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The Highly Sensitive Grown-Up

A highly sensitive person herself, therapist Heidi Gaspar feels that the trait is a delight.

Being highly sensitive certainly has its challenges but a glass-half-full approach lets me respond to opportunities. An Orchid-Dandelion metaphor by two psychologists in 2011 suggests two distinct sensitivity patterns, the more sensitive Orchids who do exceptionally well in ideal conditions and exceptionally badly in poor ones, and the Dandelions (the majority of the population) who are generally less sensitive and can grow anywhere.

I am a precious Orchid. Certain things are harder, but there are also incredible benefits. On the negative side, I find it detrimental to my mental and physical health, challenging and unpleasant to have many things to juggle.

Being around people with negative energy is arduous. Loud noises make me uncomfortable; if the TV is loud, it is like listening to nails scratching on a chalkboard. When someone observes me, I get nervous and perform worse.

On the plus side, as all my senses are on ‘full volume’, life provides me with joy, wonder and excitement in the simplest things. All of my emotions seem magnified and my inner world is very rich. Good music and art lift my spirits and travels through my entire being like a warm hum, like sitting by an open fire on a winter’s day. Eating is often exquisite. Smells are incredibly strong, like pregnant women may experience in their first trimester. Smelling a rose is blissful. Unfortunately, I cannot choose only divine fragrances!

I notice minute details, like when small things have moved, or someone’s new hair-cut. More importantly, I notice small unconscious gestures, attitudinal aspects, body movements and subtleties which help me to tune in to the whole person on all levels. These benefits are priceless secret weapons as a therapist. Being a highly sensitive grown-up is worth its weight in gold, just like every highly sensitive child is.

Heidi Gaspar has been working with mainly primary-school-age children as a counsellor and creative arts therapist for almost 10 years, in schools and privately. She offers art therapy from her private practice in Caulfield North, Melbourne.

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