Ask 10 random folks on the street “what is the HSP trait?” You’re likely to get a bunch of different answers! The trait of the Highly Sensitive Person is scientifically referred to as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS). According to the research of Dr. Elaine Aron, 15-20% of males and females equally are born with a finely-tuned, highly sensitive central nervous system. That’s over 1 billion HSPs globally! The trait is also present in 100 different animal species, which Dr. Aron describes as “reflecting a certain type of survival strategy, being observant before acting.”
Before defining the trait further, here’s a short list of what Sensory Processing Sensitivity is not:
• Empath – although HSPs tend to be very empathetic and intuitive, we’re generally not “empaths” (i.e. clairsentient – an extreme psychic ability)
• Shyness – shyness is learned/environmental. While some HSPs may relate, shyness is separate from our innate trait.
• ADD – the trait may be confused with ADD, especially in the case of a child becoming overstimulated from high sensory input and intense processing in school or other environments, and losing focus in an effort to unplug.
• Cry baby – the goal of a cry baby is to get attention, which is something that we as HSPs usually choose to avoid! HSPs feel emotions very deeply, and may cry or whine more or less than the average person.
Common themes of the trait as defined through Dr. Aron’s research (referred to as DOES):
• Depth of Processing – we think very deeply about information and decisions, sometimes too much so (paralysis by analysis)!
• Overarousability – we require much more down-time than others, due to the other 3 common themes.
• Emotional Intensity – we feel emotions very deeply, particularly empathy.
• Sensory Sensitivity – we process stimuli much deeper than others through the five senses, and may become easily overstimulated. Loud noise, bright light, strong scents, particular tastes, and even touch (such as a tag on the collar of a shirt) may affect an HSP much more than non-HSPs.
70% of HSPs are introverted, however a surprising 30% are high-sensation-seeking extroverts. The challenge for the latter is in finding novel experiences while managing their level of stimulation, for they are subject to the same over-arousability and needed down-time! The key for both is in managing the frequency and intensity of the stimuli in our lives, so as not to become frequently overstimulated. This is where HSP Mentoring and NLP Life Coaching come into play to help HSPs both understand, accept, and benefit from their trait!
So there’s a brief overview to answer the question “what is the HSP trait”?
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All the Best!
Joe Capriotti – “Coaching to Thrive through Sensitivity”