Thursday, March 29, 2018

Learning About the HSP Trait: What's the Ultimate Objective?

I went to the doctor yesterday.

Although we don't really talk much about it, my doctor knows that I am an HSP, and she respects what that entails. In the course of our conversations, we have gently agreed that "Being an HSP" is akin to what was once upon a time thought of as "being highly strung."

We don't talk much about it, though. It has become "old news."

Instead, we talk about my health. I suffer from hypertension (aka "high blood pressure"), and from years of observation, we know that my primary trigger for "hypertensive events" revolve around stress and anxiety.

Actually, I should phrase that very carefully.

You see, I don't suffer from any kind of "anxiety disorder," I simply suffer from overstimulation, HSP style. I am perfectly capable of going into the world and dealing with "whatever hardships come up," and there are few things I can't handle. My body, however, disagrees.

One of the interesting things we've learned about me is that — absent stress and the need to interface with the world — my blood pressure is actually within the "normal" range.

Yesterday, we had this conversation again, as my vitals were once again elevated. My body simply doesn't like the process of "adulting."

Alas, few of us have the luxury of simply sitting in a lawn chair, watching clouds drift by... while "the stuff of life" takes care of itself.

The Progression of HSP Self-Awareness

After the doctor's visit, I got to thinking about this whole thing called "being an HSP."

It has been 21 years and change since I first bumped into the idea. It seems to me that we go through "stages" of being a Highly Sensitive Person.

At first, it tends to be all shiny, exciting and new; we absorb everything we can read and hear; suddenly it seems like we have a natural and well-fitting explanation for why we are the way we are. Which is a marvelous thing!

Then we go through a period of learning and integrating. This often involves joining groups, going to workshops and doing something akin to "becoming an expert" on the topic, as it relates to ourselves.

Oftentimes, we slip into a state of cognitive bias — just about everything that happens is "because I am an HSP." Of course, that's probably rather inconsistent with reality, but we're looking for ways to "make the shoe fit."

After a while, we move onto "integration." We start to become more honest about the ways the trait affects our lives... and the ways it doesn't. At least... that's what happens for those who are honest with themselves; some, it seems, stay in that place where "EVERYthing happens this way because I am an HSP."

But THEN What?

Perhaps the ultimate objective of learning all we can about being an HSP is that we get to return to "just being a person."

As I look back on my doctors' visit, I came to realize that it has been several years since I have thought of myself through the lens of perception that "I am an HSP." The trait doesn't define me, it simply adds a layer of understanding to the overall picture of what it means to be me.

I understand certain things about myself, and understand which of those things happen to be a consequence of my high sensitivity, and I try to arrange my life accordingly.

In formalizing this realization last night, I also came to understand why we see "familiar faces" in online HSP groups, as well as keepers of HSP blogs and web sites suddenly "fall off the radar." They've simply gotten all they needed from their activities, and then moved on.

Think of it a but like attending University: You learn a lot, and then you get a degree and graduate. Maybe you stay on and keep learning, getting a graduate degree. But eventually you're done. And that's actually the natural order of things —if you're NOT seeing that, you run the risk of becoming "that eternal student," working on their 6th degree because they never found the courage to actually go out and be part of life, using the learning they'd experienced.

And so — aside from the fact that I occasionally teach and give workshops — I am done with "being an HSP." I have returned to simply being ME.

How about YOU? Where are YOU, on your HSP Journey of Learning? How long ago was it that you learned that there is such a thing as a "Highly Sensitive Person?" How did it change your life? Do you feel you know what you need to know, or are you still "studying?" To what degree to you find that you "identify" with being an HSP? Leave me a comment-- be part of an ongoing dialogue!

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  1. I've only just discovered the HSP trait a few years ago and it felt like the missing puzzle piece of my life had finally fallen into place. I an still excited to share thus trait with others, since it seems so few still know about it, so I want others to feel empowered like I did if they discover that they too are hsp. I don't read the stuff on HSP FB pages anymore, as it is no longer necessary for me to compare my experiences with others. I am still teying to heal grom childhood trauma, so remembering that I'm an HSP through the process, reminds me that my journey might be more intense because of my sensitivity. Thanks for the article...I enjoyed reading about your outlook.

    1. Thanks for the comment Deborah! Sounds like you're well on your way to integration. Childhood trauma is one of the tough areas to work with; experience tells me that HSPs often experience difficulties "more intensely" in such a way that the memories are burned in more permanently. But eventually we CAN shake loose the old patterns.

  2. I am still trying to figure out how being an HSP affects me in all areas of life, especially my health as I perceive the world in a way that causes me quiet anxiety and constant sadness.

    1. It can take a while, and everyone learns at their own pace. One of the things that took me a long time to understand and recognize is that much of my background "sadness" was the result of rather pervasive existential depression. All the best on your journey!

  3. For me, the journey has just started. I was in therapy for three years before my therapist told me he thought I was Highly Sensitive. Once this piece of information was given, I started reading every book I could get my hands on about the topic, including the works by Elaine Aron and Ted Zeff. The books described me so well and once I started reading them they were impossible to put down! Also, it is interesting to realize that being highly sensitive might of had to do with misdiagnoses given in the past by well meaning therapists. It has been a long journey, but it has been well worth it to discover more about this wonderful trait.

  4. I learned that I was an HSP from my therapist about nine months ago. Being curious, I stared reading all the material I could get my hands on and honest to say it has been a revelation. It has explained a lot about what I have done and the decisions made in my life. It has allowed me to think about how to best use my trait in the future and help build my life around it.


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