Unmasking A High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person: Building The Foundation

So we’re continuing on with the D.O.E.S., an acronym for:

  • Depth of processing,
  • Overstimulation,
  • Emotional empathy and responsiveness, and
  • Sensory sensitivity

And exploring what I’ve been learning about how it relates to my HSP/HSS Trait. We've been exploring Depth of processing and Overstimulation. To read the previous blog post click here. Now we’re moving on to Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness.

I have to relate, my learning curve for this portion of D.O.E.S. has been the greatest and continues to be. Once I learned about the D.O.E.S. abbreviation and delved into each category more, I realized I had the most to gain by spending time and taking my time learning more about Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness.

Because after some thought, I realized that both my upbringing as well as western culture required me to mask and hide this part of myself; in essence “shut off” this side of myself.

If you haven’t read, “Unmasking: A Journey”, it is the journey that led me to learn I had the HSP/HSS Trait. And a lot of the symptoms of having the HSP Trait, that confused me along my journey, ended up being markers that allowed me to understand I had the HSP Trait. No. It wasn't straightforward. But well worth it.

Now, as relates to my HSP/HSS Trait and Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness; it's been an insightful realization that the geographical area and current society I live in aren’t particularly supportive for a person who has the HSP/HSS Trait.

And I’d been navigating the difficulties up until this point with no knowledge, tools or support with which to positively support myself and my trait.

So it wasn’t surprising to me that I'd been hiding and/or shutting off this part of myself. And I believe many other HSP’s have also done, and are doing, the same. In some respects I believe I did this as an automatic survival method, a way to survive, because intuitively I knew I didn’t have the knowledge or the tools to know how to relate with my trait, and particularly, Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness, in a beneficial, healthy way.

And what I’ve been realizing is what an incredible gift I was given - even while I was masking this gift. It’s a gift that has allowed me to grow and; experience the world in ways that most others don’t, ways that allow me to experience the full breadth of the human experience, ways that now, allow me to be open to new possibilities, and ways that allow me grow spiritually and personally. Ways that wouldn’t be available to me if I didn't have the HSP/HSS Trait.

But in order to survive I'd felt I needed to mask my Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness to a great degree, and in doing so, shut off or shut down all of the possibilities of this gift. And in realizing this I began the process of understanding the opportunity that was available to me now, the opportunity to begin the process of shifting. But before I could do this I had to admit something to myself.

Admit to myself that by masking my Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness, while I had protected this precious, beautiful part of me; I had also, at the same time, ignored this precious, beautiful part of me. And in realizing this I understood that this part of me was still child-like, and hadn’t matured and developed. I had kept her safe but imprisoned. And while she was safe and protected, she also hadn't grown or flourished. And that now, this was my responsibility. And it was something I needed to address. Something I needed to work at.

But how could I do this?

And here again, is where my HSP/HSS Trait led me to an answer, because creativity is one of the gifts HSP’s have been given. There are always answers and solutions.

This is a poem I found that illustrates it well.

Creativity is The Mother of Invention: Poem on Life

The world in which we live in
This beautiful place which we belong to
It’s so beautiful and so colourful
But we always lack to see beauty of it
and we continue to live the life which is so regretful

This is the one life we have
We have to live it to the fullest
Not with happenings or desire of others
But with the intention which truly inspires us. 

We have to live this life
We have to create this life
This life is ours and only ours
We need to realize this first

It’s said that creativity is the mother of invention
But it depends solely on individual intention
If we are clear with our own destination
It doesn’t matter then how much we got rejection

Live this life as if you are the King
Spend the luxuries as if you are the Queen
It all starts with only the Intention
If we just keep on thinking
Then there is no end for this perspiration. 

By Sha Azam Siddiqui 


So, I began using my creativity by visualizing this side of me - my Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness. I began lucid dreaming about this side of me.

Because I needed to get to know her, understand her, have empathy for her, and provide her with an environment where she could flourish and grow. But first I’d have to be willing to accept her - to accept whatever condition she was in currently.

And this is where I started.

When I first went to visit her she lived in a basement. I knocked but knew she either couldn’t or wouldn’t open the door. So I opened it slowly and stepped inside. Once inside the door I gently closed it and stood quietly.

And then I saw her.

She was about four years old with wild, matted brown hair, a dirt smudged face, wearing a ratty-looking, worn, stained yellow dress with small red flowers on it. Her feet were dirty and bare, as were her surroundings. She looked malnourished.

And she seemed feral. She snarled and spit, hid and darted. She was wild eyed.

Sudden moves weren’t a good idea around her. And, like a cornered animal; she was dangerous. I hadn’t brought anything with me the first time. No gifts. So I simply lowered myself to a sit position and sat still inside the front door and bowed my head.

At times, when I hadn’t heard movement for awhile I would tentatively look up to see where she was, to see if she was looking at me, and she was. Gazing at me warily, crouched behind a chair or the table. But even this action caused her angst, and I watched a myriad of emotions of various strengths run across her face; fear, anger, resentment, curiosity, and glimmers of hope. I would smile slightly, not showing my teeth and bow my head again.

This broke my heart. Seeing her like this.

And I knew it would break my heart when I made the decision to contact her.

But I also knew that, at times, a broken heart is part of the journey, and is beautiful in itself, like kintsukuroi.

