The Highly Sensitive Person

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Back to Comfort ZoneExcerpted from Volume I, Issue I (November 1996, inaugural issue)
The Highly Sensitive Person:
A Refresher Course


Whether or not you have already read The Highly Sensitive Person, you’ll want to keep in mind some points as you read this newsletter. Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) are generally born that way, although there are always exceptions—to everything I’m saying here. About twenty percent of the population are highly sensitive. Indeed, about that many of most higher animal species are born with the trait, which seems to involve a different, equally valid survival strategy (more about that next issue).

HSPs process incoming information from their five senses differently, more carefully. And they like to reflect on things. These two differences tend to make them intuitive, creative, conscientious, and concerned about others. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that inevitably we also are more easily overwhelmed. When the noise or stuff going on is about right or interesting for others, it’s too much for us. And keeping an optimal level of stimulation—not too much, not too little—is very, very important to every creature. The sensitive ones just need less to be comfy.

Being highly sensitive is not about being born neurotic, anxious, chronically shy, unhappy, lacking in confidence, or submissive. However, HSPs are a little more prone to these sorts of difficulties for two reasons.

First, in this culture the trait is not the ideal, especially for boys. (But in some cultures it is the ideal—wouldn’t it be nice if it were the ideal here?) So even the most well-meaning parents and teachers were trying to help you by telling you “don’t be so sensitive” and “don’t be so shy.” That makes it hard to grow up feeling good about yourself.

Second, HSPs can be a little more prone than others to be anxious or depressed if they had a troubled childhood or their other life experiences have been not-so-hot. (There are several reasons for this, discussed in the book.) But you were not born with some flaw or problem. And this newsletter is intended to help you remember that, and to remember all the contributions you make to the world, just by being yourself, and all the benefits you yourself enjoy because you are highly sensitive.

Your suggestions are always welcome.
Elaine Aron, Editor and Publisher

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