Photo by Andreas Haslinger
It’s no surprise that our world has shifted since the global health crisis began. Our everyday routines may have slightly or abruptly changed from one day to another. What we did, and how we did it, came second nature to us and our everyday lifestyle and perhaps we barely, if ever, stopped to consider what we did or how we chose to engage in everyday life.
For highly sensitive people, pausing to consider what we do and how we may engage in something is a cornerstone of our experience. Traits of highly sensitive people—like our perceptual sensitivity and awareness of subtle changes—allows us to think about things much more deeply and for longer periods of time than others. When we engage in this process of careful consideration, we will play out different scenarios in our minds, in hopes of making a choice that reflects intention, as well as a reflection of our depth of thinking. This depth of thinking, or deep processing, that we HSP’s engage in, is an integral part of our “biological sensitivity to context” (Boyce & Ellis, 2008). It is this exact piece of our trait that allows us to process information more thoroughly before responding (Aron, 2011).
“our society and culture is in need of a shift, and that starts with each of us thinking about ways that we can take more time to think about our choices before we act or respond to them. ”
Let’s explore this a bit more. We HSP’s are born with an innate trait that naturally helps us evaluate choices and make decisions that can benefit not only ourselves, but can impact our surroundings. The difference between us HSP’s and the other 80% of humans, is that we take more time to respond when we evaluate choices and ultimately make a decision. This is our way of functioning, which is in contradiction with the majority of our impulse-driven, quick-to-respond culture and society. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, but I can only imagine the benefits of a society that “slows down” to process their thinking before making decisions. As HSP’s scan their environment and consider all 1000+ pieces of the puzzle, we are biologically wired to think deeply on all the nuances before acting; this is what the world needs more of.
In today’s culture, we tend to react in unfavorable unconscious ways, even moreso when we are feeling unsafe or threatened. If we are not aware or conscious of our reactions, we become stuck in our lifestyle just like those everyday routines. Before we have a chance to look at our reflections and wonder why we choose to do the things we do, we have adopted a way of being that is “just who we are.” The issue at hand is that more than half of the population is infrequently considering the effects that their actions have on the world: on a macro level- everything from social humanitarian issues, environmental issues, civil rights issues, and on a micro level-the impacts on our loved ones and our community. Our society and culture is in need of a shift, and that starts with each of us thinking about ways that we can take more time to think about our choices before we act or respond to them.
So how do we get there? Highly Sensitive Person or not, we all can benefit from:
Turning Inward. This means we do the work we need to do to get ourselves to a place of inner safety. When we learn ways to soothe our nervous system (the part of us that reacts to threats or fear) our thinking will move from a fear based response, to a conscientious approach. Which enables us to make more well informed decisions based on what we think is best.
Enhance our Sensitivity. Let’s tap into that trait that enables us to be more attentive to our surroundings, enhances empathy for one another, and seeks to find more ways of connecting. Find topics, hobbies, and community experiences that enhance your humanity, offer you connection with others, and all around make you feel good!
Practice Moments of Pause. Before responding or moving forward with making decisions, take a moment or a few days and then respond. We can all make attempts to change our habits, and if it’s for the betterment of ourselves and the world which we live in – why not? Take these next couple of days to find moments of pause for yourself- it will take conscious effort. Journal your experience and reflect on what you felt was most helpful for you. We tend to remember experiences where we had deep emotional connections to them.
“hsp’s can play a leading role in moving the world forward by not only continuing to be ourselves, but also in sharing the experience that comes with carefully considering before acting or responding.”
And hey, I’m not preaching that HSP’s get it right all the time – we’re human first of all. But from personal experience and understanding, I know that we certainly make conscious efforts in thinking of the impact our decisions will make. If you can take a second (yes, I’m asking you to take that pause) to imagine a world where we all consider the impacts we have…that world would be much more welcoming, patient, and understanding.
From an evolutionary, survival perspective the high sensitivity trait has evolved for people so that we can make conscientious decisions that not only benefit us, but also those around us. Essentially, so that we can collectively work towards a more harmonious way of life. Which is something that highly sensitive people actively try to do each and every day. HSP’s can play a leading role in moving the world forward by not only continuing to be ourselves, but also in sharing the experience that comes with carefully considering before acting or responding. It’s important for us to feel safe, seen, and heard and I think that when we do find that community and share how we see and understand the world, we are not only helping ourselves, but offering our friends and family insight into our inner lives.
My hope is that we will all learn how to tap into our inner sensitivity to create a more thoughtful life for ourselves, our loved ones, and our community.
Ellis, B. J., & Boyce, W. T. (2008). Biological sensitivity to context. Current directions in psychological science, 17(3), 183-187.
Aron, E. N. (2011). Psychotherapy and the highly sensitive person: Improving outcomes for that minority of people who are the majority of clients. Routledge. Chicago