The Myers Briggs thinking vs feeling spectrum is an excellent way of explaining one of the main differences between HSPs. The majority of HSPs are Fs, so when a T visits an HSP group or forum you often find yourself questioning your HSPness.
What is really going on is an issue of translation, and one that also has a knock on effect when it comes to understanding what it means to be an HSP and the information available, especially online.
Firstly it’s important to state that Thinking vs Feeling is about the dominant way you process information and make decisions. Neither one is better nor worse than the other. It’s just different. If you want more information about T vs F, there’s an excellent video by Craig Calvert here.
It goes far deeper than how you interpret information – with thinkers making objective evaluations and feelers make subjective evaluations. It’s about language and nuances; a reflection of past, present and future experiences; childhood, education, ethics, religion, and beliefs. It’s your physical and psychological state. It’s how you see yourself and how others see you and a whole medley of things that is all reflected objectively or subjectively in how you communicate with other people, as well as how you see yourself and your ideas. As Jacquelyn Strickland pointed out, it’s like the often quoted “We do not see things as they are, we see them as we are” and something that should be remembered when talking about high sensitivity.
So whoever you are, when you communicate it’s all affected and reflected through who and what you are; then it is processed subjectively (F) or objectively (T). Once you take that into consideration, you see why such a personal and unique concept as being a ‘highly sensitive person’ can create such a whirlwind of emotions and experiences that often gets mistaken for concrete HSP truths. Consequently, it’s how you communicate these with the world, and in turn, how the world sees you.
It’s only natural to communicate with your dominant trait, and as the majority of HSPs are Fs this explains why HSP groups can often feel a little alien to Ts, but once again, there’s more to it. In these groups some Fs, who are subjectively evaluating their HSP experiences with each other (and often putting more importance in them than reading, say, Elaine Aron’s books), discover mutual connections which are then used to reinforce their idea of what it means to be an HSP (e.g. spiritual beliefs, being an empath, psychic intuition, being ‘gifted’, astrology and so on). In turn, this list of traits is then perceived as an HSP truth, even though it only applies to one facet of the HSP community and instead leads to misunderstandings all round.
Let’s get back to the source. Elaine Aron created a list of common attributes found in HSPs – (DOES) Depth of perception, Overarousal, Emotional Reactivity/Empathy, Sensitive to Stimuli. These attributes are broad for the very reason that if you attempt to pin down specifics, you end up missing out just as much as you are including. This is why misinformation is so common, as what can be spot on for one person, can be off the mark with the other – yet both are HSPs!
I’ve also noticed that even language and frequently used terms hold different meanings which to put it bluntly – makes my INTJ head hurt. Some Fs rely less on the actual definition, but more on how that term makes them feel, fits within their personal ethos and connects them with other people.
For example, take intuition, something that is intimately connected with being an HSP. Fs often lean towards seeing intuition as something that is almost spiritual. Where it not only connects you with ideas and vibes, but also with other people; some even see it as a part of Psychic Intuition – and so is linked to the E part of DOES (Emotional reactivity/high empathy). Whereas Ts often see intuition more philosophically; as subconsciously accumulated information that slowly filters through our brain which is used alongside the D part of DOES (Depth of Processing) when we allow our brain to ruminate on issues, leading to an intuitive result. The word is the same and both are utilising HSP attributes, but what the word actually means can be wildly different between F and T.
We see our sensitivity in the ‘language’ that is easiest for us to understand. For Fs it’s natural to express and understand their sensitivity in emotional and even spiritual terms, while Ts tend to find it easier to understand our sensitivity using physical proof – whether it is down to physical sensitivities or information in books and research. Neither way is wrong, but as a T, when you can see a gradual shift away from the concrete ‘proof’ and onto more emotional issues and personal commonalities that doesn’t even apply to all HSPs, it simply doesn’t make any sense. No wonder you have HSP Ts who witnesses this and dismisses the whole concept of being an HSP altogether.
As a knock on, a lot of information about HSPs is written by, aimed at, and published by Fs. While the main books still tend to draw on Elaine Aron’s work, articles online are another matter. As high sensitivity for some can be so closely intertwined with spiritual elements, it’s not surprising that these websites muddy what it means to be an HSP with concepts such as empaths, indigos, auras, psychic stuff and so on. Again, preferring to base their information on interactions with others instead of the objective facts. In turn, when the mainstream looks for information about HSPs, they repeat the same inaccuracies, usually with a photo of someone looking pained. Once again, portraying an image of a certain element of highly sensitivites, but not the whole picture.
What can be done? Not much really. I find that as a T HSP knowing why there seems to be such a disparity when interacting with fellow HSPs helps. Not only that, but it also explains why articles about HSPs are so hard to grasp simply because they have been written by and aimed at F HSPs. So T HSPs, you aren’t alone and before you dismiss the idea of being highly sensitive, take a moment – is it just a translation issue?