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Highly Sensitive People
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Note from Steve - I am getting very interested in this term "Highly Sensitive Person"or HSP. I consider myself one of these people and I would say the majority of the sucidal teens I have worked with also fit the description. On this page is some information about the idea of highly sensitive people.

It is similar to the term "empath" but so far it seems it has less of a "new age" or "spiritual" association.

Elaine Aron seems to the be the person most well known for talking about this term. I have only started looking at her work, but so far my feeling is generally positive about her.

-- Videos: Elaine Aron - A Talk on High Sensitivity Part 1 of 3: Research | Part 2 | Part 3

Priscilla's notes from the first video

Jacquelyn Stricklands's Top Ten Suggestions for HSP Self-Care

Why do some HSPs develop symptoms of overwhelm, such as agoraphobia or an autoimmune disorder while others do not?

If you consider yourself an HSP, please be sure you have read my pages on invalidation, emotional abuse, emotional support, emotional literacy, and depression

List of government licensed people (legally allowed to call themselves "psychotherapists") who have studied Elaine's material and passed her test.

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Why do some HSPs develop symptoms of overwhelm, such as agoraphobia or an autoimmune disorder while others do not?

One factor that helps to determine whether one ends up experiencing an anxiety issue, a disorder, or a dis-ease is whether one has learned proper coping skills.

Being Highly Sensitive is not the same thing as having Sensory Integration Dysfunction, Asperger's Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, being Neurotic and having an Avoidant Personality Disorder, or typical shyness, although these disorders may or may not, unrelatedly, coexist.

Highly Sensitive People who have been abused or traumatized in some way and those who are continually having to defend their senses will find it harder not to suffer from physical symptoms of overwhelm. And here's why. We HSPs don't perceive stress the way others do. Everything affects us physically and we react physically to emotion. This is why we can't just have our stress counseled away with 'mind-based' therapies. We aren't built that way. We hurt through our senses and we have to heal through them as well.


Slightly adapted from http://www.thecaptainslady.com/areyouhighlysensitive.htm

Priscilla's notes from the first video from Elaine Aron's talk on High Sensitivity

These notes are from an email Priscilla sent to Steve after she watched the first of the 3 part videos.

It's really very interesting - she says so much of the things you/we believe, and says the research agrees. So its pretty validating.

"Sensitive people who had a difficult childhood are more likely to be anxious and depressed, but if you haven't had a difficult childhood... the new research is that you're less likely to be anxious or depressed than others." (i think one of the latest zeitgeist movies said pretty much the same thing.. im not sure if u ever saw that one.)

It was interesting too about that study with monkeys, where she said that the more sensitive monkeys became the "leaders" when they were being raised by really good mothers.

And she mentioned another study which found that monkeys who have this same sensitivity-type-genetic-predisposition as humans had a "broad range of superior cognitive performance" compared to other monkeys.

"Sensitive people have tremendous advantages."

It's really too bad society generally doesnt see it that way. I guess in our emotionally toxic society, the advantages pretty much look like disadvantages. It's too bad (so far) she doesn't really talk about the implications of all this research, when it comes to figuring out how unhealthy society is.

Hmm, she says both higly sensitive & less senstive people have value in terms of survival. But that sensitive people are in the minority. This makes a lot of sense to me, when I think about the research she mentioned which says sensitive people have more innate capacity to become "leaders" -- so that is their value to the species, and it would make sense they would be a minority (since you only need a few leaders to lead a group). If everyone was equally highly sensitive it wouldnt really work.

Also interesting: The study with the lines and boxes of different sizes that showed culture affects sensitive pple less than 'normal' people... like their brains are less influenced by culture because they are able to process things more deeply... (Though I'm not sure how having deeper brain processing capacities would do this, but it kind of makes sense to me).

I wonder why they there were those differences with the line and box thing - like how Chinese pepple were better at seeing the differences in one compared to the other, and it was the opposite for Americans... I have no idea what that implies, but its interesting.

