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Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD

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Characteristics of Highly-Sensitive People

Posted: 03/ 5/2012 3:04 pm

Psychologist Elaine Aron writes in her book The Highly Sensitive Person that about 15 to 20 percent of the population is characterized as highly sensitive (HS). She adds that about 30 percept of people are moderately sensitive, while 50 percent of people think of themselves as being sensitive while they are "not at all sensitive."

What being highly sensitive is NOT:
1. Emotionally immature
2. Self-centered
3. Unpredictable and unstable emotions
4. Over-dependent
5. Demanding and attention thirsty

Characteristics of highly sensitive people:
1. Have great imagination
2. Have great intellectual abilities
3. Are creative
4. Have a curious mind
5. Are hard workers
6. Are good problem solvers
7. Are extremely conscious and compassionate
8. Are intuitive, caring and spiritual
9. Have a strong sense of aesthetic awareness
10. Respect nature, art and music greatly
11. Have profound and intense sensations
12. Can access important information from the unconscious mind
13. Have a depth of understanding and feelings
14. Are objective and can see the bigger picture

If these individuals don't learn to handle their high sensitivity, they may suffer greatly. Some of these are a loss of balance when it comes to a self-sacrifice schema, which always leads to emotional deprivation. For instance, Jeffrey E. Young links high sensitivity, or as he calls it, the "highly empathic temperament" with the Self-Sacrifice Schema (Young, 2003, pp. 246-251), which in turn is almost always related to the Emotional Deprivation Schema. In his opinion, these individuals need to learn to focus on themselves instead of or before focusing on others and to learn to get their own needs met fist, needs they typically are not aware of. After that self understanding, they will have a clear picture of what they want to do with their life to make a difference.

Some ways that can help HS people manage their abilities:

1. Emotionally, highly-sensitive individuals are easily overstimulated up to a point where they may experience great pain or great joy. They can have a combination of an introvert and an extrovert personality traits due to the fact that they need to be by themselves to become centered, and they also love connecting to other people and their environment. As reported before, many of these people learn to mask this gift of sensitivity, intuition and creativity because they do not know how to deal with the overstimulation. Cognitive modification can be helpful

2. Physically, highly-sensitive people need time and space to be by themselves to process the amount of input they absorb. They may have low tolerance to noise and anything too strong when it comes to sensations. They also seem to have more body awareness and can feel when their body is not comfortable in an environment. Therefore, nutritionally they have to stick to simple foods that are full of nutrients and have a healthy balance. They also have to connect to nature and do regular exercise, relaxation, meditation and any other activities that go with their nature to calm themselves down and recharge after the over stimulation.

3. Socially, sometimes HS people may feel like misfits and have to learn ways to tolerate imperfections they see in the depth of others. They need to learn to connect while having clear boundaries as to when to say no and how far to go with something and someone. In addition, HS people need to become assertive and have regular "me" times. When it comes to their social personality, these individuals are usually shy, but their shyness is not because they are weak but rather is based on a need to survive. Since their nature is oversensitive, biologically they are designed to be shy as a self-protection mode. However, if the shyness is too much and is affecting their need to be social and to connect, then they can modify it through behavioral and cognitive modification.

4. Additionally, they have to learn to give and receive love and they have to realize that the process has to have a balance point. They have to understand that self sacrifice that leads to emotional deprivation is not healthy. They have to allow themselves to be vulnerable, face problems rather than running away from them, relate positively to life, and learn from their experiences. Some of these individuals avoid some areas of their life and some of the challenges because of their oversensitivity not realizing that in some of these challenges lies great opportunity.

5. And last but not least, these individuals have to find a meaning in their life. All humanity desires this but for HS people, this is a need. It is their innermost desire to help others be happy, and they can use their abilities to bring their creative side out and make this world a better place for all, even if a small step.

Overall, many of our writers, creators, inventors, imaginaries, discoverers, and people who have contributed greatly to this world may fall in the category of highly sensitive. We need more of these people and we need to encourage them to unleash their potential. For those people who want to become more sensitive, they have to learn ways to overcome society's encouragement to be overly analytical, materialistic and competitive and to encourage themselves and others to cherish this trait and make the best of it.

Sources:

1. Aron, Elaine. The highly sensitive person.
2. Young, Jeffrey E. et al. 2003. Schema Therapy: a practitioner's guide.

Some suggestions to read:

"The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide" with foreword by Elaine Aron, and "The Highly Sensitive Person's Companion" by Ted Zeff, PhD.

Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD
Self Knowledge Base & Foundation
A non-profit dedicated to public education
www.SelfKnowledgeBase.com

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