According to the diagnostic test in the ground-breaking book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, Ph.D., I am a “Highly Sensitive Person” (HSP). In her book, Dr. Aron, a pioneering psychologist, cites major studies demonstrating that approximately 15-20% of the human population possess a nervous system that, due to genetically inherited physiological characteristics, cause them to experience greatly heightened sensitivity to stress in any environment they find themselves in. This inherited trait of heightened arousal is demonstrated also in similar proportions (15-20%) in several other mammalian species. In other words, highly sensitive individuals are much more easily aroused by subtle cues in their environment, which many people are less likely to pick up on.
I am currently reading a book based on Dr. Aron’s book entitled Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person, by Barrie Jaeger, Ph.D. Dr. Jaeger explains that, in light of the characteristics explained above, finding the right work situation, which is very difficult for most people, is even more difficult for HSPs. Because of our sensitivity, we are affected emotionally, even to the point of somatizing negative emotions so that we become physically ill, in a situation where we sense that something is not in line with our ideals and values. The chapter that I am reading in Dr. Jaeger’s book now is entitled “Time Out For Healing”. Unfortunately, HSPs are affected so deeply by difficult past work and life situations that we need more time to heal than most people. It is not easy to be this type of person in this stone-hearted, ultra fast paced western society. In response to the prevailing work environment in our society, highly sensitive people will often put up a brave front and try to suppress these feelings.
In light of what I have just told you, and in keeping with the theme of this blog, I am thrilled to report that I have found a great parallelaphor. I have coined this term to describe parallels and/or metaphors between natural phenomena and events that occur in our everyday lives.
Here’s the parallelaphor: I have 2 pet cockatiels that I love dearly. In the wild, these birds are usually lunch for birds of prey, and depend on their flock for security. Having taken care of my birdies through various illnesses for over 5 years, I have learned that their instinct is to hide their illness, which makes taking care of them particularly challenging. In their natural habitat, this behavioral mechanism helps them avoid being ostracized and left behind by the flock, thus leaving them vulnerable to birds of prey. This is often how I feel, and how I’m sure many of my fellow HSPs feel, much of the time.
There is a quote by Henry David Thoreau on the cover of this little notebook I’m currently jotting down my thoughts in: “In wilderness is the preservation of the world.” I haven’t found any sources confirming that the author of Walden Pond was an HSP, but I suspect that he was, because like many HSPs, he found such deep comfort in the solitude of nature.
Just a final note: I happen to love buying fancy little notebooks, as much as I love nature and conservation. The notebook I just mentioned is composed entirely of recycled paper, and is put out by a little company called “ecojot™” (no, I am not getting a commission from them, unfortunately). If these things appeal to you, I would encourage you to take a look at their site.
Find your peace.