Do you have a keen imagination and vivid dreams? Is time alone each day as essential to you as food and water? Are you “too shy” or “too sensitive” according to others? Do noise and confusion quickly overwhelm you? If your answers are yes, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP).
I’m sure you’ve heard of this book. Originally published in the late 90’s, The Highly Sensitive Person is one of the pop pyschology/self-help giants. It’s all about the 20% of humans who process the world, ideas, and medications in a different way than the other 80% of humans. While I’m a big fan of these kinds of books, somehow I had completely skipped over this one. On one hand, that’s very surprising because I’m a highly sensitive person myself. (I’m also an INFJ and an Enneagram Type 4 if anyone is keeping score.) On the other hand, it’s not surprising that I’ve avoided this book because, as the book mentions, being an HSP is something a lot of us are conditioned to think is some kind of personal shortcoming or failure.
The old-school, very Texian belief is that you suck it up and get things done, and maybe it takes it’s toll on you. But, that’s what whiskey is for! And staring off stoically into the distance. So, why read this book? Why admit that you are an HSP, which could also be framed as someone who can’t handle normal life?
The thrust of this book for me is that the best way to flourish as a human is to be who you’re supposed to be. Realize that by ignoring your makeup, you’re hurting your own health. By being yourself, you are the most comfortable and competent you, and you are also better able to love and influence the people around you. That was my takeaway, and also my favorite part of the book. It’s one thing to identify a trait; it’s a better thing to figure out what to do with it. I think Dr. Aron did a good job of helping HSPs (and those who love them) be more accepting of natural traits while also nudging them to engage the world in a productive way.
If you’re an HSP, read the book! If you love an HSP, read the book! If you’re a boss, read a summary somewhere so you’re nice to your model employees!
P.S. Dr. Aron also created a workbook for HSPs. I’ve ordered it but haven’t read it, yet. I’m optimistic!