Around 20 percent of the population are Highly Sensitive People. HSP are born with a more sensitive central nervous system and brain. This is completely natural and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. What it results in is that all stimuli, whether physical, emotional or social, is noticed at a lower level of arousal (meaning before it is detectable or bothers / stresses non HSPs). All this stimuli is processed more deeply (meaning that the brain thinks, compares and gives it more importance than non HSPs) and it is all done very quickly. Examples of this is that an HSP will be able to tell if someone’s state or emotion has changed, even if only for a brief amount of time. Furthermore they will notice everything in a room or restaurant at once and may feel like they don’t want to stay, but may not be able to say why.

How to tell if your an HSP:

  • You feel things very deeply and are moved by them. The sight of a puppy playing or a sunset can move you to tears of joy. Seeing or hearing about violence hurts you deeply and may even physically hurt.
  • You are very aware of your own and other people’s feelings. Sometimes you get so involved in helping another person that you get confused about what you are responsible for.
  • You often feel anxious when you are around more than three people, especially if you do not know them or are not friends with these people.
  • You are probably hard on yourself, as you don’t want to upset or hurt other people.
  • You overthink the one not so good thing that happened during your day.
  • You are very imaginative and most probably have a rich inner world.
  • You need time on your own to relax and let everything that you have noticed during the day be processed and let go off.

What HSPs are good at:

HSPs are good at noticing fine details and changes, have a lot of empathy, feel things deeply, are creative, good lie detectors and make loving deep connections. Therefore HSPs make good therapists, healers, care givers, vets, entrepreneurs and work well in areas that require attention to detail.

What HSPs often require is a quiet environment and to be left to do their work, so that they do not get overwhelmed by stimulation.

Is being HSP a curse or a gift?

I am a HSP. When I was growing up their were times when my sensitivity was difficult for me. For example, being at parties or in concerts as they were too loud and noisy and I would feel this physically and emotionally. I even tried to stop being so sensitive. I managed to turn down my sensitivity to a certain degree. When I had done this, the world felt boring and “black and white” to me. I missed the ‘technicolour’ and feeling the vibrancy of life. So I accepted that my sensitivity was a part of who I am and realised that I actually preferred being sensitive in the world, rather than trying to numb the world out.

However, a lot of the people I work with feel that their sensitivity is too overwhelming. They also judge themselves as having something “wrong with them”. They come to me hoping that I will be able to stop them being so sensitive. What I actually teach them is how not be so overwhelmed by stimuli, by understanding what they are doing with the stimuli and undoing any unhelpful coping strategies that they may have developed. I also teach them how to be sensitive to their energy and intuition so that they can meet their own needs much more easily. This also enables them to be guided more directly by their intuition.

Most importantly, I enable them to see and feel the value and gift of their sensitivity and how they can use it to have a fulfilling life. When I fully embraced my sensitivity I found the courage to fully be me and not hide behind the person I thought people expected me to be. I then started my own coaching practice. I coach in a unique way that is totally guided by my sensitivity and intuition, I call myself an Intuitive Transformational Coach.

Are Highly Sensitive People empaths?

Some HSPs are empaths, however not all are and not all empaths are HSP. There are somethings that they have in common, which are - a need to be alone, being sensitive, aversion to large groups, love of nature, desire to help people and a rich inner life. However some empaths are not sensitive to all stimuli and like to be around more people and a busy environment.

The main difference is that empaths are generally much more aware that the subtle energy of people, places and environments deeply affects them. Empaths are able to feel this energy and some are consciously able to use it. In fact an empath will often take into their own body the feelings and pains of others and may or may not be conscious that they have done this. Which can lead to confusion as to what they themselves truly feel. Even though a HSP may be able to feel this energy they may not be conscious that they are and will not take it into their body like an empath does.

Is it useful to know if you are a HSP, an Empath or both?

I remember a young lady coming to me in her early 20s who thought that she was going mad. As she could not work in an office, had a hard time to keep any job, often felt things that did not make any logical sense to her and would laugh out loud or burst out crying when she saw a person who did not even realise that they themselves were feeling what she was demonstrating.

For her, learning that she was both a HSP and an empath showed her that what she was experiencing was actually real and that she was not mad. By learning how to embrace her sensitivity and abilities she grew in confidence and started her own business working with animals.

So yes it is useful to know if you are a HSP and or an Empath as it enables you to understand why you think and feel like you do. With acceptance you can integrate your gifts into your life rather than being at conflict with them. Furthermore you can learn how to use your gifts of sensitivity and intuition to thrive.

By Fiona Maguire