(This is a post for moodscope.com but I’m putting it here first.)
Yes, I know, I’m all about the “highly sensitive souls” but please, indulge me here for a few posts about very sensitive people. I need to purge these from my own sensitive soul and then, I promise, I’ll not harp on about the personality trait, again.
Despite having known for quite some years that I’m very sensitive and despite the fact that I keep a blog site with the words “sensitive souls” in the title, I’ve only just these past few months read properly Elaine Aron’s book entitled, Highly Sensitive People.
It has validated a lot that I’ve always “felt” (for starters, it’s no wonder my posts are often all about the feelings), but it has enlightened me on a whole lot more besides.
For now though: what exactly is it to be a highly sensitive person? Here’s what it is to me…
I recently read an incredible article explaining why the camera could never, nor will ever, be a match for the wondrous design of the eye. You can read the article in full here but, in brief, Danny Gregory, an artist and author, expresses with clarity that, “a camera sees only from a one-point, locked perspective that creates a single image of a specific vantage point…,” as opposed to the human eyes which “constantly move about…Our impression of what we’re looking at is actually lots of different perspectives all blending into one undulating picture”.
In articulating all of this Danny explained what the Cubism movement was all about and it was this that gripped me. I’ve re-read it again and again:
“Amazingly our brains take all this information and instantaneously create a sense of what we ‘see’. It’s not a single picture but lots of different impressions that are all blended together. (That’s what the Cubists were getting at, trying to record all those different angles and perspectives into a single painting to simulate the way that we see. They were trying to show the distinction between how humans see and what the camera was introducing. People think of Cubism as abstract art but it actually was an attempt to be even more accurate about literally how we see the world.)” (Note to the Picasso Museum in Barcelona: if you had Danny Gregory’s article, especially the bit in parenthesis, up for visitors to read, I can guarantee that more money would be spent in your gift shop. To understand Picasso’s Cubist work (I never have) is to want to buy memorabilia of it. Trust me on this.) See Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’ here.
It finally hit me in the small hours one night why I found this cerebration so poignant. For me, it explained perfectly how it is to feel highly sensitive. In the same way that the Cubists were trying express how the eye sees in comparison with the camera, so too the very sensitive soul feels/sees everything as if in 3D; the length, width, height, depth. And trying to convey this can be very challenging. The result often being that the very sensitive soul is misunderstood, just as the Cubist’s art was.
I leave the house and I see, feel, hear; I absorb everything. The cornices, design, era of every building I pass; the character of people by observing their gardens, wheelie bins or recycling boxes; I see pigeons swooping down invisible hills in the sky; aircraft flying overhead; I hear a police siren getting closer; I feel the moods of people that pass me by; the skinny cat from down the road – ‘is it cared for?’; I smell freshly mowed grass, pot from a house I’ve just passed; and I could go on and on and on here.
I’ve always seen this as a positive trait: observant. For the first time in my life, however, I grasp why walking into a room full of people, people I may know well and love, can, at times, be totally overwhelming. It’s a stimulus too many. It’s overpowering and often something has to give: I’ll turn on my heels and head back for the door, or, hide in the loo until I feel I can make another attempt at joining the throng.
It puts me in mind of watching a film in which someone is losing consciousness. As he or she is fading, things become exaggerated to him/her. The music seems distorted, the person talking to him/her become a kind of grotesque, wide-mouthed creature, talking too much and standing too close.
You may have seen the enchanting mini-series ‘Lost in Austen’. There is a very affecting moment where Mr Darcy of Pride and Prejudice, slips through a time rip from 19th-century Georgian England and finds himself in the present day, bang slap in the middle of Oxford Circus (or some equally a frantic paced place in the capital), London. This is a jolting, over-stimulating, terrifying moment for him and its poignancy is never lost on me.
This personality trait makes no one any better, or indeed, any weaker than anybody else. And, as with any trait, there will be varying shades of it. Once again though, doesn’t it go to show how learning about ourselves can be helpful, comforting (I’m not a “a mess”, my senses are just more quickly aroused), and can assist us to become more successful in handling daily life?
Sensitive and successful? A post from me soonly.