A little-understood inherited temperament could be impacting your life or someone you love in unexpected ways.
Psychologist Elaine Aron‘s research on a temperament category she describes as the “highly sensitive person” (HSP) has been gaining increased attention in recent years, and giving many people a big “aha” moment. Could you be among the 15-20 percent of the population she believes make up this group? I’ve learned that I am, and finding this out has changed the way I look at…everything.
When I was a kid, the taste of many foods was unbearably intense, and certain sounds were, too. I had a vivid imagination and experienced acute awareness of emotions — both my own and those of others.
Yet I was not shy. Sometimes I would get so overstimulated I would find myself talking constantly, a tendency that earned me the nickname “Loquacious Lynn” from my mother and demerit points in school.
I was transfixed by odd things: once, at summer camp, I stood paralyzed by the side of a stream, knowing that when I reached the other side I would be older and could never reverse the flow of time.
I felt and saw things that enchanted and sometimes frightened me.
I grew up thinking I was most definitely weird, if not a tad crazy, and tried to send these peculiarities underground so I’d appear “normal.” The effort was exhausting.
According to Aron, a lot of kids grow up feeling flawed (and perhaps medicated on that assumption) when they are not really flawed at all — they are just expressing a trait well within the normal human range: high sensitivity.
In some cultures, such as Japan, the trait is highly valued, though sadly, this is often not the case in Western society, and such children can experience negative or confused reactions from peers and adults. In the 2011 documentary “Bully,” a child who commits suicide in repsonse to bullying shows his first signs of being “different” as high sensitivity to loud noises, a fact no one comments upon as linked to his distressing experiences at school.