According to scientific research, I am a highly sensitive person (HSP). No really, it’s totally legit: it’s in the Wall Street Journal. It’s good that science is working on this. I mean, I am a crier. I cry about all kinds of things. When I was in basic combat training for the Army, I cried like every day. One time I cried because my phone wasn’t charged. I’ve already cried like six times today. Crying is pretty much my go-to reaction for every emotion I have. I like to keep things simple.
The study reported in the article indicates the lengths scientists have gone to research HSPs (I have an acronym!) in order to determine how brain structure and chemistry (or other science-y stuff) works. These methods include scans and magnetic resonance gobbledygook. It also includes research on other species, from cats to fruit flies. No, seriously. I’m not making that up. Science has discovered that cats have emotional depth. Who knew? Also, effing fruit flies. I’m as much of a tree-hugging, granola-eating hippie as the next PETA nut job, but even I draw the line at concern for the emotions of flying insects that live in my garbage can.
According to researchers, “HSPs get worn out by too much stimuli. They can become easily hurt or offended. And they have been known to overreact to a situation.” I am SO glad science has finally diagnosed my tendencies to cry about everything. They even report that this condition (I have a condition!) is genetic. It feels good to know my childhood reactions to losing at Monopoly were actually a genetically predetermined and not just bad behavior. Everything is so much clearer now.
The consequences of learning about this aspect of my personality have long reaching possibilities. I can now justify pretty much any sudden emotional reaction by citing scientific research. My uncontrollable weeping in the Wal-Mart check-out aisle is now medically explainable. Maybe I can get a special license plate.
The article even includes some helpful tips for dealing with my emotions while in relationships:
- Recognize that you experience events differently than your partner, who may not feel as intensely as you do.
- Prepare your partner ahead of time that you may need to call a ‘timeout’ during a disagreement if you feel overwhelmed.
- Get ample rest, eat healthily, and take downtime to decompress.
- Recognize that being highly sensitive is a double-edged sword. Feeling emotions of pain and joy more acutely can be a good thing.
This will make all the difference. No wonder I’ve struggled with romantic relationships all these years. I wasn’t giving my partners the rule book. It’s now clear why my previous strategy of simply quoting Pee Wee Herman was not as effective as I wanted it to be: “You don’t want to get mixed up with a guy like me. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.” Science finally triumphs over 1980s cult films.
I joke, but aren’t these details also true for introverts and people who’ve been through therapy? I identify with all the characteristics they list, but I disagree with their scientific conclusions. I agree that there are people who are more emotionally sensitive, but is scientific intervention the answer? In all seriousness, I’m definitely one of these HSPs, but the article makes it sound like I have a disability. That’s going to make me cry.
In summation, this blog is starting to overwhelm me. I’m calling a time-out. I need a nap and some broccoli.