“Am I Happier Single?” Learning to Love and Hyper-Sensitivity

Toward the later part of my acting career, I noticed a pronounced pattern. When I was single, I booked more work. And though I had a fairly good idea why, the partnered-up me was often too deep in a relationship to snap out of my funk for the sake of auditions.

Once a boyfriend and I passed the initial dopamine-drunk stage, something would happen that zapped the light clear out of me. And I’m not talking major brawls. An issue involving work…a misunderstood remark…his fear that I loved acting more than him. I marveled at friends who laughed or complained about relationship strife, then carried on with relative ease. And here I was, cowering in a metaphorical corner, angst invading my every pore. I could see it in snapshots and the mirror—in ways that couldn’t be photo-corrected or concealed. In severe cases, I felt contagious, as though this cloud of heavy, visible smog could choke me and others, bringing them down with me. Even when my low moods didn’t directly involve my partner, it affected him. In both cases, I sensed his frustration, disappointment, confusion, hurt and sometimes anger, which made everything worse. Exhausted, I usually ended up holing myself away somewhere, crying my eyes out and wondering what the heck was wrong with me. Not exactly the most camera or step-into-character-friendly state…


One particularly sad day in 2006, I took this self-portrait in the mirror for my photo-a-day journal. Below it, I wrote: Sad, Swollen Rudolph—but rainbows are coming. I feel it…and hope.

I analyzed my feelings, sought therapy and eventually got through them—usually after a makeup or breakup. Then came the recovery time—getting over the exhausting turmoil. A sort of “I just need time” flu. To quote my optimistic mother, my love life was like a “very diverse and interesting movie.” For a while, I dodged serious relationships, thinking that they were the problem, aware—and fearful—that the common denominator (i.e., problem) was me. It took some time, growth, strengthening single time and effort, but I gradually learned this wasn’t the case.

Numerous people suggested I read The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron throughout the years. Each time I looked into its philosophies, however, I dismissed the personal relevance. Highly sensitive people are often perceived as shy, timid and extremely introverted, I read—and that ain’t me. Then I came upon an article that discussed the highly sensitive extrovert, or “sensation seeker,” and a Home Depots-worth of lightbulbs went off. Ah-ha! Perhaps I wasn’t so strange or broken after all…

This revelation combined with maturity, transitioning to writing and meeting my awesome, understanding husband have led me to embrace and understand my sensitivity in a whole new way. And I’m happy to say the “Sad Rudolph” days are far fewer, milder and further between.

I’m not crazy about labels and realize that biology only accounts for  a portion of who we are. But since I’ve found exploring high sensitivity empowering and pacifying, I thought you all might like to read and chat about it, too.

Facts about High Sensitivity

  • Psychologist Carl Jung came up with the concept, using the term innate sensitiveness.
  • High sensitivity affects about 15 – 20% of the population.
  • About 30% of HS people are social extroverts. The other 70% are introverted, but not necessarily shy.
  • Highly sensitive people are believed to process sensory data much more deeply and thoroughly due to nervous system differences. This often leads to a low tolerance for violence (on TV and elsewhere), physical and emotional pain, loud noise, foods/flavors, bright lights and more.
  • High sensitivity is not treacherous, weakening or a life sentence.
  • High sensitivity brings along many perks.

Benefits of High Sensitivity

We have rich inner lives, and thrive on alone time. In a world where many people fear being alone, this is a particularly awesome strength. Thoughtful alone time deepens our understanding of our lives, our work and ourselves.

We’re highly empathetic, which makes us valuable friends, spouses, listeners, artists and caregivers. Others may deem us “psychic” for sensing so much about other people or situations, when in fact, our senses are highly attuned—from my experience, anyway. (DUDE, we could make serious ching. Kidding. ;))

We’re more in touch with our intuition and can pick up potential harm easily. If food tastes slightly off, we’ll notice first, potentially saving ourselves from toxicity. Our heightened ability to perceive sights, sounds and other sensations alert us to harmful people giving us odd looks or invading our personal space. We also pick up easily on others’ good hearts and trustworthiness.

We have a crazy-high capacity to feel love, joy and other positive feelings—not merely negative emotions. Our hearts may break bigger, but we love larger, too.

