This post was inspired by my invitation to take part in the HSP Awakening Virtual Summit (October 2023). It contained a range of talks looking at different aspects of high sensitivity and its implications in our lives. My talk was called Rewriting Our Story Through The Lens of Sensitivity. You can watch the replay here.
It clicked when I read The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. Maybe this was why I never seemed to fit neatly into psychometric categories and personality boxes (does anyone, really?)
Earlier this year, Jen Corcoran invited me to contribute to the summit, exploring how we can reframe our story through the lens of sensitivity. Reframing was a valuable part of my process of bringing awareness, understanding, and integration of the biological trait of sensory processing sensitivity.
I was naturally drawn to reframing as a way to learn more about the trait and reshape my relationship with experiences through life when I felt like I’d missed a meeting – or like I was an alien that landed on a world that didn’t make much sense.
The Five Necessities
In the book, Elaine Aron encourages highly sensitive people to do five things as we learn more about who we are in light of the trait…
1. Understand The Trait is Real
Sensory Processing Sensitivity is a biological trait that evolved and has been observed in over a hundred species. It’s not a personality type. It impacts how we perceive and process the environment and has obvious evolutionary benefits as an individual and collective survival strategy.
2. Reframe Your Childhood In Light of the Trait
Take time alone or with someone else to contextualise childhood experiences within the sensitivity frame. Notice times when you felt alive and connected and when the world (and its expectations/demands/values) felt alien and overwhelming.
3. Heal Past Wounds
Give yourself space and grace to process and heal from experiences you continue to hold in your body. The environment around us affects highly sensitive people positively and negatively (differential susceptibility). But the story is not written in stone. Things can change. Be patient, gentle with yourself, and curious about the possibilities.
4. Don’t Try To Fit In
You need time to absorb and process if you’re high in sensory sensitivity. The societal pace and rhythms are unlikely to support this because the noisy flow never ceases. Don’t try to live like the 80%. Instead, allow yourself space to explore your needs and design life (as much as possible) to allow your nervous system to stay regulated and connected in service of what matters to you.
5. Be With Other HSPs
Spending time connecting with another highly sensitive person or group of HSPs can be beautiful. It isn’t easy to describe, but a calming and creatively generative energy arises when we have permission to be. That’s what happens whenever we gather in The Haven.
What’s The Point of Reframing Through The Lens of Sensitivity?
Reframing gives us a way of reconnecting with who we are in the experiences and decisions we might have lost or neglected ourselves. It allows us to identify why we might have made particular choices and the autonomic nervous system context surrounding reactions in certain situations.
In essence, reframing is about healing the story we hold within. Allowing our sensitivity to rise and become part of the whole it belongs to. By reframing, rewriting, and reconciling, we invite the past into the present in a newly integrated way, so our many parts can work together.
How Can Reframing Help?
Reframing helps us develop new and fresh perspectives on past experiences. We might remember times when something in us felt out of place. Maybe something was going well, and someone poured a cold bucket of water on it.
Reframing invites healing and forgiveness (of ourselves and others). Forgiveness can allow us to let go of the grip our unprocessed stories might have on our present freedom.
Reframing gives us a way to recognise, accept, and permit emotions that used to be prohibited. We can begin exploring ways to feel them again. This can give us a light to help recognise and navigate the needs beneath the feelings we have previously learned to ignore and bypass.
Reframing brings awareness to our cues of safety, connection, and danger. By recognising how high sensitivity and the nervous system interact, we can create conditions for more regulation in and around our lives.
Reframing also shows us feelings, responsibilities, and tasks we have taken on that aren’t ours to cling to.
As part of the summit, I gave away The Gentle Rebel book and a reframing sound anchor, which both contain my reframing reflections. In the book, I took a light-hearted journey through Elaine Aron’s HSP self-test and applied them to some of my life experiences.