Saturday 22 October 2016

Back off. I'm a Highly Sensitive Person

Published 19/10/2015 | 02:30

Stan Laurel: Highly sensitive people feel more deeply and cry a lot.
Stan Laurel: Highly sensitive people feel more deeply and cry a lot.

Allow me to beat the rush here and be among the first to declare myself a HSP. HSP, for those of you who haven't heard of it, is the new thing. It stands for Highly Sensitive Person.

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I know. Even the title is brilliant isn't it? I'm just annoyed I didn't think of it myself years ago. Not just sensitive, mind you. Highly sensitive. It's the highly that does it. Highly elevates it from a neurosis to an actual condition. And the Person bit helps too. It lends it an air of officialdom. And it also says, I'm not just claiming to be sensitive. It's not just a kink in my character. It is who I am. It defines me. You wouldn't get far going around telling people, "Sorry. Back off. I'm sensitive." But announce " I am a Highly Sensitive Person" and it actually sounds like you have a diagnosis.

Now before all the HSPs out there get upset and offended and start crying, let me assure you that while I am being jokey about this, I am genuinely a HSP. That, in a way, is what allows me to be jokey about it. It's like young black people reclaiming the N-word. I am also doing all of us HSPs a service, by showing people that we have a sense of humour too, that it's not all intense emotions with us. We can laugh at ourselves, in between crying for ourselves.

I'm conscious you want me to cut to the chase here and give you the skinny on what a HSP is, but in a sense I suppose I've been putting off giving you the symptoms because I have a feeling that many of you, when you hear them, will realise that you too are HSPs. And suddenly there'll be a flood of people identifying as HSPs, and frankly I feel it will demean the label, for first-wavers like me. The more people get on this bandwagon, the less powerful the label will become. In three months time, the early adopters like me will be going around like disgruntled hipsters, saying, "I was Highly Sensitive before everyone else got into it."

So according to a newspaper article, which constitutes my sole research on the subject of being a HSP (I recognised myself so completely, straight away, that I didn't need to do further research), the kinds of things that make you a HSP are:

We feel more deeply, and cry a lot. That is so true of me that I cried when I read it. It felt like coming home. Like finally understanding myself. Also, we are often told to toughen up and stop being so sensitive. Yep. I tick that box. Little did I know that being told not to be sensitive was a form of racism against my kind. HSPs also agonise over decisions. I'm not sure that's true of me. I need to think about it a bit more. HSPs also feel other people's pain and tend to have a lot of empathy. Again. I'm not so sure about that one. I have a lot of empathy with and sympathy for myself but I sometimes think I'm too sensitive to take on other people's feelings as well. It could break me to think too much about other people. HSPs also enjoy solo sports. The less said there the better. But yes, that's me. HSPs are also people-pleasers. Again I'm not sure I tick that box. I'll let other people be the judge of that.

I know what you're thinking. You're thinking I don't seem to tick a lot of the boxes above. But if I was you I wouldn't come accusing me of not being highly sensitive. That would be an act of violence against a Highly Sensitive Person like me. It would be like crushing a butterfly. And anyway, apparently all HSPs are different. The thing that we all have in common is that we don't have a natural shield. We feel things deeply. And reader, I do. And before you try and tell me to cop on and man up, I should also say that there is no cure for HSP; we just have to accept ourselves as we are. And so do all of you. So from now on, if any of my HSP brothers and sisters make their condition known to you, you need to just suck it up and start tip-toeing around them. They're not just being difficult. It's a medical condition, a chronic, incurable one. My one worry here is that I live with three other HSPs, and if they declare themselves afflicted, life could potentially become a nightmare in our house. Whose sensitivity takes precedence?

In the meantime, I'm just hoping they will declare being an asshole as an incurable medical condition and I'll be signing up for a diagnosis there too.

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