The gifts of being sensitive
Updated: Mar 6, 2020
Have you ever felt like your heart would explode with love when you see something or someone that you really admire or love? Have you ever felt really moved by listening to music or some videos that means a lot to you?
Are you somebody who cries easily? Do you feel emotions way too deeply, whether anger, sadness, hurt, anxiety or love? Do you get told a lot by people around you to toughen up because you are too sensitive? If you relate to most of this, you could be a Highly Sensitive Person or HSP. There are so many of us who feel emotions so deeply that sometimes it gets difficult to really manage them. I am definitely one of them. I have taken online tests and watched various videos by researchers like Elaine Aron who has done extensive research on this topic and has written various books about it. So what goes on with HSPs? Earlier this week, I was watching a video where a husband was struggling with his wife's mental illness. He was trying to be there for her and I could empathize with his struggle and also the wife's struggle with accepting her own illness. Watching this video moved me so much that I had tears in my eyes. Being a Psychologist I come across such cases almost on a daily basis. So sometimes it makes me feel very unsettled when I get so affected emotionally. Over the years however, I have learnt to accept that I am an over sensitive person and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. I just had to learn how to manage my own emotions better so that It does not affect my objectivity. What seems to happen with HSPs is when they come across any sensory or emotionally stimulating situations, they sometimes over-empathize with what they see or hear. Simply put, they can get into another person's shoe very easily and feel how they feel. This can definitely make them more approachable and comforting to be around. On the other hand, it also makes them more vulnerable and can be taken for granted. Others may assume that this person will always be there for them even at the cost of their own peace. And many a times, if not worked upon, HSPs do tend to be there for people without considering their own needs.
Another aspect of HSPs is that they experience the world quite vividly. Because of their sensitivity in processing information, everything they witness gets processed much more deeply. As a result, most HSPs have quite a good memory for detail. They can observe even subtle things in their environment that may be missed by their counterparts. Due to their sensitivity in processing information and their keen sense of observation, they use up a lot of their energy. This generally leaves them feeling exhausted more easily and can make them sluggish or lethargic too. The most important of all is to know that there is nothing wrong with being an HSP. They are not better or worse, rather just different. The way they experience the world is a little more intense than others. They don't need to toughen up or become somebody else. Rather embracing their sensitivity empowers them to be more authentic and express themselves more freely. So the question is, how can an HSP learn to embrace their sensitivity and yet not feel overwhelmed all the time? How can they go about their daily functioning and still be themselves? Below are some tips that might help. 1. Accept that you are more sensitive than your peers. Accepting allows you to be aware of how you feel things around you which makes it easier for them to pass. 2. Recognize the difference between your feelings and other people's feelings. This can be achieved by asking yourself how you feel about the specific trigger in question. 3. Get to know yourself better. It is easy for an HSP to forget who they are or what is important to them as they get so involved in other people's feelings and perceptions . So spending time alone and reflecting about things gives clarity to them about their own individuality. 4. Grounding yourself will help you center yourself and make you feel calmer. It will help keep the intensity of your emotions in check.
5. Learn of develop healthy boundaries. When you are an HSP, it is natural to want to be there for others more often, because its easy to empathize. You would want to help others because you feel their struggles. But this could also leave you feeling exhausted with your cup being empty most of the time. Boundaries are a great way to make yourself stop when it gets too much and refill your cup with self care. Your feelings are as important as other's feelings.
To summarize it, I'd say if you relate to being a HSP or know anybody around you who you think might be more sensitive than others, help them by supporting them and accepting them. Just because you are more sensitive does not mean you have to suffer the extremes of experiencing emotions that come with it. You can learn to regulate your emotions.
Also remember, being sensitive is actually a gift, as it helps you experience life more fully. So use your gifts of empathy, love, compassion to help others in need and at the same time keep your intensity in check. Its OK to feel all emotions intensely, however being aware of them will empower us to regulate them and reduce any unnecessary stress.