Psychologist Elaine Aron on highly sensitive persons: “I know ALL HSPs are creative, by definition. Many have squashed their creativity because of their low self-esteem; many more had it squashed for them, before they could ever know about. But we all have it…“
Video: Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., summarizes the trait of high sensitivity:
See more videos, including documentary “A Talk on High Sensitivity” on Elaine Aron’s site hsperson.com
Alanis Morissette on the Sensitive Movie
Alanis Morissette comments on her site about discovering she is among the many of us who are highly sensitive:
“A few years ago I read Elaine Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person (and quickly, her others).
“I found myself crying for how recognized I felt in her pages. That 20 percent of humans and animals have this trait of ‘high sensitivity’ and that this trait sets us up to thrive in certain environments, while having unique challenges in others.
“It normalized a part of me that i have felt both ashamed and proud of my whole life.”
Alanis Morissette is featured in the documentary Sensitive – The Untold Story
See clips below from “Sensitive – The Untold Story”
You can also purchase another DVD: Elaine Aron: A Seminar on Learning How to Thrive as a Highly Sensitive Person. A Guide to Understanding your Sensitivity and Creating a Fuller, Richer Life.
Review: “Dr. Aron succinctly discusses the trait of high sensitivity while providing new guidance and inspiration for those who are familiar with the subject.
“In a lively and practical manner, Dr. Aron answers a variety of questions from some of the five hundred participants who attended her landmark seminar in Copenhagen in Spring 2010.” [Amazon.com]
“This DVD will not only be invaluable to the highly sensitive but extremely beneficial for their partners and parents, as well as professionals working with this population”
His newer book:
The Power of Sensitivity — “This book provides what every HSP needs: a full understanding of our trait through a diversity of stories that will empower sensitive people.” – Elaine Aron, Ph.D. author of The Highly Sensitive Person.
Read more on page: Books, Products and Programs for Highly Sensitive People
Elaine Aron, PhD is author of the book The Highly Sensitive Person.
Also see the Self-Test on her site.
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“Sensitive – The Untold Story“ featuring “7-time Grammy award-winning recording artist Alanis Morissette, is the first of the series and is based on Dr. Elaine Aron’s findings. In 1991 Dr. Aron made a breakthrough discovery: an innate trait of high sensitivity.
“Since then, her international bestseller “The Highly Sensitive Person” has been translated into 17 languages and her research is published in top-tier peer reviewed journals such as The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Brain and Behavior, as well as replicated and extended by other scientists, who will be interviewed in the film.
“Dr. Aron found that not only 1 in 5 people are highly sensitive, but the trait occurs in the same percentage in over 100 other species.”
From description for video:
“Elaine Aron explains high sensitivity to those who do not have the trait. In this short video Elaine Aron packs in all the basic information about high sensitivity, an innate trait found in 20% of the population, as well as why it should be of interest to everyone.
“She explains that we once all lived in small groups, where we naturally knew who was sensitive, who was not, and valued what each contributed to the survival of the whole. We have lost that knowledge of each other and need to regain it.
“In particular, the 80% have lost their understanding of the 20%, leading to many lost opportunities for both groups.”
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video: Creative People: High Sensitivity
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Highly Sensitive and Creative
In her famous quote on the subject, writer Pearl Buck said, “The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this: A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.”
While I appreciate her perspectives, there are parts I don’t agree with: What does “truly creative” even mean, and is she implying that only those who are highly sensitive qualify as “true” creators?
Also, she says “inhumanly sensitive” as though it were some extreme condition – but research by psychologist Elaine Aron, PhD and others indicates the trait occurs with 15 – 20 % of people.
In an edition of her newsletter Comfort Zone, Dr. Aron writes that Buck “was saying all creative people are highly sensitive. I don’t know about that, but I know ALL HSPs are creative, by definition.
“Many have squashed their creativity because of their low self-esteem; many more had it squashed for them, before they could ever know about. But we all have it, as I will explain.”