We’re extra-sensual and can reap more pleasure from sex than less sensitive counterparts. Highly sensitive people can be “turned on my subtle cues,” says Aron. She also says that the extraverted, sensation-seeking sensitives tend to enjoy sex more than the average person, want more of it and have the ability to “enjoy sex without love.”

We’re more selective about commitment, and fiercely loyal in relationships. We also can’t much handle staying in “wrong” or damaging relationships or careers. This can inspire us to do what must to get out of not-the-best relationships and seek work we love, where less sensitive folks might “grin and bear it.”

We’re creative. Sensitivity and artistry go hand-in-hand . It takes a deep feeling person to be able to express themselves in profound ways. If you’re like me, powerful emotions almost force you to express yourself through writing or other creative mediums when talking and feeling aren’t enough. And who better to depict colors, tastes, smells and other sensations than those who perceive them the strongest?

Are you or a loved one highly sensitive? Any prime examples or lessons learned to share? What behaviors help you maximize the perks or minimize challenges?

Leave a comment

91 Comments

  1. Very interesting article, August. I do see a lot of similarities in myself as I read, although I’m not an extrovert. I’m pretty sensitive about a lot of things, and that’s something I’ve worked to lessen over the years because I always had my feelings hurt. This article also reminded me of my close friend – a lot of it described her to a ‘T’. Thanks so much for sharing and giving me a new perspective on some things.

    Reply
  2. Hi August,
    Yes, I am one of those HSPs’ and have always thought that something was wrong with me because I wasn’t like my brother and sisters. I relate heavily to what you have written. I enjoy being by myself, for example, after a music performance. I have no problems being on stage. It is the stage fright before and the need to be alone afterwards that make me tired and in need of peace and quietness.
    Yet and still, I love people and love making people happy. I love reaching out to others, while singing by smiling at them or singing to them but afterward I need to retreat because I have so many emotions that are stirred up within me. Then, when I think of being alone, most of my friends and acquaintances cannot stand being alone. I love it! I love the morning hours especially, because no one else is awake and I can roam through my house doing my thing. I am in my little world.
    I am also a sensual person. I never thought of it as extra-sensual, but when I think over the people that I know or have met, I would definitely say I am extra sensual. My girlfriends complain about sexual intimacy with their husbands and I look around, silently not saying anything because I don’t complain. I find it downright enjoyable!!!!
    As far as my inner emotions, feelings and thinking are concerned, I am intuitive. I need to stay in touch with myself and I do that through with my journals. Let me miss typing in my journal for three days and I am climbing the walls.
    Also, I can function with very little sleep – anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. I don’t like wasting time sleeping.
    One more thing, because I am presently living in Germany and have probably had my head in the ground, I had not heard of Dr. Anon, so thanks for this article. I will buy the book today because I need to read it.
    Ciao,
    Patricia

    Reply
    • I love the stage, too, Patricia. Sounds like we relate on multiple levels. 🙂

      Thanks for sharing your wonderful thoughts. Hope you enjoy Anon’s book!

      Reply
  3. EllieAnn

     /  August 27, 2012

    Wow. This is so much my story. And my mother and sister’s story. I’m very extroverted, and yet my alone time is SO important to me. Before I met my husband, I was terrible at finding boundaries in my relationships. I didn’t know how much to give, what I should say yes or no to, and worried about a lot of words that were meaningless.
    A negative part of this is taking on burdens that aren’t yours to bear. That, and wanting to do EVERYTHING when it’s just so impractical. I can’t save the black rhinos, volunteer as a nurse in the Congo, be a writer, nanny for a family who needs help, AND keep up a stable relationship.
    My husband has taught me so much about boundaries, knowing myself, and how to just BE. Now I’ve accepted those good parts of my sensitivity (like empathy and being a great sex partner) and discarded a lot that was harming me. I still have more to go, though … I know. Right now I’m trying not to read into things people say, but just take them at their word.

    Reply
    • “I can’t save the black rhinos, volunteer as a nurse in the Congo, be a writer, nanny for a family who needs help, AND keep up a stable relationship.”

