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Hearing
Hearing is probably the sense that creates the most challenges for the HSP. If you happen to catch sight of something that causes negative stimulation, you can always close your eyes. However, it is much more difficult to tune out deleterious noises. With the advent of the now ubiquitous cell phones that ring everywhere, loud music blaring from powerful speakers, and honking from angry drivers, the sensitive person seems to be trapped in a cacophony of clamor. The cumulative effect of such grating sounds can create severe anxiety for the HSP.

To mask the jarring sounds of modern, urban life, you may want to play soft music in the background at home and at work. Listen to whatever type of music calms you down, from classical to jazz. If you don't like having soft music in the background, you may want to buy a white noise machine, which helps drown out startling noises by emitting a steady, soothing sound. The hum of a soothing fan, air conditioner, or air purifier also masks loud, erratic noises. An air purifier may soothe your nerves while cleaning indoor air pollution.

Whenever you stay in a motel or hotel you can reduce annoying city noise by turning on the air conditioner or fan. You can also take a small white noise machine with you when you travel if you don't want to rely on a fan or air conditioner.

You can also periodically listen to a relaxation or a guided visualization tape or CD, which is quite efficacious for soothing your nerves. Many bookstores sell relation tapes and CDs or you can visit www.hspsurvival.com for more information. It's very helpful to take a headset with you when you venture out into the noisy world. You may want to carry an array of soothing tapes, including guided relaxation, classical music, or other spiritually uplifting sounds. Make sure that you take extra batteries with you so you're not stranded in a sea of sonic strife with no solution.

Another effective method to reduce noise is to wear earplugs. Some HSPs may find wearing earplugs uncomfortable, but if you can tolerate earplugs, it is a most effective means to mask irritating noises. Some people prefer wax earplugs, while others find the foam ones more comfortable. In extremely noisy situations you may want to wear earmuff-style headsets that construction workers use. These headsets cover the entire ear and some HSPs find them less intrusive than having to insert ear plugs. There are also noise-canceling headsets available that use sound waves to cancel out ambient noise. While these headsets may lessen high frequency sounds, such as airplanes or refrigerators, they do not appear to lessen noise from talking any better than ear plugs or earmuff-style headsets.

An audiologist can fit you for a custom made set of earplugs. The advantage of these specially constructed earplugs is that they will fit easily into your ear canal. When you really want to escape from the stimuli-saturated world, you can simply close your eyes and meditate wearing either earplugs, a regular headset, or an earmuff-style headset. In extremely noisy situations you can even wear earplugs while listening to your headset or wear an earmuff-style headset over earplugs.

Have you ever visited a recording studio? When the door to the studio is shut, you can't hear any outside noises. There are sound engineers who can help you sound proof your house or office, creating an HSP paradise of peace and tranquility. You may want to buy double-paned windows or heavy curtains to mask outside noises. Most importantly, the HSP has to be vigilant in finding quiet living and work environments. If you live in a noisy city, it's best that your home or office is facing a quiet backyard rather than a noisy street. When traveling, always ask the hotel or motel clerk for a quiet room on the top floor in the back.

Don't feel embarrassed using the techniques described in this section, such as wearing earplugs in public or requesting a quiet hotel room. Your main concern is taking good care of yourself to create inner peace.

What, me worry about noise? Not when I'm prepared!

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 36-38)
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Creating an Evening Routine

While following a morning routine is very important for the highly sensitive person, your evening routine is another essential component that will help you become more tranquil. Since the quality of your sleep is affected by your evening routine, it is important to do calming activities in the evening. Your evening activities should consist of calming endeavors such as reading uplifting books, writing, taking a bath, or engaging in light discussions. About thirty minutes before going to bed, let go of the day by going inward. This is another good time for meditating or listening to a relaxation tape. By doing progressive relaxation, you will be able to relapse any stress that has accumulated during the day. In order to experience stage three and four of deep sleep (the level at which the immune system is activated), it helps to practice meditation and relaxation exercises throughout the day and especially at night, or the stress hormones that were released during the day may continue to be released while you're sleeping (Jacobs 1998).

If you spend the evening watching stimulating television shows, reading murder mysteries, or engaging in intense discussions, it will be more difficult to experience a good night's rest. If there's an arousing television show that you really want to watch, you can always record the show and watch it earlier on another day. It's important to save important or heavy discussions for the morning.

Victor, an HSP father of a teenage son, said that he has learned that he must have quiet in the evening or he becomes too stimulated to fall asleep. Victor reported that his son, Chris, had borrowed his car one weekday night recently and that although the boy's curfew was 10 P.M. on weekdays, Chris didn't return home until after midnight. When the teenager finally returned, Victor's anger boiled over. He demanded the car keys and told Chris that he was going to discuss his future use of the car. Chris wisely responded that they should discuss the issue in the morning when they would both be calmer. However, Victor insisted on continuing a heated discussion, which increased his blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension, resulting in a sleepless night.

