For years, I’ve been waiting (in other people’s words) to “grow up”, “toughen up”, and “stop being a cry baby”. But after just having my 26th birthday, I’m realizing that maybe that’s just not in the cards for me. In my 26 years, I’ve had plenty of time to toughen up; working in social services with child abusers, sex offenders, gang members, and the severely mental ill, every day is an opportunity for me to NOT be touched by their stories, and to develop that ‘thick skin’ that everyone keeps talking about. But it hasn’t happened. Anything from a beautiful sunset, to tai chi class, to watching the news, still draws up deep heartfelt tears from of me. The years go on, but it’s not changing in the slightest!
In the 1990s, clinical psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron, identified the “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP) as a personality type found in approximately 1/5 of the population. These HSP’s are sensitive in all measures of the words—to sensory stimuli (such as light, sound, texture, taste), emotionally (deeply touched and affected by nature, spirit, and art/music), as well as to other people and their moods (empathetic, and often found in helping professions). While the majority of HSPs are introverted, 30% may be extroverted, so HSP traits can be seen in very different appearing people.
After taking Aron’s Self Test (See below), I am 100% an HSP. 27 out of 27 and then some. And for me, this validation of my experience has had a huge effect on my own self-perception. Instead of feeling completely inadequate, wondering if I’m depressed, and waiting to ‘grow up’, I can instead appreciate my experience for what it is. Normal. Ok. Part of me. Something that I can learn to work with, but not something I will “grow out of”.
In my own way, I believe my HSP nature is what brought me to Yoga, and to Pavones in particular. As someone who is overly stimulated by daily life—computers, horns, people, deadlines, GAH! The quiet breaths found in my practice are exactly what I need to calm and restore my frazzled system. Further, Pavones Yoga Center– tech-free in the middle of the jungle, where the greatest chaos is two macaws fighting over a tree limb– was exactly the space I needed to feel the safety and comfort to be able to settle in. If you’re feeling like this is you, stay tuned for the next blog: tips for HSPs in their yoga practice!
While some of you may be feeling like “Whoa. How do you know who I am?”, and others might be feeling like HSPs sound kinda ridiculous… either way is ok. The moral of the story is, work with what you’ve got. I feel a little silly that it took 26 years and an internet self-test to give me permission to feel comfortable in my own skin and to accept a deep truth about about myself. However, maybe this is what we are all looking for, someone to tell us: YES. This is you. And you can be you, without shame, in all of your glory. Take it from me, or from whatever internet site/book/lover/inner voice/yoga teacher you can find: Ohm namah shivaya — honor the divinity that rests within! You are what you have been waiting for! And until you feel it, this sensitive little light in me, will honor whatever light shines from you. 🙂
If you’re interested in the HSP SELF TEST, see below: (From: http://www.hsperson.com/ )
Instructions: Answer each question according to the way you personally feel. Check the box if it is at least somewhat true for you; leave unchecked if it is not very true or not at all true for you.
|I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.|
|I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.|
|Other people’s moods affect me.|
|I tend to be very sensitive to pain.|
|I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.|
|I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.|
|I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens close by.|
|I have a rich, complex inner life.|
|I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.|
|I am deeply moved by the arts or music.|
|My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.|
|I am conscientious.|
|I startle easily.|
|I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.|
|When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).|
|I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.|
|I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.|
|I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.|
|I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.|
|Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me, disrupting my concentration or mood.|
|Changes in my life shake me up.|
|I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.|
|I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.|
|I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.|
|I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.|
|When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.|
|When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.|
If you answered more than fourteen of the questions as true of yourself, you are probably highly sensitive. But no psychological test is so accurate that an individual should base his or her life on it. We psychologists try to develop good questions, then decide on the cut off based on the average response.
If fewer questions are true of you, but extremely true, that might also justify calling you highly sensitive.