The Highly Sensitive Person
Even if you do not fit the description of the highly sensitive person, you undoubtedly have one in your life, so read on…
The highly sensitive person may not be the person you have in mind. Such a title might conjure up images of – let’s face it – a woman, bent over a bowl of chocolate ice cream, tears streaming down her cheeks, and babbling inaudibly to anyone who will listen.
The highly sensitive person is aptly described by the word sensitive. The online dictionary definition of sensitive is this:
Endowed with sensation, having perception through the senses; readily or excessively affected by external agencies or influences; having acute mental or emotional sensibility; aware of and responsive to the feelings of others; easily pained, annoyed, etc; pertaining to or connected with the senses or sensation.
The highly sensitive person is acutely aware of their own and others feelings. We are also deeply affected by the environment. In a nutshell, we feel everything.
This is both awesome and troubling. It is awesome because I can walk into a room and suss out the angry person, the depressed person, the arrogant person, the friendly person, the excited person, the sick person and the healthy person, very quickly. I can very often feel when the weather is about to shift and when my loved ones are in need of some support. I know when I need more sleep, need to clean up my diet and when I’m topped up with stress. And a number of us know when something is about to happen…before it happens. This is all pretty awesome.
As a self-empowered individual, this is awesome. We have a quick and heightened ability to take really good care of ourselves and others. We know whether a particular environment is going to be supportive or detrimental to us and we act on that knowledge. I can nurture myself in an almost guru-like manner and feel wonderful because of it.
Where this heightened sensitivity can become troubling is when one is not acting out of self-empowerment or trusting their instincts. In fact, I will go as far to say, we are ALL sensitive people. The difference is, there are those who act on their sensitivities and those who don’t. But it seems that in a highly sensitive person, you almost have no choice but to act on your sensitivities.
When we ignore our sensitivities we tend to break down, and fast. It has been my experience that if I’m feeling that something or someone in my life isn’t quite right, and I don’t do something about it, I suffer. Again, everyone will suffer under these circumstances, it’s just that the highly sensitive person will suffer immediately.
When I choose not to act on my sensitivities, life starts breaking down. I know for me, I will literally begin breaking things. I’ll drop 2 or 3 dishes in a day. I won’t sleep. I’ll get moody. My energy will drop. And I always know what I need in order to feel good; to thrive. My ego might not like to follow these intuitive instructions, but I know when something is needed for my overall well-being. Really, we all do, don’t we?
But a highly sensitive person is like an open wound at times. Under contentious circumstances, the open wound keeps rubbing up against something abrasive and it just keeps bleeding. Why do we do it to ourselves? Do we think our egos actually know best? Giggle, giggle, giggle…
On the flip side, if I feel that something is really right for me, I’m on it like a dog on a bone. I can’t not go after it. Several years ago, I was contemplating working with a spiritual teacher from Ireland. I’d never met him. There was an upcoming 10 day seminar, in Ireland, with him. It was a month away. Did I mention that I’d never met him?
I went to bed one night (not thinking about it) and ended up having a dream. In the dream, I flew to Ireland and rented a car. I drove to a country home and I distinctly recalled driving through this incredible tunnel of trees. The trees were hanging over the road I was driving on and it was beautiful and other-worldly. I arrived at this house where a group of people were going to be working with this spiritual teacher. I spoke with a woman and she told me, “Oh dear, there’s just one spot left and if you’d like it, it’s yours!” I said yes, felt thrilled that I’d gone, and then I woke up.
When I woke up from the dream, I had the most overwhelming feeling that I had to go. In Buddhist psychology, this is referred to as the choiceless choice. And yet, I had never met this man. I knew almost nothing about this man. But every neuron in my body was screaming at me to go and spend 10 days with him. When I phoned to see if there was any room available in the course , his wife told me that, yes, there was just one spot left. I went. It changed my entire life. Life has never been the same for me since making that leap over the pond.
After spending those 10 days in Ireland, I worked with him one more time in Phoenix, Arizona and then that was that. Although the whole thing changed my life, deeply, irrevocably, I decided at some point that I didn’t want to work with a guru. And yet, very recently, my family and I were on vacation down south. I was walking down the beach by myself one afternoon and, out of the blue, I thought of this spiritual teacher. I wondered if he was, in some way, still around me. At that precise moment, I looked up and saw a man coming towards me. Smeared, in large letters, across his t-shirt was the last name of this spiritual teacher.
And there you go, I thought…and smiled to myself.
Therein lies the life and workings of a highly sensitive person.