Paradoxically, when HSPs are in an out of balance state, they sometimes desire to be involved in activities that push them further off-center. Sometimes when you internalize the Type A lifestyle, you may actually enjoy watching overstimulating television shoes or getting into intense discussions late at night, regardless of what they do to your sleep schedule. However, as you begin meditating and living a more contemplative life, you will instinctively begin to desire more peaceful activities.

HSPs are deeply affected by watching or reading about violence in the media. Watching violent, arousing shows may actually contribute to suppressing your immune system. As you identify with the anger you see on the screen or read about, stress chemicals called catecholamine and cortisone are released that can adversely affect your immune system. The effect of exposure to both anger and love on the immune system was shown in research by Harvard scientist David Mclelland, and later reproduced by the Heart Math Institute in California (Bhat 1995). Watching an anger-provoking movie suppressed the immune system (as measured by chemicals in the saliva) for five to six hours in study subjects. However, watching a movie about the compassionate work of Mother Teresa caused elevation of the immune level in the participants.

Since your senses have been exposed to the stimulation throughout the day, it's important to try to spend some time in the evening in a quiet, dimly lit setting. When you really want to turn off the world in the evening, meditate or read with either earplugs or a headset in the quiet space. No matter how stressful the day has been, when you create a stimuli-free environment in the evening, you will be able to enter into a tranquil state.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 30-32)
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Creating a Morning Routine

While you can't live your life totally removed from the world's jolts, you can create an environment that minimizes stimuli. If you can anchor yourself to a ship of tranquility, you won't be tossed about by the waves of stimulation.

One of the most important steps in reducing stimulation for the HSP is to create a morning routine. This structure will set the tone for your entire day and your evening routine will influence the quality of your sleep. If you arise late in the morning, hurriedly grab a cup of coffee for breakfast, and rush to your job, you're setting yourself up for tension throughout the day. However, by waking up only twenty minutes earlier and performing centering activities, you can begin your day in a serene and peaceful state. Then you will be better prepared to handle stimuli throughout the day.

Exercising Your Body

It's good to do some gentle stretching, yoga postures, or light calisthenics when you first awaken. Performing some physical activity upon arising has an energizing effect on the body. You may want to start your morning routine with some yoga postures. Yoga brings you into a natural state of tranquility and can improve the endocrine metabolism, which reduces stress and stress-related disorders (Lad 1984). Initially, you may want to take a class in hatha yoga to learn the proper techniques. Hatha yoga is not merely a physical exercise, the purpose of hatha yoga is to calm the body and mind in preparation for meditation. When studying yoga, be very gentle with yourself and never push yourself into a posture; only go into a posture as far as is comfortable for you.

Calming Your Mind

Once your body has been energized, try to do at least fifteen minutes of some type of meditative practice. You may want to do slow abdominal breathing. The following is a very simple five-minute practice that you can do in the morning or any time throughout the day.

Deep Breathing Exercise

Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Inhale slowly through your nose into your abdomen to the count of five... hold to the count of five ... and slowly exhale to the count of five ... Feel your body becoming more and more relaxed with each exhalation ...

Repeat the slow, deep breathing exercise again ... really experience how calm and peaceful your body feels with each exhalation ... Just observe the thoughts when they arise ... then calmly return to your breathing ... Inhale peace and calmness ... hold ... exhale any stress ...


During the breathing exercise you can mentally repeat a mantra, such as the word "peace" or "calm" with each inhalation and each exhalation. You may find it more comfortable to inhale to a count of less than five seconds. Arrange the timing of your breath so that it feels comfortable to you.

Once you're feeling calm, you may want to begin progressive relaxation, which is performed by visualizing all of the muscles in your body relaxing deeper and deeper. You can begin by relaxing your scalp, facial muscles, and jaw. Then continue relaxing all parts of your body down to your feet. With each exhalation, visualize the muscles becoming softer and softer. If you have difficulty concentrating on these techniques, listening to a relaxation tape or CD is an excellent way to begin your day.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 25-27)
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It's important for the HSP to realize that even if you cannot control the Type A environment, you do have the power to control your reaction to it. In this chapter you will learn various techniques, such as meditation and following a daily routine, that will help you cope with seemingly untenable situations. You can always take meditation breaks throughout the day and do slow abdominal breathing. Research consistently has shown that people who meditate experience significantly less stress than nonmeditators. In my research of Type A personalities, I observed that meditators had a decreased heart rate, systolic blood pressure, and anxiety level at a statistically significant level compared to a control group of nonmeditators (Zeff 1981).

Besides regular meditation, practicing specific techniques must be implemented to release the time urgency aspect of Type A behavior. In addition to the techniques offered in this book, you may want to try individual or group counseling, attending a Type A reduction class (usually given to post-coronary patients at hospitals), or attending a stress-reduction class. One of the benefits of the HSP's characteristic of being conscientious is the ability to follow through with integrating new techniques into your life to reduce stimulation. By regularly practicing stress-reduction exercises, you will lead a healthier a happier life.

