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The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N.…

The Highly Sensitive Person (original 1996; edition 1997)

by Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.

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1,14587,136 (3.89)27
Title:The Highly Sensitive Person
Authors:Elaine N. Aron Ph.D.
Info:Broadway Books (1997), Edition: Reprint, Paperback, 251 pages
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The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine N. Aron (1996)


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This is the second significant book I have read about HSPs/introversion (though this author doesn't like the latter term). I didn't get as much out of this as I did out of Susan Cain's excellent Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. There was rather too much about the raising of children, brain chemistry and other subjects for me. Also, I didn't care for the author's insistence that HSPs are almost a separate species of humanity. She sees HSPs as about 20% of the population, as opposed to Cain's introverts making up between one third and one half, so the subject audience of the book is not identical, though any of the same issues arise. While I self-identify as both an HSP and an introvert, I didn't get a great deal out of this book. ( )
  john257hopper | Jul 7, 2015 |
Or maybe I won't read it. One reviewer says that the author thinks atheists have warrior personalities - but what about people like me, both sensitive and atheist? Some reviewers laud the medical advice, some say there's not enough concrete advice of any kind but just validation. Some reviewers say Aron talks about being sensitive as a condition due to chemical imbalances, etc.; some say she says our sensitivity is inborn.

Ok, I could read this to get my own take. Or I could just skip it. I prefer [b:Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking|8520610|Quiet The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking|Susan Cain|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1328562861s/8520610.jpg|13387396] as it's newer, more inclusive, and addresses not just the 'victims' but the extroverts, too.

I will keep my eyes open for other newer books on the topic. And yes, in anything to do with brain science, new means within the last 2-3 years and does really matter.
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
I was skeptical about the existence of "highly sensitive people" before I even read the book and I still am. I am as skeptical about the existence of "introverts" and "extraverts" and as Aron states, only a few people can be clearly defined as either one. This, and because one third of the "highly sensitive" are "extraverts", I find it somewhat strange that Aron excludes all but introverted HSPs from her study. (Also, she says in the book that the extraverted HSPs can only relax when surrounded by people - and I am left wondering how it is even possible for such a person to survive and does Aron understand extroverted HSPs at all?)

Although I don't identify myself with HSP or introverts/extraverts (and I don't think it is even necessary to have such categories), I could identify with most of the description of HSP (I believe anyone could). However, I didn't find it helpful. Perhaps I read it too late, but I think I already have traveled further into my inner world than the book could take me.

Some of the irritating traits/parts in the book:

1) References to the age (under 2 years old) that no one can possibly remember. Yes, this is the age when we are at the most vulnerable, but as I cannot remember the time, I cannot make peace with the things that took place then. I can talk to my parents, but their view point is subjective and I know what they did, they did from their hearts, no matter how wrong things might have gone. So I would rather concentrate on things that I can do something about than mourn the past. Sadly, the book gave little for this.

2) The part where Aron tells how HSPs can learn to communicate with the world. Really? Earlier she had stated (several times) how HSPs are intuitive and have an urge to please others - combine these two and you won't have to tell an HSP what other people want to hear. They should know it better than anyone - even if they are stressed and cannot act according to their knowledge. Later in the book there is a part where Aron tells hints how to talk to a doctor - similar hints could be useful for a normal conversation as well. At least I find myself so stressed in social situations that I often forget what to say and I feel a need to retreat to think over what the other person has said before I can answer.

3) The "test" where you go over your childhood traumas. I cannot understand how anyone, HSP or not, would not suffer from childhood poverty or sexual abuse. If HSPs get "traumatized" easier (or just react more strongly) to negative things than non-HSPs, I think the test should have been modified to include examples that were not so extreme - something that others perhaps didn't even notice or laughed about, but shattered the trust of someone described as HSP. There were also other "extreme" examples throughout the book that pushed me back a bit: although this book was supposed to offer some condolence, these examples just told me (once again) that "no, you cannot feel like this (or like shit) because you didn't suffer any real trauma in your childhood".

4) There are several moments when I doubt Aron actually understands people and their different motives/drivers and their distinct backgrounds at all. For example, the above mentioned "test" asks if there were fighting in your home when you were a child. For me there was no fighting, I was praying for fighting for five years, I was praying for anything that would stop the deafening silence. I hate stereotypes and simplifications and there are lots of them in this book, although it states several times that not everyone is the same.

Overall, the book had a way too condescending approach for me, and I was left wondering how so many people claim that it has changed their lives. It didn't change mine, but it still gave me something to think about (at least enough to write this). ( )
  Lady_Lazarus | Feb 11, 2015 |
When today's frenetic world overwhelms me, I often find myself thinking of Willian Wordsworth to myself:
"The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!"

So, the subtitle of this book ("How to thrive when the world overwhelms you") had me buying a copy immediately.

Although, I found it hard to read and, at times, Aron's habit of talking to a Highly Sensitive "Inner Child" was distracting, there was much useful information included in this book, particularly in helping to identify whether one is or isn't an HSP. By the end of the book, I did feel more accepting that what I've always seen as my "silly neuroses" are rather symptoms of having more fluid psychic boundaries than some other people. My new mantra from this book is "boundaries take practice!"

