Some people are born with blue eyes, and some are with brown. HSPs are born with high sensitivity. They always know how you are feeling, or sense that something has happened without asking, and pay a lot of attention to the smallest details. For this reason they often end up working as helping professionals, such as psychologists, social or charity workers. They are deeply moved by arts and music, and so many of them can be found in artistic circles, too.
Their brain is believe to react differently to various stimuli, trying to process more information at once than "normal" people". HSPs are believed to have a very important evolutionary role in the society - using their intuition, they can sense any upcoming changes or danger in the environment much faster than others, and alert them, helping the human species to survive.
It's interesting to note that other animals, including monkeys, also have Highly Sensitive species among them, and so they clearly serve some great evolutionary purpose.
Drawbacks of being highly sensitive
High Sensitivity, though, comes with a big price. HSPs get easily overwhelmed by excessive stimulation - for instance, when the music is too loud, or when they have too many things going on at the same time. Highly sensitive children can fall sick if they have been communicating for too long with their counterparts just because they got too many impressions. These people are most often exposed to psychosomatic illnesses and need considerable amount of time to withdraw from social life to recharge their batteries. HSPs are not necessarily introverts though - it has been calculated that about 30% of highly sensitive people are in fact extraverted, and many introverts are not highly sensitive, either.
No wonder that to those who aren’t highly senstivie, HSPs might seem too demanding, difficult or fragile, and might be tricky to understand, especially in an office space. If put in the right environment, HSPs would thrive, but in a wrong environment they completely shut down, or become antisocial and difficult to deal with.
Although high sensitivity is equally distributed between men and women, it is largely believed in most societies that it's more natural for a woman, and not for a man, to be sensitive, and so it takes enormous courage to a highly sensitive man to stick to his true nature and not shut down.
Often because people who are born highly sensitive aren’t encouraged enough to cultivate that in their early childhood (Oh, sweetheart, you are too sensitive - you shouldn’t be that way! is a common way to shut your sensitivity down), they develop layers and layers of protection. To an outsider, a well-adapted HSP can appear hypermasculine or extremely practical and cynical. But behind that shell, there’s a very delicate nature that can be a big advantage - if properly used.
Another survival strategy an HSP can adopt is to avoid difficult or challenging situations that might potentially overwhelm him. They are likely to try to avoid a conflict or drama at all costs, often at the expense of their own boundaries.
So how do you thrive if you are a highly sensitive person? Chances are, you have already developed some strategy throughout your childhood and it has been more or less successful since you are alive and reading this post. However, instead of survival mechanism, you may want to look at other strategies to adapt that will allow yourself to thrive and use your gift and not just bear it.
First of all, please, know that there’s nothing wrong with you. Yes, you are in the minority and most people are not like you, but this does not mean that you are crazy or need to be fixed in any way. Quite the opposite - because only a few people have this gift, what you might for years have been thinking is your great weakness can actually be your greatest strength. Some of the most successful business people are highly sensitive, because they can sense opportunities before anyone else does. They are able to become great leaders because they feel the mood and desires of people around them.
If you are a men, being highly sensitive does not mean that you're not masculine - but your partners might find it much easier to connect with you!
Give yourself a permission to be highly sensitive - because a lot of people may benefit from your gift in professional and personal life. As a highly sensitive person, you need to be aware of the fact that it’s perfectly normal to want to withdraw from time to time, and so need to organize your life accordingly and let people around you know about it. Even if you are working in an office, it’s perfectly fine to want to hide in a closed room with your cup of coffee for some time and yet afterwards want to talk to people again.
As an HSP, you need to watch very carefully how much time you are spending online and connected. If you are on your phone/laptop 24/7, chances are that you are overstimulating yourself and getting exhausted. You more than anyone else need to be able to consciously unplug.
How to deal with a highly sensitive person
When dealing with a highly sensitive person, please, take into account that they might overreact to many things, and easily get exhausted if they get too much information at once. If you are a boss and one of your employees is constantly spending time in the bathroom or asks to work from home, there’s a chance that they are not simply trying to skive off work, but are a self-adjusting HSP. One highly sensitive person I talked complained that she absolutely could not stay in the shop she was working in because it had music in the background, and she was strongly disturbed by it. Her bosses could not believe that until she showed them the research on HSPs.
A highly sensitive child needs very strong discipline and boundaries to enable him to function well in the society. Because they have a stronger need to withdraw, make sure that they don’t have their communication devices on and with them all the time - they need some rest time, even though they might not yet recognize it. They are also more influenced by anything around them, so you need to watch them very carefully for any negative influence.
Highly sensitive people who experienced problems in their childhood are more at risk to suffer from different kinds of disorders, including depression, anxiety or various dependancies. However, those whose childhoods have been normal, are no different to others (perhaps, as the researchers point out, are even slightly happier). So nurture your highly sensitive child (or your inner child if you are highly sensitive yourself), and you're likely to feel happier than most of others.
If you are curious whether you are a highly sensitive person, you may want to take this test to determine it (takes only a couple of minutes), or come back to it after you're finished reading.