Are You Highly Sensitive?
I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment T F
Other people's moods affect me T F
I tend to be very sensitive to pain T F
I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days T F
I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine T F
I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by T F
I have a rich, complex inner life T F
I am made uncomfortable by loud noises T F
I am deeply moved by the arts or music T F
I am conscientious T F
I startle easily T F
I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time T F
I am aware when people are uncomfortable in a physical environment T F
I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once T F
I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things T F
I make it a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows T F
I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me T F
Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me T F
Changes in my life shake me up T F
I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art T F
I make it a high priority to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations T F
When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise T F
When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy T F
If you answered true to twelve or more of these questions, you're probably highly sensitive. Yet, no psychological test is so accurate that you should base your life on it. You may have found a few to be extremely true, and some not true at all. You need to feel your way though because it is you who will know whether you are highly sensitive or not!
This quiz is adapted from the works of Elaine Aron, Ph.D.
Aron, E. (2016). The Highly Sensitive Person. Harmony: New York
Article posted in the Wholife Magazine in 2018.
To some, being an HSP is a beautiful thing and for others it can be a struggle. For me it was a struggle at times and now it is a blessing. Being sensitive strengthens my ability to access extensive information about clients upon meeting them and it allows me to be a medium and conduit for those who have passed on.
Regardless of how you feel about your sensitivity, it is important to know more about it. HSP is a temperamental trait that affects 15-20% of the population. This trait is not specific to humans, and can be found in other living species from antelope to fruit flies. Those who are highly sensitive have enhanced awareness of opportunities and threats, and thus are valuable to any species. HSPs tend to pay more attention to details and then use the knowledge gained to make better predictions. They are often more intuitive and creative as they tend to be more right-brained thinkers.
Brain activity in HSPs is different. They take in more stimuli then the average person. One of the most interesting studies done by Acevedo, Aron, Aron, Collins, & Brown (2014) shows that HSPs have increased brain activity in regions reflecting awareness, empathy, and motor control in response to others’ emotions. Unfortunately, sometimes the ability to take in an abundance of information from others, themselves, and their environment can result in overload or overstimulation.
Dr Elaine Aron describes overstimulation by stating:
“If you are going to notice every little thing in a situation, and if the situation is complicated (many things to remember), intense (noisy, cluttered, etc), or goes on too long (a two-our commute), it seems obvious that you will also have to wear out sooner from having to process so much so thoroughly. Others, not noticing much or any of what you have, will not tire as quickly. They may even think it quite strange that you find it too much to sightsee all day and go to a nightclub in the evening.”
It is vital that HSPs do not “toughen up” and push through overstimulation. This pushing may result in a meltdown. For some that may be kicking and screaming (i.e. your child) and for others that may mean shutting themselves away from the world for a couple of days (i.e. you, your spouse or your employee). Instead, HSPs need to use their awareness and check into their level of stimulation. Notice the subtleties when you start to feel overwhelmed. For example, when I begin to feel overwhelmed, I bite my lower lip, clench my jaw and pull my shoulders up. When I start to feel myself doing these actions, it is time for a break.
Because overstimulation is the number one challenge of an HSP, I have put together many little tricks that I use and teach to others. Here are a few examples. To calm your heightened nervous system cut out stimuli from your outer environment by closing your eyes, going for a walk, or leaving
undesirable situations. To cut out inner stimuli breathe, focus, and repeat a calming mantra such as “I am peaceful; I am balanced”. To reduce impact from the minds of those around you, know you are respected and create mental boundaries with others.
All these techniques are good to use in the moment, but the real benefits come from both moving through mental and spiritual blockages and then using your sensitivity in a good way; in a way that is aligned with authentic values. This is what I have been taught by my teachers and this is what I teach to others. The goal is not to gain control over sensitivity, but to live in harmony with it and share its beauty with others