An explanation of sensory processing sensitivity, a temperament/personality trait
In this book, Dr Aron identifies and explains what sensory processing sensitivity (a highly sensitive person) means and what it looks like in the people who have this trait. Highly sensitive people (HSPs) are easily overstimulated and often misunderstood in our current culture that idealizes extroversion and constant stimulation. According to the author, HSPs comprise approximately 15-20% of the population. Could you or someone you know be included in this?
From the author’s website:
- Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
- Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
- Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
- Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
- Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
- Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
- Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
- When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?
There is a self-test available on her website for those who answered yes to many/most of the above question.
Introversion vs sensitivity – Dr Aron talks about the differences of introversion and high sensitivity. They are not the same thing, though there are areas where they can seemingly overlap. Extroverts can be highly sensitive, for example.
Response to stimulation – HSPs are very sensitive to stimulation. This often means that they quickly get tired in high stimulation environments (like a group gathering in a crowded restaurant with music playing and many people talking at once) a need to get away to recharge. Stimulation can come from any of the senses, but especially through sights and sounds.
Highly sensitive people feel like outcasts – A common feeling among HSPs is that they are fatally flawed. They have a trait that isn’t appreciated in our modern age, even looked down upon. They often avoid high stimulation group activities due to their trait and can end up as loners because of this.
Benefits of high sensitivity – HSPs can greatly benefit from this trait in creative and artistic professions. They tend to be highly intuitive and empathetic. While this can cause trouble in some careers and relationships, in the right setting it can be a fantastic gift.
Practical wisdom for HSPs – This isn’t just a theoretical or abstract book, it is full of practical wisdom and therapy/counseling activities that you can do to help identify the problem areas in life and what you can do about it. Each chapter ends with follow up questions and thing you can talk about with your counselor or therapist if you decide to seek professional help for any issues related to this.
I really enjoyed this book. Partly because I identify as an HSP and I have HSPs in my family. It really helps to explain personality and temperament beyond the typical, stereotypical definitions of introversion. This book could also be really helpful for people who don’t have this trait but have a loved one or family member who does. It’s easy to misinterpret the actions of someone without understanding what is going on inside them. Once you have a better understanding, it can help decrease resentment and hard feelings. I also recommend it for people who work in the service industry, especially healthcare. If 1/5th of your clients/patients have this trait, you really should learn more about it and how you can best connect with them.
Find out more about the book on Dr Aron’s website. Here’s the Wiki link to learn more about sensory processing sensitivity.