My Highly Sensitive Person Experience

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I started a conversation with a remarkable creative person, Alex of Kindnessville, about what being a Highly Sensitive Person is, so I decided to blog about it in case it helps anyone understand the attributes of such people.

For 30 years, one woman has become the key researcher and authority in coining the term, Highly Sensitive Person – Elaine Aron.  Her work is linked inside this 2012 Huffington Post article by a psychology professor who describes the qualities of HSP’s and what we can do to cope in the best summary I have seen.

14 Characteristics of HSP’s

‘Sponge on a bus’ phenomenon

Before I learned of any such label as HSP, I described my experience once as being a “sponge on a bus.”  For years I used public transit in a major urban area.   What I found happening during my hour or so on a bus was I would become aware I was feeling everything from anger to anxiety to sadness to grief, all from a sense of absorbing energies from the folks who shared my ride.  By the time I emerged from the bus, I felt like a dripping emotional sponge sloshing down the steps.   I have since learned that is what being an empath is all about, and I have adapted my life to actually avoid public situations and/or psychologically protect myself when in them.

Natural World  vs. Human World

I have always had a deep sensitivity to the natural world.  Dreamed of oceans and breathing underwater with whales and sharks.  Worshiped desert plants and a hamster named Henry.  Over the past few years of studying ecopsychology and becoming aware there are many others with extreme sensitivity to their psyche’s merging with the natural world, I have felt greater self-esteem and sense of purpose.

My hope is to eventually be engaged in work that shares this sensitivity with others to help reconnect them to their innate nature, with my project in progress, Healing Outdoors.  With input from others, I hope to revision this webpage I created two years ago and create a concrete action plan soon.

Here are a list of qualities I experience as a highly sensitive person in relation to the natural world as opposed to groups of people (I do see the irony that humans ARE nature as my friend, Kiri, points out in her blog by the same name).

Outdoors in the natural world I tend to feel:

~ Expansive
~ Infinite
~ Supported
~ Nurtured
~ Accepted
~ Fascinated
~ Curious

Among groups of people indoors and/or in close relationships I tend to feel:

~ Limited
~ Caged
~ Judged
~ Confused
~ Overwhelmed
~ Absorbed
~ Alone

Exceptions to these rather stifling feelings for me over years of searching for “my peeps” are groups involved in meditation, groups involved in crafting/knitting/writing, groups involved in making music together, groups involved in actions benefiting mother earth, especially working respectfully with the earth itself.

For me personally, balancing/creating sustainable relationships with others while being a functional healthy person has been a lifelong challenge.  I also battle continually with self-esteem when I am with others.  As I work on ways to center myself more and more and stand inside my own power even amid groups of people, I hope to be able to share whatever gifts my sensitivities carry.

About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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6 Responses to My Highly Sensitive Person Experience

  1. You described me perfectly. I am very aware after many years in therapy how HSP is a very real challenge. And I am keep to protect myself like you from any energy suckers. Love your writing Erin! I can totally relate to YOU!

  2. Justine says:

    Wow, this was an amazing post. I have always considered myself to be highly sensitive to my surroundings, but I don’t usually feel victimized by it. I don’t know if victimized is the right word.. but I think being sensitive is a double edged sword. On one hand you have to take extra care to protect yourself from harmful energies that can bring you down, but on the other you have an extraordinary gift to empathize and have compassion.. to connect to your surroundings and people in a way that many people are too closed off to experience. I don’t think I necessarily fall into the HSP category, maybe I am just very sensitive (I don’t feel unwell around crowds of people, unless they ARE unwell). I think through the practice of awareness and spirituality, and knowing that you are a sentient being of unwavering love and goodness, really helps you to have compassion and be sensitive, without letting it diminish your spirit. Really nothing can diminish your spirit, as nothing can touch your spirit but love and kindness. But a negative stimulus can make us close off our core of love and light from our environment, and that is the diminished feeling that we get. Practicing to stay open and loving and strong will help you to utilize your gifts. I am not good at explaining what I am trying to say, but you should check out this book called “The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself” by Michael A. Singer. I think you may find the section on “experiencing energy” most helpful. It really helped me to understand how I react to my environment, and how I have the choice to remain loving and not feel diminished by a negative stimulus. It’s a wonderful quick read at the least 🙂

  3. Erin W says:

    Thanks for the comment and suggestion, Justine! I will definitely look for the book, as working on energy grounding is very helpful for me. Among my nature-loving friends, I find it a commonality that many tend to feel fully alive, connected to source, connected to spirit when in nature but constrained or limited around fellow humans. I am convinced a lot of our physical and emotional suffering can be alleviated by conscious reconnection to the natural world and therefore our innate selves, but because most of us are all raised inside a disconnected culture, possibly the constrained feeling I experience around other humans is due to that. When I spend more time around folks who share this experience of self as deeply interconnected to nature, then I feel hopeful. I have just struggled with relationships lifelong, and solitude has been a good friend. Solitude and meditation is where I experience my beyond body loving soul the most. : )

  4. Justine says:

    I completely agree on that philosophy (if you even want to call it that, more like fact!), that we ARE nature, and most people have become so removed from it that it causes great stress, usually without even realizing that is where their stress is coming from. Think about the most common relation techniques.. they pretty much all involve a nature element.. soundscapes… trickling water fountains… spending time with a beloved pet.. let alone actually going outside!

    I’m so glad I came upon your post. I did some research after reading it, and found that I am INDEED a HSP. I read that everyone has slightly different stimuli experiences, like someone may be sensitive to smells, but not sound, and vice versa. Plus your life experiences and other factors like having anxiety can make it a different experience for someone.

    One thing I know, is it is DEFINITELY a gift, not a weakness 🙂 Thank you for the info!

  5. Justine says:

    ****sorry that should say RELAXATION techniques not relation!

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