HIGH SENSITIVITY, A CHARACTER TRAIT
In most people, high sensitivity begins with the feeling of being different from other people. Exactly how highly-sensitive people differ from others is often hard to express. It generally begins at the very first moment they can remember, and it is so deeply embedded that they are unable to properly articulate the feeling of being different from others. It’s a sensation, an experience, a realisation which can get in their way and which often, though not always, generates difficulties and problems. To such an extent that some even ask themselves hesitantly: am I perhaps crazy? Yet it has little to do with madness.
Sensitivity is a characteristic of the nervous system in combination with the brain. For highly-sensitive people this assimilation differs from that of most people somewhere within the process of assimilation, between the entry of a stimulus and it being processed by the brain. In one way or another the information processing for a highly-sensitive person is more extensive and more precise than for an average person. Highly-sensitive people don’t necessary have better senses, but they process their sensory stimuli in a more complex way. Aron draws the comparison with a sorting machine: ‘A highly-sensitive person sorts stimuli in ten variants where someone else only perceives two or three.’
High sensitivity is most probably a hereditary trait. Thus you are born with it. Highly-sensitive people perceive all sorts of subtle nuances where others miss them. What doesn’t bother others or may even be enjoyable to them, such as loud music or busy crowds, intrusive sirens, sharp lights, unfamiliar smells and shopping chaos, can provoke an intense reaction in someone who is highly sensitive. He or she becomes over-stimulated. If such over-stimulation or over-excitement is prolonged, it results in a stress situation. When and for whom over-stimulation leads to stress is entirely individual and depends on other factors. Factors which play a part here include one’s upbringing, ‘adapting strategies’ and other traits a person may have. Age also plays a role in just how much someone can tolerate; children can generally assimilate more impressions than the elderly. For all people whether highly-sensitive or not, sensitivity generally increases with age.
The term ‘high sensitivity’ was created by Aron and is more friendly and neutral than the term ‘oversensitive’. Oversensitive actually implies that the trait is too much of a good thing. As you will gradually read, high sensitivity is not too much and is also not bad. Just like any other trait, high sensitivity is a characteristic which can be explained both positively and negatively, depending on your focus. Someone who is highly sensitive does certainly have the potential to deploy this sensitivity impressively in many aspects of his or her life. A highly-sensitive person can turn this trait into a talent. Someone who is highly sensitive does, however, have to ensure that his environment fits with his needs. This is a challenge confronting people of a sensitive nature.
are aware of many details and subtleties,
sense the moods of others,
have a rich inner world of perception,
dream, fantasise and think a lot,
are considerate and aware,
like to do things at their own tempo,
are deeply moved by beauty and art,
enjoy peace and quiet.