If you're a highly sensitive person looking for ways to understand yourself better and navigate the world in an empowered way, The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron is a great place to start.
Dr. Elaine Aron is a psychologist who pioneered research into what is now known as the innate trait of sensory processing sensitivity, a trait found in approximately 20% of the population. The central feature of this trait is that people who have it (known as highly sensitive people or HSPs) process information more thoroughly than others.
Some of the positive characteristics typically associated with this trait tend to be perceiving things that others miss; processing inputs more deeply; coming to well-thought-out decisions (that might just take a little longer); deep empathy; conscientiousness; attention to detail; intuition; and visionary, creative and artistic qualities. Aron describes HSPs as often filling roles in society such as advisors, counselors, historians, teachers, scholars, upholders of justice, priests, and artists.
At the same time, there can be challenges: having a nervous system that becomes overstimulated or overaroused more easily; feeling emotions (positive and negative) so intensely that regulating them takes a lot of work; needing more quiet time and solitude to recharge after social interactions or busy environments; and sometimes struggling to set healthy boundaries. These are some differences from the majority of the population that can leave HSPs feeling misunderstood, flawed, or weird.
This book provides tools for navigating social life, workplace/career issues, relationships and more, as well as countering negative messages HSPs have often received since childhood about being “too sensitive,” or needing to “toughen up.”
Aron provides exercises for reframing childhood and other life experiences based on what you now know of yourself as an HSP – and this new perspective can explain so much. It can lead to the incredibly powerful realization that you are not flawed because of your sensitivity – not only is it valid to experience the world this way, it comes with many gifts.
This is a book I recommend to clients who are exploring the HSP trait for themselves. If this is something you relate to, I hope that you will dig into the resources available to support you in living in a more peaceful and authentic way.