I am an HSP.

I needed to do a fair amount of figuring out in my recovery.

First, what does sensitivity really means in my life? Is it just a round about way of saying I hurt easily when people say or do things I don't like? Or is there more going on in the experience of sensitivity?

Is my anxiety related to my sensitivity? And if yes, how can I ever like my sensitivity?

Who can really help me understand my own experience when I can't? In other words, is there someone 'sensitive' enough to understand sensitivity - scientifically, empirically, intellectualy and emotionally? And is this person happy and thriving?

If you are an HSP needing support in your recovery from anxiety, and if your core issues are around being misaligned with your core temperament, then I recommend the following resources:

1. Bibliotherapy with Dr Elaine Aron.

Bibliotherapy is defined as the use of books as therapy in the treatment of mental or psychological disorders.

I am a huge advocate of bibliotherapy for way too many reasons that work for me. Such as these.

I love reading. Because unlike face-to-face interactions (for e.g. in therapy), I am not rushed with my processing. I can go at my pace, take my time, process and think. And there is no pressure on me to "express" what it is I am thinking. I am not alone in feeling this way, but I find talking more stimulating than reading. So if reading helps me reach my goals, then why not?

It works for me. Try it. It may work for you too.

For HSP issues, I recommend bibliotherapy with Dr Elaine Aron. In doses. Don't overwhelm yourself and read in 3 months what she has taken 25 years to write.

This is Dr Aron's formal introduction:

Dr. Aron earned her M.A. from York University in Toronto in clinical psychology and her Ph.D. at Pacifica Graduate Institute in clinical depth psychology as well as interning at the C. G. Jung Institute in San Francisco. Besides beginning the study of the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity in 1991, she, along with her husband Dr. Arthur Aron, are two of the leading scientists studying the psychology of love and close relationships. They are also pioneers in studying both sensitivity and love using functional magnetic resonance imaging. She maintains a small psychotherapy practice in Mill Valley, CA.

But here is what is more relevant.

She discovered the trait. She is an HSP. She personally knows the trait's advantages and challenges. She has devoted the last 25 years and tens of thousands of hours with hundreds of clients in her practice and subjects in her studies. She has written books, has a private practice, travels the world for workshops and teaching seminars, does and publishes scientific research. And she does all this while being an extremely consciencious, sensitive woman.

Bottomline: In my opinion, there are few who know this trait (clinically and empirically) as well as she does.

I recommend following her work for HSP news and issues:

  1. Read the book - The Highly Sensitive Person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you.

  2. Subscribe to Comfort Zone.

  3. Comfort Zone is a kind of monthly newsletter (now blog posts) that has articles, updates and news about HSPs, shared directly by Dr Elaine Aron herself.

    Her posts are deep dives into the HSP trait. Many topics are new (not covered in the book) and while many others are explored more deeply than in the book. All this when the book itself is so revolutionary.

    E.g Comfort Zone includes her insights on specific topics that HSPs struggle with such as emotional regulation, making decisions, crying easily, HSPs and illnesses and much more. We even get to hear from Alanis Morisette (featured in the HSP movie) about her sensitivity - how it influences her creativity, and how she regulates her more intense emotions.


2. Therapy

Anxiety can be a difficult state. Depending on the severity of physical symptoms, you may need help with clearing the mental fog.

If bibliotherapy is not enough, and if you intuitively feel that you may (you don't need to know for sure) benefit from bouncing your reality off someone, consider therapy.

If you are an HSP who has (or had) issues around the misunderstanding of your trait, should you consider a sensitive therapist only?

Dr Elaine Aron writes about this too. My opinion is this. Consider someone who meets this criteria:

  1. Your therapist is sensitive enough to understand that you are sensitive.

  2. Get it? It means that even if the therapist is a non-HSP, (s)he is competent and trained enough to know that temperamental differences between people can, do and should exist.

    This means that you will not get a sense of being judged or labeled inferior/weak/disordered because of being more sensitive. And you will not get non-sensitive advice shoved down your throat without (atleast) the validation of your sensitivity.

    For example, "Why can't you ignore the hurtful comments?" versus "As an HSP, the comments hurt you with more intensity, but for your own sake and future goals, and if you agree, start building skills to get past these comments and investigate your relationship with these people."

    You are armed with your trait. That's your best news. That means you are better placed to sense the subtleties and vibes in the sessions, and it becomes more obvious (even if just to you) how the therapist feels about you, and you about him/her.

    Of course, you can also look directly for a sensitive therapist. But it's not like they come with a sign board. And it's not like sensitivity itself unequivocally qualifies the therapist as a good match for you. It's not as simple as that. Even within sensitivity, we are all utterly different.

    So the process will be dynamic and exploratory. Read Dr Aron's article for tips, and see the next point.

  3. Your therapist has a personality type similar to yours.
  4. Therapists can do a marvelous job pointing out the academic theories, research and evidence-based treatments. But the quality of your therapeutic relationship is almost always decided by how well you receive your therapist.

    End of the day, we are all unique individuals which means that what healing should look like and how healing should take place will be different for each one of us.

    I can tell you a little about me. I get very uncomfortable with doing therapy homework. I don't care for journaling, sharing in a group or attending workshops.

    Am I saying you shouldn't? Absolutely not. Am I saying I'm a fool? Absolutely not.

    What I am saying is that each one of us has a different style of healing. And most times, we do not know what it is. But time and exploration helps us figure it out eventually.

    Too many therapists insist on what the path of feeling, healing and recovery should look like for you. This is usually based on the therapist's own academic background, professional training and personal orientation.

    For example, unlike psychoanalysts, Cognitive Behavior therapists don't dig too deep into the unconscious or childhood. CBT wants you to quickly identify your thinking distortions and change them.

    Whether this will work for you or not depends more on you, your needs at the time and your style. If you haven't sorted out your childhood, CBT may feel as invalidating as your childhood did. You may also find it terribly frustrating when the CBT message to alter thinking does not seem to work so smoothly for you. And you won't be crazy. It doesn't work because unconscious, unearthed and unresolved conflicts from childhood interrupt your moving forward.

    On the other hand, you may not be ready to dig deep into childhood traumas and may need some quick and dirty tools to help with your anxiety's physical symptoms. If your therapist is not skilled and insists on talk therapy, you may be more traumatized from therapy itself than your childhood.

    All of this can be successfully navigated when the therapist is competent and skilled. Dr Aron says:

Be sure, however, not to place the particular method above the skill and personality of the therapist. Indeed, most therapists are eclectic and versatile enough to use the approach that will suit you best, and they can change approaches according to what is working. A good therapist will be interested in whatever you think will help you.

When it comes to therapy, follow your own intuition and reactions, and don't be afraid to go with the flow, change therapists and keep searching for the right fit. As long as you're committed to helping yourself, know that you're not a total fool and that you don't have to accept anything, if it doesn't make sense to you.

This means that when it comes to finding a therapist, take your time, take your chances and keep exploring, but settle on someone that is close to your own type and who is thriving. You both will then be a good fit for each other. The hope, and in turn healing that comes from finding a competent, thriving and supportive person, who is similar to you, is truly the foundation for your recovery work.

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