Attitude is Everything

Before you begin learning the techniques that will help you cope more effectively in this Type A world, let's look at how your attitude affects your sense of well being. The HSP's desire to be conscientious and not make mistakes can create stress. When I was studying how to differentiate various personality types with Dr. Ray Rosenman, I remember listening to a recording of a Type A man. He had a relatively simple job with the post office. When asked if there was a lot of pressure in his job, he responded tensely "definitely." He had to put letters into different boxes depending on the zip code. He frequently became upset if he thought that he placed a letter in the wrong box. Throughout the tape as he discussed his job duties, he became more agitated.

Next, I listened to a recording of a man who was the CEO of a multimillion dollar corporation. He calmly stated that his job wasn't stressful because he would simply write down his agenda each morning and complete the activities he had time for and delegate the other duties to his subordinates. If he didn't finish a project, he wouldn't worry about it. While certain jobs can create tension, the attitude that we bring to a job is the major factor that determines our level of stress.

These examples illustrate the importance of developing a positive attitude of acceptance rather than worrying if you have completed a job adequately. One HSP student told me that she would become extremely upset if she felt that she made mistake at work. She would agonize for hours about the possible errors she committed. After working with her for several months, she began to slowly change her attitude realizing that she could only do her best and try to let go of her need to complete each task perfectly. In the chapters ahead you will learn techniques to help you come to this level of peace.

I hope reading about our overstimulating world doesn't overwhelm you! Just take a deep, slow breath right now, and realize that you are learning new coping skills so that you can more easily deal with our Type A society.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 24-25)
sakurablossom: a ginger girl sitting on a dirt road, staring at the horizon (6 blossoms)
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I sas recently sitting in my car at a traffic light and noticed a very nervous-looking young woman in the car next to mine. Her radio was blasting loud rap music as she shrieked into her cell phone while simultaneously smoking a cigarette. She then flicked her cigarette butt out the window and took a gulp from a huge cup of coffee. As the light changed she quickly put down the cup and floored the gas pedal while still shouting into her cell phone. The car in front of hers was evidently moving a little too slowly for her temperament, so she began frantically honking her horn.

As an HSP, just watching the stimulation at the traffic light made me so anxious that I could feel the muscles in my body becoming tense as my hand grasped the steering wheel tighter. As mentioned in chapter 1, we are living in a fast-paced, stimuli-saturated world that is particularly challenging for highly sensitive people. As you can see from the story, highly sensitive people have difficulty being around stimulation. In this chapter you will learn many techniques to remain calm in over-stimulating situations.

When I teach classes on stress-reduction, I ask the students what they think is the most common way people cope with stress. Some of the response offered are the following: drinking alcohol, taking medication, shopping, watching television, working, surfing the Internet, and sleeping. Rarely does anyone come up with the correct answer, which is denial. For a non-HSP, it's dangerous to deny the detrimental effects of stress and overstimulation, but for an HSP it can be catastrophic.

I remember waiting in line at a store to pick up some business cards. The clerk was working alone behind the counter while the phone was ringing off the hook as more customers joined the queue. An irate customer demanded that his cards should have been ready that day. The frazzled clerk's face turned red as his voice began trembling with frustration and anger. When I stepped up to the desk, I tried to make him feel calmer by telling him that it must be difficult working all alone in such a stressful environment. In an irritated voice, he curtly responded that the pressure didn't bother him. However, time urgent behavior can create emotional and physical problems in our frenetic, fast-paced society.

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Our Type A Society

Drs. Friedman and Rosenman wrote in their well-known book,Type A Behavior and Your Heart that the values of our society encourage Type A behavior (1974). According to Friedman and Rosenman, "Type A behavior has three main components: time urgency, excessive competitiveness, and hostility." Conversely, the Type B personality is characterized by the following traits: a relatively small sense of time urgency, noncompetitiveness, and lack of aggression.

Type A behavior is ubiquitous in America and industrialized countries today. In many studies over the last thirty years, it was found that the majority of participants were diagnosed at Type A while only a small minority exhibited Type B characteristics (Zeff 1981). According to Ethel Roskies, noted researcher of Type A intervention studies, the Type A characteritics of ambition, being goal-oriented, and time urgency are qualities that American society encourages.

While a highly sensitive person could be either Type A or Type B, the HSP is deeply affected by our Type A culture. The HSP can become easily overwhelmed and usually performs poorly when pressured by time, competition, and aggressive behavior. Since the HSP is easily affected by other people's moods, you may have a tendency to internalize the mores of our Type A culture.

Even the non-HSP can be negatively affected by time urgency pressure that is endemic in today's work place. According to Dr. Rosenman, if a Type A person succeeds in a task, it is in spite of the Type A behavior, not because of it. Interestingly, D.C. Glass reported in the Journal of Applied Social Psychology (1974) that the Type A subjects were less successful than the Type Bs in performing job-related tasks.

