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Being a Highly Sensitive Person

For an HSP from an HSP
By Candy Crawford

I turned the big 50 this year and have been reflecting more than usual. I am taken back by how profound my entire life has felt and how numinous the future appears… (read more)

candy-elaine

Elaine Aron, Ph.D. and Candy Crawford in Santa Barbara, CA at HSP Gathering.

A group of us had just put the finishing touches on the sanctuary for the Christmas Eve service. One of the adults suggested we gather in a circle and conclude by singing a song. Instantly I felt a flutter of nerves rush through my body as two adults clutched my hands and directed me to the circle. Someone began singing a familiar song so my lips started moving. As I felt the warmth and connection pulsating between my hands and the others, I listened to the voices creating a sound that appeared to physically soften my entire body. I felt a rush of tears emerge from my eyes and chase down my cheeks. I didn’t know what was happening. All I knew is that the experience felt incredibly comforting and I felt extremely fragile. All I could do to get through the song was breathe so my tears wouldn’t overtake me. I remember feeling relieved those two hands did not release their grip until the song was through.

I’ve lived a lifetime of these experiences. Many of them appearing to resemble emotional tsunamis flooding my inner world and leaving me in an exposed state, necessitating decompression back to the real world.  I wish I could say they’ve all been waves of positive feelings. These surges have also come in forms of deep grief, anxiety, fear and even isolation. My signature answer to the common question “So how has life been going for you?” tends to remain consistent: “very hard and very rich.”

From a young age I’ve found certain life scenarios to evoke immense joy and dare I say, inner abundance. My parents spoiled us with a cabin in the north woods so from early on my body and soul befriended nature. What could be sweeter than being in a rowboat beneath the big open sky tasting the delights of nature? Scanning for eagles, casting and reeling in fish of all shapes and sizes, listening to the water lap against the boat and raindrops pelting upon the roof in the dark. I learned very early nature is not only the perfect playground but a sanctuary for the mind and soul. To this day I know and experience deep connection to the deepest places when I pay attention to the beauty that surrounds me. I scan for living things like a hunter seeks prey. I also cannot live without weekly doses of classical music, poetry, being outdoors and hands on time with animals.

It’s a complex experience owning this temperament/trait. At times it resembles a perilous road of feeling unusual and often anything but a “goodness of fit” with others. This trait yields fullness of spirit but also stark challenges within the interpersonal realm.  Adapting to the fast paced in-your-face suburbia lifestyle often feels impossible.  How quickly I can crash and burn with the constant noise, incoming stimuli, and plethora of daily activity. The flip side is just as challenging: holding palpable needs to find meaning and deep connection to others, feeling disconnected and even incompetent at relating to pop culture and tech screens and often feeling I’m relating at a frequency that is simply too raw and organic for this world. I’ve been kindly encouraged to “lower my standards,” adapt a “positive attitude,” and simply “lighten up.” Impossible. I was sharing this with a wise friend recently who replied, “you may have a unique grid for experiencing life but not so extreme that you aren’t one of us.” Phew, perhaps I am not so odd after all.

In high school I began collecting newspaper clippings of faces that exhibited poignant expressions. I went so far as to place them in a scrapbook I’ve never been able to claim or name. In researching the trait of highly sensitive person I realized something deep within was responding to something in the eyes in those pictures: deep emotion. In a culture that does not encourage nor rarely displays the complex range of emotions that humanity calls forth, I had felt mine in their eyes.  The older I am the more I seem to be coming to terms with who I am and how I need to make intentional choices in how I “do” life in this world and “be” the unique person that I am. Limits are mandatory as well as learning to delicately tend to the inner tsunamis that evoke both joy and grief and an array of other emotions. “Everything belongs” I like to say and yes, life is very challenging and colorful.

Many people find it helpful to meet with a counselor to get help with these issues.  If this is something you are interested in, call me at 630-991-6200 or fill out the form to the side and I will contact you.