Some interesting observations about how today's (Western) culture places a higher value on more aggressive, less sensitive types and how HSP's are more spiritually attuned (rather than bound by religion) made this a worthwhile read. ( )
  JudyCroome | Jun 9, 2013 |
When I read Aron's The Highly Sensitive Child about six years ago, the friend who'd recommended it said I'd really only need to read that one to get the main ideas of this one. I pretty much agree with her.

There were several things I found useful in this book. The first is a simple one. Aron suggests that, while we may be used to tensing our shoulders up by our ears even in sleep as an attempt to block out excess stimuli, we try situating our bodies in a posture consistent with relaxation. Even if we don't initially feel relaxed, if we move our shoulders down and back and center our heads over our shoulders and hips as though we were relaxed, our minds will gradually follow and calm down, too. I've found this to work for me to a degree.

The other really helpful thing is just to focus on the stimuli in my environment, trying to maintain a balance between very stimulating things and calmer things. When I become overwhelmed, I tend to lash out and yell. Then I bad-mouth myself for my lack of discipline or control and tell myself that I'm a bad person for yelling at my wonderful children. This new focus, though, seems to be more productive (surprise, surprise). Instead of trying to identify when I'm feeling angry (which is difficult for me), I try to identify when I'm starting to feel overwhelmed. Then, if I have enough presence of mind, I can look at the various stimuli in my environment and try to cut out one or more of them. Sometimes this means turning off the radio or asking my children to speak one at a time instead of making their requests simultaneously (you can guess which one of those is more effective).

Along with these helpful things, though, I found the book to be very repetitive. In addition, she uses a different definition of "introversion" and "extraversion" (her spelling) than the one I use (mine's more a Myers-Briggs definition about whether we get our energy from inside ourselves or externally, while hers seems to be more a matter of where we direct ourselves, which is a subtle but significant difference), so her discussions about HSPs in relation to introversion and extraversion were a little irrelevant to me. She also seems to go on a lot of tangents (something of which I'm guilty, too) and spends a lot of time really rah-rahing for HSPs, which feels a little unnecessary to me. Sure, talk up the positives of the trait, but I find a cheering section a little patronizing.

Aron puts a lot of focus on healing insecure attachments in childhood, to the point that one of her exercises is suspiciously like a re-birthing exercise. That's all a little woo-woo for me, but it might float someone else's boat. Oh, and the anecdote she tells about the highly sensitive child who grows up, goes to college, and hangs himself...yes, that was a little jarring and I think I'd kind of rather not have that story in my brain.

But despite all of this, I did find the book gave me insights into the kinds of things that overwhelm me and how to manage them in my everyday life. Doesn't mean I always follow her suggestions though. I mean, right now I'm trying to type a book review while sweating in a bathrobe that's way too warm and while one child is strewing paper clips all over and the other is yelling from the bathroom that she needs more toilet paper even though there's an extra roll just a couple of feet from the toilet. The stimulus I ought to cut out is the book review (or maybe the bathrobe, or maybe I ought to just give my child the toilet paper), but am I doing that? ( )
1 vote ImperfectCJ | Dec 31, 2012 |
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I believe in aristocracy, though - if that is the right word, and if a democrat may use it. Not an aristocracy of power... but... of the sensitive, the considerate... Its members are to be found in all nations and classes, and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding between them when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory of our queer race over cruelty and chaos. Thousands of them perish in obscurity, a few are great names. They are sensitive for others as well as themselves, they are considerate without being fussy, their pluck is not swankiness but the power to endure...

E.M.Forster, "What I Believe," in Two Cheers for Democracy
To Irene Bernardicou Pettit, Ph.D. - being both poet and peasant, she knew how to plant this seed and tend it until it blossomed.

To Art, who especially loves the flowers - one more love we share.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0553062182, Paperback)

Are you an HSP? Are you easily overwhelmed by stimuli? Affected by other people's moods? Easily startled? Do you need to withdraw during busy times to a private, quiet place? Do you get nervous or shaky if someone is observing you or competing with you? HSP, shorthand for "highly sensitive person," describes 15 to 20 percent of the population. Being sensitive is a normal trait--nothing defective about it. But you may not realize that, because society rewards the outgoing personality and treats shyness and sensitivity as something to be overcome. According to author Elaine Aron (herself an HSP), sensitive people have the unusual ability to sense subtleties, spot or avoid errors, concentrate deeply, and delve deeply. This book helps HSPs to understand themselves and their sensitive trait and its impact on personal history, career, relationships, and inner life. The book offers advice for typical problems. For example, you learn strategies for coping with overarousal, overcoming social discomfort, being in love relationships, managing job challenges, and much more. The author covers a lot of material clearly, in an approachable style, using case studies, self-tests, and exercises to bring the information home. The book is essential for you if you are an HSP--you'll learn a lot about yourself. It's also useful for people in a relationship with an HSP. --Joan Price

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:42 -0400)

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A national best-seller in hardcover, this book identifies and defines a new personality type -- and shows readers how to overcome its limitations and maximize its strengths.

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