The Highly Sensitive Person

I recently finished reading “The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You” by Elaine N. Aron. It was recommended to me by a good friend who had found it really useful.

It is based on the premise that 15-20% of the human race are wired differently –

“Having a sensitive nervous system is normal, a basically neural trait. You probably inherited it… It means that you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sights and sounds until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way.” 

Aron calls these individuals highly sensitive people (HSPs).

“When very calm, HSPs may even enjoy the advantage of picking up more nuances. When overaroused, however, a frequent state for HSPs, we are anything but understanding or sensitive. Instead, we are overwhelmed, frazzled, and need to be alone. “

I did the HSP quiz at the start of the book, whilst hanging out with my friend, and since I unsurprisingly came out as a HSP, I borrowed the book! You can do the quiz here, if you’re interested in whether you might be a HSP. Having read the book I’d say that I do have the trait in spades.

Aron is a HSP herself, and has researched the trait over a period of decades. Her aim with this book is to help HSPs to understand their trait and how they naturally function. She hopes to encourage and equip HSPs to embrace who they are, to look after themselves better, relate to others better, and therefore be healthier and happier as a result.

Aron recognises that since the world is set up for the majority who function very differently, HSPs may feel like there is something wrong with them, and may be battling away trying to live a life not well suited to them.

The Highly Sensitive Person
‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ by Elaine N. Aron.

OK, so the picture is a bit of an exaggeration. The book is not magical! In fact there is plenty that’s not brilliant about the book, but I do think that if you are a HSP then it could well be revolutionary.

I’d already encountered some of the ideas in the excellent ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain (see my review here), so it wasn’t as groundbreaking for me as I imagine it could be for other people. However, that’s not to say that I didn’t really benefit from the book. I did. It helped me appreciate how being a HSP impacts relationships, fear and anxiety, my place in society, career choices, enjoying this beautiful world etc.

There’s lots I could chat about, but instead my advice to HSPs is buy the book. Read it. Lend it to your friends. And probably do the same with Susan Cain’s Quiet too!


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