Highly Sensitive Persons (HSP) are born with a nervous system that is more sensitive than the average and a brain that processes everything on a deeper level than other people. They notice much more than others. Therefore, they often get overwhelmed or stressed and sometimes accused of being too sensitive or overdramatic. In this month's newsletter we talk to Malin Johansson, Life Alignment Practitioner and Stress-Coach from Sweden, who found out in adulthood that she was highly sensitive.
Maggie: What does it really mean to be highly sensitive, Malin?
For me it is both a great gift and a challenge. Before I found out that I am highly sensitive, I often did more than I had energy for, because everyone else could do so much too. I sometimes thought there must be something wrong with me. For example it is not easy for me to shield myself from noises or the emotional atmosphere in a room. For other HSP it might be visual impressions or a struggle to adjust to surprising events.
Finding out that I am a HSP was such a relief and I was finally able to stop pushing myself and start listening to my needs. What it really means is that HSP are born with a nervous system that is more sensitive than the average population, which makes us more receptive to emotional and physical impressions. This and the deep processing of impressions is the most basic quality of HSP.
For some people maybe astonishing is the fact that approximately 20% of the population is highly sensitive, equally divided between men and women. This also applies to most animal species. Enough to be considered normal but not enough for the environment to always understand. Many HSP are thus misunderstood and misjudged, which can make them feel “strange” or “abnormal”.
Maggie: Deeply processing impressions, this sounds more like a gift than a strange limitation?
In fact, hypersensitivity is a kind of evolutionary strategy for survival – HSP evaluate any risks before taking action and tend to conserve their energy, unlike the majority of people who act quickly because they want to catch up first and then think. If HSP are in balance then they are empathetic, compassionate, intuitive, creative, and profound. For example I can really be delighted and enjoy a piece of dark chocolate or the scent of a flower, so I am rather easy to please with things that others may not even notice. Being highly sensitive is indeed a personality trait that is a great asset if you learn to handle it. It is neither a disability nor an obstacle to a normal life. However, in this extroverted world it often takes time until a HSP understands how to live life on their own terms and to take better care of themselves. Therefore many may appear withdrawn or shy. But shyness is a learned behaviour, which is about fear of negative judgments, and not an innate trait.
When I started to unwire my “learned patterns” I got introduced to Life Alignment. In my case, I was never shy as I am an extrovert HSP. Life Alignment helped me to unpack the gift of my unique way of high sensitivity, for example uitising my empathy in a healthy way.
Maggie: I am not a HSP. Life Alignment rather supports me to get more sensitive with myself and the world. It's interesting for me to see how it works both ways.
Being highly sensitive and not accepting this can lead to adapting to the rest of the world to an extent of non-existence and exhaustion. When out of balance a HSP might feel lonely, anxious and skinless. In this stage they are mostly not empathic at all and can be aggressive and even insensitive. Those patterns are not really helpful and can have different consequences. Life Alignment is not used to change high sensitivity but to deal with it in a better way and change your old patterns to protect yourself.
I just had to believe myself
Life Alignment is a soft, intuitive and very effective approach to look at sensitivity and the feelings and blockages which manifested when we have learned to be “too sensitive”. It helped me to listen to myself and that’s one of the most important things when you are highly sensitive. The Life Alignment process guides you to be aligned with yourself and your talents. Throughout my life I tried a lot of therapies and healing approaches. A lot of these treatments have been simply too much for my nervous system. Too loud, too intense, too busy, too direct, too standardised. Life Alignment instead calms the overworking nervous system and directs you in your personal pace and deepness through your journey of self-discovery.
Maggie: I must admit the more we speak about HSP the more people coming to mind where this personality description fits in.
This is for a lot of people like this. Sometimes clients come and say “Hi, help me I am a HSP ” but more often it’s about how they feel. I have a client who came to me saying initially “I don’t know what’s wrong with me but I just want to be happy again”. We first started to explore what she actually felt and on how to acknowledge those feelings. This is so important for HSP and Life Alignment is the most amazing tool to get in touch with your desires. When she was connected to her needs, the next step was verbalising this to other people. That needed a lot of courage and a lot of sessions :). She now is able to say NO to people and she made the experience that this is appreciated by others. She even made the Body Spin Course of Life Alignment herself. This is something I highly recommend to HSP clients especially. It’s a relatively quick process to learn and provides great tools to give yourself “emergency-treatments” when you need to re-boost your energy-level. We have it in all countries and nearly all languages.
Maggie: Do you have some tips for HSP and for their loved ones?
Yes, there are very easy ways for all involved to make High Sensitivity a blessing and not a curse.
- Put on “mono-tasking”
- Always plan time in between events. Use breaks for new strength and energy.
- If you feel overwhelmed, you can always go out of the room or even to the bathroom for a break. Shut your eyes and breathe deeply
- Practice to say no and to have boundaries – you DON´T have to explain yourself. It’s ok to simply say “it doesn’t work for me”
- Learn to meditate
- Get to know other HSP, you are not alone
- For the non HSP: You may not understand but please accept and believe what the HSP person says. It’s for real! A flap in the shirt or a humming fan can make the nervous system scream.
These are basic practices. Life Alignment will help you to make those yours.
I can give you an example on how I adjusted my lifestyle since acknowledging that I am highly sensitive: Travelling is really challenging for me. You get so many impressions, sounds, sight, adapting to different environments. The journey alone makes me feel like I need vacation. When I go with my friends for a weekend away, I just give myself time to rest while the girls go straight after the Check-in out for shopping and then eating and clubbing. I set boundaries for myself and meet them later at the restaurant with enough energy to enjoy. When I stopped doing everything others do, I’ve seen I am capable and can have a good time with my friends. When you accept yourself then others accept you as well.
A quick Body Spin session on myself to recharge and center myself also works miracles. The Vortex technology is brilliant for HSP people who are more sensitive to other people’s energy and electromagnetic/ geopathic stress. I always wear the “Personal Protector Card” and then depending on what I need I choose from the variety of the cards.
Maggie: Thank you Malin, it became indeed much clearer for me what a great gift it is to be highly sensitive, having such a rich world inside oneselves. I am looking forward to looking out for these traits in people to see what I can implement and take into account when being involved.