Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Are You an HSP?

What’s an HSP? HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Person. HSPs are easily overwhelmed with stimuli in their environments. Typically, HSPs are physically and psychologically more susceptible to sudden or loud noises, bright or flickering lights, a lot of ambient activity and/or crowds.

Along with being easily overwhelmed, though, come some wonderful traits. HSPs also tend to be “…highly creative and productive workers, attentive and thoughtful partners, and intellectually gifted individuals.” Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D, author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, goes on to make these points:

  • This trait is normal--it is inherited by 15 to 20% of the population, and indeed the same percentage seems to be present in all higher animals.
  • Being an HSP means your nervous system is more sensitive to subtleties. Your sight, hearing, and sense of smell are not necessarily keener (although they may be). But your brain processes information and reflects on it more deeply.
  • Being an HSP also means, necessarily, that you are more easily overstimulated, stressed out, overwhelmed.
  • This trait is not something new I discovered--it has been mislabeled as shyness (not an inherited trait), introversion (30% of HSPs are actually extraverts), inhibitedness, fearfulness, and the like. HSPs can be these, but none of these are the fundamental trait they have inherited.
  • The reason for these negative misnomers and general lack of research on the subject is that in this culture being tough and outgoing is the preferred or ideal personality--not high sensitivity. (Therefore in the past the research focus has been on sensitivity's potential negative impact on sociability and boldness, not the phenomenon itself or its purpose.) This cultural bias affects HSPs as much as their trait affects them, as I am sure you realize. Even those who loved you probably told you, "don't be so sensitive," making you feel abnormal when in fact you could do nothing about it and it is not abnormal at all.

Take her HSP self-test and find out if you are an HSP.

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