Recently I have come across a lot of people saying how ‘HSPs are special’ and that being an HSP makes you special. Typically the internet has started to leak these terms into articles about HSPs which are now talking about it being a superpower or a special gift. Or even worse, that we are sensitive or troubled souls who are wounded by every day life, as if we are some kind of battered and soggy butterfly staggering around, who is talked about in hushed tones “oh but they are special, they’re sensitive.”
The first and most persuasive argument I want to use against this ‘special’ term comes from Elaine Aron herself who said that “HSPs and non-HSPs are different yet equal.” This is a far better way of describing what it means to be highly sensitive. You are simply different. Yet it seems that this perfectly accurate description is missing a certain amount of fairy dust and pizzazz which many require. You will get far more retweets and pins when you post a quote about HSPs being special or troubled souls than if you just say that we are different.
I can understand how it may be attractive to label high sensitivity as special, especially if you are new to the trait and have had your own sensitivity dismissed and ridiculed, but we have something that is more special than being “special” and that is cold, hard facts. Using fMRI scans, it can be seen that highly sensitive brains work in a different way and it’s also genetically proven that high sensitivity is real. You simply don’t need to use terms like ‘special’ and ‘superpower’, which are so often used to bolster something that relies upon an element of imagination, because we actually have proof.
What makes me feel particularly uneasy is that by describing HSPs as special it immediately sets us apart from, and suggests that we are better than the rest of the world. The definition of special is “being better or greater” and we are absolutely not that. It also distances us from the very people who should be educated about sensitivity, as well as distancing ourselves from using our sensitive attributes to benefit people/society/world. We are simply setting ourselves apart, and against the world, rather than striving for inclusion.
As Elaine Aron explained, there’s a reason why evolution hasn’t just removed the highly sensitive traits from humans, and that’s because high sensitivity is useful for society. With our DOES attributes we provide an added insight for humanity, whether it’s giving a highly detailed, different perception into how systems (political, scientific and business) work, with regards to planning, safety and risk management; or within the arts, literature, films and books. It’s why 20% of all animals are highly sensitive.
Yes, the world overwhelms us and most HSPs have experienced people being negative about our sensitivity, but it’s important that we live within the world despite all of those issues, as we have so much to give. Hiding behind the ‘special’ label is like hiding your light under a bushel.
Of course as HSPs we want to communicate with other HSPs, that’s natural. More people at the start of their highly sensitive journey, instead of seeing it as a way of growing themselves, retreat and use it as an excuse for isolating themselves and hiding from the world. This is why so many people are now talking about having an ‘HSP day/moment/episode’ as if it’s some kind illness that comes and goes, rather than something that is knitted into our DNA. Or the countless times the idea of having an HSP village where all the HSPs can hide has been floated – as if that isn’t an absolute disaster waiting to happen, just look at HSP only groups online to see how that’ll play out.
As HSPs, we do have a different insight into the world, but it is because of that we should be of the world, not bystanders or hidden. We are simply no more special than anyone else, but just different and we should use this difference to make connections showing that our insight are not only useful but essential. It’s why we’ve been like this since the dawn of man.
Finding out you are an HSP is just the start and you have to actually do some work to understand your sensitivity, which also includes removing the barriers you’ve put up while trying to live in a non-HSP world and reach a stage where you are comfortable within yourself. It also involves understanding that there are many people who want to use our high sensitivity and who don’t have our best interests at heart. They’ll say how special we are, how fragile and broken and reliant on them to help us. They’ll do so while trying to flog negative ion water, or a super duper special diet for special people, or mats with crystals in them or magic bunny rabbits. We should all be moving towards the ‘enlightened HSP’ state that is reached from within and not via snake oils and definitely not puffing ourselves up with misguided self importance against the world that we should be a part of.
So next time just keep in mind, are you creating a barrier with your high sensitivity or are you ‘daring greatly’ and being open to the word? If you insist on claiming special status, just know that everyone in the world is special – which negates any kind of power or status that the word has.