“None of the adults in my life ever once remembered to say, “Some people have a thick skin and you don’t. Your heart is really open and that is going to cause pain, but that is an appropriate response to this world. The cost is high, but the blessing of being compassionate is beyond your wildest dreams. However you’re not going to feel that a lot in seventh grade. Just hang on.” Stitches, Anne Lamott, p33
I was always told “Don’t be so sensitive” when I was a child. Which made it sound like it was a choice. But I didn’t seem to be able to make myself be different. The first time anyone ever helped me was at a women’s retreat called “Woman’s Way.” We had done “dream body” drawings, inside an outline of our body on large paper. We colored pictures and wrote information on them, then hung them up on the wall. I walked around looking at them, and I was really taking them in and starting to get overwhelmed, when Zanda said something like “You are taking in too much. Use your venetian blinds.” That image was a big help to me.
Much later, I read the book about Highly Sensitive People. I answered all the questions in the affirmative. I learned that we are 20% of the population, and that turns out to be true of many species of animals as well. Our brains work differently, where 80% of the population would see 3 shades of red (in a garden, say) we will see 10. So we can make much more nuanced observations, but we can also be easily overwhelmed. Since overwhelm of the brain and nervous system’s capacity to process information is the cause of trauma, I think we will also be more easily traumatized. Certainly the culture we live in is toxic for people who take in more information, making our lives that much harder.