News Flash: Scientists Discover Reason Why I Hate to Be Tickled, Part 2

Me and my niece at the Kripalu Center. Kripalu is a Sanscrit word meaning "compassion."

Me and my niece at the Kripalu Center. Kripalu is a Sanscrit word meaning “compassion.”

Ready for more intel on my weekend retreat for HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) conducted by Elaine Aron, Ph.D.If you missed the first part of this series, click here. Otherwise, let’s just jump in (or, if you’re highly sensitive, let’s just meander in)…

What to do when the World Overwhelms us

Elaine and many of the other 84 attendees had lots of suggestions for coping with overarousal (which sounds a lot more desirable than it is).

Most of these suggestions can be found in her books or any number of books written by others on the topic.

Many not-so-HSP types could probably benefit from these strategies, too.

** Pick one day a week for a “holiday” away from media and work. Rest, meditate, spend time in nature (near water if possible), and do things you enjoy.

** If you are the compulsive type who works without taking regular breaks to stretch your body and rest your eyes or brain, set an alarm clock in another room for every hour. That way you have to get up, turn it off, and reset it. Use that break to do a little task different from what you were doing, just to reset your mind and body.

** Saying “no” is hard for lots of people, but especially difficult for HSPs. But we have to set our boundaries to protect our emotional and physical health. So try saying, “I’m not sure I can fit that into my schedule. I’ll have to get back to you on that,” or “Gee, thanks, but I don’t think that’s going to work for me.”

** In intimate relationships, communicate clearly and kindly that you need your own private “down time” or that it takes you a while to process things or that you startle easily or hate to be tickled. Better yet, have your partner read Elaine’s book or at least go over your test results with you so you can explain your needs. The goal is to have everyone understand and come to a happy compromise.

The World Needs HSPs

I can say from both personal experience and from listening to the tales of others at the retreat that HSPs have it rough in a world that values fast-paced competition and in-your-face go-getters. We’ve been told all of our lives that there is something “wrong” with us: we’re too shy, too sensitive, too reclusive, overly emotional, indecisive, cry-babies, we can’t take care of ourselves, blah, blah, blah.

Elaine emphasized the highly positive aspects of being a highly sensitive person.

She suggested that we substitute the word “sensitive” with words like “creative,” “intuitive,” “empathetic,” “compassionate,” “thoughtful,” “sensual,” “perceptive,” “imaginative,” “conscientious,” “artistic,” “insightful,” “discerning,” “quick-witted,” “understanding,” “cooperative,” and “astute.”

Among our special gifts to the world are that we pick up on other people’s feelings through subtle cues. We know when to reach out to people in need. We experience love deeply and are very loyal to our partners. Most HSPs have a strong connection to nature, especially to animals–feeling compassion for them as we feel compassion for humans. Many HSPs claim abilities in the psychic realm, picking up on subtle metaphysical stimuli. I know I do.

The bottom line is that high sensitivity is not something that needs to be cured; it needs to be understood and managed!

One of two whites-boards listing HSPs' positive qualities.

One of two whites-boards listing HSPs’ positive qualities.

The second white-board. I think we could have used another.

The second white-board. I think we could have used another.


Not all HSPs are Alike

One of the most striking things I noticed about the people attending the retreat was how different we were from one another.

I fell into the trap that most people who are labeled fall into: if we are alike in one respect, we will be alike in most respects. NOT TRUE!

** About 15% of the attendees were men. That surprised me. I knew there had to be highly sensitive men out there, I just didn’t think they would be brave enough to admit it and pay to go to a retreat. Some were young, but most were middle-aged. A few were 60 or older.

**Among the women, we were all ages, shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Some dressed business-conference conservative while others chose stretchy-clothes comfortable. Some wore make-up and took time with their hair; and others went native.

** The biggest difference among us, however, was that about 20% of the group were clearly extroverts. Yes, EXTROVERTS. I was stunned and more than a little disconcerted when they so obviously made themselves known right from the start by asking all the questions and dominating Elaine’s time.

How could a person who scored high enough on the HSP scale to be at that retreat also be an extrovert?

According to the Myers-Briggs personality test, an extrovert would agree with the following description: “I like getting my energy from active involvement in events and having a lot of different activities. I’m excited when I’m around people and I like to energize other people. I often understand a problem better when I can talk out loud about it and hear what others have to say.”

An introvert, on the other hand would be more likely to agree with: “I like getting my energy from dealing with the ideas, pictures, memories, and reactions that are inside my head, in my inner world. I often prefer doing things alone or with one or two people I feel comfortable with. I take time to reflect so that I have a clear idea of what I’ll be doing when I decide to act.”

Elaine explains it in this short Psychology Today article, but the brief answer is that introversion/extraversion has to do with sociability not sensitivity. A person can be highly social, but be very sensitive to all the stimuli that all the socializing brings to them, so they need to be careful to create down-town for themselves just like we introverted HSPs do.

She was probably an extroverted HSP, come to think of it...

She was probably an extroverted HSP, come to think of it…

I bet she was an HSP, but not an extrovert. What do you think?

I bet she was an HSP, but not an extrovert. What do you think?

In my final installment of this series, I’ll share a few other observations and some funny misadventures that only I would have trying to get to and from a relaxing retreat. 

~ by Lorna's Voice on May 3, 2013.

