Highly sensitve people and abuse

Since I posted the personality types topic yesterday, I wanted to add information today about HSP’s, otherwise known as highly sensitive people.

Do you relate to any of these?

You’re always subtly aware of a path of ‘escape’.  While a large empty space like an indoor arena can be discomfiting, a large crowded space makes you uneasy.  You park your car where you can leave easily, and sit where you can leave quickly and relatively unnoticed.

You’ve been in the large, crowded with people space, and suddenly you had to leave and get outside in the quiet air to feel you could fully breathe.

You have the ability to ‘read’ people.  You’re an empath and/or highly intuitive.

You’re drawn to water, and find it to be one of the most soothing and therapeutic things.

You avoid watching violent shows because you get emotionally and physically distressed.

You’re easily and deeply moved by beautiful art and music.

You startle easily.

You respond to lower doses of medication than most people.

You have a rich inner life.

You take longer than other people to make decisions, weighing every aspect of it.

You’re more upset than other people seem to be if you feel you made a bad or wrong decision.

You feel criticism deeply, and examine it within.

You NEED alone time to recharge.

Wikipedia describes HSP’s as “having the innate trait of high sensory processing sensitivity”.  When people hear the term ‘highly sensitive person’ for the first time, they tend to think of someone who gets their feelings hurt easily, but that’s not it.  If all the information that your senses perceive (light, color, sound, texture etc.) was factored in, you then add in emotional energy, and each person has a sort of filter that perceives and takes it all in.  A highly sensitive person lets in an inordinate amount of energy and information compared to most people.

This means that HSP’s can get sensory overload, so it’s logical to see why being with a group or crowd of people would be draining and depleting.  It’s like having a thin, porous filter to keep out excess sensory information, compared to the average filter that’s thicker, denser, and more protective.

Basically, it’s all about sensory processing.  You can be shy and not be an HSP, and many HSP’s are not shy at all.  It’s a relatively new field of study with evidence mounting that it’s an innate biological (possibly genetic) factor, and present in about one out of five people in general.

With everything else, there appears to be a spectrum of variation for HSP’s.  There’s no one size fits all, but there are commonalities.

If you think of information as noise that you’re hearing, the HSP’s volume is turned up higher.  It’s easy to become overaroused, overstimulated, and overwhelmed.

When it comes to an abusive relationship, if you’re getting mixed messages, a person saying something but really meaning something else, it’s taxing and depleting to a system that’s taking in the extra and subtle nuances in communication.

Here is a beautiful quote by Pearl S. Buck:

“The truly creative mind in any field is no more than this:
A human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive.
To him… a touch is a blow,
a sound is a noise,
a misfortune is a tragedy,
a joy is an ecstasy,
a friend is a lover,
a lover is a god,
and failure is death.”

Can you see the terrible collision and enmeshed ramifications when a covertly abusive man partners with a woman who deeply understands, feels, thinks, and loves?

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16 Responses to Highly sensitve people and abuse

  1. DotedOn says:

    I identified with many of the characteristics. 🙂

    PJ, I love your posts, keep writing (and smiling).


  2. Exodus says:

    Yes, that’s 100 percent me and because of my long-term abuse, I’m even more sensitive to the point that being startled is like being electrocuted. I am very intolerant of any noise anymore, especially those sudden and quick noises like someone dropping a coin on the floor.

    PJ’s…I have read many times that ALL children are born with these keen senses because they need them but at about age 9, IF they are in a well-adjusted healthy environment, they tend to lose much of their sensitivity while children who are living in a dysfunctional, abusive and or violent home will retain their sensitivity. Again, for good and necessary reasons.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      I really think there’s a spectrum of innate sensitivity that differs right from birth, but just an opinion.


      • Exodus says:

        Yes, I’m sure there is. I’m much more sensitive than my sensitive brother but I had to rely on my intuition more than he did because I was the oldest child and the ‘adult’ in my home from about age 6. He depended on me and I had no one to depend on except me. I’m still just as sensitive today as I was when I was 3.


  3. wornout says:

    Wow, this is really interesting information. Thanks for sharing it. It really makes it even more understandable why a relationship with a PA man is even more damaging and destructive to those of us who are like this. Especially after reading this, it blows me away that we have all been able to hang in with our PA guys as long as we have.(and maintain some semblance of sanity:) )I would say that makes us all pretty strong, resiliant, amazing ladies. (Even though i know we don’t always feel this way) I’m sure impressed with all of us. 🙂 And I agree with Doted, I love your posts, too.


  4. Yes, this is me, too, in a big way. I’ve read a little about this term before and figured it probably applied.

    It’s interesting you posted this today because it’s almost an explanation for what I experienced last night. I was at home doing fireworks in the front yard with my kids. Nothing fancy. From our yard, we could see a lot of bigger fireworks around our neighborhood. It was like we were surrounded by them. It was so pretty and almost surreal. Typically, I could take the 4th of July celebrations or leave them. I get into it because of my kids. I can’t even explain it, but the whole scenario made me want to cry. I kept trying to shake it off because the kids were there, but I really wanted to let it out. It was so strange. The fireworks were beautiful – almost overwhelmingly so. The noise wasn’t really bothering me in this context, though the visual aspect was definitely sensory overload even though it was positive. At the same time, I was thinking about freedom and captivity and those who aren’t free from governments and then all the people not free in their individual lives (including us) and it was just too much to take in and I wanted to bawl. It was so uncomfortable I thought I would burst.