      Well said, Ellie Ann. Feeling like crazy can bring a tendency to help/save/fix like crazy. So happy to hear that you’ve found ways to maximize the benefits and set boundaries. Supportive partners and friends are important for everyone, IMO, but essential for the highly sensitive.

      Reply
  4. Great post! As a fellow “ultra-sensitive,” one perk that I see is that we’re capable of helping others cope with overwhelming emotions like fear, anger, grief, etc. Because we feel so intensely, we’re able to help others work through their own feelings.

    Reply
    • I agree with you there, Denise. It’s a gift to be able to support others in an ultra-understanding way. So glad the post resonated with you. 🙂

      Reply
  5. Wow! I need to have my mom read this. All during my childhood she would tell me that I was too sensitive ~ not a compliment, I assure you. But this makes me feel like maybe it really was a compliment and she didn’t understand me. I am pretty much the poster child for highly sensitive people. It’s nice to know I’m not alone or crazy, which sometimes I feel that way. I’m at an age now where I embrace my sensitive nature and try very hard to use it as a means of helping others, not only myself. Without this post, I’m not sure I ever would have recognized what I do as a part of my nature. Once again I find I am in your debt of gratitude. You always seem to post just the right thing at the right time. Thank you.

    Reply
    • I’m so touched to hear this stuck a chord with you, Tameri. It sounds like your mother and some of my exes have a LOT in common! (Ha.) Feeling misunderstood is no fun, but feeling broken and “wrong” is far worse. If you have more of those alone or crazy- feeling times, I hope you’ll remind yourself that you’re neither. Or drop me a line, and I will. 😉

      Reply
  6. I’ve been highly sensitive for all of my…uh, many years. Sometimes a blessing, sometimes a curse. But I doubt if I’d want it any other way.

    Reply
  7. Wow August. Great post! I love how open you are and how much you share of yourself and the lessons you’ve learned in life.
    I would say I veer very much towards an extroverted highly sensitive person. Growing up, it was very difficult to manage. I was always dealing with such an array of intense emotions and didn’t have the maturity or the know-how to process. It meant for for a lot of DRAMA!
    But as I’ve grown, like you, I’ve come to love and embrace my true nature and to see what a positive and empowering thing it is. I’ve learned to use it to my advantage and found that acceptance played a huge role in my ability to process…and stay more even keel.
    I also realize that staying in unhealthy relationships was hugely etrimental to my mental health. I think I had a hard time wrapping my head around that because everyone else seemed to be able to manage with mediocrity and disrespect while I lost my mind. I thought there was something wrong with me. That I had unreasonable expectations or was broken.
    What I came to learn was that I don’t tolerate unhappiness or unresolved issues. Period. It’s not that I bail at the first sign of trouble…but I need to be with someone that know when we face an issue, we work hard together to sort through it and move forward.
    Once I realized this trait and honored it, life has been so much more fulfilling and wonderful. And hubby coming along with the same ideology and values certainly helped…
    GREAT post! Here’s to celebrating our highly sensitive selves!

    Reply
    • Wow, Natalie. I bet we could have swapped diary pages years back and no reader would know the difference. (Well, your diary may have been more glittery and pink… ;))

      You’re a prime example of the bright, beautiful awesomeness that stems from embracing our sensitivity, no many HOW many boatloads we have. Nothing’s more radiant than living boldly and authentically. I second your toast big time!

      Reply
  8. Who knew? Thanks for sharing, I’ve learned something new!

    Reply
  9. I’m pretty sure I’m not a sensitive person, but this post really helps me understand and appreciate the people around me who are. Great post.

    Reply
  10. Oh, August. I feel for you, or rather for you from your past. Being an empath and HS extrovert I understand so well what you have been going through. This was the story of my life until I started to research and learn more about my “moods”, “lows”, and “downs”. It’s easier to deal with it now when I have a good understanding of what it really is. I actually embrace it, since my artistic creativity is closely related to HS, and my intuition is absolutely priceless. I rely on it every day.
    Thank you so much for sharing. I love learning that some of my friends are HS extroverts, just like me 🙂

    Reply
    • Not to be redundant, but I really empathize! LOL That empathy and sensitivity is crucial to my creativity as well. And it’s comforting to know that we have friends with common traits. I’m so grateful you’re one of mine.

