Why are we sensitive? Where does it come from?
In 1996 Doctor Elaine Aron published a book, The Highly Sensitive Person: How to thrive when the world overwhelms you. In it she claims from her research that about 15-20% of the population is born with a more sensitive nervous system.
This includes the people who pick up on subtle details in the environment and from other people; the empaths and, often in turn, the creatives, healers and caregivers of the world. In our culture they might be seen as the wusses, the overly sensitives, the people who take everything personally.
All of this, Aron states, is due to an innate trait that we are born with. To many, me included, this research and perspective is a huge sigh of relief. We were born this way. This is not something we can just turn off or ignore.
The question becomes why. Why were we born this way?
Aron mentions a correlation to community preservation as part of why some are innately more sensitive - and others not. High sensitivity means heightened environmental awareness which leads to an ability to notice danger; it also means heightened emotional awareness which leads to an ability to mediate conflict and create peace. In both cases, it helps to ensure mankind continues to thrive.
In my studies of development in utero and early childhood, I learned that we all have reflexes - involuntary movements that occur in response to stimuli - that arise during certain stages of development and, ideally, become integrated.
A common one is the moro or startle reflex: When an infant is startled by a sudden movement or other stimuli their limbs stretch out and then contract.
Another that many recognize is the rooting reflex: When you touch the side of a baby’s mouth they automatically open their mouth and turn in that direction in order to help us latch onto the nipple for nourishment.
These are just 2 of many reflexes that occur naturally and then are meant to integrate over time so that as adults, if someone brushes the side of our mouth we don’t turn our head with an open jaw (or maybe we do, but it’s our choice!).
One theory of where a more sensitive nervous system comes from is that something in the womb or very early on in our development interrupted our integration of these reflexes. As a result, we still startle easily and feel over stimulated by certain inputs.
This idea of interrupted development leads to another contributor to sensitivity: Trauma.
Whether in our early childhood or later in life, incidents of trauma put our nervous system into a heightened state of self-protection and preservation.
I do believe that we are born with a certain nervous system, a certain genetic code, a biological makeup and a spirit unique and specific to us. All of the above provides a foundation of who we are and who we can be.
I also believe that our experience affects how this foundation grows, develops and expresses itself and that when we become conscious of our own patterns and innate tendencies, we can then support, love, rewire and heal in ways that enable us to thrive within and beyond our foundation.
Above all, no matter how we came to be more sensitive beings, our sensitivity is not something to be ignored or forced out.
We all have gifts, strengths and abilities - sensitivity being one of them - and it’s up to us to love and accept who we truly are and then give ourselves the support we need to thrive!
If you found this interesting or have additional questions or comments, please share your thoughts with me below.
If you are intrigued and would like to hear more on this topic, click here or on the image below to watch a 12 minute video on my thoughts about where sensitivity comes from.
No matter the theories, keep honoring who you are and growing into who you desire to be.
The world needs your light.