“All virtues have a shadow.”
For millennia, humans traded information by speech or song – imbuing tradition, history and knowledge with the tone of their voice. It wasn’t until 1440 when German inventor Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press; in less than half that time we now have temporal, instant gratification reinforcing social media channels from Facebook and Instagram to Snapchat, TikTok, and the like. Where the world once ebbed and flowed at a nominal rate, it’s now gaining unparalleled speed and momentum. Many of us dance with overwhelmed feelings at one point or another – and the world’s recent stage has only catalyzed these feelings. From COVID and quarantine, to the reckoning of the ‘The Great Resignation’ and job wage inequity, not to mention race relations and the growing chasm of political divide – it really isn’t any wonder that feelings of anxiety and depression have run rampant these last few years (and let’s be honest, my heart rate just went up typing all that!). A society that’s overwhelmed means that we’re living in a constant state of over-arousal, that we’re all sitting on hairpin triggers waiting for the next emotional hurdle to be thrust into our path; it reinforces timid, introverted behavior and takes us out of being our ‘best selves’ while pulling us out of the collective human condition and isolating us within our minds. Continually ingraining ourselves within this hyper-stimulated, instant gratification, ‘go-go-go’ natured world – it’s no surprise that many of us have become, or always have been, highly sensitive individuals.
“Whatever the times, suffering eventually touches every life. How we live with it, and help others to, is one of the great creative and ethical opportunities”― Elaine N. Aron
As it turns out, the more aware one becomes – the more deeply one feels. I was blessed with a good childhood for the most part, less my parents divorce when I was two, and grew up highly anxious for seemingly “no reason” (…according to therapists, family and friends). I had stomach ulcers in elementary school, and was in therapy from the age of 11 well into my adult life, and understand implicitly what it means to exist within a hypervigilant state and the want to feel “normal”.
“I am deeply moved by things. I’d hate to miss the intense joy of that.”― Elaine N. Aron
I’ve discovered myself to be dichotomous: I enjoy moments of extroversion and love feeling like part of a large group, I equally find disdain fitting into a societal mold. I cry, easily; I laugh easily, too. I’m reactive, to a fault. I have a lot of feelings, not recognize that not all of them feel like my own – almost as if they’re at the heart of human nature’s cosmic collective, and it’s my emotional duty to experience all of them. It’s easy to become trapped in that feedback cycle, and I give a lot of credit to my family, friends and many, many therapists over the years for always being there for me to pull me out of it. But truth be told, it’s never easy to ask for help – and there have been times where I haven’t been as lucky; times when I haven’t wanted to ‘burden’ others with my thoughts, felt that I wasn’t important enough to find solutions to my feelings, or have existed outside of myself in a prolonged moment of dissociation, eventually discovering that I’m severely out of touch with my authentic nature. It’s these type of emotions that seem to reinforce the feelings of isolation, of introversion, of withdrawl – and within those feelings, very rarely does one choose to reach back out to the world for help. So thank goodness I stumbled across esteemed author Dr. Elaine N Aron and her book ‘The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When The World Overwhelms You’.
Part retrospective on an emotionally intelligent life, and part explorative into the nature of Highly Sensitive People – this book put me directly in touch with my true self, and made me understand that though I have felt burdened by my feelings – it’s beautiful to feel the world so deeply, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I found a lot of myself within Aron’s anecdotes, and felt an odd sense of calm wash away cobwebs of mental chaos and calamity. As it turns out, one in five people fits in the category of being ‘Highly Sensitive’ – so even if it doesn’t describe you, having this knowledge in your back pocket will enhance your connections with others – in addition to parts of yourself. From reframing childhood events, understanding close relationships and bringing your emotional ‘A Game’ to the table – ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’ takes us on an emotional adventure to uncover our true nature, and give it a healthier spin. Plus, each chapter features a ‘self help’ section at the end so you, too, can do the work.
Want to connect with others like you? There’s a Facebook Group that I think you’ll love!
Are you curious if you’re a Highly Sensitive Person? Sure, maybe you’re absolutely aware of yourself – but in case you’re unsure, Aron has a self test on her website so you can understand more. Additionally, Aron has penned several other books on the topic – including a book for children and a workbook to go along with ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’.
Here are a few other tangentially related reads worth adding to your book list if Aron’s ‘The Highly Sensitive Person‘ piqued your interest,:
- Emotional Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
- Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman
For more on the author and her series of books, check out…