By Ria Baker
Contributor to Normal Paranormal
When I was in college, my paranormal research society decided they wanted to have a series of lectures on “sixth senses." Our president, an avid reader of tarot, went on for hours about clairvoyance and clairsentience, thrilled to have the chance to talk about things that sometimes fall by the wayside when talking about the paranormal.
She briefly mentioned “HSPs” during her lecture, but couldn’t elaborate. In response to curiosity from the group, I took on the task of preparing for a lecture on Hypersensitive Personality. That’s when I found out I was an empath.
Not that I was empathetic.
Sure, my gift allows me to really feel the emotions of those around me – but it’s less a mental state than a state of being. I don’t have to actively think about how someone else feels – I just feel it, sometimes so strongly I can’t tell whether it’s their emotion or my own that I’m experiencing.
At first, my science major brain wanted to focus on the facts. The studies. The neuroanatomy.
Hypersensitives exist in small numbers across the world. Imagine a bell curve of emotional and environmental sensitivity. The majority of people have the normal level of social and emotional awareness. There are some, particularly those with personality or developmental disorders, who fall into the minority at the bottom of the bell curve, who are either unaware of other’s emotions or simply don’t understand them at all.
Logically, then, there should be a small percentage of people who fall at the opposite end of the spectrum- overly sensitive to emotion, environmental stimulation, etc. Carl Jung, the famed psychologist, called this group of people (less than 15% of the population worldwide) “innate sensitives”.
Many scientists believe that hypersensitive persons process sensory data more deeply than the rest of the world because of nervous system differences. This trait is present in other species as well, and is often confused with innate shyness, social anxiety, inhibitedness, social phobia, fearfulness, and introversion.
What people don’t realize is that HSPs come in all shapes and sizes.
A rare 30% of us are actually pretty normal in behavior – except for being inherently introverted, I seem completely socially adjusted. I am a friendly, talkative twenty-something, and sometimes have bouts of extreme extroversion, whereas someone else in my category might come off as painfully shy.
A lot of how we present to the world is influenced by other traits, such as resilience, attention span, and personal experience. My introversion is actually a coping mechanism for my hypersensitivity – others who are less resilient may need to shut themselves off from external stimuli in order to function normally. And not all introverts/shy people are HSPs, either.
Some of the things that set “sensitives” apart are that they are easily over-aroused by noise/light/sensory input, sensitive to subtle stimuli, emotionally reactive, and prone to deeply processing their sensory environment. In layman’s terms, an HSP is more in tune with everything going on around them than the average person. For people who are more prone to take in negative stimuli, the outside world can become a constant trial- for those rare “positive” HSPs, we take in positive stimuli as well. That’s why people like me are party animals with a good group of people, but then have to go home and sleep for 12 hours to recuperate – we are simply over stimulated. HSPs are known for being highly intelligent and intuitive, imaginative, thoughtful, and good with details.
They can unconsciously or semi-consciously process subtle clues in their environments, exhibiting a “sixth sense”.
Empaths are HSPs who are highly in tune with their sensitivity.
They can use it to read subtle cues from people and environments, and sometimes seem omniscient in their ability to know what’s going on or anticipate things. Empaths who are very strong in their abilities are able to use them at will, which comes in handy when dealing with other people, and with the paranormal.
I speak for myself when I say that being an empath/HSP is the coolest thing ever.
I was overly emotional as a child, sometimes extremely shy, and liked to spend a lot of my time in quiet, peaceful places. I’m the world’s biggest wimp when it comes to pain, heat, and cold, and I over-think things so well that I should get paid for it.
I am also an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs scale – INF all fit the HSP profile.
Introversion for me is my escape, letting me regenerate. Intuition is my empath gift at work. And feeling is my own depth of emotion. I took Aron’s 27-point Hyper Sensitive Personality Scale test while researching the personality type. I came out at 26, one of the highest possible scores, and it all fell into place.
Now that I know what I am, I am better able to cope with the side effects.
