Do you cry before a character in the movie does like me? Are you someone who needs a quiet night alone every day? You probably are a highly sensitive person (HSP).
I first heard about HSP from one of my friends when discussing how we get stimulated easily. We found that both require a long time and vast amounts of energy to digest feelings and emotions. We felt outcasted by our complex inner thoughts. Also, we had lower self-esteem because we were told that we “think too much” most of the time. She then introduced me to the HSP concept and HSP researcher Elaine Aron, to equip ourselves with the knowledge of managing the overwhelmed information that stimulated us.
What is HSP?
HSPs are those who have more profound nervous system sensitivity (Scott, 2020). In simpler words, they process stimuli, either physical, emotional or social stimuli, on a deeper level and with higher sensitivity compared to the others. HSP occupied 15% to 20% of the world population (Scott, 2020). It is now a medical or clinical subscribed illness like depression or anxiety. Nevertheless, the HSP group has been recognised worldwide, and many countries have paid more attention to this group of people.
I have a strong empathy
HSP has higher empathy as their mirror neurons in the brain are many times more active when stimulated. I am someone who likes art, music and landscape and can connect with them easily. I could be touched in seconds and cried when watching an art piece or a documentary or listening to a song. When I am stimulated by the works, there are images in my mind, asking myself: What am I feeling now? I would go further and deeper in my thinking to make me think from different angles. Having strong empathy has pros and cons. One of the major cons is that I feel emotionally exhausted frequently.
I feel emotionally exhausted frequently
When I was younger, I had always thought that I managed my emotions well. However, I found out that I was not aware and recognised what I had been feeling. I was ignorant, and I was storing too many negative emotions inside me. In addition, I did not notice that I was accepting an overload of emotions and information from others because of empathy. A few sensitive words or sentences from others could affect my whole day or years. The stored emotions and absorbed information drain my energy quickly. Hence, I do not like places with many people where there are many stimulants. Besides, I often avoid watching sad, miserable and violent scenes and news to prevent overstimulation.
Throughout the years, I have learned to channel negative emotions out of my mind and body. So, I have enough energy to absorb emotions that could positively impact me mentally and physically. Also, I have to learn to create space for myself to restore.
I need to have my own private space and time to withdraw from stimulants
Since young, I always feel that I am a weird person who loves to be alone so much. I do not like attention while working. Furthermore, I need to have at least two to three hours of alone time before sleep. I value private space and time a lot. After reading about HSP, I realised that it might be because my brain and body are creating a protective mechanism to restore me and regenerate. The mechanism distances me from overstimulation. During my alone time, my productivity increased, and my creativity flowed. It is also the time my brain works amazingly in reflection and mindfulness.
So, am I an HSP? That remains a question. The outcome of my self-test shows that I am one of the 20% population. While most significantly, I have realised the factors that lead to my behaviours and my mind need to restore. Today, I am still learning how to regulate my emotions and turn empathy into my strength. I have stopped thinking that people do not understand my sensitivity. Instead, I see that turning my sensitivity and empathy into motivation and inspiration would be a better solution for my inner peace.
Watch the video below to know other traits of HSP
To know if you are an HSP, click here for a self-test.
- Scott, E. (2020). Highly Sensitive Person Traits That Create More Stress. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/highly-sensitive-persons-traits-that-create-more-stress-4126393#what-is-a-highly-sensitive-person-hsp