It is no coincidence that High Sensitivity is written about a lot in newspapers, magazines and books at the moment. Lately I have noticed that people in my surroundings seem to be more sensitive. To add some objective input to this personal impression I put surveys in some facebook groups. You can see the results at the end of the article.
Based on my life story I share my personal characteristics of high sensitive features and senses in this article. For my job as a healing practitioner this sensitivity is a great bonus.
You can read the article in German here.
In the extensive addendum you find tips for books and links for online-tests, websites and blogs about high sensitivity.
I am writing this article about high sensitivity but I want to remind you that all of us have sensitive aspects. I want to encourage you to give them the attention they deserve.
Some statistics on high sensitivity
High sensitivity is a personality trait and not an illness. 20% of the population, male and female, can be called highly sensitive. All higher animal species have this characteristic. It seems to be helpful for evolution if part of a population is sensitive. Elaine Aron, the pioneer of high sensitivity research, says that this sensitivity is at least partly inherited. 70% of these Highly Sensitive Persons are introverts and 30% are extroverts.
How I learned about the concept of high sensitivity
Three years ago I met an interesting woman at a get-together of the mompreneurs in Hamburg. Mompreneurs is an association of self-employed mothers. She told me that she was writing a book about high sensitivity. After that she explained to me what high sensitivity was and what it was like to be a Highly Sensitive Person. In our conversation I heard the expression high sensitivity for the first time. Since then I have been interested in this subject, reading books and taking part in workshops.
Kathrin Sohst´s book was published in 2016. I am proud to have contributed one page to the many testimonials in the book. Sadly it has not been translated into English yet.
My personal story
I am the oldest of four children. My parents were born during World War II and for most of their generation outwardly functioning was most important. What was happening on the inside was not really interesting and normally not shared.
Many children of my generation were not treated as independent personalities: We were not allowed to decide for ourselves and our opinion did not count. That was normal. A lot has changed in the meantime.
From High Sensitivity…
Today I know that I supressed my intuition and sensitivity to adjust better to my environment and to create less friction. My parents probably could not follow my highly sensitive perceptions and mirrored to me that these were wrong. Because of this I forgot my sensitive side.
The first evidence that I carried some emotional baggage I discovered in my twenties after I had completed my MBA. I was on a world tour with my future husband and I experienced a key moment when going to sleep in our tent in Yosemite National Park. Suddenly I realised: Something was missing! This was the first time I was not afraid of the next day. This anxiety had been so normal for me that I had neither ever questioned it nor told anybody about it. I thought everybody was feeling that way.
I was very upset that the world had felt so threatening to me, in spite of me having had a very protected childhood.
…and a depression…
In my thirties after a tubal pregnancy I was diagnosed with depression. I had therapy, took medication and searched for the reasons for this depression.
Why did I get it? After I told my parents about it they shared with me that both of my grandmothers had also had depressions. I found out that a tendency for depression is hereditary.
I believe that besides this hereditary aspect, my dormant sensitivity was another reason for the depression. During therapy my psychiatrist helped me to relearn my intuition by practising it with me. Only later did I realize how far removed I must have been from this important part of myself.
…to being a healing practitioner
After therapy I started to incorporate my natural intuition in my daily life. Slowly I discovered my extraordinary perceptiveness. A few years later I studied energy healing and qualified as a healing practitioner.
What does my sensitivity look like?
In the almost 30 years I have been working on my personal development I learned a lot about myself. The knowledge that I belong to the group of Highly Sensitive Persons helps me to explain some of my peculiarities and to view myself from another perspective.
In the following paragraphs I share my personal forms of some characteristics of Highly Sensitive Persons with you: Perception, senses and social interactions.
1. Perception and processing of information
Every day we all pick up many stimuli with our senses. As a Highly Sensitive Person I tend to pick up more details which I also process deeper. This can easily become overwhelming. The knowledge that I filter less helps me to notice signs of fatigue earlier and react to them accordingly.
2. Some senses are more sensitive than others
I don´t enjoy shopping. The many colours, objects and offers tend to overwhelm me. Therefore I organise grocery shopping as efficiently as possible. When I go to the supermarket I know exactly what I need and I choose a time when there are not so many people around.
My hearing has become much more sensitive during the last ten years. I react very diversely to noise: Fireworks scare me and hurt my ears but I like loud classical music in the opera or in a concert. This does not mean that I don´t enjoy pop concerts. I do, wearing earplugs.
My nose is not very sensitive. I cope well with bad smells. If somebody on the bus or train is wearing a very strong perfume or after-shave I feel nauseous, but many other passengers do too.
I love eating and good food. Comfort food in winter that warms the body from within is a delicacy for me.
But I hate the taste of an apple that has been sliced by a knife that had contact with an onion before. Then my taste buds curl up in horror.
My normal tactile sense is not overly sensitive. Natural sheep wool on my skin does not bother me. I don´t mind temperature changes as much as many other sensitive people do. However we heat our house much higher in wintertime.
