Highly sensitive people are often treated poorly. HSPs are empathetic and creative and as a result do not easily fit into the Western cultural model. To many people, apparently our being different causes them to judge the highly sensitive person as a flake.

Not so fast!

Differences Between Highly Sensitive People And The Non-HSP

Highly sensitive people have nervous systems that absorb everything in their surroundings. The HSP nervous system is like a sponge taking in all forms of sensory information as well as nuances in the energy of the people around them.

So highly sensitive people are highly aware which is really a wonderful gift!

All of the information that HSPs take in needs to be processed. It has to be taken in, assimilated and dealt with. That means that  the highly sensitive person usually has to slow down to deal with and understand the information that they are taking in. Slowing down provides the highly sensitive person with the ability to conscientiously process information.

Non-HSPs do not take in the volume of information that HSPs do. Their nervous systems do not pick it up. Non-HSPs are often faster than HSPs. However in being fast, they are often wrong, too.

HSPs And Information

I am sure you have heard the expression, “Knowledge is power,” and there is some truth to it. It would be nice if we could apply it to HSP knowledge not just non-HSP knowledge. Apparently we cannot – yet. I guess what is defined as knowledge does not really apply to energy fields, psychic perception or empathic ways of knowing.

The highly active nervous system and right-brained orientation of HSPs causes them to take in different kinds of information. Therefore, highly sensitive people are likely to approach the world without the ideological frame for information that accompanies many non-HSP’s. They benefit from a holistic rather than linear perspective.

HSPs have a natural openness to the world because of their biological structure and natural empathy. It lets them see what is there rather than what they want to see. It gives the highly sensitive person a big picture perspective. That is a huge advantage in getting a handle on reality.

Non-HSP’s And Information

The non-HSP approaches things differently. The non-HSP nervous system does not recognize all forms of information. Whereas the highly sensitive person is sensitive to stimulus and energy, the non-HSP has a more linear approach to information and problem solving. Non-HSPs have a more short-term problem oriented approach to information.

The non-HSP has a cause and effect processing method that is often grounded in the material world, whereas the HSP is grounded in the energetic world. So often the two “worlds” will seem at odds or at least incompatible.

How We Grew Apart

There was a time long ago when HSPs and non-HSP’s worked together with considerable regard for one another, a time when the skills of both were appreciated.

When people lived in close contact with nature, our home, they needed every tool available to them. In tribal societies, people could not escape their considerable vulnerabilities.They had to be as mindful as possible about all aspects of their environment.

They listened to the wind, the sun and all aspects of nature. Their deep connection with nature was how they knew when they were at risk. Shamans, trackers and others gifted in energy perception were very important to the well-being of the tribe. Problem solvers were important as well. Having the ability to provide material support to the tribe where little material advantage existed was also valued.

In this environment, both the HSP and non-HSP worked together for the well-being of the community.

Of course, it changed. The material and tactical non-HSP ascended as we “conquered” nature, and highly sensitive people were devalued. As we separated ourselves from our natural home, many of us lost our ability to relate directly to the natural world of which we are a part. In a way you could say that we rejected our home and our connection with it.

Except, of course, HSPs who are gifted with a close connection to nature.

Who Is More Practical?

The non-HSP is often directed toward problem solving whereas the HSP direction is first toward understanding.

The left-brained, linear thinking approaches of non-HSPs have given them an advantage, which is that they have developed many tactical skills for problem solving. Those skills mattered when there were few of us and an abundance of natural resources to put to use to make life at least minimally livable.

Tactical skills are also very important when your life in danger and are also what we draw on to accomplish something. They are the “how” of accomplishment.

Tactical skills are great but they are NOT intrinsically practical. In fact they can be highly impractical if they are used indiscriminately. One example is the tactic of using medication to deal with human ailments. Used as a tactic whenever a symptom of illness or discomfort arises medication is not practical and just temporarily defers the problem. In fact it can be dangerous. The leading cause of accidental death right now is from medication.

Being a problem solver does not mean you know enough about a problem’s context to be wise in your use of your problem solving tactics.

Contextual thinkers are often the highly sensitive because their natural awareness gives them more information to construct an accurate picture of the context.

Understanding context means taking a holistic approach to a situation so that you can accurately describe a situation, where there is a problem, and what the problem is. Holistic thinking takes you out of reacting to people and circumstances. Rather than eliminating symptoms of problems, holistic thinkers seek constructive solutions not just in the short term but also the long term.

How HSPs Help The World

Highly sensitive people have been treated as second class citizens for a long time. However, as our world becomes more compromised by environmental and other crises of human life, it is apparent that the tactically oriented non-HSP has made a mistake in excluding us from the social and governing space.

As a species we need to develop ourselves so that we become as constructive as possible in how we live. We cannot afford anymore all of the collateral damage from poor living choices. The damage is piling up and drowning us. Highly sensitive people have the ability to help the human race to become more contextual and holistic in its approach to life, an ability that we sorely need.

Life has been defined as a war. It is time for us change that definition of life into one that is more sustainable. HSP’s are the people to make that happen.

What could be more practical?

About Maria Hill

Maria Hill is the founder of Sensitive Evolution. She is the author of The Emerging Sensitive: A Guide For Finding Your Place In The World. In addition, she has created the immersive Emerging Sensitive Program of "sensory processing yoga" using frameworks to help sensitive people master their sensitivity and turn it into the asset it can be. She also offers the Emerging Sensitive Movie Club focused on movies and discussions about living in the world as a sensitive person and navigating the challenging cultural shifts of our times. She is a longtime meditator, reiki master, student of alternative health and Ayurveda. Maria is also an abstract painter whose portfolio can be found at Infinite Shape and also very interested in animal and human rights and the environment.


  1. Christian on December 17, 2012 at 11:33 am


    Thank you so much for writing this. I am learning more about HSP particularly because of my focus on helping Introverts build success their own way. The more I learn about HSP the more I am convinced that there is an intersection of HSPs and some introversion My favorite part of the article was your explanation of how HSPs and non-HSPs grew apart and further how the HSPs have become devalued as I believe introversion has as well.

    The more we educate ourselves as to the positive attributes of all personality traits the better. It’s important to highlight that these are attributes that we are born with and should be proud of. Wealth and success seem to shine a light on the benefits of introversion and HSP (Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, etc) but the subtler, quiet people are either ignored or criticized for their temperament. Articles like yours will help to change this.

    Christian Marie Herron

    • Maria on December 17, 2012 at 11:50 am

      Hi Christian,

      Thank you for stopping by. I am glad that you liked the article. I think it can help to get some perspective on things; it makes it easier to feel more positive and less angry at the unfairness shown many HSPs. When we can keep some perspective we can see ourselves as part of a larger process of change in the human race and move forward in our lives.

      I think it is unfortunate when people argue over terminology too much. I consider myself an HSP and an introvert. There is a lot of overlap of characteristics and quite a variety in the way people manifest. I think part of the problem is word usage, since “introvert” is a more commonly used word and people are usually not familiar with the word, HSP. Introvert is often used in a social context when the HSP trait covers other characteristics not suggested by the word introvert.

      Congratulations on your work helping introverts. If I can be of further assistance, let me know. Be sure to join us in January for The HSP Experts Guide To An Empowered 2013. Identity will be one of the topics.

      All the best,

  2. Ryan on July 14, 2014 at 1:39 pm

    Hi, I read your blog often and I feel compelled today to say thank you.

    So…Thank you for what you do.


    • Maria on July 14, 2014 at 2:36 pm

      Hi Ryan,

      Thanks for stopping by to let me know. I love to hear that it helps.

      All the best,

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