    You said: “Can you see the terrible collision and enmeshed ramifications when a covertly abusive man partners with a woman who deeply understands, feels, thinks, and loves?” This is so profound. So destructive.

    Thanks again, PJs, for another great post.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      I really loved your creation of the fireworks visual!


    • Exodus says:

      “At the same time, I was thinking about freedom and captivity and those who aren’t free from governments and then all the people not free in their individual lives (including us) and it was just too much to take in and I wanted to bawl. It was so uncomfortable I thought I would burst.”

      Oh Seeing, you have such insight, awareness and concern. My brother always told me that I carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. I’m always questioning and examing everything and before my husband, I had friends who loved that quality in me even though they would lovingly joke about it sometimes by saying, ‘ Oh, here she goes!!’. I never perceived or experienced much of anything in life at face value. In college, my friends and I would hit the beach every day after classes and while they were chatting away about the hunk in class or a new band, I was pondering tides and how the water shifts around the world in different hemispheres and what other people would be experiencing on a beach half way around the world. I’ve always has this incessant curiosity about how things work and why and a desire to seek the spiritual meaning in all things. Maybe I should have been a philosopher who sits next to a crackling fire all day smoking a pipe and reading Meister Eckhart ;D


      • Exodus, I know what you mean. I do the same thing in a slightly different way. When I am out in public and I see strangers walking or driving along, I really look at them and contemplate: who are they? what have they suffered? what have they experienced in their lives? are they happy or at peace? are they alone? does someone love them? If I talk about it, my kids think I’m off-the-wall. I get lost in birds and their songs and in flowers and how does a seed become this amazing plant?! Our vegetable garden leaves me in awe! Don’t even get me started about wind – from a gale to a gentle breeze. Most of the time I can’t listen to music and get anything done at the same time. If music I like is playing, I am experiencing it completely – dancing, singing, feeling. Then comes this business of understanding what happened to me. How did I get here? What happened to my spirit, my soul, my mind? What was the process by which this tormented my brain and ruined my body? I get overwhelmed.


  5. Mo says:

    This post goes along with a thought I had the other day. After reading your blog posts and comments, as well as revisiting the PA blog that led me here (Writing about Passive Aggressive Abuse), I really wished there was a way we all could form a support group of some kind. I feel a bond with all of you …. (not to sound weird or anything) … but I am just so amazed at how all of you have described experiences and scenarios in your lives and marriages that mirror my own life and marriage, pretty much to a perfect T. I was thinking that we’d all get along because we’re probably a lot alike, and we’d understand each other implicitly. I figured, we probably share similar personality types, and perhaps similar histories, considering the fact we all married and put up with these PA men.
    (I know, I think waaaayyy too much. My mind won’t shut up. It’s gotten worse since the Lyme hit).
    So, anyway … Reading this post reminded me of my “support group” thought, so I decided to share it with you.
    Btw … I easily have EVERY SINGLE HSP characteristic listed above … and not just minor or moderately. I have them all in a BIG way. I’ve been learning so much about myself lately, coming to grips with the fact I’m an “empath” who has taken on other people’s “energies” for my entire life … so I really don’t know what my own energy feels like. it’s become even more pronounced as my illness has progressed the past 10 years. But I am SO GLAD that I know this now!! Because I know I can finally begin to heal as I learn how to manage and cope with this stuff. I work with an energy healer / spiritual counselor who is helping me navigate through all of this. I believe she’s saving my life.
    Well, thanks for listening to my rambles (if anyone made it this far!). Love to you.


    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Mo, the first time I read about empaths aka HSP’s, I just sat in the most profound sense of relief for realizing other people experienced those things too.


    • Hi, Mo! I know what you mean about thinking way too much and a mind that won’t shut up. I once read PTSD described as a browser with something like 3,000 tabs open and none of them will close! That’s how my brain feels. I have been trying to start some relaxation CDs. It feels so awkward. It is working to relax me, but then feeling relaxed feels so strange I start to get anxious! I assume it’s because it is so foreign to me to relax that my poor brain can’t handle it yet and it is going to take time and patience. And – no – I wasn’t like this before PA man. It is good to hear your voice out here. You are definitely not alone.


      • Exodus says:

        Seeing, I tried hypnotherapy and guided meditations years ago but I would begin laughing so hard that I quit doing it. I know that the laughing had a lot to do with the fact that it just always seemed so ridiculous that a bunch of people would be sitting around with their legs crossed Om’ing and that anything healing could result. My therapists voice during hypnosis was just so silly and dramatic as well….’ Clooooooose your eyes, relaaaaax, breeeeeath deeply in and out and then coupled with that sappy music…oh gosh, I just couldn’t control my laughter!!! Maybe my laughter was just part of my protection. I’ve always had a very warped sense of humor about life in general. I can make fun of just about anything in life.

        It wasn’t until a few years ago that I actually gave meditation a serious consideration and learned how beneficial meditation can be. Have you ever heard of the ‘ Brainwave Symphony’ CD collections? I use them all the time.I think Amazon has them for sale.


        • Oh, me too, Exodus, I find the humor in everything. I think it has worked against me getting anyone to believe I am ill. I am laughing and making wise-cracks no matter how I feel. I used to say I’ll probably be telling jokes on my deathbed. I always thought it was a good thing not to walk around showing your suffering, but rather keeping a good attitude instead. It has definitely worked against me in terms of being shown compassion or understanding.

          I haven’t heard of the Brainwave Symphony, but since I read your comment I have looked them up. Amazon has quite a few different ones. Which one or ones do you use?


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