How frustrating it must be for people who aren’t highly sensitive to watch and try to interpret the behaviours of the highly sensitive!
My husband and I are always having a discussion about when is anxiety really anxiety when it comes to high sensitivity.
To discuss this here lets first define anxiety
A definition I found:-
“a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease about something with an uncertain outcome.”
I would add that when we are anxious we experience physiological changes in our bodies causing us to feel and think in a certain way.
The other day we took our son aplaca walking. I knew I was allergic to horses so don’t go horse riding but I thought I would test out alpacas to see if I was ok with them. I felt pretty good walking them so assumed I had no serious allergy. Then when we went back to the farm to return the alpacas, there was a horse standing between me and the alpaca enclosure! My first thought was “Oh if I get near the horse, it will nullify my alpaca allergy test.” So I stopped in my tracks and expressed my concern. I didn’t feel I had much time so I knew I would need to send some anxiety signals to people. This is quite simple. I just make my movements jerky and my eyes big. Inside I was as calm as a cucumber but nobody knew! Having deliberately moved 4 paces back from the horse I then calmly suggested to my husband he go and enjoy his cup of tea while I sit in the car.
I often use this anxiety signal trick. I use it when my husband says he is going to clean the bathroom sink with caustic soda! He says it has no smell but he clearly doesn’t have my brain! I have to alert him quickly that there is a problem and get him to take it seriously. My son uses this trick and probably learnt it from me. If a window is open and my son feels a fly may come in, he feels he has very little time to get the desired result of me closing the window. He has to react now and it has to be dramatic. “Oh no, the window – close it!” he squeals at the top of his voice. Or “Just get that crust off my plate!” He knows the crust won’t hurt him but something about it makes him uncomfortable so he has to send a signal. I know essentially he is calm because two seconds later he is smiling and chatty.
So my secret is out!! Me and my son turn up the drama deliberately to get our needs met. I don’t think this is dishonest though. It comes from a place of desperation, a sense of knowing just how hard it is for us to live in the world with all the sensory stimuli around us. And it saves us lots of explanations and lots of words and lots of time.
So next time you see a highly sensitive person seemingly over-react, look deep into their soul. Are they really anxious or are they just sending an anxiety signal to get the help they need?