Do you know someone who is easily overwhelmed, stressed by noise or by having a lot to do in a short amount of time? In my 40 years, I met many people who had completely different reactions to stressful situations, or challenging tasks, like choosing wall paint color shades, or being confronted with too many household jobs at once. Some handle it, some handle it less and some have meltdowns.
I know I am certainly a sensitive person, often reacting highly sensitive. That means my brain fries when stressed, where others are still fine. Often hidden beliefs from my past influence the situation. Like ‘I should to better than this’, or, ‘If I can’t handle this load, I am a failure’, etc… That self-induced pressure, of course, doesn’t help at all. In kinesiology, being in a state of survival was my constant diagnosis and issue.
I could feel overstimulated when external stimuli get too much, like when conversations, TV, and music noises are happening all at once. A busy pub e.g. overloads my capacity to take things in and process them so I usually avoid them – besides that, I pick up energies from others, and alcohol does lower the bar of restraint and respect.
I still can’t have masses of people around me or I might feel like exploding – at least sometimes try to get away for catching my breath, for space. Festivals are hell for me. Too many people, too much noise, smells, thoughts and intentions. And so is the city.
I easily startle when someone enters the room behind me and I don’t hear them. When they silently walk up to me (don’t ever do that), I actually do scream, jump and scare to death any person who snuck up on me (without intending to do so). I often retract into my inner safe and intense world and then the outer seems to sneak up on me.
Understanding ourselves is key to function and feel more in control. I understood that there are usually a few components coming together to cause my brain to fry. As an example, I am low in money, have a broken down car, someone insults me and I am still hurting about it and then my child wants not pancakes but waffles although I already have cooked them. I snap at her. Hmmm.
When analysing a triggering situation for me and my sensitivity usually a few issues have built up and the pressure gets too much. I have not taken care of myself enough and supported myself how to balance it all out. That’s me, at least.
The positives are that, as a cook and artist, I am acutely aware of fine flavors and tastes, as well as colours and nuances in shades. Also, I am a highly intuitive empath and can feel and read people from miles away, whatever their moods. Sometimes can even read their thoughts (no kidding). I am a great listener, an intuitive coach, a teacher, healer and have great compassion and understanding. I am a great friend.
However, there are certain levels of sensitivity beyond my own comprehension. When I simply need to allow someone to behave ‘weak’. Often in my life, I had to be strong and toughen up so my skin is fairly thick, most of the times, so when others behaved more sensitive than myself I had experienced them as weak.
A little story: One day a friend of mine who is an HSP, had 10 hardly different shades of muddy yellow as stickers on the wall. I did see the various shades (after all I am an artist) but didn’t think all in all they made a huge difference. They were all muddy yellow, some greyer than the others. When I had a chuckle about it saying they are all the same (not liking any of them), she began crying feeling deeply unseen and dismissed by me.
While I understood her feelings and apologised, in the long run, as you might be able to see it was too exhausting to spend a lot of time with her. I constantly had to walk on eggshells usually breaking most of them. Which may make me less sensitive than her, but doesn’t make me a bad friend.
To be an HPS is intense, and to be with a highly sensitive person is challenging as well. They often dominate the friendship, partnership or group, especially if they speak up about their needs and often need/wish all circumstances adjusted to their needs.
I am not saying their needs are wrong, not at all. However, there is a time and a place for everything and not everyone is as sensitive. Compromises and strategies need to be formed so everyone’s needs are met.
I am still a very sensitive person myself and had to come to terms with it. It is my responsibility to take care of my needs and form a plan. Knowing myself helps to prepare sufficiently ahead so less dense stressful situations arise. but life can’t be controlled, so learning a few tools to release stress are rather helpful. Like EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique, or Tapping,) or The Healing Code, just to mention a few.
A few years back we would have been called whiners who should ‘get over themselves’. Now there is a term and a physical state to it and that is some comfort, but are HSP’s now looked at like some weirdos, where being touchy is made officially legal?
Research and medicine take us more seriously nowadays. And yes, some HSP’s moan and complain a lot, but only because they do not understand themselves and make their environment responsible. They usually demand of others to change so they are more at ease.
However, that’s not how the world works. We need to find the environment that works for us, create the spaces, the lifestyle. That is the truth if we like it or not.
The HSP brains process things differently, firing more intensely, and translate emotional input and triggers into louder experiences than for average sensitive people. For an HSP the blood flows more strongly in areas of their brain involving emotions and awareness, particularly those that are connected with empathetic feelings.
Therefore an HSP can’t help but feel intensely, have a rich inner life, and take in more information than many others around them, but they get overloaded more easily, too. So the challenge is to listen in and to tune out, to let in and to find the limits, and to be clear on our boundaries.
If my HSP friend would not have expected me to constantly dance after her sensitive tune, we would still be friends. Sadly, we could not find our common ground, however, I know it exists and if people do care for one another compromises can be found.
Most of us in friendships or relationships are sensitive and intelligent enough to move towards that common ground, even if it’s foggy, loud or crowded. Because besides being highly sensitive, we all want to feel connected and to belong. So that we can call some common ground.
If some of my experiences ring a bell for you, maybe there are coping mechanisms and new ways to understand and appreciate yourself.