Parents sometimes come to me and say,
“My child is so sensitive. I don’t know why he’s like this. Everything is such a big deal. I parent my children the same way. Why is he like this? His brother’s doing great in school and not avoiding situations and crying. What’s wrong with my child?”
In actuality, nothing is “wrong” with the child. What the parents don’t know is that their child has an innate temperament trait referred to as sensory processing sensitivity. Approximately 20% of the population has this sensitivity trait and is categorised as a “highly sensitive person.” Narrow that focus, to the therapeutic world, and closer to 50% of counselling
clients possess this trait, according to Dr. Elaine Aron, a pioneer in the field of sensitivity, in Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person.
People with this trait often look carefully before entering new situations or retreat from overwhelming ones. For this reason, they are sometimes mislabelled as being shy, when in fact, an estimated 30% of highly sensitive people are extraverted.
Because no one person’s experience is the same, Aron identified four basic characteristics of the highly sensitive person (also known as the DOES model):
· Depth of processing
· Emotional responsiveness and empathy
· Sensitivity to subtleties
Aron points out that the sensory processing sensitivity trait is a survival advantage in some situations because it allows individuals to process information more thoroughly and increases their responsiveness to the environment and social stimuli.
Do you recognise yourself or your child? If so, you might want to have a look at Dr. Aron’s website to find out more www.hsperson.com and if you are experiencing difficulties with others not understanding how life is different for a highly sensitive person then reach out and talk to a professional who is familiar with the trait.