Being Highly Sensitive isn’t easy. Being Highly Sensitive and not knowing it is even less easy.
I didn’t always know what I was, or why I was the way I was. But there was a time when I wished I wasn’t.
I only discovered Dr. Elaine Aron and her work about a year ago. That was when it became clear to me why my son behaved the way he did. And through my discovery and my new understanding of my son, I realized that I was also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), which explained why I felt the way I did growing up.
Although Dr. Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person has been around since the late 90’s, we’ve only just begun to hear about all this. Very recently, online communities started to form to provide Highly Sensitive People and parents of Highly Sensitive Children the support and comfort they need; very recently, a scientific paper on sensitivity was published showing this trait to be genetic and not something we choose to have or not to have; very recently, Dr. Elaine Aron announced the upcoming movie, Sensitive: The Untold Story, that will help clarify to HSP’s and non-HSP’s alike what this really is.
A few days ago, I stumbled upon this video by Dr. Elaine Aron, explaining high sensitivity to those who do not have the trait.
Dr. Elaine Aron explains High Sensitivity to those who do not have the trait.
Her message made so much sense to me. She put in words what I have struggled to say or even understand in the past. Being more sensitive and more aware than the average person is not a bad thing. It can be a beautiful thing, as it can also be an incredibly overwhelming thing. Being highly sensitive does not necessarily make you shy or introverted.
Halfway through Dr. Aron’s enlightening video, I started to feel as though I had heard this message before. This was something I’d known for a long time. Long before the announcement of this movie; long before I joined the online communities; long before I discovered Elaine Aron.
Long before I watched this video, I’d heard a very similar message from another wise woman who inspired me and helped me understand and appreciate myself.
Hard as I try, I can’t quite remember how old I was exactly, or what I was going through that led me to spend unusual amounts of time in my bedroom alone crying, or what it was exactly that she said to me that day. But I’ll never forget the way her face looked when she talked to me, or the sound of her soothing, reassuring voice, or how she made me feel in that moment. Most importantly, I will never forget the effect her words had on my understanding of myself and my self esteem.
I have had the pleasure or speaking to quite a few highly sensitive mothers since I started my blog last October. As I have heard from them and as I have seen with myself, we usually either grow out of some sensitivities we had to bear as children, or learn to deal with them. Some of us however grow up broken and traumatized, and not by our sensitivities, but by the way we were treated in spite of them. Dr. Ted Zeff’s book, The Strong, Sensitive Boy, illustrates the dramatic differences between highly sensitive men who grew up in healthy, supportive environments and those who weren’t as lucky, through eye-opening testimonials from the men he interviewed.
This is exactly why the making of Dr. Aron’s movie is so important. The parents, teachers, and caregivers of the world; those who are raising or teaching or looking after a Highly Sensitive Child, they can make the whole difference. Understanding a child who is highly sensitive, and understanding how to be supportive is a critical factor in raising confident, happy people who will contribute so much to the world; a world that desperately needs more strong, empathetic people.
“There’s a lot that can be said about raising sensitive children because we know (…) that sensitive children, in a good environment, sometimes outperform other children academically and socially; in a bad environment, they’re much more likely to be anxious or depressed.” – Elaine Aron
Lucky are those who grow up with people who love and understand them, and in communities that support and appreciate them.
I was lucky, and not so much because of the communities I grew up in (there were quite a few), but because of the love and support I had at home; because I was never made to feel like I was weak or flawed; and because even in the days before Google, my mother knew I was a Highly Sensitive Person. Long before Google and long before the books, my mother showed me how wonderful it could be to feel more and think more, despite it also being overwhelming. She pointed out to me that people came to me when they needed to be listened to or a shoulder to cry on. She explained to me that even though the bad can be really bad, the good can be oh so very good.
My mother understood. She knew I was highly sensitive, even before there was a word for it. Her words, her actions, and her understanding made the whole difference in who I am today. And for that (and so much more), I am eternally grateful.
I am still, of course, Highly Sensitive today. There are still days I wish I can feel a little less so that the world could be more bearable; sometimes I wish I can just stop noticing every little thing other people do or say so that I wouldn’t be so shocked by them every time; most days I wish I could just stop worrying so much so that I can enjoy my kids more (and let them enjoy taking risks more).
I still suffer from my sensitivities today, but thanks to my mother, I can also appreciate them and even enjoy them.
What a difference it can make to be understood! That is something we need to remember with our Highly Sensitive Children if we want them to be everything they can be, even it means getting some help from Google.