The Highly Sensitive Person

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Back to Comfort ZoneAugust 2004: Comfort Zone ONLINE
A Letter from Elaine
Summer, Fall and What Comes Next

Dear HSPs,

Here we are on the second issue of the emailed newsletter. The unexpected psychological effect of the switch from paper to online for me was that it did not seem real. I doubted anyone was reading it. But there is a way to check how many people visit the website, and when we compared the number of subscribers we had before to the number of visitors to the website over the past three months, far more of you appear to have read the first emailed newsletter (or at least clicked to see the articles) than the last issue of the paper version. That was the plan--more readers. So I will keep writing.

August. Summer is here, if I may be so hemisphere-centric. But August has that kind of sweet-fleeting quality. More so this year because of all the anticipation of the fall and its elections (and HSPs do anticipate everything more). I don’t do politics in this newsletter, but I can heartily say to the HSPs in my own country, PLEASE VOTE, and “May the best man win.” Meanwhile, I know you will remember to take time to savor the ripe tomatoes, enjoy vicariously the freedom of kids not in school, and luxuriate in the warmth that comes off the earth as it cools in the evening.

There is Still A Space for You At the Next Gathering

The next paragraph is an excerpt from my article in this issue on loneliness:
“Another gathering is coming up this October and it is worth mentioning again: It’s no longer chance; every gathering of HSPs (so far) has been wonderful and healing. That does not mean that it is entirely wonderful, entirely healing. I know that HSPs are not necessarily going to tell me if something does not work for them. But I have to take them seriously when so many of them do say--sincerely, I think--that their time with other HSPs has been life changing.”

So maybe try coming at least once. Apparently there was a rumor that it has filled up. Not true. Click here for info on gatherings.


An article I wrote for a Jungian journal, “Reconsidering Jung’s Concept of Sensitivity,” was just published in the June issue of The Journal of Analytical Psychology,” Vol 49, Issue 3, pp. 337-368.

In The Not-Worth-An-Entire-Article Department: Some Thoughts on Perfectionism

The topic of perfectionism has come up often during the last three months, so I thought about it, and here are the results.

HSPs tend to be perfectionists for two reasons. First, we don’t like unpleasant surprises, such as criticisms, making a mistake, hurting others, or having something go very wrong. To avoid these, we try to plan, arrange, and do things perfectly. Of course it works to some degree, so it is highly rewarding. But since we can’t control all eventualities, we can never do enough, and in time our anxiety can make us seem “obsessive-compulsive.”

So the “worry reason” for perfectionism has to be reined in by remembering that we will never please everyone, we will always make mistakes, and we cannot control fate.

Second, we tend to be perfectionists because we can envision how something could be done perfectly and aim for that. In that sense, it can bring real pleasure to get things right. And, the world often benefits from our drive to make the final work match our original vision.

However, anything that brings a sudden burst of gratification can be addictive, and anything addictive is subject to the “opponent process.” That is, at first we do it for the pleasure, and later we do it for the opposite reason, to avoid the pain of giving up that pleasure. The opponent process is obvious in the case of being addicted to drugs, tobacco, or alcohol--pleasure motivates us at first, then avoiding the pain of giving it up. But it even happens with “good addictions.” For example, you’ve probably met people who say they’ve started running everyday because it gives them a “high,” plus they feel terrific about themselves for doing it. But as months pass you may hear them say that they have to run everyday or they don’t feel good. See what I mean?

If you find you don’t feel good unless you do every job perfectly, you are addicted to perfectionism! Good things that lead to addictions shouldn’t be given up. (Food can be addictive, but don’t give it up entirely, please.) But they have to be practiced with conscious moderation. Best wishes as you perfect your perfectionism.


In Upcoming Issues:

  • The Highly Sensitive Child: Sensitivity and Giftedness--Are They the Same Thing?
  • Coping Corner: The Highly Sensitive Parent
  • With Depth: Fear, Anxiety, Worry, and Caution--Using Them to Preserve Life, Not Ruin It

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