Sensitivity the Secret Superpower

BY Ross from UPLIFT
Sensitivity the Secret Superpower
Highly Sensitive People have so much to share.

I woke up abruptly, dazed and disoriented. It took me a few moments to get my bearings. It was light, definitely morning. I came to, slowly recognising that I wasn’t alone. As I turned my head, there was my daughter’s face less than a hands-distance away. She came in for a fierce morning cuddle, wringing me out like a bear.

I looked up to see my partner walking into the room, a slight look of concern on her face. As I saddled up in my bed, grunting with the effort of dragging my still-attached child with me, I asked my partner “What’s up?”.

“We were just having a chat about something that happened at school yesterday.” She replied.

My partner proceeded to relay the story that my daughter was being bullied at school for being a ‘cry-head’. Naturally sensitive, she struggles with loud noise and the past few days at school had apparently been pretty raucous. We were coming into the intensity of our sub-tropical summer. Cue overheated, overtired and overstimulated children. 

My daughter had fled from all the excitement during a lesson break. Overwhelmed, she had needed an emotional release and had gone to sit under a tree for a little cry. It was at this point that she’d been approached by a group of girls who had started calling her names and asking why she cried all the time. She lost it, sobbing uncontrollably until a teacher found her and comforted her.

“Stop Being So Sensitive!”

My own journey with sensitivity was one of both control and denial. I grew up in the 1980’s UK, still an era where one ‘just got on with things’, and ‘didn’t make a fuss’. I subtly learnt that ‘being sensitive’ was not a good thing. Crying, especially in public, was generally frowned upon. Bottling feelings silently encouraged. Any signs of ‘being emotional’ quickly judged as a form of weakness.

“…”I quickly learned to hide and disconnect from my sensitivity. Image: Jake Young

In my late twenties, I met my free-spirited partner. We got along great, bonding through yoga, healthy eating, and dubious 80’s music. What was not initially apparent, however, was the vast difference in our emotional landscapes. Although confident and outgoing on the surface, she was unknowingly a Highly Sensitive Person. I was still playing the role of a stoic British male. When arguments started, they would quickly spiral out of control. My logical and reserved sensibilities would butt against her emotional and acutely sensitive nature. Frustratedly telling my partner to “stop being so emotional”, and questioning “why are you crying?” was my norm. In hindsight, this was the worst reaction I could have had.

Over the years, I became more familiar and comfortable with my partner’s reactions, and with a few hiccups here and there, I became more competent at holding her through these times. We started a family, and over the ensuing years, I began to notice similar traits in our young daughter. After the playground incident, I decided it was time to get some answers.

The Sensitivity in Us All

The term Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) was coined by research psychologist Elaine Aron in her book The Highly Sensitive Person. Based on years of clinical research, and with a strong desire to understand her own psyche, Dr. Aron theorised that approximately 15-20% of the population fall into the HSP category. Often genetically inherited, HSP is not a condition as such, but a set of traits. The degree to which a person will identify with the characteristics of being an HSP can lessen or increase over time. For example, our level of sensitivity can be strongly influenced by external factors, such as our upbringing, our living environment and our relationships with those around us.

Dr. Aron points out that everyone is sensitive to some degree. A moderate level of stress-response remains essential to our survival and part of our in-built fight-or-flight response. Many people who believe they are not sensitive are merely lacking awareness of this innate sensitivity, and often, as in my own case, it’s a result of a lifetime of cultural conditioning.

“…”Everyone is sensitive to some degree. Image: Semina Psichogiopoulou

Rather than seeing high levels of sensitivity as a weakness, Dr. Aron takes a more nuanced view. While acknowledging the challenges this brings, she also has identified how these traits played an important role in society. Extremely receptive to their environment and highly intuitive, HSP’s are very tuned to subtle signs, such as being able to sense danger, as well as the needs of the young, old and sick. Formerly HSP’s were our eyes and ears, our watchers on the lookout guarding our communities.

Being Highly Sensitive

Due to a high level of attunement, situations that seem reasonable to some can be easily overwhelming for those with a highly sensitive nature. Loud noises, bright lights, being suddenly put under pressure and being exposed to strong emotions from others are all examples of areas where a highly sensitive person can struggle. They can also react very strongly to simulants, becoming hyper-excited, and then quickly slump after consuming alcohol or caffeine, for example.

On the flip side, the refined sensitivity allows for a more keen awareness of subtle details, such as being able to spot mistakes. Before I knew this, I often admonished partner and daughter for being overly pedantic. It also allows for a more insightful perception of their own emotional landscape, and that of others. They are often highly empathetic and attuned to the needs of others. The desire to more easily deal with stress and live in harmony with their surroundings means they are often attracted to calming meditative and healing practices. 

Letting Go of My ‘Highly Sensitive’ Judgement

In western culture, traits like being tough, stoic & outgoing are often seen as ideal. Our stories are full of victims who are portrayed as weak, over-sensitive, introverted and vulnerable. As I can attest from my own struggle with stunted sensitivity, I have readily judged the higher level of sensitivity in others and labelled it as a weakness. I grew up with movies like Star Wars & Lord of the Rings that portray a more traditional ‘hero’s journey’ narrative. Traits like sensitivity and vulnerability must be overcome as part of the character’s journey of transformation.  

My own path of self-discovery has been to recognise it’s ok to be sensitive, authentically vulnerable and to shed the cultural imprints that have restricted my emotional growth. I am starting to trust the deep wisdom that can come from listening to my intuition, that innate knowing that is natural for highly sensitive people. It has not been effortless for me but I am slowly reprogramming my software with this new, more compassionate and empathetic coding.

