Monday, September 14, 2015

Some thoughts on Sensitive - The Untold Story.

Like countless other people, I tuned in last week to see the premiere of Sensitive - The Untold Story on Livestream. The trailer for the documentary had felt loud, so I wasn't sure what to expect. But overall, I liked the content. In fact, I got very emotional at certain points. 

While there are many vibrant online communities for HSPs, being able to see and hear other HSPs talk is not something I get to do often. That felt very affirming, and I am so happy that the next generation of sensitive people will have this resource to turn to. 

I especially liked that they covered a wide range of HSP stories. They talked about HSP relationships, including interviews with some wonderful non-HSP parents working to understand their HSP children. They talked about extroverted HSPs. They featured an HSP basketball player, an HSP entrepreneur, an HSP working with sensitive dogs (every species has both sensitive and non-sensitive members in roughly the same percentages). 

They covered different HSP voices in different places in the world. And of course, they talked about Dr Elaine Aron's seminal work. Her work was the main thread binding it all together. Her perspective and the stories shared by different HSPs helped present a balanced view of the HSP trait. 

On one hand, the documentary talked about the wonderful responsiveness that HSPs have. On the other, they also talked about differential susceptibility - the idea that different people vary in their responsiveness to qualities of the environment. So, while HSPs benefit even more than non-HSPs from a wonderful environment, the opposite is also true. Bad experiences seep deeper into sensitive people. If you are an HSP who has had a traumatic experience, you will have to fight harder to get out of it. It will leave an indelible impression on you. And yet, the good news about being highly responsive is that once you get help to deal with what has been holding you back, that good energy and effort will also go deep inside. 

Both good and bad affects HSPs, and to me that is the balanced perspective on being a sensitive person. Depending on the situation and so many different things, being an HSP can be many different things. I think this is also a reminder for us to pull the right things towards us, the things that nourish us deeply, the things that we often don't give ourselves because other non-HSPs don't seem to need it or give it importance. 

Another thing that stood out for me was the discussion that parts of the brain associated with fear are not triggered when sensitive people enter a new environment. We are approaching the new situation with caution, not fear. At some point, for many of us, the caution gets overlaid with the label of fear that other people give it. Sometimes, a real fear gets added in to the mix. 

But it is important to remember that  pausing before acting is a way of approaching the world. It is not fear. It is consideration. But many of us may have gotten such mixed messages about our style that we might have started discounting it ourselves. For me, there have been a lot of times when I have tried to make myself act before I have considered things. That seemed to be the respected, proactive way. But that meant that I did not consider and then fell flat because that was just not my style, just not my way of being. 

Are there ways in which you try to act like non-HSPs? How would owning your trait help you? How could it help you nourish yourself? 

This caution also reminded me of some sensitive children I know who are cautious when they interact with strangers and people they don't know. Once they have determined that the place or the person is safe, they are not shy about interacting. But that reminds me of how easily the label of "shy" can be applied to a child who is simply considering, observing and looking before opening up or joining in. 

For parents, I think it is so important to see that their HSP children often don't start off "shy." They might become shy if their way of being is not understood or appreciated. 

There were other things that came to my mind when I watched Sensitive. Maybe, I will write about it in some other posts. 

There were some stylistic things that I didn't like about the documentary. For example, the way the logo appeared or the camera-work that felt frantic at certain times. I hope the dissonance with the aesthetic elements does not discourage HSPs from seeing or appreciating the documentary. 

It has a lot of good stuff. It wipes the mirror and helps us connect with other people, somewhere out there, that see and experience the world as we do. It takes us home to a space we often don't find in the environment around us, a space that "gets" us, a space where we don't have to explain who we are or feel misunderstood. 

It gives us a sense of connection and community, and for that and many other reasons, I think this pioneering documentary is a wonderful leap forward for all of us. 

Did you see the documentary? What did you think of Sensitive - The Untold Story?   


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  2. Hi Ritu, thanks for sharing your thoughts! I thought the film was great. I really appreciated the quality of it (other than the voiceover which grated on me!) Totally agree, the research about novel situations and how when you might expect to see fear and anxiety because the person pauses before acting. That's insightful, especially when we then consider the cultural issue that emerges afterwards as we place labels on that behaviour. We turn a natural survival instinct into a cultural problem and suppress it by calling those who display it 'shy' 'afraid' 'withdrawn' etc. I'm excited at the prospect of more research like this coming out!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts :)

    1. Glad it connected Andy :) Yes, it was well-made! Yes, we do turn a natural survival instinct into a cultural problem...hopefully, with more research and more common understanding of the trait, things will shift even more for HSPs.

      Thank you for sharing what you thought!