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The Highly Sensitive Person

People often tell me that they need to control their emotions, because people tell them they are "too emotional", "too sensitive", "too reactive", or a whole bunch of other "too's".  These people think that there is something wrong with them because they feel emotions, forgetting that we are born with emotions, just as we are born with toes. 


There is a value judgement in telling someone that they are "too sensitive", as though somehow people who are born sensitive are morally inferior.  However, sensitive people are born that way, and they are sensitive in more than emotions - they are often sensitive to sensations (smells, for example) as well.  I think of people who are highly sensitive as being like the canary in the mine shaft - because they are sensitive, they pick up on things much more quickly than others.  Highly sensitive people are also quite easily stressed and overwhelmed, and in a culture that values achievement, accumulation, and tough-mindedness, the highly sensitive person can easily begin to feel depressed, inadequate, or inferior. 


I often think of that old Star Trek episode, in which creatures on some planet had evolved until they were only brains.  If I remember correctly, the brains wanted to take over the bodies of the Enterprise crew so that they could live, and feel.  Apparently, losing the ability to feel is not all it is cracked up to be!


We are born hard-wired to feel, and as with height or any other inherited trait, there is only so much that we can do about it. Some people simply feel things more intensely than others, and to suggest that these people are "wrong" because they feel more intensely simply does not make sense.  People around a Highly Sensitive Person need to understand that we all feel things at different levels, and to show a little more patience and understanding.  The Highly Sensitive Person needs to learn not how to suppress their feelings and experiences, but to harness them and express them in a way that enriches their lives.


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Extra Links

Elaine Aron's Website                    Thomas Eldridge's Website