“…”I am starting to trust the deep wisdom that can come from listening to my intuition. Image: Jeremy Bishop

This journey of opening has brought a more profound love and understanding of the magical gifts of my highly sensitive partner and daughter. Seeing my daughter being belittled for her tenderness has brought forward a strong desire to be part of rewriting this outdated narrative. I want to educate and tell new stories where our sensitivity and vulnerability are cherished and valued rather than judged and diminished. I have taken to telling my daughter that her sensitivity is one of her superpowers and greatest gifts to the world. Something she can embrace and show to the world, rather than hide it in a dark corner.

It has been difficult to let go of learned prejudices. It has taken strides in my understanding of acceptance and unravelling years of conditioning to appreciate that everyone, in varying degrees, can be open, sensitive and vulnerable. We all have our little quirks, be that highly sensitive or any other ‘labels’. It helps me to remember we are all human first and foremost and underneath it all, perfect just as we are.

~

It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. – Jiddu Krishnamurti

Do you identify as being a highly sensitive person? Or do you have a highly sensitive person in your life? We would love to hear about your experience, the challenges and the beauty. How have you accepted the sensitivity in yourself and in others?

With love

Team UPLIFT

BY Ross from UPLIFT
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References

https://hsperson.com/ https://highlysensitiverefuge.com/highly-sensitive-person-signs/ https://www.psychologytoday.com/au/blog/communication-success/201711/24-signs-highly-sensitive-person

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Gigi
Gigi
11 months ago

I am a Highly Sensitive Person, probably since birth. During this journey I’ve been terribly bullied, scolded and told I’m sensitive more times that I can count. Bullied even as an adult in the workplace. I’m a person that notices things, the details or minutiae details that most don’t see. I can usually tell how a story or situation will play out, immediate or down the road. My emotions toward things can be beautiful or very painful.

I started to understand my sensitivity later in life. It’s really taken a long time and I spend a lot of time on my own, however I’m married. I’ve had some difficult times. I’m still challenged with certain parts of it but learning to undertake how to pull strength from it and how to rise above people who do not understand it, or see my sensitivity as a power, a gift. I’m learning to value myself more with this and to take care of myself better.

I noticed a lot of people with this have struggled their whole lives and I can understand it.

I’m really happy I found this site and really enjoy the posts.

Yunus
Yunus
10 months ago

I live a contradiction where I’m highly sensitive but repress expression of feelings as I learnt that expressing your feelings is not being strong.

To Rosa (author of article) I found great solace in the works of Gabor Mate and he provides much insight into parenting and also how our parenting style, and other life issues, are shaped by our own relationship with our patents.

UPLIFT
Editor
UPLIFT
10 months ago
Reply to  Yunus

Thank you for sharing Yunus 🙂 Yes, we love Gabor Mate’s work and have shared some of it in other articles.

May you find ease in expressing your feelings.
Blessings,
Team UPLIFT

Anita
Anita
10 months ago

It can be tough to be HSP. I was born in the 50’s and always felt like something was wrong with me because that was what I was told over and over. Not only do HSP’s have a hard time handling the noise and craziness of the world but also the bullying which makes it all 10x more difficult.

UPLIFT
Editor
UPLIFT
10 months ago
Reply to  Anita

I’m sorry to hear that Anita, that sounds difficult indeed. I hope these days you feel more accepted and appreciated for your gift.

Much love to you and thank you for sharing <3
Blessings,
Team UPLIFT

Michelle Mitch
Michelle Mitch
8 months ago

First huge Thank you , for the conversation. Yes sensitive is truth, truth, non suppressed, for most folks is difficult, so multiple distractions are the normalized ways. Truth and sensitivity are hand and hand. When one terms “your too sensitive” are they referring to emotional intelligence? Emotional intelligence is a wheel to understand, so our ways of seeing can allow for a bouyantantcy. Our whole society in the west, is build on the vibe of ego, driven by goals , aims and wins/ loses. Entertainments, in sports drill this to athletes, famious folks who make it to the top we know have battled to get there. Many stories of endurance and not enough of truth and fortitude. Wisdom , is stillness. Love in action , invests in listening differently, knowing the ego has, a place , but while becoming softer, the ego learns compassion. We all come from the same place a womb, a quite place…..,that loving container. When we enter the world our nervious system is so bombarded with stimuli, we learn to adapt. Normalizing Our nervous system , or numbing and dumb down truth. Our ability to see one another authentically especially during these times is a challenge., I , as a very sensitive person all my life ask a few Q’s To others who too are equal in energy….when I have a chance..I send love as a carpet to walk upon, roll it out for others who may tred it with “muddy loud boots” for when one delivers pure intentional love as a choice to move forward with, and another wishes to walk bare foot on that loving carpeted path……we can see clearly who leaves foot prints to clean up, or who leaves no mess. In my case I had an NDE early in life , perhaps this contributes to my loving sensitive self. That all said, we are all here to learn from one another. May the words of thy tougue learn to be sweet, vs bitter. One ounce of prevention is so worth a lb. of cure……..intentions are our future tool to bring our heart together vs apart. My the intention in your and other’s day become fused with love in action…….for in the end it is how we treat the each other which will be how we arrive at results. My profession is a massage therapist for 25 years, and have allowed my gift to aid other. It is a tool in my tool box that serves me well. Those who rather not learn to use I teatime ways, and listen , with silent hearts , are left behind, as they entangle to stir muddy waters all around. Note remember silent , and listen in English have the letters and meaning …go figure! ( pointed out by a 7 yr. old)

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