walk into a room, I can sense the atmosphere. I may be able to tell if you’ve had a bad day or if you’re not feeling well, even if you say nothing. I read below the surface. I feel your pain. I see it in your eyes. This can be unnerving to some people so I’ve learned to say nothing. I’ve had friends pull away because I saw too much.
I am sensitive not just to what you say but how you say it. My feelings can be easily hurt. I can take things too personally. Sometimes I have to pull back from the world and regroup.
I am highly sensitive to sounds. If you crumble a bag near my ears it feels like a volcano exploded. If I hear sirens on the road, I cover my ears. The noise is just too loud and jarring. If a plate falls, rather than try to catch it, I will cover my ears from the inevitable crash. It’s an instinct. I don’t think about it.
I shut down in clothing stores where the music is blaring and need to leave the store. When the kids were teens I’d give them my credit card and wait outside in the mall for them.
I startle easily. I may jump and squeal if you come behind me unnoticed.
I avoid bright lights and strong smells. Fluorescent lights and strong perfumes can give me a migraine.
I avoid violent movies and shows because the images stay with me forever. I saw Sophie’s Choice in the 80’s. I still have the scene etched in my mind when she had to choose between her son and her daughter.
I am very sensitive to sensory stimuli. My circuits get overloaded with too much stimulation and I can become very agitated. I may have to shut my eyes to eliminate sensory input or turn off the TV or radio. Most of the time, I require quiet to concentrate on the task at hand.
These are all traits of a Highly Sensitive Person.
Dr. Elaine N. Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person says, “We all live in the same communities, but we have very different needs and we cannot easily recognize who is sensitive, who is not.”
Do you cry easily? Do you have strong emotional responses? You may be Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) too. HSP’s “have a deeper level of cognitive processing and notice even the subtlest sensations, which can easily overwhelm them,” according to Dr. Aron. Aron says, “…the majority of people, 80%, are not highly sensitive, making it very difficult for the non-HSP’s to understand.”
According to Aron, HSP’s weigh decisions carefully and are not quick with conclusions. I’ve experienced this entire life! When I couldn’t make a decision between the red blouse or the blue blouse, I had to train myself to make a decision saying, “This is not life and death. Choose the chocolate or vanilla. Choose the red or blue blouse. It doesn’t matter. Choose them both.”
What sounds slightly annoying to you – like tapping fingers on a desk or snapping gum- can overstimulate me. I look like a nut because I’m falling apart and want you so badly to stop. If it’s a familiar person like my husband, I gently put my hand on his fingers to stop them. I’ll place my hand on my son’s knee so he will stop shaking his leg and the table.
When something is said that bothers me, I’m learning to remind myself, it’s not personal. It’s not you. It just takes a tremendous amount of energy and focus to override my basic instinct.
HSP can be a gift – we are so empathetic, so caring. It can be a curse, we are easily hurt and we shut down. We crawl inside ourselves. If we were turtles, we’d tuck our head in safely under our shell.
So stop telling me, “Don’t take things so personally.” Stop judging me. Stop expecting me to be like you.
I can’t help it. Being sensitive is not a bad thing. In fact, I may be your best friend because I understand you and I care.
Are you a Highly Sensitive Person too? Take this brief test for yourself! You may be surprised!
And let me know in the comments whether you think you’re a HSP or not!
The Italian Grandmama