I study in quiet spaces, keep my room neat to avoid what my mom refers to as “my clutter anxiety”, wear sunglasses constantly, and carry painkillers for my frequent migraine headaches at all times. I deal with little annoyances immediately, knowing that if I let they build up I will become an unstable ball of emotions.
I avoid what empaths call “energy vampires” – people who drain our energy to sustain themselves (we all know someone like this; they are particularly drawn to empaths who can’t shut off their openness. I’ve dated a grand total of three).
As an empath, I read others extremely well.
I can read rooms, and I’m usually the first person to know when something is wrong in a crowd. I am still learning to use my gift, but it naturally comes in handy in both my career and personal life. People who know me think of me as a good judge of character, sometimes too kind for my own good, and extremely emotional. I pick up emotions better than most people- which often manifests as me bawling during speeches or personal conversations.
I’m easily overstimulated. Put me in a room with a lot of loud people, and I’ll be reduced to tears in less than twenty minutes from a splitting headache. This also goes the other way- when I am in a crowd of happy people, I have a blast, because I soak up all the good emotions. Repetitive noises and bright lights bother me more quickly than my friends, and I work best in complete silence. So, clearly, a rave is not the place for me.
My empath skill has also led me to be an asset in paranormal investigations.
Most psychics and mediums are hypersensitive persons – while I do not claim to be psychic, I do pick up on things most others miss. My openness draws activity to me. While investigating, I can sometimes pick up on faint activity or energy fluctuations, almost by “gut feeling”. I’m useful to my team during setup, since I sometimes intuit where we’ll get activity, or can tell them that the energy has changed in the room.
I’m a walking K-II meter with high voltage equipment, especially when I’ve already got a migraine.
I’ve experienced strange things during my years as a paranormal investigator.
My favorite experience took place at an old army fort, with a presence I’ve fondly nicknamed “The Private.” A young-ish male spirit, his energy felt sad and lonely, then excited when I began to speak to him. Our K-II meter went bananas in the space next to me – and around my hand, where I distinctly felt the touch of cool fingers.
My team and I stayed there for the better part of an hour, them asking questions and me simply open to my fullest, experiencing his personality. There was a pervasive emotion of long-held loneliness that was now being alleviated by our presence, so strong that I was fighting tears. Even with the lights on, I could feel the presence next to me, the way you can feel someone standing near you when your eyes are closed.
When we left, I felt him say goodbye, with such a happy, lingering demeanor that I was smiling like a fool for several minutes. I’ve always meant to go back, to see if I can find him again.
I’m the kind of empath who is constantly open – one of the reasons I resort to introversion is to protect myself.
When I’m on an investigation, however, it can become a liability.
The same night as my incredible experience with The Private, I found myself in an old prison cell on the site. The air was heavy, and I was uneasy from the moment I entered. My team was more relaxed, talking and joking, but quickly noticed my wariness.
While they talked, I sensed a dark, angry presence in the cramped space, and had the rare experience of actually hearing words in the energy. Expletives. Threats. Hatred. I started hyperventilating and my team had to practically drag me out.
I ended up blacking out for about ten minutes.
I later learned that just before my “episode” began, they all began to feel a creeping sense of dread. By the volume of the shouts I heard, someone definitely wanted us to know they were there, and didn’t appreciate our presence – I could hear the mutters, but it took raging screams for it to register with the non-empaths among my group.
I love being an empath. I love being a hypersensitive person. I wouldn’t change any part of what this means for me.
I enjoy my quiet moments in nature when I’m rejuvenating, my crazy moments in crowds at concerts where I’m being carried along on the momentum of the people around me, even knowing that I’ll be miserable the next day. I enjoy the sense of “other” when I’m surrounded by the paranormal, even when it’s terrifying, because it means I get to experience the good side as well. I love being able to read the people around me easier than an actual book.
If you think you’re an HSP, an empath, a sensitive, a special person… embrace it.
It makes you unique, and there are people out there who need us. Friends. Patients. Spouses, Clients. Family. They need us to understand them, and that’s why we’re here – to be touchy-feely… and so much more.
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