The Creative Power of the Highly Sensitive Person
Lessons from nature, literature, and music
Posted June 1, 2019
For Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), the world feels like water. When a stone is skipped on the surface, we pick up the biggest and faintest ripples and enjoy the patterns and symmetry of nature, the multi-faceted frequencies of feeling.
These reverberations can also feel quite disruptive, especially when others around us toss too many stones at once, or, worse yet, minimize or ignore the fact that stones are even being thrown in the first place.
It’s not uncommon for a non-HSP to complain—“What’s the big deal?” or “Why are you making such a mountain out of a molehill?"—underestimating the delicate and powerful interconnections between inner and outer forces.
Non-HSPs often don't notice the metaphorical stones or their wake. If they do, they might blithely dismiss it as too trivial to really matter. Feelings, like electricity, are invisible, after all.
When I was a boy, I was terrified of the ocean—of its vastness and its power, its sheer capacity to swallow me up. For many years, I thought it was an unreasonable weakness, a shameful lack of capacity to be free and independent in the world.
Looking back on it now, I see it as a recognition: what’s outside (the waves) is inside (our mercurial emotions), and what’s inside is out there too. The world is always intermingling with us, and if we don’t find our balance, we are truly at its mercy.
When this universal truth isn’t acknowledged or honored, things don’t really feel safe. Moreover, if we can’t smoothly connect inside and outside—or are told to deny the magnitude of these forces—we can easily be swept up in the waves.
While this applies to all of us—even the best swimmers can be taken in by a riptide!—it's especially true for HSPs. Temperamentally, we feel things more intensely and perceive them more keenly. In so doing, we notice the fragile balance in the complex ecosystem of sensation and emotion—a world whose territory is best charted by poets and novelists.
Without good mentoring, this HSP quality can be downright confusing—is this me, is this you, or is this the world? There’s so much coming into the system that it can be tricky to differentiate and navigate. It takes experience, time, and wisdom to arrive at Emily's Dickinson’s conclusion that: “The Sailor cannot see the North but knows the Needle can.”
It also takes good mentoring and apprenticeship with other HSPs to learn how to "read the changes" of the complex dissonances you are privy to, to learn to appreciate the music in the seeming cacophony. Seen from a whole new angle, HSPs are actually blessed with an enriched capacity to find and discover new forms, the quintessential attribute of creativity.
The good news is that when you find your compass points and start to hear the music in everything around you—like so many HSPs do!—you can, like William Blake observed: "see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wildflower, hold infinity in the palms of your hand and eternity in an hour. "
So yes, the world is a bit more permeable for HSPs, a bit more mad. Even with all that, I’m still with Jack Kerouac on this one:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!””
So this summer, you’ll find me enjoying the waves.
As an HSP, I’ve learned to have both reverence and gratitude for the water, and truly appreciate what it has taught me about who I am and who we are.
Hope it helps you and your fellow HSPs savor the season just a bit more too!
Aron, E. N. (2017). The Highly Sensitive Person. Place of publication not identified: Harper Thorsons.
Blake, W., Yeats, W. B., & Paulin, T. (2002). William Blake: Collected poems. London: Routledge.
Dickinson, E., Wilder, T., & Jennings, E. (1991). Emily Dickinson: Collected poems. Philadelphia: Courage.
Kerouac, J. (2018). On the road. London: Penguin Book.