The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron (Review)

The Highly Sensitive PersonAll virtues have a shadow.
— Elaine Aron

I feel like I’ve given a lot of three-star reviews lately, but alas here’s another one. I thought the first part of Aron’s book was great. She outlines a personality type that has frequently been seen as a weakness, while showing that it actually holds quite a few strengths. It’s relevant not just to people who consider themselves to be highly sensitive, but probably anyone who lives or works with someone of that persuasion.

Aron explains how highly sensitive people (HSPs) are quick to feel “wound up” by stimulating environments — whether that means lots of people around to talk to, places with loud noises, or rooms with bright florescent lighting, to name a few examples. Whereas non-HSPs are able to stay in (and enjoy) such situations longer, Aron notes that the they are less perceptive at reading people and reading a room, which can be very important in both work and social environments.

So the framing for the book and the first few chapters were really interesting. Unfortunately, I felt like Aron lost a little momentum toward the end, where the conclusions and advice became a bit predictable or even strange (the chapter on HSPs and spiritual receptivity was a little out-there). I got a bit bored and found myself skimming a little, but I do still feel like I was getting value out of the book overall even if I didn’t love every part.

It’s interesting that both this book (about highly sensitive people) and Quiet (about introverted people) talk about similar experiences and reactions to a world that just seems overwhelming at times. Yet both works specifically stated that they were not speaking about the other character trait. Maybe some of that is about carving out territory (introverts were already a fascinating subject for researchers when Aron was writing her book), but I’d love to hear more about high sensitivity being juxtaposed with introversion. I’d also like to know more about how being highly sensitive affects your life depending on the circumstances you’re raised in – I’m thinking about a kid of color growing up in a dangerous neighborhood who has trouble dealing with that stimulating environment versus a more privileged kid who might have resources to help him or her cope with the pressure of being an HSP.

All in all, The Highly Sensitive Person definitely satisfied the part of me that’s interested in psychology, as well as my questions about who HSPs are and how they function in our society.

3Stars23/5 STARS

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