Monday, August 13, 2012

The Highly Sensitive Person and the Writer

I want to share a book with you that transformed my life.  Reading this book, along with the prompting of my good friend and early writing partner, is why I am a writer today.

But before the encouragement I found inside this book to pursue my own creativity, it first taught me to value it.  The Highly Sensitve Person: How to Survive When the World Overwhelms You by Elaine Aron is a must-read for creatives of all types, especially writers.  When I first read HSP (at a much younger age than I am now), I saw, for the first time, all my weirdness and sensitivity in a positive light.

After devouring HSP, I came away with a few important understandings.

1) Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) have always existed in human society because they serve a critical role in our survival as a species.  Due to their extremely sensitive nature, they are more in-tune with the environment which surrounds us all, and thus are the lookouts.  It is the HSP's ability to hear, smell, see, and taste stronger, as well as sensing more subtleties of people and environment, that warns the rest of the human pack of impending danger so we all can react before it is too late.

2) However, as a pack, too many HSPs within a human tribe would make for a very jittery bunch, perhaps overreacting and thus being led into the danger they hope to escape.  Therefore, it seems we have evolved so that about 15% of the population is made up of HSPs, while the other 85% is made of personality types in other roles equally important for survival, such as leader, warrior, etc.

3) HSPs have served society as prophets, artists, storytellers, spiritualists, and, truly, creatives of all flares.  Though sometimes not valued as highly in today's society as CEOs and high-powered professionals (our modern-day leaders and warriors), we still serve an important role not only in noting danger and alerting others, but also in reflecting and shaping culture, in all its positive and negative glory, through the work we create.  If humans evolved as the one animal able to understand symbols, it is the ability of the HSP to sense and translate these symbols that stands at the crux of all human development.

4) I'm okay.

Seriously.  Before reading this book, I'd always been down on myself because of my sensitive nature.  I was too introverted, too socially awkward...just too darn sensitive.

This book came to me at exactly the right time to transform my life, not only emotionally, but also physically.  You see, most people who are HSP in personality are also HSP in body as well.  I'd just gone through a very difficult pregnancy and come out of it with a bit of postpartum depression.  Reading HSP led me to seek other books on the subject, and the one I stumbled onto was Potatoes not Prozac, which taught me the benefits of healthy eating.  I dug into it whole-hog (ha!), and within one month, I was totally recovered, happier, and more energetic than I had been in years.

Why am I sharing something so personal with you?  Because it is my belief that most writers are HSP in mind as well as body.  We joke a lot about all the chocolate, sweets, and Mountain Dews we need to get through the day, but it is my experience that sugar is the last thing an HSP needs.  It may boost you up initially, but all that brain fog, loss of energy, and depression you'll suffer through later is so not worth it.

I don't want to go into a preachy tone here, cause it is definitely something I still struggle with as well, but if any of this rings true to you, I just want to point you in the direction of these books, plus a couple more I've discovered since then, which I will link to below.  If you're interested, though, I've got more info on my TurkishDelight blog, filled with healthy recipes, which I started long before this one.  I'm hoping to post more regularly there soon.

Being an HSP is a blessing.  Without it, I don't believe I could delve so deeply into the great subconscious to create fictional worlds and characters who reflect the reality of our times.  However, like everything, there is a dark and light side.  Understanding my nature better, I know I must, in the words of Mad-Eye be on "constant vigilance" against the things that put my sensitivities out of whack

How about you?  Have you read any of these books or anything like it?  Do you consider yourself an HSP?

Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions (highly recommend! my favorite)
The Inflammation Syndrome by Jack Challem (just getting into this one, but great so far)