This is me ...

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We need to talk about SPS.

 

Sensory Processing Sensitivity is the scientific term for highly sensitive person, or HSP.

It's impossible to talk about my strengths as a creative without explaining what Sensory Processing Sensitivity is, how it has formed who I am and consequently the value I bring to a project.

I personally like to believe what can be backed by science, research and clinical studies. For the record, Sensory Processing Sensitivity is not to be confused with 'Sensory Processing Disorder' which is Autism. I am not autistic. Just want to put that out there.

So what does it mean? Well I'm genetically wired to notice and process information more deeply than 85% of the population. The Insula is a region of the brain that deals with processing complex information, in particular subtle information and it records greater activity in those with high sensitivity. I have a razor sharp intuition and am hyper aware of peoples' verbal and non-verbal communication.

What else? Well I am a human sponge for emotion. A little cluster of neurons called the 'Mirror Neuron System' fire up in my brain when I see emotions in others, causing me to literally feel their joy, love, pain or sadness and every emotion in between. A physical reaction occurs instantaneously. In a positive response soft, warm, tingly waves of bliss gently wash over me starting at my feet then, depending how strong my reaction is, move up my body, along my arms and at the height of the experience, reach my head and cheeks which is where I will feel it the strongest. All this happens when I witness genuine love in day to day moments; seeing an elderly couple holding hands, or someone expressing themselves through how they dress, witnessing a tender moment of affection between two people, or the pride of a grandfather as he photographs his grandchild or even just watching two dogs play together. The list is endless. Defined as a moment in time, it can be fleeting or linger but it is always heart-warming. This is how I respond with strangers so of course with loved ones the emotional intensity I feel is off the charts.

Obviously it isn't all sunshine and lollipops, FAR from it as the negative elicits equally as strong a response in me which has made life's journey everywhere from a difficult struggle right up to harrowing and painful experience. From I've wrestled severe depression, chronic anxiety and long-standing battle with self-hatred, thankfully I've won the war  Struggling to understand why I react the way I do when others don't has made me feel like an alien in this world but thankfully always having illustration to quell the raging seas of self-hatred and pain. I see, I think, I feel too much.

As a matter of emotional survival in this modern world, over the years has lead me to cut out 99% forms of media,  loud noises go RIGHT through me and I scare pretty easily. Being so receptive to even the most subtle of stimuli means I prefer quiet places and need a lot of down time. I love the energy I get from hanging out with the right people,  but I need solitude and quiet to recharge which sounds a little sad but meh I am

The most euphoric of all is when I can create an emotional connection between someone and my illustration. That might just top dogs...maybe.

over time I've learnt it's okay to be different, in fact it's even better.

which has been an exhausting life's journey .

Personally and professionally I consider all angles and consequences when making a decision, be they creatively-focused or just which pastry will actually make me feel like I've transcended space and time with its deliciousness. You know, life's  burners.  

Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a genetic trait that affects over 100 species from fruit flies, fish, cats, dogs, horses, primates to humans. Dr. Elaine Aron is a clinical psychologist and researcher who has pioneererd the study of the innate temperament trait of high sensitivity since 1991

As high sensitivity is a neurological trait, it affects all the senses

Loud noise from traffic, heavy machinery, a neighbour’s music or noisy work environments can present the biggest challenge for HSPs

If you’re an HSP then you’ll probably be used to comments like ‘you’re too sensitive’, ‘don’t be shy’, ‘what’s wrong, there’s nothing to be afraid of’, ‘you stick to yourself too much’, or ‘stop over-thinking things’. These are very damaging comments because they are invalidating; HSPs cannot change who they are. Telling an HSP to stop being so sensitive is like telling someone to stop being so tall.

They often have inquisitive minds reflect deeply and are introspective from an early age. They are easily affected by other people’s moods and so they may seem ‘overly sensitive’ to criticism or conflict. They may struggle to perform under pressure and will often try to avoid upsetting situations. They are conscientious and concerned for the welfare of others, and sensitive to the emotions of those around them they make attentive and thoughtful

type of survival strategy, being observant before acting

You are also more easily overwhelmed. If you notice everything, you are naturally going to be overstimulated when things are too intense, complex, chaotic, or novel for a long time.

This trait is not a new discovery, but it has been misunderstood. Because HSPs prefer to look before entering new situations, they are often called “shy.” But shyness is learned, not innate. In fact, 30% of HSPs are extroverts, although the trait is often mislabeled as introversion. The upside though is a vivid imagination and a depth of understanding that comes from paying too much attention.

 

They’ve often been told to stop being so sensitive or to toughen up. 

They agonise over decisions: as well as having great attention to detail, being more aware of consequences they also worry about upsetting others. “But they tend to make very good decisions in the end,” says Dr Aron.

 

*They’re people pleasers: because they’re so sensitive to criticism they tend to overcompensate. 

*They feel other people’s pain: “HSPs tend to have incredible empathy and will worry about others a lot and be in tune with how they’re feeling,” says Dr Aron. 

 In 1991 Dr. Aron made a breakthrough discovery: an innate trait of high sensitivity.

“Since then, her international bestseller “The Highly Sensitive Person” has been translated into 17 languages and her research is published in top-tier peer reviewed journals such as The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology and Brain and Behaviour, as well as replicated and extended by other scientists

 

ALL HSPs are creative, by definition.

“Many have squashed their creativity because of their low self-esteem; many more had it squashed for them, before they could ever know about. But we all have it, as I will explain.”

She points out: “One of the best ways to make life meaningful for an HSP is to use that creativity.”

“The simplest definition of creativity is the putting together of two or more things that no one (but YOU) would think to put together.”

“That is, something creative is something original. Usually we add that it is creative if it expresses a new meaning, provides a fresh insight, or proves useful.

“And we usually think of something creative as planned rather than chance, a conscious act, although that is not as important, because very little is chance.

“Usually it is the result of the unconscious or ‘serendipity’ after a person has worked on it awhile.”

“HSPs are all creative by definition,” Aron adds, “because we process things so thoroughly and notice so many subtleties and emotional meanings that we can easily put two unusual things together.

Being highly sensitive probably increases our vulnerability to anxiety. I’m sure that has been the case for me, and I have had varying degrees of anxiety for most of my lif

several successful historical figures were highly sensitive, such as Albert Einstein, Martin Luther King, and Steve Jobs.  I see this as great news, because it means us sensitive types aren’t inherently disadvantaged.