The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron

by stephenpalmersf

This book is related to Susan Cain’s Quiet, which I first read about five years ago, and which I recently added to my Inspirational Books category. The Highly Sensitive Person was written a decade and a half before Quiet, but it is a sibling book; and it is mentioned a lot in Quiet…

Elaine Aron is the research psychologist who reframed the rather negative interpretation of sensitivity as “reactivity” or similar, so that a more compassionate attitude could be taken to people with the trait. The highly sensitive person has no choice about their stance. Sensitivity is a matter of brain biology and chemistry. My own experience suggests there could be a genetic element, i.e. it could run in families, if only as a recessive characteristic. But whatever the sources, being highly sensitive is both a blessing and a curse.

The book opens with a call to change the sense that something is wrong with the highly sensitive person into something being right (or at least, okay). The trait is analysed in itself, then in infants and children, before the author tries to reframe it in the context of making your way in the world. Highly sensitive people have character traits – for instance a need for peace and quiet, for reflection, for solitude at the end of a long day – which most other people either don’t want or don’t understand: Aron estimates that around 15% of people are highly sensitive. She goes on to explore shyness, the highly sensitive person at work and in relationships, and in life generally.

Later chapters focus on counselling and even medication, and here the book does get a little “American psychobabble” for my taste, although that could just be my reserved Britishness coming through. But the author’s heart is in the right place, and she’s spot on with most of her observations.

This is another great book for people who find the world overwhelming a lot of the time, who need space and peace and quiet nature and periods of solitude. It is written with much compassion and understanding.