      Reply
  11. Susan Cain, in her book about introversion, also addresses the issue of high sensitivity. It’s an interesting phenomenon when one comes across a book or an article that so accurately describes his or herself. Lovely post as always.

    Reply
    • A huge benefit of writers and researchers, right? Books that enlighten us and make us feel less alone. It sounds like Cain’s is a great example. 🙂

      Reply
  12. Thanks, that’s me too. It was a great relief to discover I wasn’t just a drama queen but merely more sensitive than some people. It has definite advantages and It’s great for poets.

    Reply
  13. Me too! I read about this about a year ago and was glad I found it. Knowing you’re not crazy is always nice. 😉

    Reply
  14. August, wonderful post, and it took great courage to post that photo. I’m so glad you have transcended the worst part of HS and are now reaping the benefits. I can recall so many relationships where I spent so much time doing so much hand-wringing and scribbling in journals and throwing the I Ching for some ANSWERS!!! And when I met hubby, it was just so peaceful. Take care dear.

    Reply
    • Sweet of you to say, Rachel. I hesitated with the photo, but ended up deciding that it’s honest and well-suited to the post. It’s empowering to not feel ashamed of those looks or feelings—anymore. 😉

      I’m so happy to hear that you’ve found happiness and your peaceful, supportive match. Those scribblings weren’t for nothing!

      Reply
  15. I think your point was hyper sensitives can learn to love and be in relationships, but I’m totally happier single. I even have a hard time with roommates. Most of those descriptions fit me, though I seem to be becoming more and more sensitive as I get older, which I find weird. But this does explain why I can’t handle certain things on the big screen. Great post. 🙂

    Reply
    • Ooh, I definitely feel you there, Angela. I really was happier single, until I met my husband. And I’ve never had an easy time with roommates. *cringes* 😉 Thank goodness we can shield our eyes from unbearable big screen moments…and have other HSs around who “get” us.

      Reply
      • While not all of these descriptions fit me, I can empathize with never having an easy time with roommates. Even if they were just in the house with me (not even in the same room), I felt like my space was invaded. When they were having drama, I felt stressed out even though it had nothing to do with me. I too was happier single until my husband came along. I wouldn’t give him up for anything 🙂

  16. Beautiful and open. You’re such a doll. Although I share a lot of those traits, I don’t believe I am a HS person. I do see it very much so in my son, however. Learning about him and how special his is made a world of difference in our lives. It turned frustration into understand and healing overnight. Knowing what your dealing with can make all the difference. Thank you for this wonderful post.

    Reply
    • What a wonderful mom you are, Debra. It’s pretty spectacular how much positive change can come (and quickly, wow) from understanding… You and your little guy inspire me.

      Reply
  17. Based on your article, and the comments, I can only assume that this is something that most writers are prone to. As I was reading, it was like OMG, this is me…and this is me…this is me, too. Thanks, August, for clearing some things up for me. 🙂

    Reply
    • Yeah, I considered a “Highly Sensitive Writer” post, then realized that’s pretty redundant. 😉 Glad you found the post helpful!

      Reply
      • It was very helpful. At least now I can give a legitimate reason when people tease me about not watching crime dramas and the news, things I haven’t done for probably ten or twelve years now. I just realized one day that the majority of news stories depressed me…and some kind of ‘haunted’ me (bad things happening to kids), so I stopped. If important things happen, I hear about them. It’s nice to know I’m not a freak. Well, mostly not. 🙂

  18. Oh, August, I am so with you on this one. I am a total extrovert, except I have to have lots of alone time to process my feelings. I wouldn’t say I’m all the way at the extreme end of highly sensitive, but I am definitely more sensitive than most people. It amazes me when others can keep on trucking, and even smiling, while they are in bad situations at home or at work. Just can’t do it! I’m a survivor, but not because i hang in there, but because I get the hell out of those situations as fast as I can.