The Need to Disengage

As an HSP, you'll need to utilize specific behavior modification exercises to disengage from the Type A environment. Techniques such as mediation and deep breathing will help you disconnect from the fast-paced world we're living in. Unfortunately, most people don't want to modify their lifestyle, even if it's causing them tension and anxiety. However, one of the few groups of Type A people who have always been willing to attempt change were those who experienced a heart attack. When the dotors told those patients that if they didn't make immediate changes in their lifestyle they would die, the post-coronary heart patients participated in a Type A modfication program. Ah, now there's motivation to change! Likewise, HSPs should act as if their life depends on modifying Type A beliefs. If you don't implement lifestyle changes, you may be damaging both your physical and emotional health.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 21-23)
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Changing Habits

How and why to change your habits is perhaps one of the most important things you'll learn in this book. You can read about all sorts of helpful healing modalities, but if you don't integrate the new methods into your daily routine, the healing techniques will fade from your memory. Reading a guidebook without applying the new concepts is like taking a boat across a river, but not getting out on the other side. In this section you will learn how to implement the many healing methods you'll be learning in this book.

The first step in changing habits is to investigate how your belief system influences your behavior. When you were a child, you were probably taught by your parents, teachers, peers, and the media that you can only be happy if you live a stimulating life based on outer gratification, such as making a lot of money, finding the perfect mate, and achieving success at work. Looking for happiness and trying to obtain a feeling of self-worth exclusively from outside stimuli can create anxiety and tension for the reflective, sensitive person.

It's vital to deeply examine your life goals as you begin to understand that what you truly desire is inner-peace and that nothing in this constantly changing world can really give you lasting contentment. Life is temporary, and everything will eventually leave you. You can't take money, a partner, or job status with you when you leave your body, so begin to look inside to make the necessary changes that will create inner-peace and happiness today.

As a child, you were probably told that there was something inherently wrong with you for being so sensitive. You may have internalized that false belief, creating an addictive, self-fulfilling prophecy, subconsciously identifying with emotional pain. In other words, whenever you are confronted with sensitivity challenges, you may subconsciously believe that you deserve to suffer since you think that you're flawed. Most self-defeating behavior is based on not loving yourself (Hay 1987). I frequently encounter sensitive students who have told me that it's difficult to let go of an untenable situation, even when it's creating enormous pain in their lives. There was a highly sensitive woman whose noisy upstairs neighbors were driving her crazy, yet she would always come up with an excuse not to move. I knew another HSP who worked for an abusive boss yet steadfastly refused to look for another job. Most people who remain in emotionally destructive situations believe that they deserve to suffer. Their low self-esteem, which is based on the untruth that there is something wrong with them, makes them think that pain is their due.

Once you begin to understand that basis of your belief system, you will be aware of how your internalized beliefs influence your thought patterns. In other words, when you sow a thought, you reap an action. When you repeat an action, you develop a habit. When you maintain a habit, you create a character.

When changing habits you need to be gentle with yourself and make the changes slowly. For example, if you try to stop an overeating habit cold turkey by going on a crash diet, you may end up eating the cold turkey-and all the trimmings. Take changes step by step. For example, if you want to go to bed an hour earlier to obtain more sleep, try going to bed just five minutes earlier each night so that in a few weeks, you'll reach your goal.

Once you have changed your consciousness by internalizing new positive values, you will spontaneously make changes to create more inner-peace and joy in your life. I was a TV addict my entire life until 1992. Even though I tried creating a healthier lifestyle for myself through exercise, a healthy diet, regular mediation, and employing new spiritual values, I would still watch shows that were detrimental to my health for hours every day. The remote control was like a drug in my hands, as my thumb would compulsively flip from station to station. One night I was watching a movie based on a true story about a mass murderer who killed employees in an office building. Suddenly, I asked myself if I would invite this evil person into my living room if he knocked on my door. No way! Then I asked myself why I was allowing him into my home through the television. When the movie ended I took down my antenna and never watched commerical TV at home again. In retrospect, what finally broke my detrimental television addiction was a change in my consciousness: a realization of how destructive watching TV was for me as a highly sensitive person and that it would not bring me the inner-peace I desired.

If you watch a few videos or limit your televison time to several spiritually uplifting shows a week, it would mean spending considerably less time being overstimulated than the typical American (who watches approximately four hours of television daily). Another advantage to decreasing your time in front of the television is avoiding being bombarded by a myriad of endless overarousing commercials. The advertisers are trying to sell us their product in the least amount of time possible, resulting in an assault of stimuli that can wreak havoc with an HSP's finely tuned nervous system. When watching television, remember to mute the commercials.

It's much easier to change habits when you are receiving support from other people than trying to make the changes alone. For example, I asked my family to help me maintain an environment free of commercial TV in my home. Besides enlisting support from your relatives, friends, and coworkers, you can attend a support group such as a twelve-step program or individual counseling. Once you have instituted new, positive habits in your life, you will become a shining example for both HSPs and non-HSPs, motivating others to seek inner-peace.

You'll need to use your willpower to change habits. Make a list of the areas that are causing you pain, and as you read this book, use your volition to write down the new methods that you will employ to address these areas. As you begin having small victories in changing habits, your willpower will be strengthened. You can also increase your inner-strength through visualization and the use of affirmations. Make a resolution today that you will no longer remain in any environment in which there is no hope for you to be happy.

