Dr Elaine Aron coined the term ‘highly sensitive person’ in the 1990s. The scientific name is ‘sensory processing sensitivity’. Dr Aron has undertaken a lot of research around this trait along with many others including her husband Arthur Aron.
One in five people are highly sensitive, that is 20% of the population, or 1.4 billion!
Categories of the Highly Sensitive Person trait
In her book Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person, Dr Aron groups the HSP trait into four categories. She uses the acronym DOES.
This stands for:
- Depth of processing
- Emotional intensity
- Sensory sensitivity
I will break these down using the guidelines that Dr Aron discusses in the above mentioned book.
Depth of processing
Depth of processing refers to how, as a highly sensitive person, we process information deeply.
We are deep thinkers and may question things like the meaning of life.
I remember well as a young child, gazing out my window at the starry nights. I grew up in a very small town in Southern Hawkes Bay of New Zealand where the stars were particularly vibrant. Unlike my mother and father who grew up in the UK in London and Birmingham respectively. Sadly their skies were filled with bombers and search lights.
I digress! Far different from the war filled skies in England, I would spend hours gazing at the stars, wondering where we came from. What other planets were out there. Other beings?
It used to fascinate me (and keep me awake all night!)
I used to feel so small and insignificant in a small town in the middle of a small country. Far from most other countries in the world. I even remember having the feeling that our planet was small in comparison to what else was out there.
Deep processing is also connected to our conscientiousness and our moral values. It refers to our inner knowing, gut feelings and deeper feelings of empathy for others and the world around us.
Depth of processing can affect decision making abilities. We like to ponder and reflect before making quick decisions. Once we do however, they are generally good decisions.
Overarousal, also referred to as ease of overstimulation, refers to our inability to cope with high levels of stimulation.
As indicated in a previous blog post Do you have the HSP trait, highly sensitive people process our five senses far more deeply than non-HSPs. We have way more paths of information coming into our brains. This results in overarousal which leads to nervousness, chronic stress, and anxiety if we have not yet mastered good coping strategies.
This overarousal can decrease our cognitive capacity which may lead to confusion, poor memory, or an inability to express ourselves clearly.
When good coping strategies are in place, this high stimulation has some wonderful gifts. Our senses are heightened therefore we are super observant of the beauty in the world around us. Delicate aromas, exquisite foods, fine art, the perfection of nature.
In Elaine Aron’s DOES acronym for highly sensitive people, emotional intensity refers to being deeply moved by certain situations and environments. We are full of compassion for those around us. Easily moved to tears of both joy and sadness.
We can be affected by violence on tv or in the media. Many HSPs tend to avoid movies or tv shows that involve violence, horror and too much action.
This side of the HSP is sentimental, thoughtful, caring and kind.
As mentioned in the Overarousal section above, HSPs have many more paths of information coming into our brains than non-HSPs. Our senses are often on high alert. We are super observant, often to the extent of ‘Sherlock Holmes’! We don’t miss a trick!
All of our senses can be heightened. Our sense of touch can be affected by scratchy clothes such as wool, tight-fitting clothes or even clothing labels which can easily irritate us.
We can be easily affected by loud noises such as loud machinery. Smelly fumes from trucks and cars. Bright lights such as fluorescents.
Electromagnetic fields can give us adverse reactions. Radio waves from mobile phones, microwaves, televisions can be of concern.
It is interesting to note, from Dr Aron’s book, that “many highly sensitive people report unusual experiences that can broadly be called psychic”.
This coincides beautifully with another book I’m currently reading – Letting Go by David R. Hawkins. He states “True psychics, of course, are merely people who are experts at intuition”.
You were born to be among the advisors and thinkers, the spiritual and moral leaders for your society. There is every reason for pride.
~ Elaine Aron
If you have taken the HSP Archetype Quiz on my website, you may have noticed that each of the four main archetypes – Akasha, Angel, Ariel and Artemis, are based on the DOES acronym by Dr Aron.
Although we will have many characteristics from each of the areas, some may be more pronounced than others and that is what the quiz is based on with the questions you are presented with.
Each has its amazing superpowers and I really encourage you to focus on these gifts and to find ways to manage those areas that require attention. I share self-care techniques that can help you in the emails when you signed up for the quiz.
Which of the four categories stands out most for you?
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