Aggression is greatly valued by the majority of people in nearly every nation in the world. They also enjoy an excess of stimulation. These values are reinforced in the schools and in the media, as well as in the average home. There are other people, however, who feel life more acutely and who often have trouble filtering out much of the stimuli of our hustle and bustle world. They feel overwhelmed by it as a result. Their health and well being – physically, emotionally, and spiritually – suffers if they try to conform to the tough and aggressive model of being.
They have often been considered dysfunctional and suspect because of their highly attuned perceptiveness. But psychologists and counselors have begun to acknowledge, more and more, that there is nothing inherently wrong with those whom they refer to as Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). Indeed, the world would be much poorer without them.
There are a number of criteria used now to try and ascertain whether someone may be a HSP. He or she may be aware of subtle details of surroundings and atmosphere that others miss, feel affected by others’ moods, and be highly sensitive to pain. Bright lights, rough fabrics, strong smells, and loud noises (such as sirens) can be overwhelming to such a person. HSPs can lose their inner equilibrium due to major life changes (like moving, or the breakup of a relationship). Their acute sensitivity does not only bring pain, however. They also tend to be deeply moved by music and other arts, as well as natural beauty in all its forms.
Their sensitivity is likely to present them with a lot of challenges throughout their lives. Males, in particular, can suffer from living in societies that have little tolerance for their emotional sensitivity and openness. Boys, by and large, are expected to be aggressive; introspection, artistic leanings, and empathy are often viewed as feminine. Many meet this resistance to their natural selves by covering everything up with a tough – but false – exterior. This can initiate a cycle that continues to cause suffering in grown men. They become cut off from who they really are and are apt to feel lost in the world as a result.
Others cannot cover up their sensitivity no matter how they might try. Some HSPs feel so exposed to their environment that they try to numb themselves with drugs, alcohol, and various other addictions.
Counselors who seek to help such people typically suggest two ways in which they can live with their sensitivity without denying it: arranging their lives is ways that foster inner peace, and changing their attitude towards the things that they cannot change. It can be helpful for such people to realize, also, that they aren’t struggling alone. It’s estimated that Highly Sensitive People may comprise 15-20 percent of the population. And it’s a good thing that they’re here. Who else will provide the outcry against war, environmental destruction, and other evils of the modern world but those whose hearts are wrung most sorely by witnessing it all?