Being too sensitive: how to defend yourself
Being ” too” sensitive is a very often undetected condition except in the course of psychotherapy or a psychological path.
Thanks to the scientific investigation of the American psychologist Elaine Aron – starting from the late 90s – the topic of high sensitivity begins to be gradually discussed.
The highly sensitive person – in English Highly Sensitive Person ( HSP ) – has a trait whose scientific term is Sensory-Processing Sensitivity (SPS), translated: sensory processing sensitivity *.
This characteristic is found in 15-20% of the population: a percentage “too high to be a nuisance, but not enough to be well understood by most of those around you”.
If you are too sensitive or a ” highly sensitive person “, becoming aware of this basic mode of operation can be of great help for two reasons:
- getting an explanation of why it works a certain way will make you feel less wrong
- you will be able to experiment with new strategies to coexist as best you can with this way of feeling and being.
The characteristics of the highly sensitive person
Always the psychologist Elaine Aron in an interesting video °, refers to the acronym DOES
The characteristics of this innate personality trait * are listed below , starting from the description proposed by the author to the English video linked above.
# 1. D. Depth Processing
HSP people process information deeper than others. It is a more sophisticated process.
#2. O. (Easily) Overstimulated
It is the painful, unhappy element of the trait. HSPs achieve an activation very easily. If you’re too bored or over-stimulated, it doesn’t work well, the ideal is somewhere in between. This is also what makes many HSP shy: for example they can think they are brilliant on their own, then for example they go to a party where they are over-stimulated, they cannot think, to say anything, the people around maybe think they are stupid and so the next time they give up another invitation and it gets worse and worse.
# 3. E. Emotionally reactive / Empathy
To process the information in depth, strong emotions may be needed (in some cases). The two elements are absolutely connected. Highly sensitive people have more empathy and greater activation of mirror neurons, related to the difficulty of separating their feelings from those of others. This is what allows you to “read in the mind” of others, understand what is happening, what people will do, be of help to them. You do not realize that it works in this way except when it is annoying, uncomfortable, painful, in reality it is a powerful tool.
# 4. S. Subtle stimuli
HSPs are aware of subtle, subtle, imperceptible stimuli that other people don’t notice. In visual perception experiments that assessed reaction times and the ability to observe details, sensitive people performed much better than non-sensitive people. They were also much more stressed later than other people.
HSP – an innate trait
«* In fact, biologists have found it in over 100 species (and there are probably many others): fruit flies, birds and fish, dogs, cats, horses and primates. This trait reflects a certain type of survival strategy, being careful before acting * ».
HSP – it’s not about shyness
«* This trait is not a new discovery, but has been misunderstood. Since HSPs prefer to observe before entering new situations, they are often called “shy”. But shyness is learned, not innate. Indeed, 30% of HSPs are extroverted, although the trait is often labeled as introversion. It has also been called inhibition, fear or neuroticism. Some HSPs behave in these ways, but it is not innate to do it and not the basic characteristic * ».
Being too sensitive: how to defend yourself?
What strategies to train and integrate into your life to hurt yourself less?
# 1. Keep in mind that high sensitivity is a feature not visible to others
If you recognize yourself in this category of population, the consequences of your high sensitivity will not automatically cease. If until now you have had to manage the side effects, not knowing that you are an HSP, you now have a higher gear, due to the awareness of knowing you better. Pretending that all the people you are dealing with are equally aware of it, however, is not a good move: it is up to you to find the right ways to adapt to the contexts, perhaps avoiding those in which you feel you are not working as you would like, because of excessive stress. Then gradually find the best ways to expose more and more, in a safe condition.
#2. Go slower
In a condition of sensory and emotional over-stimulation, giving yourself greater slowness is a healthy defense, which will allow you to feel more active and competent in the environment, therefore also in your relationship dynamics.
# 3. Spend more time alone
It serves to recharge you. If your brain works harder, it risks losing its energy before the others.
# 4. Learn about your sense of limit and respect it
The previous point applies in the preventive sense. The more you know yourself, the less you will have to necessarily isolate yourself to recover lost resources. With a clear sense of the limit, you can select the contexts to adapt to – because you will have advantages – by filtering those that are not worth coping with.
# 5. Surround yourself with beauty and enriching stimuli, avoiding unnecessary violent and painful contents
Surely – if you belong to this category of people – negative stimuli almost risk leaving an imprint in your mind, you probably rework them, risking to heavily influence your emotions and your memories, leading you into the vortex of excessive thought. Use art, music, reading, caring for plants, walks in nature, to immerse yourself and absorb the good vibrations that these stimuli of beauty and harmony offer you. In many ways, you decide where the wind blows.