Shira Klazmer, LPC
Is there a cure for being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)?
After learning that I was a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), my first google search was an iteration of the words: "how to cure being HSP." I get DMs, emails, and questions often from people hoping there are ways to get rid of the HSP personality trait. They reach out with hope that they can be "normal" and turn off their sensitivity. They come to me at times with an ideal version of themselves they want me to help guide them toward becoming.
I completely relate, as I originally felt that way myself. I didn't want to feel different anymore. I didn't want to have such sensitive tendencies toward overwhelm from the sensory experiences around me every day. I wanted to be able to keep up with my peers and do more and more. I didn't want to feel so deeply or empathize so deeply with others. I was tired and worn down. I felt a loss of control over my life as I reflected back to childhood and the constant stomach aches and anxiety about going out into the world.
Those disheartening feelings of understanding yourself as a Highly Sensitive Person are normal. There is a grieving process often involved when we discover clarity on ourselves and recognize that we are wired a certain way. However, there is no way to change it. There is no cure. And to me, that is the absolute beauty of it all.
Therapy work involves learning how your own operation manual works. Ideally, we would all know every word and every page of our own operation manuals front to back. Most people complete their entire life cycle never knowing every page of their unique operation manual. As a HSP, it's imperative that we learn how to navigate our unique needs with care. We can then begin to navigate each day with intention and teach those close to us how we need to be tended to and treated. What to expect from us and what not to expect. What our limitations are and what our strengths are. In doing so, the world begins to respond to us organically. It no longer feels like a prison with limitations and obstacles every single day. It begins to feel like opportunity to flourish. As we discover the beauty of our unique Neurotype (the way each individual person's brain is wired), and we pay attention to it instead of running from it, life begins to make more sense.
Nothing brings me more joy and pride than watching one of my HSP clients shift from the mentality of resenting their sensitivity to embracing it and discovering a new dimension of existence. If you are new in your journey to understanding yourself, whether you identify and resonate with the HSP personality trait or not, I wish for you the courage to stay patient and curious to get to know yourself first before passing judgement. It's so hard not to compare ourselves with the people we spend the most time around or with those we see in the media. But that's often not helpful. You are your own unique person. Your brain is wired in your own specific way. In the same way that your fingerprint is unique, your Neurotype is yours and only yours.
Although there is no cure for being a Highly Sensitive Person, there is a way to make peace with it and possibly even grow to love it.
A few things to consider as you start to learn more about yourself as a HSP:
Consider the 5 senses + 6th sense of emotional attunement and make note of the ones that you find the most overwhelming throughout a typical day in your life.
Sight: Did you notice any overwhelm when in a space where a lot was going on around you visually (being in a crowded grocery store, walking down a busy street, driving)? Did you notice any ease when you were looking at something specific (looking at the trees, closing your eyes to breathe, watching your kids).
Smell: Was there a scent that caused you to feel irritable or uncomfortable (strong perfume, walking past garbage, body odor in a public place)? Was there a scent or lack thereof that brought you ease or comfort (coffee brewing, skincare products, fresh morning air)?
Sound: Did you notice any overwhelm with noises (traffic, loud public space, children)? Any sounds (or lack thereof) that brought you comfort (birds chirping, white noise, specific music)?
Taste: Any tastes that created discomfort (morning breath, cold food that's meant to be warm, badly seasoned food)? Tastes that brought you comfort (coffee, water at the right temperature, a craving you fulfilled)?
Touch: Anything related to physical touch or sensation that created discomfort (itchy tag on your clothing, people standing too close to you, sweating from overheating or being too cold without proper attire)? Anything related to physical touch or sensation that brought ease (a cozy sweater, your dog laying on you, stepping outside to get fresh air after being in a crowded space)?
Emotional Attunement: Were you around others who were in stressed, angry, anxious moods and you felt you absorbed it? Were you around others or alone and able to attune to the comfort and ease and relaxation they/you provided?
I provided these specific examples above so you have an idea what it's like to be a Highly Sensitive Person both difficult and positive. Tune in to your unique responses in a typical day or week and notice the things that cause you the most discomfort along with the things that cause you the most ease in each of the 6 senses that the HSP holds. As you continue your own research into patterns of self, you can begin avoiding negative experiences when possible, adding in boundaries if you have to be in difficult situations, and/or seeking out more positive situations that provide you with recharge and ease.
-Shira Klazmer, LPC