As a highly sensitive person I coped for many decades by compartmentalizing my life. I allowed my brain to process nearly all my emotions and reactions in order not to feel them. I thought I was protecting myself from being overwhelmed by feelings of compassion and empathy. This habit grew in response to experiences of bullying I received in school for being an HSP.
As a result of my compartmentalizing, many people perceived me as cold and unfeeling. I would explain and analyze situations needlessly, but not really let them touch me deeply, because I felt I would burst. Thus I was well suited to serve a Church that focused first on its objective teachings, and only second on the subjective advice to its followers. This disconnect confused a lot of people and negatively affected my ministry. I eventually corrected this imbalance which went a long way to my leaving ministry altogether.
What were signs along the way that I was a highly sensitive person? Here are a few:
- At three months old I refused to put my feet in the sand at the beach. My parents had to resort to bringing my playpen along so that I would have a sand-free play area.
- I recall that at four I felt overwhelmed and out of place at a neighbor girl’s birthday party. Not even the cake and ice cream gave me a bit of enjoyment.
- In kindergarten I remember stooping down with my neatly folded handkerchief to wipe up the milk from the floor that I had spilled from my carton at recess.
- As a child I did not like to play roughly nor did I like to get dirty unless it was for a practical reason such as working in the garden.
- I am still overwhelmed with deep emotion whenever I am confronted by awe, tragedy, or heroism, even in the media. Tears stream as I am touched by such images.
- I am highly intuitive, sensing other people’s feelings before they express them. I can often read the general mood of a group of people in a room and adjust accordingly
- I notice everything around me all at once, which is overwhelming—architecture, design, pattern, color, nature, the homeless, litter on the street…you name it.
- I know when objects around me are in balance, whether symmetrically or not.
- I am highly creative and artistic and able to imagine in three dimensions, dissecting buildings from the outside, in.
- I need to get away to be alone for periods in order to recharge and rebalance my internal equilibrium.
These are just some examples of my experience. What about yours? What indications do you have that you are an HSP? How do you cope with the sensory overload in our crazy over-loaded world? Tell your story here and help others to understand.
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