Thursday, April 26, 2018

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You, by Elaine N. Aron

Citadel, November 2013 (original publication 1996)

Everyone feels overwhelmed sometimes. Too much is happening, too much information is incoming, you just can't cope. It happens to everyone.

It happens to some of us far more often than it does to most people. We are more sensitive--to sound, to lights, to activity, to voices, to some or all of them, and we need the time and space to process what we're taking in.

This is often described as "shyness," or "over-sensitivity," or "introversion," and in western culture is often considered a flaw. Confident, active extroversion is valued and admired. The lower level of sensitivity to stimulation is more common, more typical of most people.

Those of us who have the greater sensitivity may start getting negative messages very early. "You're too sensitive." "Don't let it get to you." "You're over-reacting." Too much of this, too early, can lead to life-long anxiety and depression. Yet this is not inevitable, and this greater sensitivity has advantages as well as disadvantages.

The highly sensitive person is taking in more information. Noticing things others don't. Processing the subtle and the easily overlooked.

Learn to use this, in yourself or in highly sensitive friends and colleagues, and you and those around you can benefit, making better decisions in both personal and professional life. Highly sensitive individuals are often the writers, musicians, artists, and can also be the people who see new opportunities, unmet needs that some innovation can meet--ways to create a new business or enhance an existing one. They may not want to be the public face of such an undertaking, but they may be the best equipped to be the creator and the beating heart of it.

Aron has a great deal to offer about the ways sensitivity can be associated with anxiety and depression, but also the ways in which that is far from inevitable. Highly sensitive children raised in families that understand their sensitivity and support them in learning how to process the world usefully grow up healthier and more stable than other children. Highly sensitive children are, on the other hand, more severely affected by childhood traumas that the less sensitive children may quickly shrug off and put in the past when they're over and life is stable again.

But, again, the amount of useful support a highly sensitive child gets in coping with those traumas can make an enormous difference.

There's some verbiage here that I find annoying and unhelpful, but that's most likely personal taste in the kind of language I like and find useful to me. There's a wealth of information and guidance here for the highly sensitive person trying to learn how to function happily and effectively in a world that often finds us weird and flawed. It's potentially a life-changing book--and yeah, there's some overblown verbiage from me, but there you go. Sometimes you need it!

Highly recommended.

I bought this book.