Highly Sensitive People. Are you one of them? How does it affect your daily work.

A long time ago when I was a boy, my mother told me a story that stayed me for many years, and I don’t think I’m the only one who heard this story! She had told me that if I continued to crack my knuckles—I loved the sound of those satisfying clicks—I would end up with rheumatism in my hands like my Aunt Josephine, who never missed an opportunity to complain about her pains. I learned in medical school that this noise was because of intra-articular microbubbles bursting and that there was no risk of rheumatism.

It took me 15 years to understand that what I believed to be true, was not. It was like having a revelation, the explosion of a set of neurotransmitters in our head when we find the answer we’ve been looking for! That’s how Archimede must have felt when he cried Eureka! Evan experienced this feeling once, and the next day he came in for a consultation on a rainy and monotonous afternoon, with a contrasting smile across his face and expressly unshaven (it is the fashion of falsely neglected)!

Appointment, January 2022.

–  Hi Doc, hope you are well!

–  Hi Evan, yes, I’m fine, thanks for asking about me! What can I do for you?

–  Nothing special, Doc, I’m just here to talk a bit, I think I figured out what’s wrong with me and wanted to talk to you about it and wrap up our discussion from last time….

Appointment October 2021 (rewind)

–  Hi Evan, you have dark circles under your eyes, what’s wrong?

–  Anne and I are breaking up; I didn’t sleep last night!

–  Oh, I’m sorry!

–  It’s nothing Doc, it’s not been going well for a few months,  and we take the lead almost every day for different reasons.

–  Different reasons?

–  Yes, she blames me for smothering her, for being too present, too caring, almost too intrusive and she blames me for my daily use of alcohol and marijuana.

–  Daily consumption?

–  Yes, but at the beginning it was only occasional, and besides she did it occasionally too. Since things haven’t been going well for a few months, I’ve been consuming more to calm down me down…

–  And how do you explain her reproaches?

–  I don’t understand, she’s blaming me for being too caring when most guys don’t care at all. I don’t know what she really wants! Unless there is nothing to understand?

–  It’s like looking at the same painting and making two different interpretations of it!

–  That’s right Doc, that’s exactly it! And ever since I was little, I have felt like I see things differently than others. I’ve always been like that, I grew up like that and became an adult like that, never asking myself questions

–  Maybe it’s time then, and we’ll have to talk about addiction when you’re ready. You shouldn’t destroy yourself like that!

–  I’m not ready Doc, but I know I can count on you!

This appointment was for Evan to express how he felt. There was no prescription apart from vitamin D, a classic during the fall!
Above all, Evan experienced intense self-questioning, to which I offered a reply that was conducive to self-analysis, without knowing exactly what was going to come out of it. The result is surprising, unexpected, for me almost unknown. In fact, it results in today’s article…

Appointment January 2022 (Back to the future).

–  The discussion from the last time?

–  Yeah, I knew I had to try to understand my feelings and emotions, so I did research, watched videos and even went to talk to a psychologist. I’m hypersensitive! This explains my very
strong emotions, my too-suffocating of an attachment to my ex-companions…

–  OK, Evan, it’s great to put your feelings into words. Hypersensitivity explains a lot of your
emotions! I confess that this is something of which I have no expertise!

–  Yes, I know Doc. A lot of people—including doctors—don’t know it well, but it’s thanks to our discussion from last time that I wanted to try to understand. I’m so happy to know that nothing is my fault, that I’m just me, I’m hypersensitive, and it’s up to someone else to accept me for who I am! There are even actors who suffer from it and who have written books on the subject.

–  Evan, I’m happy, it seems like this discovery takes away the guilt you felt about your different mistakes!

–  That’s it Doc, it’s true! I just came to share this with you. Otherwise, everything else is fine.

–  Well, if you need me, you know where to find me!

Characteristics of a Highly Sensitive Person.

In recent years, the phenomenon has captivated society, and everyone has been diagnosing their hypersensitivity and doing their own tests. I looked, indeed there is a plethora of information, but sometimes contradictory. As always in our world of ultra-information, be diligent in your research. This is how I learned: as a beginner researching according to the classic scientific methodology, by reading scientific articles with a lot of evidence. The PubMed database has thousands of articles from researchers across the world in all fields of science, providing valid and verifiable answers to anyone who has the time. After a few hours spent reading several very interesting articles, I summarized the characteristics of an HSP:

  • Very strong empathy: emotional sponge that senses the emotions of others.
  • Strong awareness: feels emotions tenfold, pays attention to detail.
  • Hyper self-awareness with a very strong intuition.
  • Hyper sensitivity to external stimuli such as light, noise and even coffee.
  • Incredible gut feeling on others’ emotions and affected by others’ moods.
  • Very important inner life, so intense loneliness, internal questions, imagination, creativity.
  • Overwhelmed by emotions, especially and easily overwhelmed when there is too much to do.

