Who Are You Calling Sensitive?

Pop quiz, hotshot — are you a Highly Sensitive Person? Psychologist Elaine Aron has found that about one in five people have extra-sensitive nervous systems. She’s also found that around 70% of HSPs are introverts. Take her self-test and find out if you qualify, and read on to see how the Moms scored.

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KathyWhen I took the Highly Sensitive Person quiz, I had the kind of “Ohhhh!” moment a lot of people seem to have when they read Quiet. Now I’m realizing it’s not just that I get drained after being with people (because I’m an introvert), but that too much stimulation of any kind (activity, noise, touch, taste, smell) can also do me in.

Now let’s see, what things in my life might have that combination?

Oh right, parenting.

I think it helps explain why the baby phase was so overwhelming for me, with the lack of sleep, hormone insanity, and sharp increase in physical contact all packed into such a short time. I think it solves the mystery of why I rarely wanted music on in the house for the first few years of Doodlebug’s life. I think it reinforces my policy of shopping on my own, without Doodlebug, as much as possible.

It helps me understand my family dynamic better, because when I asked iDad to take the quiz for himself, he only checked a few boxes. Now I get why he doesn’t need to hide in a dark room after a day at the kite festival or a trip to the pool.

And it helps me be a better parent to Doodlebug, because when I did the kids’ version of the quiz for her, she seemed to fall into many of the categories as well. Even before I’d heard the term HSP I’d learned to be highly sensitive to her sensitivity – I watch for signs that she’s getting overwhelmed, I build downtime into her day, and (when possible) I don’t push her to do more than she can.

In her book The Highly Sensitive Person, Aron repeatedly points out that being highly sensitive is a two-sided coin – we notice more, but it affects us more quickly. So fine, I won’t ever be the kind of parent who can take her kid on nonstop wild, crazy adventures and come back for more. But if I can help Doodlebug realize what situations are overwhelming for her and why, and help her think of strategies to handle them, then that sounds pretty important to me.

Plus I have a really good argument for why iDad should handle all future Chuck E. Cheese birthday party duties. HaHA!

— Kathy

tiffany_head_128Princess Slim and Señor Lunchbox are suddenly into the “Toy Story” franchise.  We recently watched “Toy Story 3”  and holy shit, y’all. This is probably the most disturbing kid’s movie I have seen in a long time. It seemed to me an unpleasant and frankly scary mashup of George Orwell’s book 1984 and the more sinister aspects of the 1963 film “The Great Escape.” Not to mention Big Baby reminded me of  Pinhead and that damn clapping monkey is straight out of a Stephen King’s short story published in 1985. Had I realized these images and themes were in the film we never would have watched it. The larger question, however, is why did this movie upset me so much? Particularly the part where the toys are sliding down towards the incinerator towards a potentially fiery doom. Seriously, Pixar. Not cool.

Upon further reflection I observed that for many years I have consciously avoided super-violent books, movies, and television shows. The associated imagery is simply too upsetting and difficult to process. OK, you say. So what?

When Kathy first told me about the “Highly Sensitive Person” quiz I was skeptical. I re-read the portions of Susan Cain’s book Quiet dealing with this area of research. Still, I didn’t completely buy it. Then I took the quiz.

Well, duh.

Suddenly my aversion to violent media made more sense. So does my sensitivity to caffeine, general jumpiness (don’t ever jump out of a closet at me.  EVER.), and a whole host of other personality traits. All combined I’m pretty much the textbook definition of a HSP. I took the children’s quiz also and so far Princess Slim possesses a few of the HSP traits; Señor Lunchbox demonstrates some as well, but honestly, his personality is still cooking and I swear he’s a different creature from one minute to the next.

Parenting and all its sights, smells, and sounds is therefore clearly a body slam to HSPs, particularly during the first few years.  Dr. Aron’s resources, however, have already helped me to recognize and, more importantly, to manage these traits in myself and the kids. Corny as it may sound, the quizzes have enabled me to get to know them a bit better, and even a basic awareness of these characteristics can shorten a tantrum or soothe a hurt. Further, this article reminds and helps HSP parents play to their strengths.

These little tidbits are also yet another reminder to pay attention to yourself. If you are overwhelmed, frazzled, or fried by someone else’s anxiety unfortunately for HSPs all this trickles down to your kids, who can see and sense it just like mini-clairvoyants. Stop, breathe, and find some quiet. Things will settle if you allow yourself time to recover.

And for me, recovery includes deleting “Toy Story 3” off the DVR.

— Tiffany

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