September 3, 2014

Are You An HSP?

Although I loathe labels and the way we toss them around - everyone is a narcissist or ADHD these days - the label HSP seems to apply to me. I felt a burden lifted, a load lightened, as I read the compassionate insights of author Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., who is, herself, a self-proclaimed HSP, and now the pioneer of this emerging psycho-science.

HSP seems to explain so many things I never quite understood about myself. I've always said I was shy, but it never fit with my outgoing personality. I have a fear of crowds, but it's not due to agoraphobia. I love small, compact places and corners, where I feel safe from chaos, and I have a deep need for quiet, a yearning for nature's solitude. I also over-react to criticism, and fear judgement in all its forms. I've always believed that I have low self-esteem.

HSPs, or "highly sensitive people," according to Aron's research, are more common than you might think. They are a subset of the population whose senses are very finely tuned. They often self-medicate with drugs or alcohol (which doesn't help, as I found out the hard way). They are not necessarily introverts, but tend to avoid situations with too much sensory input - such as sold-out concerts, crowded city streets and hyper-busy work environments. HSPs are more sensitive to (and upset by) other people's energy outputs, often able to sense sub-levels of sorrow or anxiety in others, or suppressed anger.

Like me, many suffer from anxiety on a continual basis. We cry easily, are self-effacing by nature, and prefer to stay on the fringe of society and out of the limelight. It's a matter of balance, as is everything in the universe. HSPs need to manage their lives so that they don't get overwhelmed or overworked, and they need to schedule in that all-important "alone time."

As the frontiers of brain research keep advancing, it's astonishing what we're learning and discovering. I applaud the efforts of people like Dr. Aron, who have a genuine desire to help us better understand ourselves and others, eliciting compassion and empathy rather than distrust and derision.

If you think you, or anyone you know, is an HSP, I encourage you to at least buy and read the book. I am contributing to the upcoming documentary with a small donation, and this link will take you to the movie trailer, which is a good introduction to the world of HSPs.

For all those wonderful people in my life who have stood by me throughout my emotional ups and downs, who have been puzzled by my reticence to "be out there," and who have been concerned when I disappear for a while... thank you for being there, for your support, and for not judging.

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