Highly Sensitive People

Highly Sensitive People are a special category of human.  About 20% of all people are “Highly Sensitive” and that turns out to be true for 20% of dogs and horses.  Possibly all mammals exhibit this category.  The brains of HSPs are organized a little differently.  Where 80% of the population would see two shades of red, a Highly Sensitive Person might see as many as eight.  This means that they can see nuances and distinctions where others can’t, but they can also be more easily overwhelmed.  Since overwhelm is the essence of trauma, I suspect that HSP’s are more likely to be traumatized.

When I finally read the book by Elaine Aron, I was so relieved.  My mother was always telling me “don’t be so sensitive” as though I had a choice.  Once at a wonderful retreat for women (Woman’s Way) we had done “dreambody paintings.”  Each of us had lain down on a large piece of paper while someone traced the outline.  There were certain things assigned — injuries and surgery, number of pregnancies and births — and we could also add symbols from our dreams.  When they were finished we hung them on the wall and walked around looking at them.  Zanda (one of the leaders, Alexandra Merrill) came up to me and said something like “You are trying to take in too much.  Use your venetian blinds.”  That was hugely, unbelievably helpful.  She was the first person to suggest that yes, I was sensitive, and I had to learn how to manage it.  I told my trauma therapist about the “venetian blinds” and she thought it was a very useful image. About a decade later the book was published, and I was able to understand in greater depth what I was dealing with.

For more about Alexandra

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