A skin too thin for the world...
Are you a highly sensitive person (HSP)? Do you feel others’ and your own pain so deeply, that it almost seems unbearable? Do you often feel overwhelmed with crowds, loud noises or when you feel people are expecting too much from you? Do you find yourself feeling over stimulated and frazzled when you have to go to social events?
Are you good at things like driving but as soon as you have a passenger with you, you find yourself feeling nervous and making mistakes? It may also be that you have a very clear internal voice but struggle to verbally express yourself externally leading others to criticise and make judgments. This in turn, leads to staying silent or withdrawing and why some people will label you as shy, introverted or boring.
This is just a tiny sample of some of the signs suggesting you may be a HSP. About a year or so ago, I came across a wonderful book called 'The Highly Sensitive Person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you' by Elaine N Aron. It blew me away because I am a HSP and had always been told I was shy (nope!) or introverted (nope!) or even timid (definitely nope!).
It is easy to feel that there is something ‘wrong with you’. You may perhaps feel you are weak, soppy, over-emotional, anxious or just continually ‘wearing your heart on your sleeve’. Planning and going on holiday can be a nightmare for HSP’s. Not only is there all the planning beforehand, you then have to travel and put yourself in an ever changing situation with new people around you. You then need to be active and busy every day, continually ‘on top of your game’.
In the morning the beach, the afternoon a water park, the evening a restaurant and then back to a hotel full of people; repeat again the next day and the next. You may be able to manage a day or two but soon enough you will feel emotionally and physically exhausted, running on empty. The HSP will begin to seek out quiet places, perhaps staying in their hotel room away from everyone and everything. You may become irritable and emotional for no ‘apparent’ reason. Understandably, this may cause difficulties with family and friends who are with you, wanting things to carry on as they have been and perhaps not understanding your sudden change of mood.
It can be incredibly difficult for the HSP to understand their own feelings, let alone express them to someone else. However, to be an HSP also provides some goodies and it is not all bad news! HSP’s are usually incredibly giving, accepting, empathic and understanding individuals. They often care deeply about their environment and those around them, being sensitive to others and highly intuitive.
If you feel you may be a HSP, I strongly recommend reading Elaine Aron’s book or speaking to a counsellor about some of the issues I know you will be dealing with. Relationships can be difficult, social situations can be overwhelming and being misunderstood, not just by those around you but more importantly, misunderstanding yourself can lead to negative patterns of thinking and behaving. It is easy to become withdrawn from the world and disconnected to yourself as well as others.
With the summer holiday season upon us, it is especially important to understand your triggers and to find some coping techniques so that you are able to enjoy your holiday just like everyone else.
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About Jayne Phillips
Jayne is a fully qualified, BACP registered therapeutic counsellor, working in private practice.