People with high sensitivity: gift or condemnation?

In a society where being tough and fearless is synonymous with being more able and capable, having extraordinary sensitivity can be a difficult stigma to overcome.

High sensitivity is another characteristic of a person’s personality, which does not completely define him, but explains a different way of perceiving the world. In this article we will explain the essence of the stroke and give some basic keys to be able to manage it in the most favorable way possible.

    What is High Sensitivity?

    High sensitivity is a personality trait, usually inherited, that occurs in the same proportion in women and men.

    Highly sensitive people (PAS) have a finer nervous system, able to detect subtle stimuli that go unnoticed by others. This sensitivity manifests itself both emotionally and sensorially: sounds, images, smells, physical sensations. This difference occurs not only in the detection of stimuli, but also in the way the brain processes the information that comes to it, which seems to be much more important in PAS.

    Between 15 and 20% of the population exhibit this personality trait. It is hereditary, so at least one of the parents will also have the characteristics associated with it.

    PAS are more sensitive to sounds, lights, smells, small changes in the environment, and other people. They dislike crowds and often feel exhausted after long days of work and play. They will need more time to rest and recuperate, otherwise they will feel overwhelmed and overwhelmed. When this happens, they tend to feel anxious, isolated, and spend more time alone. Therefore, they are often seen as shy, weak, asocial or neurotic.

    It is very common to confuse it with anxiety disorders, depression and even with syndromes like Asperger’s.but it is important to clarify that it is not a pathology or a disorder, it is a characteristic that shapes our temperament.

      The four basic characteristics that meet all PAS

      The high sensitivity feature began to be studied relatively recently and its pioneer was Dr. Elaine N.Aron. In 1991 he defined high sensitivity and coined the term highly sensitive person (PAS). According to her, the functionality is based on four fundamental characteristics, common to all PAS:

      1. In-depth processing of information

      Ability to process large amounts of informationby comparing them with previous experiences or other data, which allows you to think things through more deeply and to draw conclusions that other people are not able to come to.

      2. Overstimulation

      Due to the large number of inputs reaching them, their brain is unable to process them therefore saturates causing a lack of concentration, mental and physical exhaustion, difficulty in expressing emotions and even irritability.

      This characteristic is the most limiting for PAS, because it makes these people tend to compare themselves to the rest of the world and seeing that they cannot do what others can, they feel like “strange insects”less valid, which considerably lowers their self-esteem.

      3. Intense Emotion and Empathy

      They feel more intense, which puts them on an emotional roller coaster almost constantly. Great ability to connect more with each other and feel their emotions as if they were their own. His mirror neurons were found to be more active than normal.

        4. Sensitivity to subtleties

        They have a great capacity to capture almost imperceptible details and changes in the environment and others.

        Because of all this, PASs are more thoughtful, more cautious, creative, intuitive, less impulsive, and more introverted. This suggests that they are introverted people and, admittedly, they don’t like crowds or parties, but they do like having a small group of close friends to share with.

        On the other hand, there are 30% of PAS who are socially extroverted, have lots of friends and enjoy being around people and meeting new people. It may be because they grew up in large families, with a good social life and who are used to being surrounded by people, more or less known, whom they consider safe continents.

        Keys to managing the trait

        Since this trait will be with them all their lives, you have to learn to live with it to get the most out of it and not see it as something limiting that separates them from the rest of the world. There are a number of guidelines for achieving this goal.

        1. Self-knowledge

        Know the trait, with its advantages and disadvantages and understand how it has affected us in our life in general. Being aware of our strengths and accepting our vulnerabilities to make the most of them. Considering the trait from the perspective of self-knowledge provides a reframed view of the past that will allow you to fully experience the present.

          2. Healing

          Heal the wounds of the past. Letting go of what has caused hurt and suffering by not understanding this different way of feeling the world and trying to meet the expectations of others.

          3. Self-care and self-compassion

          As a tool to manage the discomfort of feeling out of place. For PAS, rest is very important, not only physically, but also mentally. A very useful tool is meditation, which allows you to be with yourself in the present moment. Also good food, exercise, enjoyable activities, being in touch with nature, art, music.

          Have people who provide support and safety and who know the limits. Know how much they can participate in society and when to retire so they don’t suffer from overstimulation. Knowing other PAS can also help them get to know each other better, understand each other better and feel supported..

            Very sensitive children

            All adult PASs were boys and girls at some point. The home environment may or may not be a facilitator of the trait. It is very important to know the children, to understand their peculiarities and to accept them. In environments where sensitivity is valued positively, children will feel more welcome, more confident, and with greater self-esteem, so they will experience the trait as something favorable. Also they will be more aware of the drawbacks and this will help them to solve them in the most optimal way.

            In contrast, there is research on PAS who lived in more discouraging environments, in which the trait was not understood or supported, showing a greater predisposition to anxiety and depressive disorders. They’ve lived trying to be someone they really aren’t to be loved, respected, and valued and they’ve lost themselves that way..

            In short…

            The trait has no valence. It is neither positive nor negative in itself.. Whether it is more or less favorable will depend on each person’s experience and how they handle it.

            Not all PAS are the same. Although they have similar characteristics and respond to the four basic pillars, how they express themselves will largely depend on their life history, environment, experiences, and other personality traits.

            I wouldn’t say it’s a gift or a curse, but a different way of seeing and feeling the world. The issue is not whether or not to have a trait such as high sentience, but how it is valued and managed.. The most important thing is self-knowledge and unconditional acceptance of what each is.

            Nevertheless, if you find it difficult to understand it or if you feel uncomfortable or anxious, it is advisable to contact a specialist to help you solve these problems.

            Author: Lorena Carretero, psychologist and psychotherapist from VALIA.

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