However, since environment may be stronger than your willpower to change, you also need to remove yourself from situations that reinforce negative habits and low self-esteem. Your home and work environment are the most important factors that determine your ability to create a peaceful life, so it's imperative that you create a harmonious work and home atmosphere. If you know that a certain environment creates anxiety, either try to change the unhealthy, overstiumlating situation or remove yourself from the source of tension.

I have noticed that you can generally replace a bad habit with a good one in just six months. One HSP, Felicia, told me that after several months of meditating the practice became a part of her life, just like brushing her teeth when she awoke. Felicia said that if she is unable to mediate in the morning, she doesn't feel centered until she experiences at least ten minutes of deep relaxation. She noticed that when she's feeling calm, little daily annoyances become less significant. Once you become focused on establishing peace of mind, you won't have to give others a piece of your mind.

Finally, you need to create new, satisfying, and nurturing activities to replace old habits. For example, when I finally turned off the TV, I started to really enjoy reading inspiring books, writing stories, and listening to uplifting music. When I think of the thousands of hours that I wasted staring at inane, stimulating programs, I sometimes become saddened at how I increased tension and angst in my life. However, I also realize that I was doing the best I could given the knowledge that I had at that particular time. This is also a time of new beginnings for you, and you don't have to keep repeating old habits that don't work for you anymore as you gain new knowledge and understanding of yourself (Hay 1987).

How to Change Habits

* Investigate your belief system, and become aware when a habit creates pain.

* Be gentle with yourself by changing habits slowly.

* Try to always be aware of your new goal: creating inner-peace in your life.

* Enlist the support of your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors; you may want to meet with a counselor or join a support group.

* Remove yourself from an environment that reinforces negative habits.

* Realize that in only six months you can replace a bad habit with a good one through daily practice.

* Create new, satisfying, and nurturing activities to replace old habits.

* Using your willpower, develop a structured program to help you make positive lifestyle changes.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 16-20)
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Sensitive Men

Sensitive men have particular challenges in aggressive Western cultures. Males are taught from an early age to act tough and not to express their emotions. According to William Pollock, the author of Real Boys, whenever boys do not conform to the "boy code" and instead show their gentleness and emotions, they are usually ostracized and humiliated (1998). Highly sensitive boys learn to deny their real selves in order to be accepted and approved by their peers. This denial can create fear, anxiety, and low self-esteem. Paul Kivel has written in his book Men's Work that boys are put into a "act like a man box," which means that they must be aggressive, tough, strong, in control, and active. According to Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, authors of Raising Cain (about protecting the emotional life of boys), if boys express emotions such as fear, anxiety, or sadness, they are seen as feminine, and the adults around them typically treat them in ways that suggest that such emotions are not normal for a boy (1999).

One highly sensitive man, Dan, told me that when he used to go to the movies with his friends as a boy, he would pretend to really enjoy the bloody and violent scenes while secretly looking away from the screen. He was always afraid that some of the other boys would see him avoiding the screen and tease him. He also shared with me that he was humiliated for not following the current sporting events when he was in junior high school. One time another boy sitting next to Dan asked him how he liked the big game and when Dan responded that he didn't know there was a game, the other boy started laughing at him and told the other boys that Dan was a nerd. Dan then decided to spend every day reading the sports page in order to feel accepted by the other boys. Dan also told me that he didn't like fighting. However, he attended martial arts lessons in order to not be physically abused by aggressive boys in high school. While most sensitive boys would not be attracted to violent sports like boxing, learning martial arts may be beneficial for some sensitive boys to learn so they won't be hurt or humiliated by violent bullies.

In our society, being sensitive is generally associated with being feminine and weak and can be quite emasculating for males. Sometimes sensitive men have internalized the false belief that there is something wrong with them because they are gentle and can't tolerate stimulation. One sensitive man told me that he was taught as a boy that he shouldn't let anything bother him. He did his best to follow a stereotypical "masculine" like style by working out every day at the gym, having a good sex life with his wife, and denying his sensitivity. However, he constantly experienced anxiety from emulating non-HSP male values.

Alex is an HSP father of a twelve-year old HSP son, Noah. Even though Alex suffered as a boy for not conforming to the boy code of acting tough, he felt animosity toward Noah whenever his son appeared weak. Noah's soft and gentle demeanor reminded Alex of how he suffered as a boy when he was teased and humiliated for his sensitivity. Even though he knew it was wrong, Alex pushed Noah to go out for the football team and pursue traditional masculine activities even though Noah had no interest in sports. Noah became traumatized when trying to compete with the other football players and quit going to practices. At his mother's urging, the family entered counseling. Once Alex began attending family counseling sessions, he realized that he was forcing his son to deny his gentleness due to an internalized self-loathing for his own sensitivity. After some time, Alex was able to accept Noah - and himself - as highly sensitive males.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 14-16)
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Coping As an HSP

If you're told that you are too sensitive, it's good to have a prepared rebuttal available. You could tell the non-HSP, "According to research by Dr. Elaine Aron, HSPs are thought to be found in approximately 20 percent of the population (equally divided between male and female). This population has a more finely tuned central nervous system, so we are more susceptible to environmental stimuli, both positive and negative. The stimuli could be noise, fragrance, bright lights, beauty, time pressure, or pain. We tend to process sensory stimuli more deeply than most people. It can be an enjoyable and challenging trait to have." One note of caution is that it's important to use your discrimination when telling others about your sensitivity. If you think the other person would ridicule or discount your sensitivity, it's best not to share the information. I've had some HSP students tell me that their family or coworkers disregarded their explanations about their sensitivity, making them feel worse.