Hmm... I'm not sure about this part though, when she talks about "over-stimulation" being a cause of problems in sensitive people. Like, she gives the example of not doing well when you are "taking a test" because you are so nervous, even if you know all the answers. Or when you are at a party... "you feel people think youre dumb" because you can't think of what to say...

She says that is because you are easily overstimulated, but it seems more like this would be because of your messed up culture making you insecure, fearful, needy, etc. Like, I pretty much believe a sensitive person in a healthy environment wouldnt automatically come up with the idea that others might think they are dumb, and they wouldn't assign that much importance to taking a test

It is a little amusing how she tries to be really 'fair' and politically correct... Like she keeps giving all these 'disclaimers' to say sensitive people are NOT superior, though she keeps implying they are more aware, responsive, more likely to be leaders in a good environment, etc.

For example, she says "as much women as men born highly sensitive"... but I'm not sure about that... I wonder if that was really proven by studies, or if she just came up with that on her own to make things more "equal'.

I guess I find that kind hard to believe, judging by how many more - and how very talented - at emotional abuse mothers are, compared to fathers (at least from the data we get from suicidal teens... even J___ noticed this without me mentioning it first)... And it makes sense to me that generally women would be more likely to be sensitive, since they are supposedly more 'wired' for empathy, nurturing, etc. than men.

And later she also says that "teenage girls tend to get depressed in their teens" which suggests - according to everything else shes said so far - that they are more highly sensitive (either that, or girls are more likely to be raised in abusive families, but that doesnt make sense).

But anyhow...I liked when she said this

"cognition - thinking - is impossible without emotion. Because you wont think of anything for any amount of time at all unless you are interested in it for some reason".

I've thought this same thing too! Like about how emotions and emotional needs pretty much 'underpin' everything going on in your brain more strongly than anything else. Feelings seem to be the primary and most powerful influence on behavior and thoughts - not the other way round (which kind of goes against what cognitive behavioral therapy says.)

This makes a lot of sense, for example...

"You'll learn from any experience only as much as you think about it afterwards, and you'll think about it afterwards only as much as you cared about what happens."

BTW... how are they identifying sensitive people in all these studies??

I think you'll agree that emotional sensitivity pretty much = emotional intelligence, so it seems like however they are doing it, would be a good way to test for emotional intelligence..

Hmm... interesting when she talked about researchers finding a genetic susceptibility to depression... but then they couldn't figure out why not everybody with that genetic type makeup got depressed.... then after finding that having a bad childhood was the key, they also found that actually people with this genetic trait thing "process info more carefully" and "make better decisions.

That really reminds me of that study we heard about ages ago that says depressed people are actually more realistic than average.

Like, somehow your brain is actually *better* at what it does... instead of there being some kind of inherent damage/weakness to it, like most people assume about depressed people's brains.

So, the fact that people whose brains work "better" get more depressed in abusive environments implies there is not actually anything "wrong" with that person, and maybe it's actually closer to there being something more "right" with them.


Personal note from Steve - I almost started to cry when I was reading this again in January of 2016. P sent this to me from England about 2 years ago. In the time I might call the BA era - Before Angela - the time when P and I cared about each other and were important to each other and could talk about our feelings and needs together.... I am sitting in a care in Buenos Aires right now. It was in Buenos Aires in January of 2014 that Priscilla flew to England for some medical exams. And it was here that our relationship started to come apart, on the day that I got an email from Angela after about 3 years of not hearing from her....I helped her get to England to meet Priscilla, where she was supposed to help Priscialla. Instead I think she has been slowly killing Priscilla. If you want to try to help Priscilla you can write to her on the address of her old website www.whatdepresses.me. If P is still alive, which I assume she is, she almost surely needs a lot of help. For example, someone who will listen to her. But maybe she has found that. idk. She was definitely a highly sensitive, highly intelligent person and I miss her a lot.