I Know I’m an HSP Because… I’d Rather Be Barefoot

I’ve always hated restrictive clothing – clothes that cling, clothes that bunch, clothes that bind, lady shirts with sleeves set so you can’t raise your arms above 30 degrees from your side, tight cuffs, and shoes. Especially shoes. I lose the shoes the minute I walk in my front door, and shed additional uncomfortable clothing all the way to the bedroom.

Luckily, the Asian/hippie-inspired 70s, and the mysterious popularity of fragile water-based floor finishes begat a new convention of leaving shoes at the door in many American households, so my barefootedness isn’t weird anymore.

A middle-aged woman in a business suit and bare feet sits and reads a book at the beach

I Know I’m an HSP Because… I Can’t Ignore a Thirsty Plant

No matter what else is going on, if I see a wilted houseplant, I have to water it immediately. And those poor plants in front of grocery stores, tended – if you can call it that – by people who have no concept that they are alive. Don’t even get me started!

I joke about how I can’t stand to hear the screams, but it’s kind of true.

Photo of houseplant dropping leaves with thought bubbles saying "HELP!," "Please?," "I don't mean to be a bother but I'm dying here," and "Literally."

This is not my photo. No plants were stressed for this post.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity (HSP) Research

Here’s a great video of a lecture that I just added to my YouTube HSP playlist.

HSP Marie-Lise Schläppy is interested in using sensitivity as a tool to help in the early identification of gifted children. That is, assuming there is a connection between giftedness and sensitivity, which is primarily addressed at the very end of the video, and not conclusively. Most of the lecture is devoted to tracing the evolution of research on sensitivity, both before and since Elaine Aron’s work, and it is fascinating. I found her description of Dabrowski’s theory of positive disintegration particularly intriguing. Sounds like a contradiction in terms, right? But it sure describes my HSP journey to a T. Many thanks to Schläppy for synopsizing psychological research in non-academic terms.

The video is titled Part I. Part I includes the entire lecture. Part II, which is 45 minutes long, is the Q&A that follows. It is not always easy to understand the questions, so I found it less interesting, but here’s the link if you want to check it out.

Encouragement

Here’s a Ted Talk on sensitivity you will want to bookmark. Elena Herdieckerhoff’s description of sensitivity as being “in permanent osmosis with everything around you” is so right! Not only is she informative and entertaining (with a charming accent), but she embodies the subtle strength of HSPs. I’ve been feeling it for awhile, but I haven’t found the right word to express the power that lies in accepting ourselves even as we openly acknowledge our lack of armor. Maybe the word I’m looking for is “courage.”

 
Elena’s talk also reminds us that many of the negative reactions directed towards HSPs, whether they be men or women, are firmly rooted in sexism. The notion that emotion and reaction are feminine, and therefore an expression of weakness, is wrong on all counts. Emotionality and reactivity are not weaknesses, there is nothing inherently female about them, and last but not least, there is nothing weak or inferior about women!

But it’s hard to find words that express vulnerability AND strength. Impossible in fact. Check a thesaurus. All of the synonyms for vulnerability reference weakness and/or helplessness. And the lack of a conception of vulnerable strength is as bad for strength as it is for vulnerability. The synonyms for strength reference force, violence and domination. Before the world becomes a better place for HSPs, I think we will have to coin some new terms.

A dewy spiderweb against a background of evergreen boughs

The Black Hole of Depression

scream faceRecently, a fellow HSP blogger raised the question of whether knowing one is an HSP might make depression a little easier to handle. In other words, could knowing you are an HSP help you to take a step back and become conscious of your own reactions and needs, instead of automatically acting them out? Continue reading