Before I read Elaine Aron’s book, The Highly Sensitive Person, I felt like a freak for being so hypersensitive.
Learning about the combined hypersensitivities that come with ADHD and being an HSP has helped me to reframe my perspective in a positive way.
Recently, I found reason to give thanks for my hypersensitivities. I’m finding new ways to appreciate the gifts of hypersensitivities, and I’m beginning to understand how they’ve shaped who I am today.
These examples might help you to appreciate, rather than regret, your own unique physical and emotional sensitivities.
Putting beliefs into action
I’ve always been an ardent environmentalist. It’s unthinkable for me to even remotely consider tossing garbage out my car window or not recycle.
Being tuned in to the natural world on a visceral level and feeling connected to all of its inhabitants helps me with my goal of being as environmentally responsible as I can.
It’s easy to act for the good of all when you feel a kinship with every living thing, and understand (as research continues to prove) that non-humans feel pain and suffering too.
People who are hypersensitive have strong imaginations, making it easy to empathize when hearing about children suffering asthma attacks due to air pollution; those living in areas with high cancer rates due to environmental factors, and so on. We don’t need to be directly affected in dramatic ways to nonetheless feel the effects of environmental degradation.
Feeling the suffering of others, how can we not act?
As most of you know, my new home has been undergoing renovations for some time now. While I admit I’m starting to go stir-crazy, part of what’s kept me (mostly) sane through the proceedings is hypersensitivity. (I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but bear with me.)
A friend of mine recently dropped by. Seeing the (necessary) chaos she commented, “I couldn’t live like this.” I didn’t say it, but my immediate thought was, I’m just grateful I have a roof over my head.
My imagination immediately jumped to visions of tin-roofed shanties, refugee camps, and areas devastated by natural disasters (of which there are so many these days).
It’s not just the knowledge that perhaps a majority of the world’s population is under-housed, living in cramped quarters, or other precarious, even dangerous conditions that I’m talking about; with the state of today’s media, it’s almost impossible not to be aware of these things.
The difference for those who are hypersensitive, for me at least, is the level of emotional resonance I feel in response to the suffering of others. I realize that being hypersensitive to the experiences of others can be maladaptive, and may have other psychological labels.
Turning it into a gift, it can remind us to be grateful, rather than overwhelmed by our own relatively benign challenges – including a seemingly never-ending bout of renovations! I remind myself that rather than feeling put upon, I should (and do) feel privileged given the millions with no roof over their heads.
Enhancing physical health
I believe our physical hypersensitivities can be turned into a great opportunity.
People with ADHD can have both physical and emotional hypersensitivities. I believe our physical hypersensitivities can be turned into a great opportunity.
I’ve learned that by tuning into my body, I can detect an impending illness before it’s full-blown.
For example, when I feel a cold coming on, I go to bed. Sleep: that’s my ticket to good health. By listening to my body and taking action, I’m convinced I’ve avoided many full-blown bouts of the common cold or flu.
By staying home and taking care of myself, I’m sure I’ve also protected others by curbing the spread of my impending illness.
Enhancing emotional health
Similarly, tuning in to how I feel lets me interact with others more consciously and responsibly.
Often I’ll know that something is bothering me long before I can put my finger on the source of my discomfort. (The downside of being emotionally hypersensitive: more stuff gets under our skin, not just physically but metaphorically too!)
Just being aware of the undercurrent, I can choose to take the time to figure out what’s going on before I say or do something I’ll regret.
By taking responsibility for my thoughts and feelings rather than letting them fester, I can act with integrity, have better emotional health, and healthier relationships.
Given my ADHD, it also helps to have my impulsivity under control, but using hypersensitivity to be aware of subtle emotions is a great tool to prevent misunderstandings and to understand myself better too.
What about you?
I’m still learning how my hypersensitivities have helped me. I’m also watching for when they’ve bolstered something positive in my life, so I can be even more grateful for them.
Have you found any ways that your hypersensitivities serve you? Please take a moment to share them with us.