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The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

Elaine N. Aron Phd

Personal Thoughts

Summary Notes

Many species—it’s over one hundred so far, including fruit flies and some fish species—have a minority that is highly sensitive. Although the trait leads to different behaviors, obviously depending on whether you are a fruit fly, fish, bird, dog, deer, monkey, or human, a general description of it would be that the minority that has inherited it has adopted a survival strategy of pausing to check, observe, and reflect on or process what has been noticed before choosing an action.

Some qualities of the HSP:

  • HSPs are far more affected by test scores.
  • The following two items were true for all HSPs, but especially for men: “Liking to have things be the same each time you have sex” and not particularly enjoying variety in sexual activities.
  • HSPs appeared to enjoy sexuality more but engage in it less, perhaps because sexuality, being a source of general stimulation, is potentially a source of over-arousal when life is already full of stimulation.
  • HS parents are more affected by the chaos in their homes.
  • First, they notice what others miss, having a greater sense of what is happening for their team. Second, they prefer to process more than simply to take action, often standing back to let others on their team receive credit. Third, and most importantly, they exhibit what is called “resonant leadership,” obtaining a “feel” for what is going on, often nonverbal, so that they lead with understanding and empathy.
  • HSPs tend to fill that advisor role. We are the writers, historians, philosophers, judges, artists, researchers, theologians, therapists, teachers, parents, and plain conscientious citizens.

HSP and Autism

  • Be careful not to mix up being an HSP with some problem condition: sensory discomfort can by itself be a sign of a disorder due to problems with sensory processing rather than having unusually good sensory processing.
  • Those with high-functioning autism can train themselves to pay attention to social cues.
  • The understanding of the autism spectrum is constantly changing, however, so there may be changes in how it is viewed. Yet we know that the brain functions differently in HSPs and those with autism spectrum disorders.


  • Overarousal is the central challenge for HSPs. The causes are both external and internal, and managing both is essential for your well-being. 
  • Here are some other psychological methods useful in handling overarousal:
  1. Reframe the situation.
  2. Repeat a phrase, prayer, or mantra that, through daily practice, you have come to associate with deep inner calm.
  3. Witness your overarousal.
  4. Love the situation.
  5. Love your overarousal.
  • A rather charming psychological experiment involving shyness, done at Stanford University by Susan Brodt and Philip Zimbardo, demonstrates why you need to know that you are not shy but just an HSP who can become over-aroused.

The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You

Elaine N. Aron Phd
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