Have you ever been in a gathering of people and suddenly felt overwhelmed, overstimulated or even afraid? Did you think that was due to some kind of personal flaw or mental health issue? What if you are sensing the energy? What if you have hitched a ride on a powerful thoughtform?
You're Too Sensitive!
How many times have you heard those words? If you're like me, you've experienced them often, expressed in a way that lets you know that being "too sensitive" is bad -- not normal -- something to be fixed, healed, cured or corrected.

Our society tends to view sensitivity as weakness or dysfunction and its opposite (insensitivity?) is encouraged. Sensitivity its often associated with introversion, shyness, social anxiety, depression, inhibition and being too emotional (which is another misunderstood label).

In her wonderful book, "The Highly Sensitive Person," Psychologist Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., shares her extensive research into this very real category of people, which she calls "HSPs." She says that HSPs make up approximately 15-20% of the general population. When her book first came out years ago, it was like a light bulb went on in my head, because I'd spent the previous years just thinking I was crazy or a misfit or both (let me tell you about my childhood sometime!). I intuitively "knew" about HSPs through my own experiences and through anecdotal information provided by my clients over the years, but having it become a "real" psychological category was exciting and validating. As a professional in the field, I especially appreciated the clarity, depth, organization and quality of Aron's research.

To paraphrase, you are a HSP if you are nodding "yes" to any of the following:

  • I am very aware of subtleties in my energetic/physical environment.
  • I can feel/sense other peoples' moods/energy.
  • I'm very sensitive to physical sensations/pain.
  • I need a lot of alone time.
  • Caffeine, alcohol, etc., really affect me.
  • I'm bothered by strong smells/aromas.
  • Loud noises upset me.
  • Music is a spiritual experience.
  • I startle easily.
  • I get overwhelmed by bright lights.
  • Crowds and groups are too much for me.
  • I have allergies and skin sensitivities.
  • I avoid anything violent.
  • I have a deep, rich imagination and inner world.

These are only a few of the indicators I hear about from clients, and Dr. Aron's book contains her own list and a self-test that you can take if you don't already know if you fit into this category.

As a psychotherapist/counselor, I find that 90% of my client base is made up of HSPs. That happens, of course, because we magnetize clients to us (it's the Law of Attraction in action: like attracts like) who reflect and resonate with something about ourselves (either exhibiting a sameness or pushing against its opposite). And, interestingly, I have found that there is yet another sub-category of HSPs, which has become another of my areas of expertise. But let me back up a bit.

Intuitive/psychic abilities are present in everyone. As with anything else -- intelligence, singing ability, athletic skills, etc. -- each person comes in with a certain amount of whatever it is, showing up somewhere along a continuum of possibility. And, each of those things can be increased through attention and practice. It's the same with intuitive/psychic abilities.

What I've noticed is that, within that 15-20% of the population who are born with our radar turned up to maximum (HSPs) -- with an awesome ability to read/sense the energetic/physical environment -- there is also a group of people who have entered with higher-than-average psychic/intuitive abilities. And being born that way -- speaking from personal experience -- can be a blessing and a challenge.

Let's call this group Extra-Highly Sensitive People (EHSP).

The most important piece of all this -- the aspect that is usually left out whenever something is discussed from a psychological perspective -- is that the Universe is vibrational/energetic. Everything is electromagnetic energy with a particular frequency vibration. To put it simply, EHSPs seem to be able to "read" or feel/sense multiple layers of energy vibrations simultaneously.

Depending upon our personal level of allowing, acceptance, depth and desire to know, each EHSP is capable of integrating this vibrational information in very unique ways. Many of these unique ways don't fit in with the cultural ideal.

Since there are different ways of being psychic/intuitive, there are people who are skilled in one intuitive area without being a HSP. And, it is possible to be a HSP without actively and consciously utilizing your psychic/intuitive abilities. Examples would be my student "John" who is extraordinarily talented at Remote Viewing, who doesn't have any of the indicators of being a Highly Sensitive Person. Then there's "Mary" whose childhood was so abusive that her body became a finely-tuned alarm system, which she is working to soothe through psychotherapy, but whose psychic/intuitive abilities were shut down at an early age and are unknown to her.

And then there are the EHSPs who came in with the whole enchilada, who believe there is something wrong with them -- that they are hopelessly broken -- because they have never fit anywhere.

Remember that the swan (HSP or EHSP) in the story of "The Ugly Duckling" didn't realize her/his true nature while trying to conform to duckness.

My advice to clients who are HSPs and EHSPs: celebrate your gifts. You have chosen to experience this life by dancing to a unique, special and uncommon drummer. Put on your dancing shoes and be ever-vigilant for the arrival of other swans.