Earlier this month, I finished reading the 25th anniversary edition of The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine N. Aron, Ph. D., which was published in 2020. I mentioned here on the blog that I would share more of my thoughts on the book later. I also had one regular reader who said she wanted to hear more of what I thought about the book. So, I thought I’d start today to do that in the first of I’m not sure how many parts.
First, I’d direct you to Dr. Aron’s website: https://hsperson.com/ and encourage you take the test there to see if you are an HSP. Even if you’re not, it might be helpful if you know a family member, friend, or coworker who is an HSP. Since Aron’s material is copyrighted on her website, I’m going to use Wikipedia for a definition of HSP and SPS (Sensory processing sensitivity):
Sensory processing sensitivity (SPS) is a temperamental or personality trait involving “an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli”. The trait is characterized by “a tendency to ‘pause to check’ in novel situations, greater sensitivity to subtle stimuli, and the engagement of deeper cognitive processing strategies for employing coping actions, all of which is driven by heightened emotional reactivity, both positive and negative”.
A human with a particularly high measure of SPS is considered to have “hypersensitivity”, or be a highly sensitive person (HSP). The terms SPS and HSP were coined in the mid-1990s by psychologists Elaine Aron and her husband Arthur Aron, who developed the Highly Sensitive Person Scale (HSPS) questionnaire by which SPS is measured. Other researchers have applied various other terms to denote this responsiveness to stimuli that is seen in humans and other species.
According to the Arons and colleagues, people with high SPS make up about 15–20% of the population. Although some researchers consistently related high SPS to negative outcomes, other researchers have associated it with increased responsiveness to both positive and negative influences. Aron and colleagues state that the high-SPS personality trait is not a disorder.
Several years ago, maybe even a decade ago, my wife and I had a neighbor who thought we might both be HSPs. At the time, I didn’t know what it meant. Only late last year, I checked the book out on ebook from the Free Library of Philadelphia, but then decided it was more involved than just a borrow so I bought the book and then finally started the book a couple of months ago.
[Author’s Note: I’m cutting short this post and leaving this up as part 1, because while looking up our former neighbor and friend online – he had blog posts about his own experience with being an HSP – I came across an article that he had been shot and killed in January of this year. I will have to continue this later in the week with Part 2 as I am in shock right now.]