This picture caught my attention because it has a great composition of colors and balance. And it fits with what I see when I look out my door these days. It also speaks to me and says “Join me in this place – it is calm, nourishing, creative, full of potential and Quiet!”

My Highly Sensitive Brain says – “Yes indeed, that is where I belong and I fit”. I want to drop everything I am doing and step into that world – but…… there is a long To Do list running through my brain and I live on this hamster wheel most days, so maybe next week……That common dilemma will be addressed in a future blog!

Highly Sensitives are a minority in the overall population – research suggests about 15-20%. Some people assume we are all introverts, but that is not the case – about 30% of HSPs are actually extroverts. Compared to the majority of people, our brains are wired in such a way that we notice more details with all of our senses and pick up on nuances in relationships as if we had a big radar on top of our heads scooping up lots of incoming data. That can be a superpower, and often makes us very good at our jobs and skilled in relationships – but it is also a lot for the brain to process – and that makes us tired at times. This group tends to really notice color, tastes, smells, details in a leaf, and that scratchy tag on your shirt. Violence in movies can be very overwhelming and loud restaurants or high-volume music makes us want to turn around and flee. Not only does the overstimulation feel stressful, it distracts us from enjoying the good parts of the experience.

In addition to sensory overload, HSPs tend to process information at deeper levels and the brain automatically starts making connections to other layers and possibilities. So those nuances in relationships get processed at multiple levels and never in a linear fashion. Because of this, we often don’t like being put on the spot because it takes us longer to process incoming data – we need more time to digest it in our brains. Our biological wiring also results in us sometimes delaying our reaction because we are still processing. Sometimes a frustration to others, but adaptive in evolutionary terms. For example, the lowly fruit fly species has two types – the “sitter” and the “rover”. The “rover” sometimes got himself killed because he took off to explore, while the HSP “sitter” was still assessing the danger. Her genes lived to fly another day.

Interestingly, around 100 animal species have been identified that neurologically have an HSP type and a non-HSP type. Apparently, we need both to flourish. One is not better than the other, they just contribute in different ways to the species.

For example, a savvy boss who understands an HSP employee and how they work – will notice that employee is usually quieter than others in a team meeting. They also notice that sometimesafter a meeting, a couple days later that employee will drop by and share some thoughts or insights that no one else came up with during the meeting. They just needed some time to process and percolate and make some valuable connections. That savvy boss should also be mindful of where they physically locate that employee. An office or cubicle that is quieter or more private will be a better environment for most HSPs – if they are less distracted by overstimulation, their output is likely enhanced in terms of quantity and quality.

There is a good chance that either one or both of your parents or grandparents were also born highly sensitive. Although a lot more research still needs to be done, researchers have discovered associations with serotonin and dopamine genes, as well as specific brain circuits and areas. While studying our brains, scientific studies have revealed differences between high and low HSPs in brain activation within areas involved in attention, awareness, and information processing of both social and non-social stimuli. Thus, you are highly sensitive because you were born that way. It is part of your innate wiring. High sensitivity is biological and is present at birth. It is how you came into the world.

High sensitivity and creativity are strongly correlated. But this does not mean that all creatives are necessarily HSPs. Individuals such as Vincent van Gogh, Bruce Springsteen, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allan Poe and Alanis Morissette are all believed to be HSPs. Currently, in my practice I have 4 artists, two graphic designers and two chefs who are HSPs. I have no talent for painting or drawing, but I am very good at interior design and weaving together details in a room that sometimes feels preconscious.I notice specifics at a deep level and weave them together, and then when it is put together I sometimes have an “aha” moment when I can cognitively assess why the creation “works”.

So back to this picture at the top. The creative potential suggested by the camera and the piece of writing paper makes my HSP brain delighted to think about what might be unleashed. The beauty of the wood grain and the delicate veins in the leaves connects me to nature – which is a place where I get nourished. I can taste what is in that cup – a smoky French Roast coffee or a luxurious sip of elegant Earl Grey tea. The green covered book offers a delight waiting to be discovered. Notice there are no people in this composition. Just a cozy scarf that softly soothes my noisy brain as I imagine wrapping it around my neck and soaking in the saturated color.

Join me in the next blog as I share more information about what makes an HSP tick. And why we are so important to our culture – even though we may look like we are just observing, not engaged or have little to say. We carry inside us a rich world of ideas, solutions, creative projects waiting to be birthed and sometimes we offer a different perspective. We have the ability to be superb problem solvers in a world with lots of problems. It is just fine to be in the minority – much quieter over here.
May your coming days be full of abundance and a heightened sensitivity to theriches residing within you!