The criticism, “Don’t be so emotional,” comes in as a close second for many highly sensitive people (HSPs) after hearing, “Don’t be so sensitive.” We’ve heard the two phrases often enough that we feel we always have something to work on in ourselves. But what if we don’t?
As Marwa Azab, PhD, said in Psychology Today, “an HSP’s brain is wired differently and the nervous system is highly sensitive with a lower threshold for action. This hyper-excitability contributes to increased emotional reactivity, a lower threshold for sensory information and an increased awareness of subtleties.”
While I would take exception to his term hyper-excitability since to me it has a negative bias, I interpret Dr. Azab to mean that everything hits us harder. What we see, feel, smell, touch, hear, and sense are all more enhanced than in 80 percent of the population.
The ability to sense the world around us so profoundly can be very useful and contributes greatly to creativity. We walk through a garden and delight in the scent of flowers and the beautiful shades of color on the blooms. We hear a stirring song and it brings tears to our eyes. We also sense what a loved one is feeling, perhaps as though it were us having that feeling.
The difficulty with this range of feeling is that when someone is having a hard day or we are ourselves, we feel the depths of despair, anguish or other difficult emotion. We feel it acutely. That’s when we need to reach out to someone close, remind ourselves that the feeling will pass or that this is not our feeling to own and remember that we will be more helpful if we keep our boundaries.
We also need the time to process such acute feelings, stimulation from the environment, and interactions with others. HSPs need alone time as much as air! Without that time, we can unravel and have difficulty facing the world around us.
Creative activity supports us, as does meditation, yoga, reading a good book, or going for a walk. The point is to allow ourselves to breathe it all in and breathe it all out. The meaning and exquisite substance we draw from life when we are in balance helps us give to the world in our own exceptional ways. It may be that our depth of emotion equates with a deeper level of humanity as well—something the world needs more of right now.