Thursday, May 7, 2015

I'm a Highly Sensitive Person.

My initial reaction to opening the Salon article What your levels of sensitivity say about you by Scott Barry Kaufman, was that it made me laugh, because, naturally, the banner image is Claire Danes crying.

The article starts with a quote by Pearl S. Buck. It irritates me that she uses the male pronouns here, especially since she’s the creative person she’s referencing, but I guess it’s a sign of the times.
The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, and create— so that without the creating of music or poetry or books or buildings or something of meaning, his very breath is cut off from him. He must create, must pour out creation. By some strange, unknown, inward urgency he is not really alive unless he is creating.
This rung true in me, since I'm sensitive to a lot of things. Crowds, noise - I'm easily over-stimulated, especially when I'm tired. It’s not unusual for me to get home some days and need to sit quietly and decompress. That might sound like meditation, but it isn't It just me sitting down and attempting to allow my brain to release some of the stimulation it’s still processing. I almost shut-down. There are definitely ways in which creative output help me feel productive with my sensitivity. It’s difficult, and rare, to feel sensitivity benefits me. I know it benefits friends and those around me, in certain situations (situations where I can provide support) but for me, it’s as if I'm carrying something fragile at all times.

The article discusses how different types of sensitivity are measured in people, and how being sensitive can affect you:
On the one hand, this research confirms that ease of excitation and low sensory threshold are related to negative life outcomes. This is consistent with prior research that has found that these forms of sensitivity are linked to lower levels of meaningfulness and self-efficacy, and are positively related to anxiety, depression,poor social skills, poor attention details and difficulty describing and identifying feelings, avoidant personality disorder, social phobia, and agoraphobia.
On the other hand, this research suggests that sensitivity need not be negative. As the researchers note, “for some sensitive people, sensitivity does not necessarily have to be debilitating. Rather, it could enhance their complex inner lives, and possibly lead to higher subjective well-being.” Prior research has found that aesthetic sensitivity is related to a variety of beneficial outcomes, including greater attention to detail and communication skills, and higher levels of affilitativeness and openness to experience.
The author goes on to mention an Elaine Aron book The Highly Sensitive Person:
...highly sensitive people may thrive in a more peaceful environment. In such solitude, these individuals may be better able to take advantage of their sensitivities. Indeed, many famous artists, musicians, humanitarians and scientists were exquisitely sensitive to their environments, and used their experiences as grist for the mill of their extraordinary creativity and compassion. Sensitivity is not only associated with creativity, but also with spirituality, mystical experiences, and a connection to nature.

The article is pretty thin, but I appreciate the research dealing with sensitivity. Yes, there are many kinds of sensitivity, and different kinds, coupled with the difference of individuality creates a myriad of experiences with sensitivity.

This article doesn't touch the socio-cultural readings of sensitivity, but by experience it isn't something appreciated in working spaces, the corporate world, capitalism or in structures of power. 

1 comment:

  1. I too enjoyed parts of the article and found it informative as to some aspects of my personality, explaining in much better details things I've known about myself, but didn't have an exact description for it.
    I also clicked on other parts looking further into p the article where he talked about the narcissistic introvert and covert, as I know people like that and he gave a test to take. Interesting stuff.
    I did find though at the very end that it became a bit redundant with all the information on varying sensitivities, when it came full circle only to say:
    The researchers found that both ease of excitation and low sensory threshold, but not aesthetic sensitivity, were associated with the behavioral inhibition system (BIS). According to the British psychologist Jeffrey Gray, the BIS is related to sensitivity to threat and punishment. He proposed that the BIS system causes anxiety. Indeed, research suggests that introversion, neuroticism, shyness, and high sensory-processing sensitivity all have their roots in BIS.

    I don't know it all seemed to come around to be all depressing at that point, but I don't know know; maybe I'm just being too sensitive. ;

    Informative. Thanks for sharing!