She points out: “One of the best ways to make life meaningful for an HSP is to use that creativity.”
[Eric Maisel, PhD, author of “The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person’s Path Through Depression,” and many other books, notes that making meaning in our lives and work are especially important for creative people. See my post Dealing with Depression to Access Our Creativity.]
Dr. Aron continues:
“The simplest definition of creativity is the putting together of two or more things that no one (but YOU) would think to put together.”
“That is, something creative is something original. Usually we add that it is creative if it expresses a new meaning, provides a fresh insight, or proves useful.
“And we usually think of something creative as planned rather than chance, a conscious act, although that is not as important, because very little is chance.
“Usually it is the result of the unconscious or ‘serendipity’ after a person has worked on it awhile.”
“HSPs are all creative by definition,” Aron adds, “because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.
“If nowhere else, we do this in our dreams–HSPs have more vivid, unusual dreams.
“That is the product of nighttime creativity. And on a trip we are especially likely to have our creativity stimulated, if we make time for it, because we are being exposed to so much that is new.”
From my article Elaine Aron on Creativity and Sensitivity.
The photo above of Dr. Aron is from article (with video):
Elaine Aron on High Sensitivity and the Undervalued Self.
This “working on it a while” that Aron mentions may be a more common and profound experience for those of us who are highly sensitive and/or introverted.
Steve Jobs also noted: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something.
“It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.”
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More sensitive – more vulnerable
Being highly sensitive probably increases our vulnerability to anxiety. I’m sure that has been the case for me, and I have had varying degrees of anxiety for most of my life.
Elaine Aron, PhD thinks “high sensitivity increases the impact of all emotionally tinged events, making childhood trauma particularly scarring.”
That is a helpful concept, I think: that being highly sensitive increases the potency of any experiences with emotional elements.
In her book The Highly Sensitive Child, Aron notes that some sensitive adolescents may drink and use drugs to try to overcome anxiety, depression or other difficult mood challenges through self-medication.
Also see my article Gifted, Talented, Addicted.
But even if anxiety doesn’t get so extreme we feel a need to self-medicate or get professional help, feeling anxious adds to our unease and general discomfort with situations and other people – and ourselves.
(Read more in the post Sensitive to anxiety.)
From my article Creative People, Trauma and Mental Health.
In an interview article, Aron comments on some related research studies:
Lynn Parramore: “Research suggests that some people are genetically predisposed to high sensitivity. What scientific methods have been used to investigate?”
Elaine Aron: “There are two studies. One used was the more common method of looking for an association between a genetic variation and a personality trait.
“That is to take one candidate gene that we think is important for the personality variable; in this case, sensitivity.
“The candidate gene was a variation in the serotonin transporter gene, what is called the short-short variation, which refers to two short alleles, as opposed to one short and one long, or two longs.
“The short-short variation had been inconsistently associated with depression and other problems. It was seen as creating vulnerability.
“But many people with this genetic variation are not depressed, so researchers began to question their understanding of it, and found in numerous studies that it actually bestows many advantages. It only caused trouble when carriers had had a stressful or unsupportive childhood, or else, in some cases, were immersed in stressful life events.
“This led, along with some other studies, to the whole subject of what is called differential susceptibility…”
From article: Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? Here’s The Science Behind This Personality Type by Lynn Parramore.
[Brain image from my article Do Artists Have Unique Brains?]
Sensitivity and the Power to Endure – includes quotes from the early research paper “Sensory-Processing Sensitivity and Its Relation to Introversion and Emotionality” by Elaine N. Aron and Arthur Aron, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1997.
Also see Research links [to multiple articles] on Elaine Aron’s site.
Being Highly Sensitive and Creative
Are creative people unusually sensitive? Clinical and research reports confirm that is often true – as well as comments by many creative people about their own experience. For example, creativity coach Lisa A. Riley, LMFT notes: “Throughout my practice, I have encountered a connection between highly sensitive people and their own creative impulses.”
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