It turns out, nothing was or is wrong. Alanis Morissette and many other people belong to the so-called highly sensitive people (about 20% of population have this high sensitivity trait). It has been scientifically proven that sensitive people experience the surrounding environment stronger than others, noticing more subtleties and details in it than “normal” people. Noise is noisier and colors are brighter for HSPs. They are aware of the feelings and moods of other people and are often affected by them. HSPs are often very intuitive and can almost know what’s going on without asking you.
Dr Elaine Aron who co-authored the film has been studying high sensitivity for nearly two decades, and shares in it her latest findings. High sensitivity is not a disease, but rather a genetic modification that allegedly allowed the humans survive as species as sensitive people were able to notice the subtlest change in the environment and urge the rest of the population about them. Sensitivity comes with a price though, because a sensitive person can easily get overwhelmed when the environment is too stimulating. They are people who can easily get emotional, and can be seen crying, or getting upset with no obvious reason. Again, for somebody who’s not highly sensitive this behaviour might seem unexplainable or childish.
This leads to probably one of the most difficult part of being an HSP in the modern society e fact that this trait isn’t widely recognized or accepted. As any tool, sensitivity is only useful to us when we know how to use it, and this is not something that has been strongly encouraged. For instance, intuition – a typical ability of a highly sensitive person, is often disregarded as a secondary tool to analytical abilities. Men especially are discouraged to use it or rely on intuition, and it requires enormous courage for a men to start using their intuition. Whereas high sensitivity is equally spread between men and women, only a few men choose to cultivate it or aren’t ashamed to accept it – or even more, make use of it. At the same time, most entrepreneurs are very intuitive (and often highly sensitive) – if you ask any truly great entrepreneur, they will always talk about the vision and gut feeling, and seldom about rigorous analysis.
A society where sensitivity is seen as a drawback (“Don’t be too sensitive!” - mothers often tell their children) and an obstacle to the career (“You’re always asking for a special attitude, why can’t you be like everyone else?”) isn’t designed to explore or support sensitivity. Indeed, if you look at today’s typical lifestyle, most of the time our nervous system and brain are stimulated and we are never in silence. Just think about how many hundreds of advertising messages you come across on your way to work. Or how many times a day to get a notification on your phone or laptop and are encouraged to check them (the latest stats is that an average person checks their phone 221 times per day). Under such circumstances, a highly sensitive person is left with two choices – they either shut down altogether and stop recognizing or demonstrating their sensitivity, or they withdraw from the surrounding environment.
This is why the appearance of the movie “Sensitive” is important not only for sensitive people. It hopefully signifies a landmark that will get us to openly talk about people who are more sensitive than the rest, to stop trying to correct them and actually start taking advantage of their sensitivity – as our ancestors did. Perhaps if we recognize that certain people can perceive the world stronger and more intensely we will also start looking at what kind of world we’re building, and whether there are adjustments that need to be made.