Highly Sensitive ThoughtsApr 07, 2023
In 1991, psychologist Dr. Elaine Aron and her husband, Dr. Arthur Aron, introduced the term highly sensitive person (HSP), describing individuals with increased nervous system sensitivity to physical, emotional, and social stimuli.
Their research revealed four characteristics shared by those with the HSP trait, represented by the DOES acronym:
Depth of processing - processing and reflecting upon information more deeply
Overstimulation - being more easily overwhelmed by high levels of environmental stimuli
Emotionally responsive/empathetic - reacting more to both positive and negative experiences and being more strongly affected by others’ emotions
Sensitivity to subtle stimuli - perceiving more through taste, touch, smell, and sight
Not a disease, disorder, or syndrome, but a trait (or set of traits) found in 20% of humans and over 100 other species, and supported by a 2014 study by Acevedo et al. in which functional MRI was used to measure the brain activity of HSPs, found increased brain activation in regions associated with awareness, empathy, attention, and action-planning.
Not a defect or flaw, but a trait stemming from having a sensitive nervous system.
One filled with advantages and challenges.
But one that, upon identifying it in myself, brought both the comfort of validation and the loathing of confirmation.
My belief that something was “wrong” - that I was wrong - had been right.
Too quiet, too awkward, too shy, too tearful, too emotional, and too sensitive was too much.
This belief that my sensitive wiring was “wrong” led me to abandon it, effectively causing me to shift away from what made me “me.”
And while this shift was convenient professionally, it was destructive personally.
Though I believed that the work of doctoring was the greatest drain on my capacity, it turned out that not honoring my sensitivity was.
This realization combined with the intentional revising of my internal narrative have led me to this moment - writing this short post on high sensitivity, both to share a very little bit of my experience with sensitivity and to encourage fellow empathic and highly sensitive physicians to embrace their own.
If you identify as highly sensitive and feel derailed by the common struggles, know that there is peace to be found on the other side of embracing your sensitivity and honoring your needs.
Know that your sensitivity is valuable.
Know that your sensitivity is a strength.
Know that you’re allowed to feel whatever you feel.
And if you’re wondering what it feels like to truly honor yourself and your sensitivity, and how to shift from surviving to thriving, reach out...I can help.
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