Highly Sensitive Person Susse Penny Wright: Registered MBACP Integrative Counsellor
 Highly Sensitive Person SussePenny Wright: Registered MBACP Integrative Counsellor 

HSP, All In The Head? 

The HSP, Sensitively, Its All In The Mind? 


Our Early Years
The Highly Sensitive Person is sensitive, we know, to subtleties often at an unconscious level. For many not so sensitive people the HSP is sometimes viewed as overly sensitive, emotionally charged and maybe fragile. Some people may take the view that each of us are  isolated individuals, our feelings, thoughts and responses, including emotional responses are primarily the workings of our internal dialogue, a sort of ongoing internal drama that creates a script for us to play out onto others. To some degree this is true as our childhood may help to form the deep neurological pathways present in our brains, which in tern help to form our reactions and then how we experience life around us.

Mary Ainsworth, a student of Bowlby, helped to consolidate Bowlby’s attachment theory by creating a type of experimental observation she called Strange Situation Procedure. This experiment was primarily to observe the importance of the mother child relationship and the attachments that the child had formed to its mother. Ainsworth noted three types of attachment styles, secure, avoidant and anxious/ ambivalent (Hill, Affect Regulation Theory, pp16-17).   However an interesting aspect of attachment theory is the impact the mother or primary carer has on the child when young. If a mother is able to attune properly to her child, which is partly possible through her ability to call upon her own previous experiences to her own childhood attachments, then she may well unconsciously attune better to her own child by exuding unconscious warmth, calmness and in tern safety and security for her child. If however she is not able to attune properly her child is more likely to develop a difficult or disordered attachment style such as an avoidant response. This avoidant behaviour or style developed early in life as a direct result of attachment experiences to primary careers such as the mother, leaves its mark on the brain, through the neurological paths that are formed at the this early sensitive stage of development. 


Later In Life
Later in life these very unique and  instinctive neurological pathways continue to play out for us when we meet others. I am in the office and I am not able to work at the pace I feel I should be. I hear my boss say to me ‘I need that report in half an hour please’. The pressure is on and my little neurological pathways start to fill in the gaps to make sense under this stressful environment. If I have had a secure upbringing I may interpret that as oh my boss needs that soon. However if my experience of my parents has been one of constant criticism then my brain will have calves out a nice little internal critical neurological pathway that might interpret the boss as just like the critical parent and interpret my boss as really meaning ‘come on your not doing well enough, sort it out, I need to you to work faster and do better than this’. But is it all in our heads, is it all in our immediate environment or could it possibly also be in our heads, our immediate environment and even more strangely in the energy around us? 


How Is This For The HSP
Going back to the HSP now and their ability to be very sensitive to everything,  if an HSP is reacting to what is happening internally what do they do to what is really going on around them too. What if that boss is really stressed and fed up that he can't get his staff to work faster. He may see the sensitive you and unconsciously pick up on the nervousness that is unconsciously exuded from you. In his desperation and own stress he perceives, maybe unconsciously, a  window of opportunity, ‘she is vulnerable and may respond through fear to my demands, ah relief I will get a result, problem sorted’. However you as the HSP may respond and probably do your best to meet those demands. But may feel very upset in the process, even go and have a secret cry in the toilet after getting the work out, if you can. In the process your boss catches you and points out that you need to toughen up this over sensitivity is all about you and your inability to cope with stress. So you go home feeling unable to meet the demands of work and unable to manage your feelings around any criticism you get from it. So is this all in the head? Maybe some of it is and more likely some of it is not. 


The Knowing Field for the HSP
But what happens next for many HSP’s who maybe sensitive to themselves, their real environment  and also the thick energy around them and other. Albrecht Mahr created the term ‘The knowing Field’, Rupert Sheldrake used the term ‘extended mind’ which is a phenomenon of picking up on the thoughts and feelings of others around us, regardless of whether they are close to us or not. This concept is used in an area of therapy today known as systemic constellations. However for HSP,s,  who are particularly sensitive to the subtleties of a stressful situation, they may well become very attuned to the information held within this field, and the thick energy it carries.
Now that the boss has realised they have upset a very sensitive employee, they may go away feeling a bit guilty but, actually under the pressure of everything else, feel a bit resentful of having to feel this guilt. The boss goes home and has a bit of a vent to their partner, ‘really bad day at work today the new very sensitive temp burst into tears just because I asked her to speed up in getting a report out, she is a liability to the team, can't wait to get a more emotionally stable temp’. So now let's go back to you the HSP, now at home feeling it, feeling your brain and inside your head, your thoughts, your past trauma and how it's all happening again no you can't let it go. Then in this moment you accidentally tune into the knowing field, this field of energy that is all around us packed with information that a feeling HSP like you can draw from. Oooops! Here it comes its that sense that the boss wants a new temp because I am not quite good enough, well that's it I'm not going back in tomorrow and the story ends there. Well it could do but it could be different too. What happens when you the HSP acknowledges that it's not all your stuff, that you are particularly good at picking up on the very real subtleties of life and actually maybe these sensitivities you have are there for a very good reason. You could go back in the next day, you don't have to though, and bring what you have felt the previous day, how you experiences it, this feeling, this sensing energy, to your boss. Oh of course he or she may just ask you to stop being so sensitive, or maybe not, who knows. However if you are strong in your own perceptions, your own feelings, how does that change the situation, is it all in your head? Are you really just an emotional liability. Even if, in the worst case scenario, the reasons for your feelings are denied to your face, by your boss, if you feel strong in yourself, your feelings and sensitivity, you value them, then what does that do?  does it change the energy? If you voice this what does that do? does it change the energy? It's maybe worth considering.  


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