    You have so eloquently described both the good and the bad about being more sensitive. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the warm words, Kassandra. There definitely seems to be a spectrum, from the mildly to highly-highly sensitive person. And getting out of potentially painful situations is a great thing! 😉

      Reply
  19. Wonderful post as always, August. I’ve never heard of high sensitivity, but many of these traits resonate with me. I am, as my mother has always said, “intense” — about emotions and feelings, about my various “crusades,” about my need to have my quiet time and to create. For me, the most difficult part has been learning how to manage those tumultuous emotions, and how to acknowledge that they’re a valid and valuable part of who I am (not something to be swept under a carpet or ignored). I’ll have to be sure and pick up this book — thank you so much for sharing this with us.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much, Lena. Learning that proper balance while valuing our feelings is tough, but doable.

      I hope you find the book useful. You can find a bunch of useful articles and links at the links within the post (and via Google), too. 🙂

      Reply
  20. Coleen Patrick

     /  August 27, 2012

    Like Tameri, my mom said the same things ie you’re too sensitive. Never felt like a good thing. Now my husband tells me that he admires my sensitivity and empathy. I like to think of it as a super power. Sure it’s not always “fun” being sensitive, but I am happy to be me. 🙂 Super insightful, sensitive post August! Thank you.

    Reply
  21. Thank you. *dammit, wiping eyes* I just looked in the mirror.

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  22. Oh, August, thank you for being so forthright about yourself and what you’ve gone through! I’ve always known I’m a very sensitive person, on so many levels: picky food tastes, certain fabrics don’t feel right, certain sounds bother me, violent movies/books make me VERY uncomfortable, and I cry. Very easily, which was a huge embarrassment in school, and it was usually because I was angry or frustrated, rather than sad, Family and others told me to “toughen up” and I learned some control, although it didn’t change what was going on inside, just what others could see. As so many commenters have said, hyper-sensitivity was never characterized as a good thing.

    I’m still a work in progress, esp. when it comes to worrying about what impression I’ve made upon someone. One thing that helps: I remind myself that I am just a teeny part of that person’s world, and he/she is most likely wrapped up in his/her own priorities to even give me a second thought once I’m out of sight. Quite a relief, actually, don’t you think? 😉

    Reply
    • That’s a great strategy, Kathy. I’ve had to remind myself occasionally after posting remarks on social media. Seconds later, I’ll think, OMG. I just said…WHAT?!? We can easily be misunderstood, especially when there’s a lack of body language and tone…

      When it comes to films, I close my eyes during particularly violent scenes. (If it involves an animal, FORGET it. I sob and leave, if I’m in a theater.) So to write violent scenes, I use emotional and figurative substitutions—as I did when I had to do anything angry or violent as an actress. I describe killing/stabbing/harming a feeling/situation, while actually discussing people, and the reader is none the wiser.

      For what it’s worth, I think you are RAD, sensitivities and all. 🙂 Thanks for your wonderful thoughts and support.

      Reply
  23. Raani York

     /  August 27, 2012

    What a precious, valuable blog post, August.
    I do feel with every word you wrote. Highly sensitive… *sigh*

    Actually I am not always joking and laughing – but I have to admit at this point I better say: One day I eventually will tell you about all this…

    Reply
  24. I’ve never heard of the term, but I can relate well to it. There’s a good chance that I’m one of these HSPs, so I will need to learn more of my own personality. Thank you for the article, August, it opens my eyes. 🙂

    Subhan Zein

    Reply
  25. August, your post was just what I needed to read. Thank you for writing this and sharing it with us. Never had I heard about this as being an actual trait; I’ve always described myself as “sensitive” and at times as “highly sensitive,” but that was just for self inscribed persona purposes. I know that it takes all kinds, and that variety is what makes the world a wonderful place, and growing up I was taught to embrace my uniqueness, as I’ve always been a bit different from most people i meet. I think differently, I feel differently, and I “see” differently. I must say that at times I’ve even come to fear my feelings. Feelings are so powerful, but there are two sides to the balance as you said, so no, I wouldn’t do without them. Needless to say I would not change who I am, in fact I’m thankful for my imagination and creativity, and for the way I sense and take in the world around me. Thank you August for your creative spark, I always enjoy your articles and this one really made my day.

