Elaine Aron, PhD notes high sensitivity means “you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings” and also that you are “more easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long.”
In addition to other sources of sensation and input, a highly stimulating environment may be the result of other people, who can impact us on multiple emotional and energetic levels, both positive and not so positive.
For anyone with the trait of high sensitivity, that impact may be especially intense at times.
Psychiatrist Judith Orloff, MD [author of the book Positive Energy] talks about how “our relationships are governed by a give and take of energy. Some people make us more electric or at ease. Yet others suck the life right out of us.” [From her article Protect Yourself from Energy Vampires.]
Dr. Aron writes in her book The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You:
“Many HSPs [Highly Sensitive Persons] tell me that a major problem for them is poor boundaries — getting involved in situations that are not really their business or their problem, letting too many people distress them, saying more than they wanted, getting mired in other people’s messes, becoming too intimate too fast or with the wrong people.”
She advises making good boundaries a goal.
“They are your right, your responsibility, your greatest source of dignity. But do not become too distressed when you slip up. Just notice how much better you are getting at it.
“Besides all the other reasons to have good boundaries, you can use them to keep out stimulation when you have had all that you can take.”
~ ~ ~
A BioElectric Shield article asks:
“Do people say you’re sometimes too intense? Do you feel emotionally exhausted when you’re at a party or in a crowd?
“Is it easy to hurt your feelings, and when someone you know feels hurt, do you feel it with them?
“If the answer is yes, then you’re probably an empath.
“Empathy is feeling other people’s feelings as if they’re your own. That means you can really help people because you understand them, but it also means relationships and even public places can be pretty overwhelming.
“And if you’re an empath, you probably experience your own feelings very intensely, because you’re more intensely alive than ordinary people.”
Actor Scarlett Johansson, among many other people, has noted that sensitivity can have a dark side:
“I think I was born with a great awareness of my surroundings and an awareness of other people. I know when I really connect with somebody… Sometimes that awareness is good, and sometimes I wish I wasn’t so sensitive.”
[From my article Actors and high sensitivity.]
In another interview, she commented on some of the positive value: “I’ve always been very sensitive to people around me. The interaction between people.
“I can tell very much when I first meet people whether or not I will get along with them. I can tell things about people when I meet them, if they’ve been terribly hurt or if they’re awfully passive-aggressive.
“I’m very accepting also of people and their quirks. That doesn’t mean I allow people room to be (jerks), but I have an understanding of that.
“Maybe that’s why I’ve been able to sort of take on a lot of older male actors.”
[MSNBC.com Dec 15, 2003; photo: Johansson with Michael Caine in ‘The Prestige’ (2006)]
Being told you are “too sensitive” or should “lighten up” can be a challenging reaction to deal with.
Henrik Edberg in his Positivity Blog post How to Handle Criticism and Get Something Good Out of It, lists some helpful reminders, strategies and ways of thinking, such as the fact that criticism “isn’t always about you. Criticism is a way for the one critiquing to release pent up anger, frustration or jealousy.”
[The top two images are publicity posters for the FX tv series “Damages” (2007-2012) – the top one indicating aggressive and manipulative attorney Patty Hewes (played by Glenn Close) “inside the head” of a new attorney in her firm, Ellen Parsons (Rose Byrne). Another character in the drama warns Ellen that Patty will use her, Ellen’s, youth and energy to advance her own (Patty’s) agenda.]