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HSP: Being Highly Sensitive in a Desensitized World


The Curse of Being Highly Sensitive

"I'm not going to fight your battles for you. Get thicker skin!"

My former boss said that to me. My crime? I told him that a female in a different department was bullying our department and asked him to speak to her boss about it. He was a riddiculously incompetent boss and clearly said that to shut me up. He knew I was sensitive and used it against me often. After three years, I can still hear his voice in my head when I let my sensitivity get the best of me.

I am a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and it feels like a curse. My senses are fine tuned. I'm sensitive to sound, pain, emotions, medicine, alcohol and just about everything else. I can't count how many times I've beat myself up over a mistake, felt guilty about something that wasn't my fault or held back tears instead of defending myself. I have a tendency to avoid people and situations so I don't get hurt. I'm easily annoyed and offended. If someone is angry or upset, I can sense it, even if they are trying to hide it. I'm easily distracted. I'm emotionally drained after listening to another person's troubles. I need at least a day alone to recouperate from a few days of social activity. I am even known to mourn for a day after seeing movies like The Titanic and Terms of Endearment.

Basically, I feel the world around me intensely and I hate it.

One of the worst aspects of being an HSP is that we are easy prey for manipulative people. They will play up on our emotions with a guilt trip or a sob story. My grandmother did this to me for years. I'd find myself dropping everything to go see her because she'd cry to me about how 'all alone' she was. This is just a mild example of how an HSP can be manipulated. Mind you, we are far from stupid. We usually know we are being manipulated on some level, however the intense guilt or shame we feel is unbearable. It's another reason why many of us are careful about who we trust and why many of us come off as detatched or aloof.

The Truth About Highly Sensitve People

Around 15 to 20 percent of the population is Highly Sensitve. Contrary to popular belief, sensitivity is not a female trait. In fact, sensitivity is equal in males and females. My mother is not sensitive. I take after my highly sensitive father. So does my brother.

We live in an aggressive society and sensitivity is frowned upon, especially in males. Men are expected to be tough. Men are riddiculed for crying. Women are not immune to riddicule. Femininity is seen as weak in our society and women are encouraged to 'act more like men', especially in the workforce.

Sensitivity is also not a synomyn for weak (although it can feel that way sometimes), nor is it a symptom of depression. Sensitive people may be more prone to depression, however, there are other risk factors to consider.

Many HSPs are in constant pursuit to find the meaning of life. Some are very spiritual. Others reject organized religion because it does not give enough answers.

They may also have trouble sleeping at night due to so much thinking and inner dialogue. It is hard, if not near impossible to turn it off. Highly sensitive people may use alcohol and drugs to deaden some of their emotions.

Benefits of Being Sensitive

In the concentration camps across Europe during the second World War, it was the sensitve people who fared better than those who were less sensitive and appeared tougher. The theory to this is that HSPs are highly imaginitive and could easily slide into a dream world. It protected them from the horrors around them and helped them to survive their ordeal.

Sensitive people tend to be unusually creative. Many famous musicians, artists, actors and writers are highly sensitive. Among them are Johnny Depp, Steven Spielberg, Elton John and Barbara Streisand. Virgina Woolfe and Walt Disney were believed to be HSP. So were Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison and John Denver.

Highly sensive people can understand things deeply and because of this are more intuitive. People who are highly sensitive are deeply compassionate, empathatic and conscientious. HSPs are the givers of the world. They are the caretakers and helpers. In a crisis, you can count on an HSP to help pull you through.

After going through the benefits, being so sensitive doesn't seem so bad. In fact it almost seems like a gift. Imagine what a world this could be if we had more highly sensitive politicians, doctors and lawyers. It's a brutal world and a few extraodinary compassionate souls in these fields can really make a difference in this world.

Pearl S. Buck, (1892-1973), was an American writer and Humanitarian who won both the Pulizer Prize and Nobel Prize in Literature. She once said this about highly sensitive people:

The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive

To him…

a touch is a blow,

a sound is a noise,

a misfortune is a tragedy,

a joy is an ecstasy,

a friend is a lover,

a lover is a god,

and failure is death.

Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create. So that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.”

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