    Reply
    • I agree with you, Claudia. Variety makes the world beautiful, and it’s been helpful for me to understand myself and others. (HSP gaining understanding of non-HSPs is also important.) And embracing our own uniqueness can turn our worlds around. You’ve reminded me of one of my favorite Einstein quotes: “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” So true!

      Reply
  26. Very interesting information. Sounds like you’ve spent some time analyzing this. Thanks for sharing.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

    Reply
  27. lynettemburrows

     /  August 27, 2012

    I am not an extrovert, but HSP – maybe. Tears – check. Food sensitivities – check. Life lessons and my darling DH (who is an HSP) have helped me learn to temper some things and embrace others, so I don’t feel as out-of-control as I once did. Thanks for this post, August. It helped confirmed I’m doing the right thing in stepping down from the leadership role I currently hold.

    Reply
  28. I’m going to have to read this book, August. thx for the tip. I get headaches from smells and lately, my sniffer seems to be even more sensitive than ever. and the celiac stuff has gone crazy. I feel like a fragile little hot house flower some days. it’s good to have a name to put to it.

    Reply
    • “Fragile little hot house flower…” Beautifully said, Louise—really tugs at my heart. I’d love to hear your expert thoughts on the book. From what I’m gathering, you’re not alone in the gradual deepening of sensitivities.

      Reply
  29. I think I am sensitive, but I don’t know if I fit the entire description. I have the ability to look ahead and not back and dwell, most of the time, but I hae had my moments!

    Reply
  30. Yep, I’m exactly as described above. I do skirt the introvert/extrovert line, and I often end up in endless turmoil because I feel things so damn deeply. It used to make me feel lonely, as if I were different than everyone else, and I think it has a close correlation to my creativity. But man, it sure can lead to hurt feelings and an inability to relax or “just go with the flow.”

    CBT and talk therapy have helped me a lot with this. I’m learning not to take everything personally. And I’m at peace with the fact that excessive sensory input overloads me–sort of fries my circuits, you know? So I protect myself from excessive noise, violence on TV, bright lights and relationships with people who, quite simply, make me feel off or uncomfortable.

    I’ve used the term “emotionally high-maintenance” to describe this before, but I think this article above better describes me and people like me.

    Reply
    • Those easily hurt feelings and inability to let go are some of the biggest challenges of sensitivity. It’s one thing to know rationally that it’s time to move on, but our hearts and bodies may beg to differ.

      CBT is a fantastic option. So glad to hear that you’ve found peace with your heightened sensitivity. Like food sensitivities, setting appropriate boundaries tends to lead to awesome benefits we might not have without them.

      Reply
  31. I love your post August. I thank when two are one, does not mean that you lose yourself, Love is not selfish and should not be controlling…there should always be compromise and alone time for one another even in the confines of your home, i find when that happens i blossom well in what i write, and my wife does in her business and what she likes to do. I am there all the time, but does that mean i press to try control all her time! We are all indivudually unique, and that will not change. Sharing always the time for things you both like to do will always make it better. No insecurity there. Just some simple thoughts of mine after 35 years of marraige! By the way I am very sensitive, but in a very loving way, easily move to tears when i feel anothers pain or a happy ending in a movie,etc, and my wife is the logical one and very business minded but very tender also . I love that, she always keeps me straight…my intuition moves me always, and she will slow me down and make me think without putting my ideas or thoughts down. I quess opposites do attract!

    Reply
  32. I’m going to have to check out this book, August. I’ve read this entire thread — and after the argument my husband and I had last night — I think it could be really helpful. So thank you. It’s hard for me to know how I fit in to the spectrum of these behaviors, but I can relate to a lot of what the others have said. Your posts sure do seem timely!

    Reply
    • So glad you found the post helpful, Renee. If you end up reading the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 🙂 As a side note, arguments in the past really helped me examine what the heck’s going on…and learn more about my sensitivity.

      Reply
  33. inkspeare

     /  August 28, 2012

    Thank you.

    Reply
  34. This article make me think… 🙂

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  35. August, your ability to reach waaaay down to your innermost feelings and articulate them the way you do is such a gift. Once again, thank you for having the courage to share these thoughts.

