Category Archives: HSPs & Empaths

HSP Chronicles #2: Learning to Thrive vs Taking a Dive as an HSP


We talked about HSP land in the last blog which defines the term and gives resources. Once you realize you have this curse/gift, pacing and managing your rhythms and sensitivities can be a game changer.

Esther walked into the staff lounge, passing a co-worker with a stressed facial expression. Esther immediately registered her co-worker’s stress, thinking, “Oh, I wonder what’s happening for her?” She thought of how tough life can be. Without realizing it, her own mood took a dive for the afternoon.


If you’re an HSP, it’s rare that this was appreciated or embraced when you were young. This often leaves you feeling you’re flawed, when compared to others. You may try to “man up” when you can, or when it’s suggested to you, but never quite pull it off. In relationship and work, you may have differences that confuse you. Similarly, HSP and non-HSP communication and work flow can completely bomb without HSP education.

When you start to see this in light of how sensitivity and arousal work for the HSP nervous system, it makes more sense. This can be a big relief and big help to better functioning in the world.

There are a few things that can help support HSPs to live and work well in the world today, according to original HSP author/researcher Elaine Aron and others. The good news is, once you get the hang of your own HSP needs and rhythms, you start to see and experience the gift side of this more than the burden.

4 THINGS THAT HELP HSPs THRIVE: Knowledge, Reframing, Healing, Finding your Way

1) Knowledge
Understanding the qualities of the HSP and how well this profile fits for you can be enlightening. Along with this, working with your physical self, the seat of this sensitivity, is important, so you don’t override or ignore your body’s signals or label it as weak or uncooperative.

A quick acronym to remind you of HSP qualities is DOES:
Depth of process (deeper thoughts and more elaborate brain processing)
O – Easily Over-aroused or Overstimulated (Avoids/needs longer recovery time from events)
E – Stronger Emotional reactions (emotions of others, and internal emotional reactions)
S – Aware of Subtle stimuli (high responses to senses and stimuli – noise, smells, light, crowds)

When Esther in the above example found out about her HSP nature, she caught herself as she instantly registered the emotions of her co-worker. She saw her sensitivity and appreciated it, realizing not everyone in the lounge felt this. She realized she didn’t really know what was going on for her co-worker, but didn’t have to assume too much. If desired, she could check in with her later. Meanwhile she kept her focus and productivity going.

2) Reframing
When the world is in a more yang or aggressive mode, sensitivity is less valued – this may be true today. But rather than accept derogatory labels like wimpy, whiny, or dramatic, you can see this in a whole new light. This reframing can happen in your present day world; you can also use reframing to understand past adversities.

The rulers and warriors of the world always had their advisers and counselors – who probably were the HSPs. With proper framing, you can see life events with understanding and compassion. You can explain your needs better to those you love, and offer the world valuable insights and helpful perspectives they may not have considered.

Empath author and psychiatrist Judith Orloff’s group of friends know that she may not come to large gatherings, or if she does, she may arrive and leave early. They may know the label “introvert” or “sensitive”; and they know not to take it personally if Judith disappears in the course of a party.

3) Healing work
Sometimes HSPs can be easy targets for abuse or scapegoating. If there is a backlog of difficult and unresolved past experiences, it’s often of benefit to do the healing work to clear and move that along. HSPs tend to be more impacted by rough childhoods and these effects can linger or arise later in life if re-triggered.

Genevieve had major surgery which went smoothly, but in the recovery period, she found she had a lot of anxiety arising, seemingly out of the blue. After some therapy, she remembered how insecure she felt as a child with parents fighting and threatening divorce frequently. She learned how to manage her anxiety with meditation and relaxation skills. Finding HSP info. was also a huge help. It helped her understand why her anxiety came up and how to be gentle with herself about her experience. She could appreciate herself for how differently she raised her own children, who had grown up to be great adults.

4) Finding your unique, graceful way through the world
HSPs need to find out how to recognize their needs and preferences, and how their sensitivity might positively and negatively influence areas of their life. There may be ways to compensate for jobs that are less supportive to HSP temperaments – for example, changing your desk location if it’s in a noisy spot. Relationships with non-HSPs can be aided with more knowledge and accommodation of how high sensitivity works.

This doesn’t have to mean you’ll be confined to classical music and ear plugs forever. There is a wide diversity and uniqueness to what exactly you can be sensitive to as an HSP, and what really isn’t as big of a deal for you, in terms of the common traits and characteristics. (See original article for info/resources.)

I’ve succeeded in various areas that HSPs are not supposed to venture, for example, performance and public speaking. It did help me to realize that being an HSP might cause me to lose sleep before an event, even if I’d done it before. I plan more recovery time and try not to overschedule those weeks. I’ve have tools to help manage stress and perspective after these risk-taking events; otherwise my critic’s volume can be quite loud. Having supportive friends and loved ones can also provide that reality testing invaluable to me as a sensitive.

Have an HSP experience to share or a tool that helps you? Please comment below.

Curious if therapy or coaching might help you heal old stories and thrive as a sensitive?
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HSPs and Empaths – Pros and Cons of Being Sensitive

Dr. Chotka going within

I walked into the post office recently early one Saturday morning to mail a package. The empty station’s radio was playing commercials; a loud, bright and annoying jingle. The female postal clerk finished helping her customer and left to take the package to the back.

Commercial #2 comes on, just as loud, even more annoying. I realize I am able to avoid commercials these days, either by switching a station or muting. When the 3rd commercial comes on, I’ve had it. I walk up to the boombox, ready to . . . OK, not go postal, but at least turn the volume down. But I can’t find the volume button. Back in line, the postal clerk returns; it’s my turn. I mention the noisy commercials, and the clerk nods and laughs. No big deal to her. I conduct my business with my finger in my left ear, the one nearest the radio. . .


“Sensory processing sensitivity” first appeared in 1997 as a new human trait. Later termed Highly Sensitive Person or HSP, it applied to 15-20% of humans born with a more sensitive nervous system. Shyness, introversion, inhibition, and low social interest had been studied before, but author Elaine Aron maintained that the HSP was different. They were not always timid, some were extroverts, some were male. Cultural views had impact too. In cultures like Japan where this is valued, “sensitive” and “shy” children were more popular, but in Canada, those traits were not the popular ones.

Further proof came from the animal kingdom, where this same 15-20% of HSP creatures were found. And that’s lucky it turns out – the caution of HSP animals probably helped the species survive!


So what’s an HSP? This is the type of human who was born with a more sensitive nervous system. An HSP is more aware of subtle factors in their surroundings. If that’s you, you will notice and even change the lighting and music volume when entering a room. Or, you might wish to adjust radio volume at the post office! HSP is similar to today’s term “empath”, coined by Judith Orloff and others.

Here is a list of some common HSP traits, and in parentheses, (how these translate to real life.)

  • HSPs process things more deeply (longer time for decision making)
  • Easily overstimulated by lights, noise, smells, crowds (tire more easily, need quiet time)
  • More empathy and reactive emotions (feel more impact from positive and negative events)
  • Sense more subtleties (advanced ability to read people, and sense and intuit moods etc.)

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