What it involves:

Evan hit the spot: hypersensitivity is not a pathology, it is not a personality disorder, nor is it a psychiatric deviance! It’s a character trait, a temperament like optimism, sympathy, or negative alter ego!
For a long time, it seemed to be unknown, especially to psychologists! It took until the early 1990s with the research of psychologist Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D. so that at last, hypersensitivity was identified! Studies say approximately 15 to 20% of people have this trait.

The aforementioned characteristics make it possible to explain HSP as a form of ill-being and social maladjustment. However, we can’t ignore the intrinsic qualities inherent in hypersensitive people, qualities that people today envy, to the point that a growing portion of people identify as HSP!

We notice changing mentalities on the subject: a few decades ago, the hypersensitive dreamer who lived in his imagination was put in a corner, suffering the mockery of others. Now, science explains their incredible creative capacity, making them envied and at the centre of a “quasi-social phenomenon”! This is all the more reason to remember that you must think about a situation with different perspectives before jumping to the most obvious and simplest conclusion out of intellectual laziness.

What to do when you feel hypersensitive? > Living with your hypersensitivity

As we have seen, hypersensitivity is not a pathology, so there will be no “solution” proposed here to get better. It would be a sign of incomprehension and unacceptance of HSPs!
Infinite possibilities exist for those with HSP, but first you must learn and understand who you are at your core.

Recognize your HSP character according to established criteria or have psychological tests taken. Elaine Aron’s questionnaire is scientifically validated.

Learn how to navigate your HSP by accepting who you are and live with it as an opportunity. Assert your difference, share and communicate with the world around you. Experience HSP as an additional asset that can be used to your advantage.

Develop your emotional intelligence: Certain characteristics of hypersensitivity (awareness, self-awareness, empathy) are fundamental to raising your EQ. Hypersensitivity is an incredible basis for increasing emotional intelligence.

10 tips to transform your life with HSP

  • Regularly take time to yourself
  • Slow down when you try process things
  • Meditate: it allows you to explore your inner world
  • Listen to music
  • Go for a walk in nature
  • Learn to say no: if it’s not 100% yes, then it’s no. You don’t need to become overwhelmed, especially for things you don’t really want to do!
  • Try the creative arts: they allow you to express your inner life
  • Avoid coffee consumption. It is over-stimulating and has negative effects on HSPs
  • Improve your sleep: quality sleep recharges your batteries and reduces sensitivity to external stimuli.
  • Limit the use of digital devices, they also are over-stimulating! The brain of an HSP needs calm and serenity to fully express itself

What to do when you’re not HSP?
> Accept differences and make them rich

Do HSPs have to adapt to the world, or should the world accept them as they are?

The core of the problem is misunderstanding the nature of the other: non-HSPs and society seem to codify feelings and unconsciously impose a dogma of “supposedly right” sensibility: just right. Not more, not less!
Is there a limit to the emotions we feel? A limit to the grief of a separation? A limit to the feeling of happiness when seeing a sunrise? A limit to the joy of seeing a childhood friend again?

These questions may sound totally silly to you, and they are! But that’s what happens when you judge another’s emotions, whether they’re HSP. In the hyper-rational world, we want to quantify the unquantifiable: it’s complete nonsense!

To this, I will add the false beliefs without going too far. I imagine that the most common is the silly and unverified association between hypersensitivity and weakness! For homo sapiens, to have emotions is to be weak, and this contradicts the definition of homo sapiens! I imagine that in time immemorial, feeling strong emotions by looking at the stars rather than chasing a mammoth could be detrimental, but in the 21st century…

Anyway, we must try to understand, and if we can’t, then at least be curious. Why is it important to try to understand?

What difference does it make knowing you’re hypersensitive? How is it a game-changer? Beyond finding the answer, it’s the research that matters most! In Evan’s specific case, the journey is more important than the destination! Can we generalize from one case? Obviously not, but the study of a personal pattern can be useful in the same way that case law applies to separate cases!

During his inner journey and in reflecting in his own past, Evan highlighted the possibility of hypersensitivity, which revealed a precise and satisfactory answer to his self-questioning. We have two analytical options:

  1. The reality of an HSP that retrospectively allows an objective critique of past situations, and above all, a projection into the future based on this new reality!
  2. The deep feeling of this reality—even though it is not true—because it explains the given situation and relieves guilt, making it easier to move forward less painfully!

Either way, the result seems to be an improved state of mind and a better understanding of one’s existence! Even though we first thought we were deviant, we are just different, and others are too, so we create a community. Together we become a force! Moreover, the hope for a better future is very present: by better understanding your situation, you have the weapons to create life you want to live.

Which of these possibilities applies to Evan? I don’t know, but he has experienced a profound paradigm shift, and it seems he has a multitude of possibilities. I am sincerely happy about it! He will build a life based on his discovery and will become a better version of himself. I’m waiting to help him so that this improved self decides to drink more water and fight stress through meditation instead of toxic substances! I will never forget my main role: kicking ass for the benefit of patients!

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