    Reply
  36. Years ago I sat in a psychologists office, and he looked at me and said, “Because of *so and such* you are hyper-aware of your surroundings, of people, of emotions, of everything – so much more than what is the ‘norm'” — that was a “lightbulb” moment for me, too. I call it “living as if I am inside out” where all my nerve endings are on the outside instead of the inside and I can feel every little breath or brush up against me, feel the tone of voices, see the minutest tiniest fraction of a movement of a brow, eye blink, mouth quirk and “know” what that person is really thinking/feeling despite what is coming out of their mouth.

    Being in crowds is hell sometimes, for I am in sensory over-load. I often find that I’m in a corner of the room when in a crowd, and let people come to me – and if too many people come to me, I feel trapped and over-whelmed.

    This quiet cove I live in has been my saving. WHen I lived in the city, I was in a constant state of “hyper-sensitivity/awareness” — and now, I can more control that by choosing when to be out and about.

    Oh, I could go on! *laughing* —

    Your photo made me teary-eyed . . . .though I’m not a “hugger” I wanted to hug that woman.

    Reply
    • I LOVE this, Kat: “I call it “living as if I am inside out” where all my nerve endings are on the outside instead of the inside and I can feel every little breath or brush up against me, feel the tone of voices, see the minutest tiniest fraction of a movement of a brow, eye blink, mouth quirk and “know” what that person is really thinking/feeling despite what is coming out of their mouth.”

      Very well said, and oh so relatable. Looking back, I want to hug that woman, too. 😉

      Reply
      • I forgot to add what a gifted writer you are — dang! –gifted writer, creative, and beautiful — stop it! you stop that right now! *laughing*

  37. I was just reading about this concept in QUIET, the recent bestseller about introversion. It’s interesting that they can pinpoint high sensitivity in infants.

    Reply
  38. Thank you for this insightful post. My husband is definately HS and this explains why he reacts so extremely to pain and stress. Even slightest hurt and his adrenaline levels are through the roof and it takes a long time before they come down. He also covers his ears when our kids make ruckus. I’m more sensitive emotionally but maybe not HS level. I am moved and cry easily, pretty much every time in the movies. Makes a difficult combination when we both loathe conflict 😛 Aaron’s book might offer some solutions. It sounds like a must read.

    Reply
  39. Nancy

     /  August 29, 2012

    Thank you so much now i know what i have. It destined me really well i may not be a writer but my creative side is drawing which i stopped Doing for many years and just started again recently. I have made a lot of positive changes these last couple of months and now i understand why i needed to do that. Again thank you i understand me a whole lit more now.

    Reply
    • I’m touched to hear that, Nancy, and hope you’ll continue with your art. Creative expression is the best medicine, in my opinion. 🙂

      Reply
  40. Kourtney Heintz

     /  August 29, 2012

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I always feel like I learn so much here. 🙂

    It’s a very intriguing concept. I am far more sensitive to light and sound than any of my family and friends. It’s tough because when you perceive the world differently, what overwhelms your senses can be boring to others. What is a stressful environment for you is nothing to someone else.

    Reply
  41. Edgar Turner

     /  August 29, 2012

    Hello August,

    It was so interesting to read your blog. I did n’t have any idea that you were going through similar events as I and many of your blog readers. I just wanted to share that I share many of the same characteristics in your blog about highly sensitivity people. I am one of them.

    I am very emotional and get my feelings hurt very easily. I am a people person and very empathetic toward others. I put everyone before me, always saying yes and willing to help others at an instant.

    I also suffer from depression, which is something I rarely share with others. It comes a shock to most people when they find out. I don’t like being alone, but am doing a lot better with it. I also had dysfunctional relationships and was always unhappy everytime I was in one. I feel I am happier alone, but still often desire to be with someone special. I enjoy my me time and sex with women. But I often find myself feeling empty afterwards. Still a bit confused on what I really want and what makes me happy. I am single with no kids and I am content with that. Miss you. Thanks for the interesting blog. Talk to you soon.

    Edgar

    Reply
    • So nice to hear from you, Edgar! It’s amazing how hidden these traits can remain, right? You are a great example of the strength and character that can accompany strong sensitivity. I hope you continue to find contentment and much more. You deserve it.