Since you are living in a majority non-HSP culture, it's important to learn the art of compromise and not expect people to always make major lifestyle changes to accommodate you. One HSP reported that she had some neighbors in her urban apartment building playing their music loudly every evening. She told me that she negotiated a compromise with them so that the music would be low during the week, but on Friday and Saturday nights they could play the music louder during certain hours.

Coping As an HSP )
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Thank Goodness for Sensitive People

By understanding, accepting, and appreciating your sensitive nervous system and by learning practical methods to deal with your sensitivity, you will gradually be able to identify and release any internalized false beliefs that there is something inherently wrong with you. HSPs are a large minority in this society that values and thrives on overstimulation, competition, and aggression. However, in order for a society to function at an optimal level there has to be a balance between the non-HSP soldiers and chief executive officers and the mostly HSP counselors and artists.

As a matter of fact, if there were more HSPs, we would probably live in a healthier world, with less war, environmental devastation, and terrorism. It is the HSP whose sensitivity helps create restrictions on smoking, pollution, and noise. However, it's important to note that there are very compassionate and kind non-HSPs and rude and insensitive HSPs. As a matter of fact, my non-HSP dad was one of the most considerate and caring people that I've ever known.

While most non-HSPs are kindhearted, the aggressive traits of non-HSPs are exalted in the media in most societies. Some of the non-HSP chief executive officers of the major corporations have severely damaged the planet with indiscriminate oil drilling, clear cutting of forests, and pollution of the environment. The highly sensitive person has an important mission, which is to serve as a balance to the more aggressive behavior of some of the non-HSPs who advocate a less than nurturing policy toward humans, animals, and Mother Nature. Although you may have been told that you are too sensitive, the truth is that the proliferation of insensitive values has created a world on the brink of disaster, and our only hope for saving the planet is by being sensitive and kind toward all sentient beings.

Although our trait can be challenging, some of the marvelous benefits of being an HSP may include the following: We are conscientious and have the capacity to deeply appreciate beauty, art, and music. We can also really appreciate delicious food, due to our sensitive taste buds, our sensitive sense of smell helps us deeply enjoy aromatic, natural scents, such as flowers. We are intuitive and tend to have deep spiritual experiences. We will notice potential danger, such as immediately feeling a tick crawling on our skin, sooner than non-HSPs. We are very aware of safety issues and will be the first one to know how to exit a building in case of an emergency. We are concerned about the humane treatment of animals. We tend to be kind, compassionate, and understanding, making us natural counselors, teachers, and healers. We have an enthusiasm for life and thus can experience love and joy more deeply than non-HSPs, if we aren't feeling overwhelmed.

The majority, non-HSP culture sometimes negatively judges our sensitivity. The HSP is a minority in all societies, which usually favor the majority non-HSPs (Aron 1996). You may be occasionally told by non-HSPs that there is something wrong with you when you express the need for quiet time or when you're feeling overwhelmed at work or taking care of your duties at home. Being judged for having a finely tuned nervous system is like discriminating against people based on the color of their skin, religion, or national origin. Like other minority groups, it's important that we strive to educate the general population about our sensitive nervous system, accept our sensitvity, and learn ways to cope in the majority non-HSP culture.

While you don't have to demonstrate, carrying placards that read "Sensitivity Power!" (you probably couldn't tolerate the noise and stimulation of a demonstration anyway), it would be beneficial to learn ways to raise your self-esteem. By reading books on HSPs (Elaine Aron's The Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook is a magnificent way to reframe your childhood in light of your sensitivity), attending individual therapy or HSP groups or classes to understand your trait, and employing many of the suggestions in this book you, will improve your self-esteem. Develop new friendships with other HSPs and try not to spend time with judgmental non-HSPs who make you feel flawed. It's also very important not to compare yourself or try to compete with non-HSPs.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 9-11)
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[personal profile] sakurablossom
Societal Values and Sensitivity

In the last ten to twenty years there has been more acceptance of sensitivity and some wonderful improvements in societal values. Although most men have been brought up to act tough and repress emotions, many progressive men now feel that sensitivity is a positive characteristic. In recent years the media has been featuring many stories about the relationship between stress-related diseases and intense work environments, giving people the opportunity to question whether working under severe pressure is worth harming their health.

While there is now a subculture of progressive people who accept sensitivity as a cherished value for both men and women, over-stimulation in our society has increased at an alarming rate. A popular song in the 60s was the innocent I Want to Hold Your Hand, while today the accepted raucous music is frequently filled with lyrics of swearing and violence. One of the worst offenses in school a generation ago was cutting classes, while now there are security guards and metal detectors at many urban schools to prevent school shootings.