22 Responses to “News Flash: Scientists Discover Reason Why I Hate to Be Tickled, Part 2”

  1. I think you would have liked the seminar, too, Izzy. We would have had fun together! 🙂

  2. I love the idea of attending this wonderful seminar with your niece. A fabulous memory for both of you.
    I was shocked as I read this about the 20% of the group being extroverts. I tend to be shy because I am sensitive although, lately, I have been a bit stronger in my opinions due to maturity.
    I think I would have enoyed taking this seminar. An inpsiring place to grow.
    Namaste ,

  3. I would love to! Meantime,will share your blog on this all too familiar subject matter… awareness is key 🙂

  4. […] I can’t begin to imagine how Elaine  Aron feels. I wrote two blog posts–this one and that one–and I’ve had […]

  5. 😉

  6. Yes, I wished we lived closer, too. Then we could have a “How not to feel poopy” support group! 🙂

  7. Thank you for this. It fits me to a T. One of the hardest things for me is to say “no” in a way that doesn’t make me feel poopy inside. Another biggie is not wanting to hurt another’s feelings (in reviews, etc) because that makes me feel poopy. It’s not easy to create a balance of boundary management etc. but I’m learning. I think it’s always going to be a work in progress because of the internal sensitivity issues and I don’t want to retreat from people as a solution. Thank you again. I love you. P (wish we lived closer)

  8. Hey, Al, you didn’t even have to admit that you are an HSP. I knew that. Why do you think we get along so well? 😉

  9. You are highly sensitive, too, so you would appreciate these posts! And, yes, humor (although absent in these posts) does have a way of drawing people in. 🙂 I failed to mention humor as a coping strategy. I’ll have to mention that in my last post in this series.

    It was clear that doing this seminar was hard on Elaine. She was excellent, but she needed many breaks and looked very worn by the end of the weekend. And she’s so humble. Maybe someday, you can meet her, too!

  10. Yes, all that brain science stuff was a bit complex. On the one hand, it’s nice to know there are physiological reasons for why I feel the way I do. But, on the other hand, I kind of resent the notion that for something to be consider “real,” most people need science to back it up.

    I’ve heard a lot about the book “Quiet” since this seminar and these posts. I will look into it. Thanks!

    I was intending to do just one silly post about some funny things that happened to me during the weekend, but I got a few comments on my post about me going on the retreat that suggested to me that a few readers were really interested in learning more about this whole “highly sensitive” thing. That’s why I posted these informational posts. Ever the teacher, eh? 😉

  11. Lovely. A really nice thing to do

  12. No, but I could create one easily enough. 🙂 If I don’t do it in a couple of days, email me and remind me, okay? I’ve got lots going on right now… 😉

  13. Well, there are about 20% of the people you know walking (or hiding) among you! 😉

  14. Yes, I think there was a lot there for any person working in a “helping” profession. Elaine has a degree in psychology (I think). And I took many psych courses as an undergrad. 🙂

  15. My sister (my niece’s mother) discovered the seminar. Since my niece and I are such sensitive people, I thought it would be the perfect graduation gift for her–a weekend with her HSP aunt! It’s a memory we both will cherish. 🙂

  16. I never knew there was such a seminar as the one you intended, but you have gained a wealth of insights from it, and that is very gratifying to read about

  17. Fascinating – it sounds like an informative seminar. Everything you’re relaying really resonates with me – especially the introversion/extroversion part. I also like the substitution words for ‘sensitive’. This makes me miss taking all those psych courses!

  18. I never heard of HSP before you mentioned it, Lorna. Very interesting!

  19. I’ve known for a few years that I fall into this category…only the book I read called it sensory defensive syndrome. I’m so glad you shared this with us. You don’t happen to have this in a word doc. that you could e-mail, do you?

  20. Very interesting, I can’t say that I’m a HSP though I’m particularly sensitive mostly to how the person with me is feeling, so I know when to shut up and when to keep going with whatever is it I’m saying. According to that self test you linked in your last post and I got 6 of the points, so technically I won’t qualify. I’m what most would call an extrovert but I cherish my alone time than to be surrounded by people, so I’m also an introvert, like a hybrid something.

    I don’t know if you’ve heard about this book, Quiet by Susan Cain, if not check it out, she talks about these two personality forms in depth. I have it but I’m yet to read it properly, you might find it interesting too. It looks like these sessions are having a positive impact on you, that’s good to know. To be honest though I got dizzy, myself, reading Part 1 🙂 I hope your feeling better from your recent experiences.

  21. OMG are we ever on the same wave length… I just mentioned her book in a Facebook post yesterday… love the book, glad you got to attend one of her workshops, Lorna. Amazing information and you are so right, it must NOT be cured, simply understood. Sigh… I reckon your writings will help some of those who don’t understand because your humor reaches where many a dry writing fails. Much love xo

  22. These are fascinating facts.

    OK, I admit it, I’m an HSP. It feels do good to come out of the closet, it was so stuffy in there. I remember one sermon at church several years ago (I quit going to church about 12 years ago). It was titled “Men too gentle to live among wolves”. I really identified with it because it fit me to a tee.

    I’m enjoying hearing about this seminar, Lorna, but then you already know that (the psychic part again).

Silence can be just what the doctor ordered. You know I'm a doctor, right?

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