And while I was thankful and overjoyed she wasn’t physically sick or dying, I could now see the effects of what I’d done; the effects of protecting her and keeping her safe, the effects of neglecting her. That was my first experience with her.

And I realized just how much work I needed to do to earn her trust in order to help her grow and flourish.

Now knowing where we were at, I began visiting her regularly, bringing her gifts of food and flowers and once a puppy, a young, friendly Pit Bull to keep her company and play with. She named him Oscar after a few months. I don’t know why.

Eventually she would grunt at me begrudgingly when she opened the door, after I’d respectfully knocked, holding an apple or an orange out to her, my head bowed, looking at the floor.

I began reading her stories, then later brushing the mats out of her hair. I sang to her, played games with her, told her jokes, and would happily sit at the table colouring books with her. I spent quality time with her. When I left I told her I’d be back, and exactly when I’d be back and I kept my promises.

And slowly she began to trust me, even though she knew I was the reason she had suffered.

It took time, patience and effort.

And later, as I gained her trust, and after many more visits, she met me at the door with a smile on her face. And much later still, she met me with a tentative hug, and after many more visits, with wholehearted hugs.

I also noticed the place where I would go to visit her slowly began transforming from a dingy basement with a small amount of filtered light through the dirty paned windows – into a bright, spacious cottage made of wood logs with many windows, clean and clear. Colourful throw rugs litter the floor. And the puppy is now an adult who patiently puts up with the three cats she now has, who often use his coat to knead their paws on while they purr loudly.

Her cottage looks onto a small field of wild flowers surrounded by a forest of birch trees and a river runs on the far side of it. She has a horse now too. Sometimes the horse is in the cottage. Often I find her riding her horse bareback in the field of wildflowers – her head thrown back, laughing into the wind as the sun smiles on her face. She’s about eighteen years old now.

And in this way I began connecting with this precious part of myself, my Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness, by beginning first with recognizing what I’d done to this part of me, that I’d had to do. That I had to first recognize it, accept it, forgive myself for what I’d had to do, and then begin making amends and friends with this part of myself.

I knew I couldn’t hope to grow and continue learning unless and until I began giving myself the compassion and empathy I’d been giving to others up until this point. And I knew this to be an important part of my soul’s journey in this lifetime.

And doing this has helped me greatly. It’s helped me put this part of myself first, before others. Not that I’m not capable of putting someone else first, depending on the situation – but I do this now with a spirit of more discernment, a spirit of understanding and acceptance, a spirit of peace. Because I know the more compassion and empathy I have for myself, the quality and quantity of what I do give - is that much richer.

I’ve also been noticing a difference in the “feel” of the “giving”, the depth of the giving. There’s a different “energy” to the giving. And there’s an understanding that giving and receiving, like tides in the ocean, have a flow to them, a rhythm, a drumbeat, a heartbeat.

The “giving” no longer feels ‘draining’, like it did before. And the “pulling” feeling no longer feels so much like a “pulling”, but instead like a question mark – an invitation I can accept or not.

It’s like having two glasses in front of you. One is smudged and dirty and when you hold it up to the sunlight you strain to see through it and despite this, can’t really see through it. The other one is clean and clear and when you hold it up to the sunlight you can see through it easily.

For some this lucid dreaming method I’ve chosen to use to connect with and feed my Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness would seem like a healing method. I don’t know. I don’t pretend to be an expert on healing, but simply a human being who continues to adhere to the fact that my soul came to this place to grow, learn and be open to my soul’s purpose.

That, in itself, I’ve found can at times be a daunting task. But if I’ve learned anything at all about myself throughout my journey so far, it’s that I don’t lack courage. But courage is a muscle and must be exercised if it’s to grow strong.

I thought it important to share with you how I’ve been laying the foundation to support my HSP/HSS Trait, and especially my Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness. Because I realized at the onset that I wasn’t starting from square one. I actually had to go further back than thinking I could just start with looking at this part of me in a clinical, analytical way. That I needed to begin doing this intuitively - in a heart-centered way.

A way that “felt” good to me. Not a way that I “thought” would be beneficial.

This is in opposition to what I’ve been taught as well as what parts of my trait want to access. As an HSP I know I’m inclined to analyze, inclined to rely on data or information in order to make a decision or arrive at a conclusion. And in our current society we rely heavily, too heavily in my opinion on data. And I knew, in this case I needed to do the opposite. In this case, the opposite was required. I needed to do what was good for my heart and soul. I needed to let my intuition guide me in this direction.

So on that note, now that you have a bit of background on the type of work I’ve been doing with respect to Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness, the next post will be addressing what I’ve been learning about Emotional Empathy and Responsiveness and my HSP/HSS Trait by going through the following questions;

  • Are you deeply affected by the emotions or moods of others?
  • Do tragedies affect you intensely?
  • Are you deeply moved by music, movies, theatre, art, books?
  • Can you tell when others are not being genuine or are hiding something?

I'm giving you the questions ahead of time to see if you'd like to join in this exercise, noting how your HSP Trait shows up for you in relation to each question, and how your HSS shows up for you in relation to each question. I'll be updating this blog in two weeks time, and as always I'd love to hear from you to see if your HSP/HSS Trait shows up differently, or in some ways the same, than it does for me.

To read the next blog post click here.