In the 1950s there were three or four television stations, while today we are inundated with up to one thousand stations broadcasting a multitude of shows saturated with graphic sex and gratuitous violence. The home telephone has been replaced by millions of cell phones ubiquitous to modern society, creating a cacophony of clamor throughout the world. Recently I was hiking on top of a magnificent mountain peak in Colorado, enjoying the peaceful and spectacular natural setting when a man charged by me screaming into his cell phone, "I told you to sell the stock."

Thirty or forty years ago most people shopped at small neighborhood stores and had a personal relationship with the storeowner or clerk. In most urban environments, virtually all mom-and-pop stores have been replaced by gigantic, impersonal corporations, which could be called "Stimulation Depot" or "Noise R Us." You have to fight with hordes of other shoppers as you desperately search for bargains amongst thousands of items or wander around trying to find assistance from the few overwhelmed and underpaid clerks. Given this intense level of stimulation, you can understand why HSPs often find shopping nowadays an emotionally exhausting experience. I remember seeing one cartoon that depicted a young woman shopping for toothpaste. She became overwhelmed when trying to choose from a multitude of toothpaste brands: anticavity, fluoride, no fluoride, antigingivitis, extra whitener, gel, striped, antistain for smokers, protection for gums, 15 percent savings on large, 20 percent savings on extra large. After reviewing the multitude of products to choose from, she felt so overwhelmed that she went home to lie down from exhaustion.

Age is a factor in determining our sensitivity to stimuli. Children and older people are more deeply affected by overstimulation. Since children haven't yet developed the capacity to express themselves, they frequently react intensely. (For more information about highly sensitive children read The Highly Sensitive Child by Dr. Elaine Aron, in which she succinctly describes the unique challenges of raising sensitive children). As teenagers and young adults, HSPs have a higher tolerance for overstimulation. Some HSP teenagers usually can even tolerate listening to loud music and partying to all hours of the night. As you age, your capacity for stimulation decreases, and it's common for many middle-aged HSPs to go to bed early and avoid going out too much. However, you always need to find a balance between too much and too little stimulation. After the age of sixty-five, your ability to tolerate stimuli is further diminished.

Since most countries value aggressive behavior, adjusting to non-HSP values is challenging for the sensitive person in most societies. The HSP's adjustment is dependent on the culture in which they were raised. In a study of Canadian and Chinese school children, it was found that in Canada highly sensitive children were the least liked and respected, while in China sensitive children were the most popular (Aron 2002). I had a foreign exchange student from Thailand who lived with me for a year. Tone was a sixteen-year old sensitive, gentle boy when he came to the United States. He told me that the Thai people value kindness and gentleness. Most Thai people speak and walk softly and are perhaps the gentlest people in the world. When I observed him talking with his Thai friends, I noticed that they would speak in soft, melodic voices. It was very difficult for Tone to adjust to an aggressive American high school environment, where tough and bellicose behavior in males was valued while gentleness and sensitivity was considered a flaw. Tone learned to deny his sensitivity and tried to become more assertive in order to survive in the non-HSP Western culture.

Countries vary regarding how much stimulation their citizens are exposed to. One study indicated that the Dutch keep their infants calmer than Americans, who generally expose their babies to more stimulation (Aron 2002). In India, children are brought up with a great deal of stimulation, making it challenging for the HSP. However, even sensitive people in India become more habituated to hearing incessant noise. I interviewed a highly sensitive man from India who had lived in the United States for five years. Ramesh reported that the longer that he stayed in America, the more acculturated he became to the comparatively quiet atmosphere, and it was difficult for him when he visited India. However, since he was raised in an extremely noisy environment, he told me that he eventually adapts to the overstimulation of his native country, and after some time the excessive noise doesn't bother him so much.

While HSPs who are raised in overstimulating environments can cope more easily with excessive stimuli, sensitive people brought up in less stimulating societies have a more difficult time adapting. A highly sensitive American woman told me about a spiritual tour of India that she attended with both Westerners and Indians, and her story illustrated how Americans need their quiet space. She said that the Indian and American women slept on the floor in two different large rooms. In one room all the Indian women slept together in one corner touching each other, like a litter of puppies, while all the American women slept exactly three feet apart from each other in the other room.

Likewise, if an HSP from rural Montana moved to Manhattan, she would become easily overwhelmed by the assault on her senses. In the opposite case, sensitive people who have become habituated to urban overstimulation may have difficulty adjusting to a quiet, rural environment. When I lived in the bucolic Sierra Mountains in California, I had a friend who worked in downtown San Francisco visit me for the weekend. The lack of stimulation made him anxious, and he wanted to go to the nearest town, thirty minutes away. One HSP student who lives in a noisy urban neighborhood told me that she had trouble sleeping due to the quiet on a recent visit to the country.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 6-9)
sakurablossom: girl laying in bed while reading a book, comfy (reading)
[personal profile] sakurablossom
The HSP's Nervous System

In an interview on November 10, 2003 with Carolyn Robertson, certified neurotherapist, I discovered that the HSP's brain wave patterns are more frequently in a theta state. In this state, a person is more open to intuitive feelings and to picking up light, sound, and other subtle vibrations more deeply. While deep meditators (regardless of their sensitivity) are frequently in a theta state, they are able to filter out sensations through concentration.

