Are you a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
When I first realized this, it literally changed.my.life!
I am already one to love personality tests like MBTI, Ennegram, and even a really accurate one called the "Michael Chart", they obviously can't describe everything in a nice, neat framework. (I have a saying, "No frameworks are true, but they all represent truth"). But when I discovered what a Highly Sensitive Person was it was like someone was describing everything about ME.
Suddenly I had a framework that put so much into perspective! Things I have struggled with my whole life (my inability to handle even the smallest tag in my clothes!), my superpowers (my ability to pick up on anyone's emotions) and my habits (my love of trying to learn EVERYTHING about EVERYTHING).
If you missed this blog about what an HSP is, go back and read it first!
A typical day for me as an HSP
As I wake up, the smell of fresh coffee is so strong in my nose that I will smell it the entire day, long after it’s consumed and even after a shower. Sometimes just the smell of coffee can wake me up (without even drinking it!)
I tend to remember my dreams for the first hour after wake up, and if I am studious enough, I write them down so I can check if there are any patterns. Some days I realize that there are deep relationships at hand (for example, I always dream about pets living in my parents basement when I am neglecting my unconscious desires) other days, it feels like I am living in a parallel world in my dreams (there are recurring characters and scenes that I visit like a normal life!)
As I wake up I can tell the air pressure outside immediately. If it is a low pressure day I will have a headache that is impossible to get rid of.
Getting dressed, I must wear a soft fabric (NO polyester!) and if there is a tag on my clothes, I will have to cut it out or will be bothered by the sensation all day. I laugh when I need to know the care instructions or size, because none of my clothes have the tag anymore!
As I enter public transportation, if there is a flickering fluorescent light in the subway, it will make me nauseous (what is it about those lights!?)
When I pass a crowd on the street, I can feel each person’s emotional vibration as they pass-- worried, busy, tired-- I pick up on their energy and the more people I cross, the more intense I feel everyone (which is why high-density cities like Hong Kong can be so exhausting!).
Luckily if I walk by beautiful street-art, or a stunning natural view, it takes my breath away and I feel a deep love for the world. I take it in as fully as I can, even "feeling" the colors in different parts of my body (reds make my chest puff up, blues are felt more in my neck and throat). Later, I will remember what I saw and feel the same areas of my body light up.
I feel the view in my whole body, not just my eyes, allowing me to remember every detail and describe it thoroughly months, or even years later.
Eating meals can be wonderful if I like all the flavours (I definitely make joyful groans and shout “isn’t this the best?” as I eat), but if there is only one distasteful flavour (mine is raw onions), it will ruin the entire meal and I cannot finish. Drinking wine tends to create a shape in my mouth and given the chance I could draw what that shape is (they mostly look like little spirals and feathers, etc) I recognize this as a form of synesthesia which may or may not be linked to being an HSP.
Watching film/television is like living the experience in real time: which is why I cannot watch medical shows because I feel the injuries as my own (oh the blood!), but some shows are fun--like I recently enjoyed a kid’s show about petting animals' fur and I could feel the sensation on my own skin! Crying from an emotional commercial? That’s me 100%.. (this one gets me every time).
If I join a concert or live event, I feel “high” on the excitement of the crowd (and often can’t sleep at night I am so high!), but when I am in a socially/politically unstable environment or (even reading the news about one) it will infiltrate my emotions so deeply I feel like I personally am experiencing the whole world’s pain at once (which is why the HK protests hit me so hard). The term I resonate with for this is “weltschermz”--world pain in German.
I am an extroverted HSP, so when I work with my clients (or students when I was a teacher) I can quickly pick up the complex emotions they are experiencing and luckily pinpoint exactly what their needs are as a result. Similarly, motherhood has been easier than I anticipated because I don’t need to guess what my child wants or needs because I can FEEL it inside--but likewise it's quite difficult when she is in pain because I feel it strongly as well.
When I am with loved ones, I love hard.
I bond with someone very deeply and feel my emotions in complex, intense ways. If my husband asks me to describe how I am feeling, I can name about ten of the fifteen distinct emotions I am feeling in that moment. As I describe my own feelings to him, I can feel his reaction to my feelings on top of mine, which can be heavy when I am not capable of feeling too many emotions at once without overwhelm (happens to me toward the end of my cycle!)
But living this way also causes a heavy weight of sensations, so to keep from being overwhelmed, I must give myself ample space away from the world and recharge in nature, or quiet, calm places often.
Just a few minutes in nature can do wonders for me. I prefer to stick my feet in the sand or dirt and "ground", allowing the earth to neutralize any buzzing sensations I have within.
If I read a book or listen to a podcast I can imagine the characters and setting as if it were a movie. If the scene involves another sense, I can easily smell the bread, or feel the cotton, etc. being described. If it is a technical book, I can often see the connections between the concepts in a 3-D realm that shows how big picture ideas (I especially love archetypes) are represented in the minutia.
Two of the most interesting types of 'subtle energies' I can pick up are people's auras (they look like a tie-dye around someone's face) or ghosts. The ghosts seem to be 'trapped energy' that stays in an environment long after the person or circumstance is gone (I can feel battlefields, or hospitals, for example), but I also can feel if some has a foreign energy around them that is not helpful (you would be surprised who carries these around sometimes).
I share this all with you because I see now that what I considered just a normal day, is not "normal" to everyone (but would be quite normal to another HSP).
What about you? How does being a Highly Sensitive Person manifest in your day?