The term “highly sensitive people”, from the English “highly sensitive person”, was coined in the 90s by the American clinical psychologist Elaine Aron, whose husband, Arthur Aron, is one of the authors of the script of the 36 questions that they have already asked two strangers fall in love.
Do you want to fall in love? Ask these 36 questions
The personality trait described as “neutral” gained popularity with the book namesake launched in 1996 by Elaine Aron – it has sold almost 1 million copies worldwide and has been translated into 17 languages - according to which it affects 15 to 20% of the world population. About 25 years later, work and author continue to be spoken, as is the case of this article from international Forbes that seeks to argue why highly sensitive people are the best leaders.
Another article, this time from The Wall Street Journal, explained in 2015 that “highly sensitive people” were having their moment, with the first international scientific conference to take place at Vrije Universiteit Brussel. It was further explained that a 2014 study by researchers at the University of California and published in the scientific journal "Brain and Behavior" had shown that "highly sensitive" people had more neuronal activity in specific regions of the brain when looking at the face of a loved one – this is compared to people with a so-called “average” sensitivity. Out of curiosity, both Kanye West as Alanis Morissette claim to be PAS.
But what are, then, “Highly sensitive people” or PAS (there is a test that helps you specify)? Dutch Karina Zegers de Beijl is the representative in the Spanish-speaking countries of the psychologist Elaine Aron and founder of Association of People with High Sensitivity in Spain (APASE). She is also the author of a new book dedicated to the personality trait that hit the national market in May by the publisher Esfera dos Livros. In an interview with the Observer, he explains the main characteristics of a PAS – people who in the past will have been called "timid" or even "introverted".
What is a “highly sensitive person”?
A highly sensitive person, as we understand it, is a person who was born with highly sensitive traits defined by Dr. Elaine Aron, who is a psychologist in the USA and who described this trait in 1990, at the end of the last century. It can be defined taking into account four major pillars, four major characteristics. One of them refers to the way these people process all the information that comes to them. It is a deep processing, they reflect on everything. For someone who is not highly sensitive it can be… boring. They are people who always want to know everything about everything. Because they receive a lot of information, more than others, they tend to be overly stimulated – if there is a lot of information coming in without enough time for it to be processed the way they do, PAS are overly stimulated because they get nervous and stressed .
These are the first two characteristics. And the rest?
The third is that PAS are basically quite emotional for good and for bad. They love beautiful things and are thrilled to look at things like flowers, a smile, a work of art. They can cry because of something beautiful, but they can also be sad very easily. The sad stories of others can affect them, especially at a time like this (referring to the pandemic). And they are distressed by these things because they feel the suffering as if it were somehow theirs – of course, one must learn not to do it, but that is the next step. The fourth aspect is that they are sensitive to subtleties, are able to notice small details, such as loose hair on the shoulder, a change of furniture in a friend's house or a painting that is not straight. You notice these things. They are also more easily annoyed by the noise, when other people don't notice anything, the PAS are able to comment "Why is it so noisy here?". The same with smells.
The term “Highly Sensitive Person” is first mentioned in 1996…
Elaine Aron discovered this because she was doing an investigation on introverts, but the way she asked the questions … the trait she was investigating, which she thought was introversion, also covered extroverts. That's why Elaine Aron thought this was a different thing and not introversion. Extroverted people can also be highly sensitive, which is not obvious in many people.
It's not a disorder, what is it?
The difference between a personality trait and a disorder is the frequency with which it appears. A disorder is something that is not at all normal. Just as 20% of the population may have blue eyes, 20% may be PAS. It is normal, there are many people. What makes the trait rare is the fact that people don't recognize it.