Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) & The Empath

To start this blog off, lets look at some definitions. Then we will look at some traits of both Highly Sensitive People and Empaths. And from there we will flow into something a bit more interesting.

Definitions

Hypersensitive: Highly or excessively sensitive.

A Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a person having the innate trait of high sensitivity.

An Empath is a person who is "sensitive" to energies, and often finds themselves feeling the emotions and sometimes physical sensations of the people, places, things and animals around them.

Another definition of an Empath is one who has an acute or highly developed sensitivity to the emotions and emotional states of themselves and others.

Empathy, which literally translates as 'in feeling', is the capability to share and understand another's emotions and feelings. It is often characterized as the ability to "put oneself into another's shoes".

Traits Of A Highly Sensitive Person

  1. They feel (their own) emotions deeply.
  2. They are sensitive to the emotions and emotional states of people around them.
  3. They are easily hurt or upset.
  4. They tend to avoid conflicts, arguments and other types of confrontations.
  5. They tend to become agitated and/or flustered when surrounded by large groups of people or lots of activities.
  6. They tend to need time to themselves each day.
  7. They tend to be creative types who deeply appreciate art, nature and music.
  8. They are prone to suffer from recurrent depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders.
  9. They tend to be slower at recovering from intense stimuli, because they are sensitive to other people's suffering, noise, light, caffeine, pain, medications, temperature, and other stimuli.
  10. They tend to be introverted and have rich,complex inner life, because they are able to concentrate and process information deeply.

Traits Of An Empath

  1. Empaths are quiet achievers but expressive in area's of emotional connection. They find that talking about emotional issues is a great outlet that aids in undertanding themselves and others.
  2. Some empaths can be the opposite of what an empath 'should' be because they are overwhelmed or unable to handle emotion and what they feel in the world around them so they block their feelings.
  3. They can be focused outward, toward what others feel, rather than themselves. This is a common trait to many people who have not gone through a process of self development.
  4. They avoid disharmony caused by emotionally turbulent situations. This type of situation can easily create an uncomfortable feeling because an empath feels this emotion.
  5. Empaths are emotionally sensitive to violence and general chaos.
  6. Empaths are sensitive to loud noise and televison. In particular, television programs that depict emotional drama like the news and police shows.
  7. They struggle to comprehend acts of cruelty and crime that involves hurting others.
  8. They struggle to comprehend suffering in the world and are often idealists who theorise about fixing the worlds problems.
  9. Are often found working as volunteers, with people, animals or the environment.
  10. They are expressive so they can often be found in areas of music or the arts.
  11. They often have the ability to draw others to them. This includes children and animals as they have a warmth and compassion that is beyond normal You may find that strangers always talk to you if you are an empath.
  12. They can be good listeners as they generally have an interest in other people.
  13. Empaths can be moody or have large mood swings due to overwhelming thoughts, feelings and emotion.
  14. They are likely to have had, other paranormal experiences in their life. This could be astral projection, psychic ability or a variety of other experiences.
  15. Empaths are daydreamers that have difficulty keeping focused. This is common with people who deal more IN emotion and neglect other area's of their mind.
  16. Like many people on a spiritual path Empaths frequently experience déjà vu and synchronicities. This is something that occurs to everyone however empaths are often more aware and therefore 'look out' for it.
Quizzes

HSP
Are You Highly Sensitive?
How Sensitive Are You?
The Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) Test
Are You Highly Sensitive? (A Different Test)

Empath
Are You An Empath?
What Empathic Type Are You?
EQ Test or Empathy Quotient Test: The Empathy Quotient Test is intended to measure how easily you pick up on other people's feelings and how strongly you are affected by other people's feelings.

A Quick Note

Now that you've seen some definitions and traits of a HSP and an Empath, do you see any similarities? They tend to be synonymous with one another. Each, by a different name, tends to be empathic/empathetic toward others. And each tends to be highly sensitive to the world around them.

So based on this premise, that each of these two types of personalities are synonymous with one another, we shall move forward with this discussion.