Nevertheless I have been getting much more sensitive feeling energies with my hands. But these extrasensory perceptions belong to the 6th sense in the next paragraph.
2f. The 6th sense
With the 6th sense I mean perceptions that don´t belong to any of the previous 5 senses: For example the knowing of information without being told or sensing energies with the hands. I use my 6th sense in my practice when I look at my clients´ energy status and create a picture of them in 4D.
Kathrin Sohst talks about the important inner value system of Highly Sensitive Persons and their search for a meaningful life. I second that. After working in controlling and management consulting for a timeframe I lost the feeling of doing something meaningful. Now being a self-employed healing practitioner I can live the values that are important to me. I have a family, I volunteer and I have the opportunity to continue discovering and exploring.
4. Social interactions
I love people and enjoy meeting friends because I am an extrovert. After a party I just need some more time for processing than other people. Like many Highly Sensitive Persons I enjoy deep authentic conversations. My friends appreciate this in me.
High sensitivity in my practise
My profession is ideal for me because I can use my extraordinary sensitivity to energies there. Additionally to the information my clients give me I work with their chakras and meridians. We only employ self-healing powers and I offer additional energy for healing. The goal is to bring each client into an energetic balance. In what way my clients use the energy is up to them. The wonderful thing is that we are working as a team.
Listening and empathy are strengths of mine I was not aware of for a long time. Today they are very important parts in my toolbox.
The longer I work in healing the more I become a coach. Often only one healing session helps to ease pain or allergies. Sometimes you need more time to look at some deep-set causes for physical symptoms in detail. Then it is helpful not to fall back into old habits and recreate the symptoms. In our conversations my clients and I figure out ways how this can be avoided.
A high percentage of my clients are very sensitive. They have experienced that for them a lot of therapies offered by traditional medicine do not work. Because of this they are probably more open to search for alternatives.
Results of the facebook surveys
In the surveys I asked the participants whether they noticed any development of their senses during the last years. They could tick more than one answer. Here are the results:
Around 100 participants have given 322 answers. I chose two German-speaking groups and one English-speaking group. A lot of members of these groups engage in self-development. This means that they are familiar with self-evaluation and self-reflection. This could also make them more sensitive than other groups of people and this could be the reason why only three participants did not notice any change in their sensitivity in the last years.
Most changes were seen in empathy and sensing energies. Empathy means to understand and share the feelings of another person. Sensing energies stands for the perception of impressions or information, like the identification of places with high energy levels.
Every fifth participant has become more sensitive in these areas. In the commentaries people pointed out that they felt a deeper connection to their environment.
The 6th sense comes third. Almost 15% of the answers indicate that people are more perceptive in the extrasensory field now. Participants wrote that they know about things by intuition or through dreams before they were officially informed.
Synchronicity, the simultaneous occurrence of events, which appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection, was also experienced more. Examples for this are women who start to see other pregnant women everywhere when they get pregnant.
Does the general sensitivity level increase?
My personal sensitivity has increased considerably in the last years. This shows that sensitivity has a dynamic component. With my non-scientific surveys I cannot prove that we are all going to be highly sensitive one day. But I do interpret this as an indicator that something fundamentally is changing.
We are used to see our senses as being absolute. They cannot be absolute however since the input is selected by our individual perceptions. When our perception changes the input of our senses will also change. When several people describe a situation in different manners their individual perceptions are the reason.
Should my idea that our sensitivity level is rising be correct this would be the result of a shift in perception and not the result of alterations of the sensory organs. I don´t think the organs, our “hardware”, are changing significantly. I believe the “software”, our perception, is getting an update.
It is possible that we are witnessing the beginning of a development that will change our society. What would a world look like that is populated by, compared to todays´ standards, Highly Sensitive People?
Are you or people you know highly sensitive? There are a lot of self-tests online that can give some insights:
- Elaine Aron: Test for highly sensitive persons
- Elaine Aron: highly sensitive child test
- Kathrin Sohst „How sensitive am I?“
- Article in the British Psychologcal Society with a highly sensitive child test
Short online tests
- Live bold and bloom (22 questions)
- MyrealPersonality test (12 questions)
- Psychologies (9 questions)
- Barrie Jaeger (8 questions)
- Article with an interview of Elaine Aron.
- Articles by Susan Meindl. Susan Meindl is a Montreal based psychologist who has specialized in Introverted Temperament and Highly Sensitive People.
- The Highly Sensitive Person, 1996
- The Highly Sensitive Person´s Workbook (1999)
- High Sensitivity Person in Love (2000)
- The Highly Sensitive Child (2002)
- Thrive! The Highly Sensitive Person and Career (2015)
- Thrill! High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Persons (2017)
- Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person (2004)
- The Highly Sensitive Person’s Survival Guide (2004)
- The Strong Sensitive Boy (2010)
- The Power of Sensitivity (2015)
Websites for Highly Sensitive Persons
© Inge Schumacher
Pictures: Togi Simatupang and Inge Schumacher