However, when not focused inward, HSPs are processing stimulation so thoroughly that they are easily overwhelmed, far sooner than non-HSPs. One could say that they have trouble tuning out irrelevant stimuli -- except who is to say what is irrelevant? Noticing where an exit sign is located can seem irrelevant until there is a fire.

HSPs have to learn to ignore or protect themselves from unwanted stimuli. Especially those of us who have had a difficult childhood report a chronic, painful inability to avoid overstimulation (Aron 1996). Donna, an attractive and intelligent woman in her mid-forties, was a student in one of my HSP classes. She told me that she sometimes feels as if she is walking around with no skin, like a sponge absorbing everything that comes her way. She commented that as a child she also felt like she had no protection from the barrage of negative stimulation at home and at school, resulting in her experiencing severe emotional reactions to the daily assault on her nervous system.

Donna courageously shared with the class how her parents took her to a neurologist when she was thirteen. Donna's EEG (electroencephalogram) indicated an erratic brain wave pattern that may have contributed to her intense reaction to stimuli. The neurologist recommended that she take medication to reduce her intense reaction to stimuli, and Donna felt that the medicine probably helped. However, in retrospect, she noted that if she had grown up in a supportive and loving environment where her sensitivity was understood and accepted, she wouldn't have had such intense emotional reactions and wouldn't have needed medication. While medication can be helpful in some situations, I recommend that you first implement a holistic approach in coping with your sensitive nervous system.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 5-6)
sakurablossom: a ginger girl sitting on a dirt road, staring at the horizon (summer pink)
[personal profile] sakurablossom
The Highly Sensitive Person Questionnaire
When I took Elaine Aron's Highly Sensitive Person Self-Test many years ago I almost thought the questionnaire was designed specifically for me, as I immediately responded yes to every question. However, there are many differences amongst highly sensitive people. Some HSPs find noise intolerable but are not bothered by scents. Other HSPs can tune out noise, but are extremely bothered by bright lights.

The term "highly sensitive" may elicit either a positive or negative reaction. The thesaurus on my Microsoft Word program gives the following synonyms for sensitivity: compassion, sympathy, understanding, and kindliness. However, for some respondents I've interviewed, the words "highly sensitive" brought up feelings of shame and worthlessness, and I observed those interviewees trying to minimize their sensitivity during the HSP Self-Test.

Many progressive people now believe that sensitivity is a positive trait. Those respondents didn't want to appear "insensitive" when I administered the questionnaire, and I noticed that they would spend a long time answering each question, trying to justify their sensitivity. Try to be aware of your feelings about the term "highly sensitive" as you respond to the questions on the HSP Self-Test.

HSP self test )

* From THE HIGHLY SENSITIVE PERSON by Elaine Aron
The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 3-5)
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[personal profile] amulet
"I can't take the stress at work anymore. My coworker at the next desk talks all day long in a loud, abrasive voice, and my boss keeps demanding that I meet his rigid deadlines. I leave work every day feeling drained, and jittery, with my stomach tied up in knots."

"Everyone in my family is always running around trying some new adventure while I like to stay home. I feel like there's something wrong with me because I usually don't like to go out after work or on weekends."


Does any of this sound familiar to you? If so, you may be a highly sensitive person.

What Is a Highly Sensitive Person?

Since Elaine Aron's landmark book, The Highly Sensitive Person, was published in 1996, hundreds of thousands of HSPs (highly sensitive people) have begun to realize that they are not flawed for life due to their finely tuned nervous system. Approximately 15 to 20 percent of the population have trouble screening out stimuli and can be easily overwhelmed by noise, crowds, and time pressure. The HSP tends to be very sensitive to pain, the effects of caffeine, and violent movies. Highly sensitive people are also made extremely uncomfortable by bright lights, strong smells, and changes in their lives. In this companion book to The Highly Sensitive Person, you will learn hundreds of new coping strategies to remain calm and tranquil in today's overstimulating world, transforming your sensitivity into inner-peace and joy.

HSPs can find it challenging growing up in the society that values aggression and overstimulation. I grew up in the era of heroes such as John Wayne, when real men were supposed to be strong, tough, and silent. As a highly sensitive boy, I didn't fit in at school and felt that there was something inherently wrong with me. At an early age I surmised that I was a bad person because I believed the lie that being sensitive was disgusting. Virtually all of the emotional pain that I experienced growing up was directly related to a lack of understanding about my very sensitive nervous system.

As an adult, you may still suffer from a lack of understanding about your sensitivity. HSPs are adversely affected by our fast-paced and aggressive modern industrialized society. You can easily become exhausted, perpetually overstimulated by everything from the proliferation of violence in the media to the cacophony of loud urban noises. Since HSPs are a minority of the population, you may internalize the mores of our non-HSP society. Unfortunately, when you try to fit into an overstimulating, out-of-balance world, your physical, emotional, and spiritual health suffers.

The Highly Sensitive Person's Survival Guide - Ted Zeff, PH.D. (pg 1-2)

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May 2012

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