“I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that, now that when someone asks me why I cry so often, I say, ‘For the same reason I laugh so often — because I’m paying attention.” – Glennon Doyle Melton
Do you cry at the drop of a hat?When you walk into a room, can you determine the prevailing attitude of most people in it and then, no matter how you might have felt before you came in, seem to have absorbed the energy there?Do people in your life tell you to “buck up,” “grow a pair,” or “stop being so sensitive”?
If so, you may be what is termed a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). According to Elaine N. Aron, PhD,the author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You, “the highly sensitive person (HSP) has a sensitive nervous system, is aware of subtleties in his/her surroundings, and is more easily overwhelmed when in a highly stimulating environment.”
Often times, they feel out of sorts, different and not quite fitting into the norm. In actuality, Dr. Aron has observed, only a small portion of the population (20%) exhibit such qualities that would have them wear the mantle of an HSP.
She created a test (not a diagnostic tool) to assist in identifying traits of a Highly Sensitive Person. When completing it, I discovered that although I don’t represent the far end of the spectrum of those with these qualities who would be labeled ‘shy’, or who would self -identify as needing to withdraw into a dark room to decompress or re-group, I responded positively to 15 out of the 27 questions. It is an aspect of my persona that serves me well as a therapist and allows me to utilize what I refer to as my “Spidey Sense” to intuit what is occurring in the cognitive realms of my clients. It permits me to have my creativity flow and makes me an out of the box thinker. It has me appreciating beauty with all of my senses fully alive.That’s the upside of the condition. The more challenging aspects relate to the ways in which I ‘take on’ other peoples’ pain; both physical and emotional.
What Is the Difference Between Being Empathetic and Being an Empath?
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, empathy is “the feeling that you understand and share another person’s experiences and emotions: the ability to share someone else’s feelings,” while an empath is considered “A person who is capable of feeling the emotions of others despite the fact that they themselves are not going through the same situation.”Keep in mind that the first definition is from a mainstream dictionary, while the second was referenced in the Urban Dictionary. Even further extended is the description highlighted in the Oxford Dictionary: “(chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual.”