This is a group primarily for those who identify as Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). More broadly, it is for anyone interested in the topic. This is a space where HSPs can meet to discuss high sensitivity and what it means to them. We share our experiences, get informed on the trait, and sometimes get together elsewhere to enjoy life. There's a lot to share and learn.
A good way to understand the trait is to read the book "The Highly Sensitive Person," by Elaine Aron. Many other excellent books have also been published in the last 20 years.
What are the meetings like?
These days, we have three main kinds of groups: drop-in, book discussion, and outing.
The drop-in is for those who would like to socialize, get acquainted with the trait, or freely explore their thoughts and feelings. It's pretty relaxed. There's one every other Tuesday evening in Porter Square.
The book discussion group is focused on exploring a chosen topic in depth by stepping through a book chapter-by-chapter. These meetings tend to be more structured, although we can wander a bit at times. They give us a chance to share more intimate knowledge and develop ourselves at a deeper level.
The outings are occasional dinners and trips around Boston. It's a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening with friends from the group in a setting that we can all enjoy.
What is high sensitivity?
High sensitivity is a trait characterized by greater depth of processing, overarousability, emotional intensity, and sensory sensitivity. It is a fundamental aspect of an HSP's temperament and essentially a neutral trait with benefits and drawbacks. If HSPs understand themselves and manage their needs accordingly, life in our predominantly non-HSP world can be a lot less challenging than it would otherwise appear.
Consider the four characteristics. Depth of processing. We reflect more than others would about the past and future. We tend to find more meaning in our inner world and in our interconnectedness with others. It takes us longer to feel settled after a moving experience. Overarousability. We are more easily overwhelmed in stressful or busy situations. We get tired faster and have to recharge or take breaks more often. Emotional intensity. We have stronger emotional responses, both positive and negative. Sensory sensitivity. We have a heightened awareness of subtleties. "Loud" sounds, smells, lights, etc. appear louder than they would for a non-HSP.
Altogether, it seems that being highly sensitive is a package deal. Our intuition and emotional responsiveness grants us access to deeper insights and enables us to be moved more easily by friendships, art, and spirituality. But that openness also means we have to do more work to manage healthy boundaries that help us avoid overwhelm. Ironically, an overstimulated HSP can be one of the least responsive people you could interact with.
There are several challenges that HSPs face living in a non-HSP world. One is a feeling of being flawed or of having a disorder. High sensitivity is not a disorder. And it is not a flaw. Our sensitivity is a very significant gift if we can access its benefits and manage the drawbacks. An HSP who was taught, directly or indirectly, that their sensitivity was somehow wrong, benefits from reframing their life experiences in light of the trait and adjusting their lifestyle to suit who they really are. Another challenge relates to asserting our needs with those closest to us without feeling that what we are asking is unreasonable. Our nervous system is how it is and those who we choose to include in our lives should respect that.
Once we raise our consciousness about what it means to be highly sensitive, it becomes much easier to develop our strengths and feel well-integrated as individuals and as members of society. This Meetup is one of many places where we can explore who we are together.