There is the almost eye-roll and rather superior voice that announces to you, as if you were not aware, that you’re so-o-o-o sensitive. The implication is that this is not a good thing. You are somehow defective

For years, I felt they were right. I was the one feeling all the bumps in the road, and they were cruising along in shock-absorbed comfort. What was wrong with me?

My thinking began to change in the ‘90s. I read an article in the now-defunct “Intuition” magazine that discussed this concept, which was launched by author, Elaine Arons in her book, The Highly Sensitive Person.

I immediately sent the article to my friend, Heidi. She’s definitely a highly sensitive person, and this article would make her feel better. I thought about some of my clients and other friends and realized, hey, they are very sensitive as well. And, then, belatedly, the light went on: surprise, I, too, am a highly sensitive person.

Not that I hadn’t been told repeatedly in my childhood that I was way too sensitive about almost everything. As a kid, my father announced that I should learn to play the mop since I was always crying.

And I was. I was the child crying in the bathroom during the commercial break of the television show, Lassie. Even at a young age, I knew, without a doubt, that Lassie would save the day, but I still wept inconsolably for the plight of the characters.

Then, there were the sheets to consider. My mother had matching sets. All of the sheets were striped, a respectable 1950’s quarter inch of stripe. There were sets of pastel blue, green, yellow, and pink.

Amidst this watercolor palette, there were sets of sheets striped in mud brown. These sheets were so intense that I would wake up in the middle of the night and stare in bewilderment at their noisy striations. Their color was too intense. I couldn’t sleep well. The sheets felt like a fog horn blaring in my sleepy haze.

That’s the way it is for a highly sensitive person. You feel things more intensely. And, needless to say, not every highly sensitive person feels and senses the world in identical ways. Like most things, it can be viewed along a spectrum.

Sensitivity is, essentially, a way of being in the world; it is a kind of wiring. It is not a flaw. If you are sensitive, you respond to sensory stimulation, be it color, sound, temperature, or emotion in a heightened way.

Some sensitive persons are able to read a mood by foot fall or tone of voice. They can sense the emotional temperature of a room. They are aware of the unspoken dialogue in a gathering; they can simultaneously understand assorted points of view. Many can feel the first wave of potential violence.

Heightened sensitivity is having a nervous system wired like a finely-tuned race horse. Your nerve endings are amplified antennae that pick up information and stimulation.

Given all that sensory bombardment, highly sensitive types require more downtime and quiet. They need unstructured time of nothingness; increased time for regrounding and rebalancing; and connecting time in nature to refuel and refind self.

Sensitive individuals are very reactive to sugar and caffeine consumption, too much jangle in their days, they disrupt their equilibrium and can become all spiky themselves.

Interestingly, if you are sensitive, you need time to process, reflect, and respond. You have what I call “tape delay.” For example, if you and a loved one have words, you may not understand what you really think and feel until the next day. As a sensitive person, it is important to step away from the other’s energy field so you can determine what it is that you actually think and feel.

If you are sensitive, you are acutely perceptive. You can read nuance and understand subtlety; you can feel the slight trim of course correction. You are sympathetic and empathetic.

In engineering, sensitivity refers to a responsiveness to signals. That would hold true here. Sensitive types are able to discern signals and read symbols.

In photography, sensitivity refers to a responsiveness to light. Again, that makes sense. If you are a super sensitive you can perceive the fluctuations of light and shadow, both literally and figuratively, in your daily interactions.

In earlier times, the term “sensitive” referred to individuals with psychic or clairvoyant abilities. These highly sensitive persons were at the far end of the spectrum; their empathetic natures allowed them to read the internal domain of others.

The curse of this highly developed sensitivity is that you intensely feel almost everything, the good, the anxious and the angry. You unconsciously merge your energy field with another; you feel their everything. You do not realize that what you are feeling often belongs to someone else.

Your soul work calls for you not to lose yourself in a sea of sensory stimulation, but to be able to discern and define where you start and where you end.

For the more developed and conscious sensitive person, the blessing is, indeed, that you are able to walk in another person’s shoes. This sensitivity births compassion, understanding, and connection

In today’s uncertain and fractious world, think of the possibilities for peacemaking, bridge building, and healing by a highly sensitive person. Isn’t that a blessing?

Author's Bio: 

Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., is a transpersonal psychologist and spiritual teacher who likes looking at life with the big viewfinder. Her website is, and her email address is Copyright Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D.