      Thanks for your thoughtful note. Let’s catch up soon. 🙂

      Reply
  42. Karen McFarland

     /  August 29, 2012

    Wow August, bless your big heart! You and I have a lot of similarities. I didn’t know there was a name for this, but I’ve always been highly sensitive. Yep, feel really deep about things and I’m extremely loyal. But I also am sensitive to taste, smell, and ever since my West Nile, sensitive to fragrances. That virus made my sensitivities worse in a bad way because it caused damage to my nervous system. Crazy, I know. But I’m alive. 🙂

    Reply
  43. A lovely, eye opening post August! I too am one of these who has learned to accept, manage it and suppress at times in order to function and especially ward off the depression that comes with it. I am especially sensitive to crowds and noise and it can drive me into a crazed frenzy where I must escape or shut down. I finally got help from a therapist who helped me deal with it all and gave me techniques to use. I think it also helped me to not get my feelings hurt anymore – and now I let things roll off me and feel like a tough, old bird. LOL.

    My young son is even more so HSP and it’s hard to help him deal with it (and other non HSP kids) as he operates on another spiritual plane at times that affects him deeply. He feels everything and it can envelop him completely which leads to over analysis and worry. I believe this HSP also relates to the person who is called an intuitive empath, or for kids – a highly intuitive child. They can often be psychic as well. There are many blogs/books to help parents accept and deal with these sort of kids and help them learn to live in a different world and embrace their gifts and not suppress them.

    As you point out – its a rich blessing and a curse at the same time. My husband is total opposite – the least sensitive person I know which makes for a nice balance thank goodness! He is my stable rock I float down to. Thanks for sharing your story along with the pains and positive parts, and such a sad photo 😦 I feel your pain in that.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much for sharing, Donna. High sensitivity really does bring tremendous blessings and challenging “curses.” (It’s tough for me to call the downsides curses anymore, now that I’ve finally embraced the whole shebang. ;)) It sounds like we’ve embarked down very similar paths—including those rock-like husbands. Mine never tells me to “snap out of it,” as numerous folks have before. Thank goodness!

      Reply
  44. Thank you for this August! Had no idea this type existed but it fits me to a tee. Now everything makes sense 🙂 I too was like you in my acting career and experienced the same kind of pitfalls when I stayed in faltering relationships. Just everything about this blog was eye opening and now I want to check out the book! Nice to know we’re not alone 🙂

    Reply
  45. Oh, and I too have had many Sad Rudolph days. It’s great to feel a lot but sometimes it can be pretty tough.

    Reply
  46. Wow, interesting! I seem to hit a lot of the bullet points there. I’ll have to look into this further. I know exactly what you mean about the post-glow stage of relationships. I’ve had many, many, but never one longer than a few years (including the marriage). Thanks for giving me something new to look into!

    Reply
  47. Hi August,
    Thanks for once again sharing something so intimate; this resonates so deeply with me. I haven’t read the book you mention here but some years back I read ‘The Highly Sensitive Child’ by the same author.
    It is wonderful to acknowledge and give gratitude for the gifts, such as intuition, creativity and our ability to empathise with others. Unfortunately these wonderful traits, allied with our softness will often attract difficult people and difficult relationships into our lives.
    I believe the HSP is closely related to the archetype of Wounded Healer. The challenge of the sensitive is not to become bitter, to instead transform life’s lessons into the gold of wisdom. The sensitive who can do this learns to heal themselves and in the process channel healing for others. I do not mean ‘healing’ in merely the traditional sense; – this can encompass healing through writing, singing and a myriad of different forms.
    When we reach the stage of accepting and loving ourselves, we begin to attract emotionally healthier people and relationships into our lives as you have.
    Gratitude for your healing blog August,
    Namaste,
    Mary E. Coen @ goddessmeca

    Reply
  48. liza

     /  April 21, 2014

    There are many factors that determine how being highly sensitive affects a person. If the person has been a childhood victim of emotional and/or physical abuse, that make any relationship much more difficult. That person may be consumed by feelings of inadequacy, guilt and shame, and be critical of others as well as suspicious of everyone’s motives. They may be unable to accept suggestions and unable to completely trust others–even their romantic partners. Best advice–avoid such a relationship.

    Reply
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