All my life I have been deeply touched by bright lights, strong odors, itchy clothes, and loud noises. Sometimes it seems to me that I can sense another person's feelings by catching their sadness, anger, or loneliness before saying a word.
In addition, sensory experiences, such as listening to music, sometimes overwhelm me with emotions. For my love of music, I can play melodies by ear, often guessing which note will come next based on how the music feels.
Because I have intensified reactions to my surroundings, I have difficulty multitasking and get stressed when too much happens at once.
But in my childhood, instead of being seen as an artist or exceptionally, my manners were labeled as bizarre. Classmates often called me "Rain Man", while the teachers accused me of not paying attention in class.
Nobody mentioned that I am most likely a "very sensitive person" or HSP - a person with a sensitive nervous system who is deeply touched by the subtleties of their surroundings.
HSP is not a disorder or condition, but rather a personality trait, also known as sensory processing sensitivity (SPS). To my surprise, I'm not a weird duck at all. Dr. Elaine Aron says that 15 to 20 percent of the population is HSP.
Looking back, my experiences as an HSP profoundly influenced my friendships, romantic relationships and even led me to become a psychologist. This is what being an HSP really looks like.
On the first day in kindergarten, the teacher read the class regulations: “Put the backpack in the locker every morning. Honor your classmates. No chatter.
After reading the list, she said, "And finally, the most important rule of all: raise your hand if you have any questions."
Despite the open invitation, I asked a few questions. Before I raised my hand, I studied the teacher's expression, trying to find out if she was tired, angry, or irritated. If she raised her eyebrows, I assumed she was frustrated. If she spoke too fast, I thought she was impatient.
Before asking any question, I asked, "May I ask a question?" Initially my teacher found empathy for my flimsy behavior: "Of course it's okay," she said.
But soon her sympathy turned to irritation and she shouted, “I told you that you don't have to ask for permission. Did you not pay attention on the first day of class? "
Ashamed of my bad behavior, she said I was a "poor listener."
In the playground, I fought to make friends. I often sat alone because I thought everyone was furious with me.
Peer criticism and teachers' harsh words made me withdraw. As a result, I had few friends and often felt I did not fit in. "Don't come in and no one will disturb you" has become my mantra.
When my friends fell in love with someone, they turned to me for advice.
“Do you think so-and-so wants me to call and he pretends it's hard to get, asked a friend. “I don't believe in being hard to come by. Just be yourself, I replied. Even though my friends felt that I analyzed every social situation, they began to appreciate my insight.
However, constantly giving emotional advice and pleasing others became a pattern that was difficult to break. Afraid of being noticed, I joined other people's narratives, using my sensitive nature to offer empathy to others.
When classmates and friends ran up to me for backup, they knew almost nothing about me, and I felt invisible.
By the time my final year arrived in high school, I had my first boyfriend. I was driving him crazy.
"I think you are an extrovert and I am an introvert!" I declared. He was not amused by my hypothesis and broke up with me.
“Very sensitive people are often exposed to loud noises. They may need rest after being highly stimulated. Very sensitive people are deeply affected by others' feelings and often believe they can sense another person's emotions. "
In 1997, in a psychology class, my college professor described a personality type I had never heard of a very sensitive person before.
When replaced typical features of HSP, he felt like he was reading my mind.
According to my professor, dr. Elaine Aron, a psychologist, coined the term HSP in 1996. Thanks to his research, Aron wrote the book: A highly sensitive person: how to prosper when the world overwhelms you . " In the book, he describes the typical personality traits of HSP and how to prosper in the world as a vulnerable being.
My professor said HSPs are often intuitive and easily overstimulated. He quickly pointed out that Aron does not see HSP as having a personality defect or syndrome, but rather a set of traits that stem from having a vulnerable system.
This lecture changed the course of my life.
Intrigued by how our sensitivity shapes our personalities and our interactions with others, I went on to postgraduate studies and became a psychologist.
While more research is needed on HSP, the different ways it manifests itself in humans and how we deal with hypersensitivity.
Now I take my sensitivity as a gift and take care of myself avoiding loud parties, scary movements and nasty messages.
I've also learned not to take things personally, and I can recognize the value of letting go of something.