Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grounding and the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

In his wonderful website HSP NOTES, Peter talks articulately about what it means to be an HSP or a highly sensitive person. He talks about how life always seemed louder than him and the world “bigger, louder, more violent.” That’s probably the experience of everyone who identifies themselves as being HSP.

When I think of myself as a sensitive child, what I remember first is going to a crowded neighbourhood market in New Delhi, India – the kind of market that sits next to sets of DDA flats – with shops where you could buy groceries, with a tailor, and a stationery store plus a halwai or a sweet-seller. If you walked a little further down from these concrete shops, an entire road was taken over in the evenings by vegetable and fruit-sellers with their carts, the din of people haggling, pushing and shoving and jostling for space.

And somewhere between these two, a row of beggars – old men and women huddled under their blankets in the cold, hazy evenings. I remember coming back home and hiding to cry – there was so much suffering in the world, so much pain. And just by going out, looking at these poor people, I had absorbed it. There was nothing I could do about it.

So, a trip to the market when I was 7 or 8 became not something to look forward to, but something to avoid, something to get away from. It hurt too much.

That was one of my early experiences of my own sensitivity and my distress with it. It was a double-edged sword – this ability to feel others’ feelings. I valued my sensitivity as the best part of me. At the same time, it felt too vulnerable. I did my best to deny, minimize and distance myself from it. 

Avoidance became a strategy, so did numbing out. What I did not have early on and I think, what most HSPs don’t have, is the awareness of what our trait actually means. Of course, we know we are sensitive – we can’t help knowing that. But we don’t usually know in the beginning how to anchor ourselves or structure our lives around our own nature.

For a lot of us, this process of integration unfolds gradually as we discover the different pieces of the puzzle of who we are. For me, grounding has been a struggle. I’ve even struggled with the definition of the word – different people define it differently. But the definition that has been most useful to me as a sensitive person and an empath is in relation to electrics. Just like a wire is connected to a point deep in the earth so that excess energy will be discharged, grounding is essential for empaths to let go of the excess, harmful build-up of energy.

This can be done by getting back to the basics. Regular exercise – something as simple as walking – grounds us. It moves out the excess energy that has us spinning around like a top. It helps us flow clear again. Being aware of how to let go of excess also helps us move from avoidance to engagement. Knowing that we have a center to fall back on is reassuring beyond measure.  

What missing pieces of the HSP puzzle have you discovered? What do you still struggle with? 


  1. Now I know exactly what you mean Ritu... by your behavior.. how you'd react... innuendos.. I know what's an HSP..