Case Study Of An Empath/HSP

In all of the time I've been learning about Empaths, which includes myself, and HSPs, I've heard quite a few stories. What is offered up here is someone's real life, and it is offered up with permission from the person to whom the story belongs. The names within it have been changed, though, to protect the privacy of the person in question.

From infancy, according to Illyana, she had been a very sensitive child. She said that her mother, Lila, told her stories, when she had gotten older, about just how sensitive she was. She told me that Lila said that for the first year of Illyana's life, she would cry almost constantly, leaving Lila in a state of constant panic and sleep deprived most of the time.

As she got a little bit older, into the toddler years, Illyana said that she was prone to collapsing on the floor in order to scream at the top of her lungs while throwing temper tantrums. And this was done over the smallest things and in the most inopportune places, to Lila's embarrassment most of the time.

This behavior carried on into the beginning school years. Illyana said that a week didn't go by when she didn't collapse on the floor in class to throw a temper tantrum. She also said she had an extremely hard time making friends. Instead most of the kids tended to make fun of her, calling her names like 'baby' and 'whiner'.

Beyond those things that were negative she had some positive things to say, as well. She recalled one incident where she ran off to pick flowers for a little girl in a wheel chair. She said that she felt so bad for the little girl and wanted to see her smile. She also wanted to be this little girl's friend.

As Illyana got older, these same traits took on a new dimension. She was a sweet tempered individual, who some might call naive, innocent, or gullible. She avoided conflict at all costs. Even to the point of pretending to let others slights or offenses toward her appear not to matter. She would hold her tongue and instead lose herself into her internal dream world where she could be anything she wanted.

All of this lead Illyana to have a lack of self worth, by having no concept of who she was and what she wanted. Instead she was only what other people wanted her to be, in order to avoid conflict.

When she started to date men, Illyana would, without realizing it, choose men who were authoritative and controlling. Because she lacked self esteem and a sense of 'self', she would rely on her boyfriend to shape who she was. And because of the type of men she chose to date, her shape became smaller and smaller as time went on, until it was almost non-existent.

By the time I met Illyana, she had already been through two relationships where she had been physically, psychologically, emotionally, and sexually abused. She had pulled herself out of 'hell' (as she calls it) at the last minute, after he had threatened to kill her and her child. Upon our meeting, she was working at a woman's shelter, helping other women who had suffered as she had ~ giving them hope.

She does this, she says, because she understands what they're going through, even if she can't relate to their specific situation. And she doesn't want to see them going through it alone, suffering alone. She wants to help heal them. She believes it helps to heal her in a way, as well.
The Point

The point of this story isn't to offend. Its not to force you to view another person's tragedy. It's to show you how one who is an HSP and/or an Empath can struggle, fall, and survive. Because I'm pretty sure, if your reading this, you are relating to it on some level.

So does being abused make you an HSP/Empath? It can. Can one be born to it? Yes. But the point isn't how you got to the point of being able to say 'I'm an HSP' or 'I'm an Empath'. It doesn't matter if you meet all the criteria above.

What matters is what you do with who and what you are right now, in this moment. Because all of the definitions, trait lists, and quizzes are merely a starting point. Just like hearing terms like 'Empath' or 'Highly Sensitive Person' are.

So if those are the starting points, where do you wish to go next upon your journey of self discovery? Think about it.

Links

Being Highly Sensitive(About.com)
Highly Sensitive Person (Wikipedia)
The Highly Sensitive Person: An Introduction
The Highly Sensitive Person or The HSP Sensory Nervous System
Highlysensitivepeople.com
The Highly Sensitive Person
HSP Connections: The Information Directory For The Highly Sensitive Person (includes a free downloadable book with tips and resources)
Energy Protection For The Highly Sensitive Person

NonViolent Communication

The Center For Nonviolent Communication
NonViolent Communication

Videos

About The Highly Sensitive Person


Highly Sensitive People: Coping Strategies


Nonviolent Communication Videos

Nonviolent Communication Part 1 Marshall Rosenberg


Nonviolent Communication Part 2 Marshall Rosenberg


Nonviolent Communication Part 3 Marshall Rosenberg

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