I had the experience the other day of being in a room full of people who are similar to me in many ways. It’s a new feeling for me to be in a group I truly identify with. This is happening to me more and more as I seek to spend my time doing only the things that are important to me. I keep letting go of activities (and sometimes people) that keep me from thinking and feeling actively though life. I don’t want to be numb anymore. Life’s too short to waste and I only want to spend wisely. I feel a great sense of peace with this lifestyle and that’s also really nice.
This particular group on this particular day was a room full of people who feel deeply and sometimes *more* than others due to an actual brain characteristic in the insula. The name of the characteristic is Highly Sensitive Person and about 15-20% of the human population has this trait, as do about 100 other mammal species. (This is not to be confused with a sensory processing disorder. Here’s the difference.) You can find out much more here and take a self-test here.)
Professionally, this high level of intuition and empathy makes me great at what I do. As an energy healer and H&W Mentor, I learn from the subtleties of what my client’s energy is telling me without them having to say much of anything to me. Many times, I do this without them even having to be in the same room as me and I actually do the bulk of my sessions over Skype. This gift makes it possible for me to help them more than if I had words and facial clues alone to work with.
Setting my “Professional Self” aside, in a non-professional relationship, I used to talk mainly in hints, not to be vague, but to be gentle and gauge the room without hurting others. I would read my husband‘s face without him saying a word and if he was talking, I would read the subtext with where his eyes looked or how the edges of his mouth turned down. The phrase, “But, that’s not what your face looks like,” has been uttered by me to him on numerous occasions when I found incongruity between his words and his facial tones.
I notice how my child is breathing and if the tone of their voice goes up or down or quieter. I feel/hear/sense vibrations from electrical things that give me a headache or feel like they’ve highjacked my heart and want to make it explode. If I hear dramatic music from a movie coming from the other room (where I’ve probably gone because I can’t handle the violence or award-winning drama of said film) and I can’t see what’s going on, I still get a racing heart and will sometimes cry from anxiety. When I’m in a public place that has a lot of people, I feel their emotions to the degree of being distracted from what I’m trying to do if I’m not carefully aware of my own boundaries and what’s mine and what’s theirs. I get exhausted from being in groups too long and plan to be home with nothing to do at least one day a week and mostly won’t answer the phone unless it’s one of my kids or my husband to give myself a chance to recharge.
If I get over-stimulated, I literally can’t think well anymore and can’t make even simple decisions like if I’m hungry or what I’d like to eat and then more often than not, I cry, waving my hands in front of my face to get my husband to stop asking me questions. I will get headaches and occasionally forget how to get home or even forget how to do non-thinking things like swallow and will choke on my own saliva.
Thankfully, I haven’t had any of those experiences in quite some time because of all the prep work I do to make my life the experience I want it to be. Running a Meetup group last year and speaking in front of others at conferences has helped me find my inner “Out” person. Being in public and having everyone looking at me has slowly become easier if I plan it right. I thought all of this went part and parcel in the life of someone who used to live with mental illnesses. How interesting to find out that no, it’s not. It’s just been an added layer I had to navigate. I never would have believed it if you could have told me five years ago how much my life would be different now than it was then.
The past few months I’ve been studying and training to include healing techniques specifically for HSPs in anticipation of how much this could help many of my clients. Which brings us back to the room on that day recently when I felt truly with my tribe.
There was a woman talking about how she felt like she would literally die if she exposed her inner self and became vulnerable in front of someone else and I knew what she was talking about SO DEEPLY.
So many times my husband and I will have the conversation that if I need something, just ask because he’s not a mind-reader. My inability to sometimes just ask straight out will trigger his own co-dependency radar. And once he’s on alert, it’s really all downhill from there. One of us feels bad and frustrated (him) because the other one of us is crying and unable to vocalize how they’re feeling (me).
I see this in a whole new light now. I *do* literally feel like I’m going to die if I ask for something I really, really need or that is close to my heart. My heart rate increases. I feel blood rushing to my head. My palms get sweaty. My face gets red. I want to run for my life. You could easily replace my husband with a lion tracking me as their prey and the result would be the same. The shift is in identifying that vulnerability and that I have a need to protect my inner core at all costs.
This is all information and information is good. Information helps us learn and grow through things. It helps us make small course corrections and navigate to the place we truly want to be. Just like five years ago I wouldn’t have believed my life now, I bet five years from now things will be even better, which is hard to believe given that I’m so happy.
It’s not true that all HSPs are introverts. In fact, a large percentage are thrill-seekers.
Here’s a chart with more info.