Being a Highly Sensitive Person
As a highly sensitive person, our personality trait can enhance creativity, but we can feel more, react to others and the environment more easily and deeply, and sometimes get overwhelmed by so much intensity and stimulation.
Dolly Parton has talked about part of the trait for her:
“I hurt real easy and real deep, which is why I think I have to write songs, [and] why so many of them fit the feelings of so many people that can’t write.
“It’s because I feel everything to my core.”
[Also quoted in article: Being Highly Sensitive and Creative.]
[Photos from Facebook/DollyParton.]
We can and do use our sensitivity to be creative, but need to understand ourselves.
As Dolly Parton says, “Find out who you are and do it on purpose.”
But we need to respect the emotional and health consequences of a ramped-up and unusually sensitive nervous system.
And give ourselves a break when we need to.
In her post “too much stimulation” (on her blog The Existential Coach), Linda DeLuca wrote,
“Like many HSPs, I have a creative side and am always thinking of new ideas and projects.
“I had begun to create piles for each of these ideas/projects in my office. This, along with my collection of books, my many sticky notes, and a growing pile of geek toys, was just too much for my brain to handle.
“One day as I walked into my office I felt my pulse and breath quickened, my head felt like it was going to pop off like a pressure cooker. I had reached my limit of stimulation.”
How can we help ourselves and others better manage this kind of unhealthy stress?
Michaela Chung writes about this topic as an introvert, which is a related trait experienced by many highly sensitive people:
“When you’re an introvert like me, you spend a lot of time feeling overwhelmed.
“Who can blame you? Introvert overwhelm is a natural side effect of being an introvert in an extrovert’s world.”
Psychiatrist Joseph A. Annibali notes how highly sensitive people may have evolved during human history, and some of the positive aspects of the trait:
“Easily overaroused individuals would be better able to detect and warn of potential danger, better monitor animals and other humans, and more able to pass along cultural wisdom.”
Read much more in article Overcoming Overwhelm When You’re Creative and Sensitive.
Items on the Self-Test on psychologist Elaine Aron’s site include:
- I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.
- I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.
- Other people’s moods affect me.
- I tend to be very sensitive to pain.
- I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days, into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.
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Crying and sensitivity
Strong emotional reactivity is part of the trait.
Heath Ledger was considered highly sensitive.
Director Todd Haynes commented after his death, “Heath was a true artist, a deeply sensitive man, an explorer, gifted and wise beyond his years.”
A news report [Daily Telegraph, 2006] said, “Heath Ledger cried all night after being attacked with water pistols by paparazzi at the Sydney premiere of Brokeback Mountain – and later sold his $4.45 million beachside home in Australia to relocate to Brooklyn with partner Michelle Williams and baby Matilda.”
Michelle Williams said: “He had an uncontrollable energy. He buzzed. He would jump out of bed. For as long as I’d known him, he had bouts with insomnia. He just had too much energy. His mind was turning, turning, turning – always turning…”
From my article Are Highly Sensitive Men More Creative?
Crying is a form of being intensely emotional that many highly sensitive people share.
Over the course of some twenty years reading interviews with talented actors and other artists, I have been struck by how many of them talk about crying as almost a part of their personality.
Elaine Aron, PhD is one of the leading writers and researchers on the personality trait of high sensitivity (sensory processing sensitivity; present for about 15 to 20 percent of us), and she declares that HSPs (highly sensitive persons) “do cry more readily than others. It was a strong finding in our research.”
Actor Jessica Chastain:
“I’m very sensitive in real life.
“I cannot not cry if someone around me is crying…even if it’s not appropriate.”
From Jessica Chastain and High Sensitivity.
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What was your childhood like?
Empowerment coach Jenna Forrest notes, “Challenges begin in childhood, when as toddlers and pre-schoolers they pick up subtle signals, thoughts, moods and other sensory energy from home, in the neighborhood, from TV or school, or from their playmates — and they don’t know what to do with it.
“In a short time, the world’s problems become their own. Millions of highly sensitive people right at this moment are carrying a heavier burden than the rest of society just because they’re perceptive of the world’s discord, which is coming at them every day from a laundry list of sources.”
She is author of Help Is On Its Way: A Memoir About Growing Up Sensitive.
Quotes are from Jenna Forrest on Empowering Sensitivity – the transcript of our podcast interview.
Also see a post on my Highly Sensitive site: Jenna Forrest on sensitivity.
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How do biochemistry and nutrition relate to high sensitivity?
I have read some of the book The UltraMind Solution: Fix Your Broken Brain by Healing Your Body First, by Mark Hyman MD, in which he writes about a 12-year-old boy on multiple medications for ADHD, asthma, allergies and other problems – (that were cleared up with Dr. Hyman’s holistic approach) and declares that low magnesium levels “lead to headaches; anxiety; insomnia, muscle spasms… and hypersensitivity to noises.”
That is an intriguing aspect of this trait – that maybe for some people it is affected by nutrition.
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Jenna Avery affirms “Learning to thrive as a Highly Sensitive Soul presents challenges. If you’re sensitive, you have likely accumulated years of training in trying overcome the trait because you don’t ‘fit in’ with society.
“And yet being Highly Sensitive is a vital part of you. A first step toward thriving as a Sensitive Soul is to understand and accept your trait.”
She emphasizes, “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are just different. As one of my clients says, being Highly Sensitive is both a gift and a responsibility… As you begin to manage your life in a way that truly works for you, you will trust the power and gift of your sensitivity, and be inspired to share your much-needed wisdom with the world.”
From her article Are You Highly Sensitive?
See her site for other posts, online classes and other resources: jennaavery.com.
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Here are a few more quotes I’ve collected on the experience:
“I’m too sensitive to watch most of the reality shows. It’s so painful for me.” Actor Amy Brenneman
“I’ll cry at anything, even a tissue commercial.” Actor, musician Mandy Moore.
“There have been some traumatic experiences in my life that have resulted in my feeling that maybe I was going insane for a little while… How do you ever explain the feelings of anxiety and paralysing fear? I can’t answer those questions. It’s just a feeling of “Am I crazy? Am I too sensitive to be in this world?”
That quote by Winona Ryder really struck me as one of the main challenges: the sense of being “crazy” or “too sensitive” to function well enough to bring our talents to life.
But, of course, that is not true.
We just need to respect our sensitivity and proclivity for overhwhelm. Maybe cut down on watching TV news, or stop trying to do too much multitasking.
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Learn much more about the personality trait on my site Highly Sensitive and Creative.
For many additional resources, see the pages:
Resources for Introverts and Highly Sensitive People.
Programs for Introverts and Highly Sensitive People.
Emotional Health Resources: Programs, books, articles and sites to improve your emotional wellbeing.
* Note – Links to programs and products may be affiliate links, which means a company or publisher provides a small commission to me (paid by them, at no cost to you) if you decide to purchase. This helps support my efforts in creating the free content you read here and on my other sites, plus helps pay for costs such as website hosting. As an Amazon Associate, and an affiliate representing some other companies such as Sounds True, as well as a few coaches and psychologists, I provide links to products and programs that may be helpful to creative people. Thanks for visiting.