Wednesday, April 23, 2008

How sensitive is TOO sensitive?

I had another "aha" moment today. For some reason, the word "empath" got stuck in my head. After following a few links through Google, I ended up reading several articles about highly sensitive people (HSPs), and not surprisingly, some references to being INFJ also showed up. I started researching characteristics of HSPs and recognized myself instantly.

I found an interesting list of the traits of HSPs that were all too familiar. In fact, I answered "yes" to every one of the following questions:

  • Do you get overwhelmed by stimuli such as lights, noises, and smells?

  • Do other people’s moods and emotions deeply affect you?

  • Are you easily startled?

  • Do you become uneasy when someone is watching you complete a task?

  • Do you become tired easily after a “normal” day of activity?

  • Are you aware of other things in your environment that most other people are not aware of?

  • Do you become agitated or anxious when you have a lot of tasks to do and not enough time to complete all of them?

  • Do you avoid disturbing or violent movies, books, or T.V. shows?

  • Do you feel the need to escape and retreat when there is too much going on around you?

  • Are you deeply interested in the arts or music?

  • Do you dislike changes in your life?

  • Do you enjoy delicate tastes, scents, sounds, soft fabrics, or beautiful works of art?

  • Have you always been labeled as shy or sensitive by other people?

  • Are you overly conscientious?

  • Do you seem to be more sensitive to pain than other people?

  • Are you sensitive to certain foods such as foods containing caffeine, sugar or alcohol?

  • Do you become unpleasant when you are hungry?

  • Do you easily sense the energies of places or situations?

  • Are you easily touched by others' experience, stories of kindness, and courage?

  • Are you attracted to the deeper things such as spirituality, self-development and philosophy?

  • Do you need time alone?

  • Are your feelings easily bruised?

  • Do you have a vivid imagination?

  • After reading this list, is it really any wonder that I'm often exhausted, can't sleep, or feel sad, stresed or overwhelmed? Interestingly, I think that the more time that I spend in intentional solitude, getting to know myself and enjoying my own company, the more sensitive I am to the influences of external factors.

    Last week I was baffled by the fact that I had a few informational job interviews and in one case in particular, the minute I walked into the office, I had a "bad" feeling about the office and the prospective employer. I tried to articulate to a friend why I knew that wasn't the job for me - even though I don't have any other firm offers - but I couldn't find the right words. I just knew that I "wasn't feeling it", as my daughter would say.

    I'm really curious to better understand the correlation between HSPs and INFJs. If you know anything about this, or can recommend good resources, please post a comment.


    Jenalexa said...

    In my early 20's (long before my diagnosis of bipolar), I was seeing a counsellor who pulled out this book "The Highly Sensitive Person".

    Long before that, I had done the Myers-Briggs or Keirsey Temperament questionaire a few times, learning about my so-called "personality traits."

    I would view the Temperaments (Personality tests) and HSP different from one another. While you may learn different aspects of your personality in the complex study of 16 different temperament styles, you may also be influenced by heightened senses.

    The theory behind HSP as I understand it is that if you're notably sensitive in one area, it may be that you're similarily sensitive in all domains, and the issue is to uncover things you may not have known about yourself and learn from it. This theory can be viewed as side note to the personality data.

    Not only that, but in the literal meaning of the word, the temperament indicator "Sensor" associates the definition with words & phrases such as: focused on the physical world, live by their 5 senses, concrete, interested in "what is", realistic, practical, understands details, particulars, only see the obvious, down to earth, use words literally, live in the present, needs evidence and facts, traditional and simple, sees the trees instead of the forest.

    After reading on a main website describing the HSP, I noticed a trend that sensitivity is assumed to be related to specifically to feelings and emotion, more so, than the personality indicator.

    Hopefully this was helpful!

    Annie said...

    Hello- This was a very interesting post. The questions were exhausting for me and perhaps for you. I tend to simplify my views of emotions. You seem to be a sensitive person and that can be a positive quality but can make you vulnerable. Since you seem to know that I encourage you to take care of that part of yourself! Thanks for the post. Annie

    BPD in OKC said...

    I answered yes to most of them. Thank you for the post.

    Pocket said...

    Excellent info!

    WOW...I am a HSP!

    Thanks for this...a lot

    Now what?

    Nancie said...

    I too have to answer "yes" to most of the questions! So that makes me a HSP as well :)

    I always have had people telling me that I am too sensitive. They seemed to look at it in a very negative way. I think there are indeed several disadvantages to be too sensitive but I also appreciate the positive aspect of it. How to strike a balance is the tricky part :)