The discovery of a new kind of human being
Author: Birgit Trappmann
The author studied high sensitivity scientifically for many years and associates it with two different modes of perception. There is the analytic-serial and the holistic. She distinguishes two types of people, the sensory and the sensitive, they are as fundamentally different as man and woman. Psychology has a hard time with the phenomenon, because it is still very young – compared to other sciences. Quantum physics, as a ripe fruit on the tree of physics, can have an integrative effect here. It can make intuition and spirituality plausible as real factors also for describing high sensitivity.
When I started about 15 years ago to deal with high sensitivity, to research and to publish about it, there were only a handful of fellow campaigners in the whole German-speaking area, because the topic was new and almost unknown. At that time I could not have guessed that this would become my life’s work. Just as I could not have guessed that one day there would be a real hype about high sensitivity.
Originally, I was looking for explanations why some highly gifted children were not able to show their potential at school. During my research I found an article by Elaine Aron from 1997 entitled Sensory Processing Sensitivity and its Relation to Introversion and Emotionality. With these qualities the psychologist, together with her husband, presented their research on sensory processing sensitivity. Their studies dealt with people who were more sensitive than the vast majority and perceived stimuli more intensely as well as differently.
DEFINITION OF BEING HIGHLY SENSITIVE
This was a kind of key experience for me and opened up a new perspective. Because Aron and Aron took up the cudgels for a minority that in the past had often been misunderstood. They were wrongly pathologized as fearful, shy, inhibited, easily excitable or neurotic. They identified high sensitivity as a normal personality trait. And of those traits that is fundamental to understand and occurs in 15 to 20% of a population.
Basically, high sensitivity consists of four indicators that are considered central. These are:
- Thorough information processing
- Emotional intensity
- Sensory sensitivity
INTROVERSION AND EXTROVERSION
The majority of all HSM (about 70%) are introverts, i.e. they get energy from being alone and withdrawing from the world.
Introverts lose energy through contact with people. My experience shows that the ususally can manage a time window of two hours, even if the battery has already emptied noticeably by then.
However, the situation is completely different for extroverted HSM (approx. 30%), because they get energy through contact with people. Their battery recharges in the presence of others, while they lose energy by being alone.
The extroverted type tends to overexert themselves, because on the one hand there is a need for quiet, withdrawal and reflection. On the other hand there is a need for contact and stimulation through social situations.
From high sensitivity to quantum physics
These sensitives benefit enormously by knowing their trait and subsequently carefully balancing their respective needs to meet both parts.
In summary, popular science publications and advice books on high sensitivity around the world help and speak from the soul of people who have always felt different from others. Great thanks are due to Elaine Aron for her groundbreaking work. For the first time in history, sensitive people are given support for being different. They have the opportunity to feel part of a group and share with their peers.
THE DIFFERENCE IN PERCEPTION AND THINKING STYLE
In the further discussion I came across a fundamental difference in the perception and thinking style of us humans. Which is either analytical-sequential or holistic.
An analytic perceptual style separates what is (seemingly) important from what is unimportant and filters out a great deal of environmental information by directing attention to a central object. In other words, the brain has the basic functioning of focusing on a salient object. Clear information enters consciousness piece by piece. Hence the apt term analytic-sequential. This is also the way our mind-consciousness works. This style is characteristic of the majority of all children and adults in the Western world. Because we think mainly in categories or schemata, focus our attention on a primary object, and use rules and formal logic. The downside of this kind of perception, however, is that we perceive the world in a rather reduced way. We simply block out much of what surrounds us, because it does not reach us. We do not perceive the world as it is in its fullness.
A holistic style of perception, on the other hand, directs attention to the surroundings. The context. Therefore, comparatively the brain takes in more environmental information. A sharp separation of important and unimportant does not take place at first. The brain has the tendency to de-focus or de-concentrate and it perceives the information in a kind of preconscious, intuitive or pictorial knowledge. Only in a second step, when calm and reflective, can the individual data be retrieved in its clarity.
The holistic style of perception and thinking is atypical for the Western world, but not for the Eastern culture.
Asians think less in categories and with the help of formal logic, but rather pay attention to the whole situation. (Nisbett, Peng, Choi, & Norenzayan, 2001; Choi, Koo & Choi, 2007).
two styles of perception, the one more western, the other more eastern
Using this approach, I hypothesized that highly sensitive people exhibit a holistic style of perception and thinking. That is associated with a dominance of the right hemisphere of the brain. In the so-called hemisphere model, different processes in the brain are happening in the right and left hemispheres. Although this model has no concrete equivalent in the brain, it is very illustrative and useful in the connection between psychology and neurology. Also the representation of high sensitivity.
ENERGY FOR THE SENSITIVE MINDS
Would it be possible to take all the great unions and principles of physics as a template for psychology? Wouldn’t this way be downright necessary? Would there then be an energy for the material side and an energy for the side of the spirit? Should I dare to attempt a definition?
I was sheer overwhelmed by the thought of giving psychology its own energy form. And thus bringing it to life, and again and again I doubted myself. I wondered if I had taken a wrong turn at some point. Because suddenly I was light years away from my intention to develop further education on the topic of high sensitivity.
I was well aware that I was dancing with the devil. But I was not in a position to let go of Schopenhauer again and so I trusted my approach over the years. I defined psychic energy according to Schopenhauer with Ur-Liebe as will to life times consciousness in his four elaborations of the theorem of the reason and according to this view, mass would be equivalent for the side of physics and will for the side of psychology. As well as speed of light squared and consciousness, to give a concise example.
Schopenhauer’s will to life as life energy or psychic energy would be coupled with our emotions. But basically it would be present or active independently of consciousness. Every animal and every plant would have psychic energy, whose original reason I understood as love.
One day, after we have become masters of the winds, the waves, the tides and the gravity, we will harness the forces of love. Then, for the second time in the history of the world, humanity will have discovered fire.
-Teilhard De Chardin-
About the author
Birgit Trappmann (M. A.), born in 1963 in the Lower Rhine area. Studied behavioral sciences (psychology), law, political science and philosophy. She leads the Institute for High Sensitivity & Giftedness www.trappmann-korr.de and the portal of silence www.silencer-online.com. The author lives and works in Germany and southern Spain. She commits particularly to developing sensitive resources for school and work.
This article appeared originally on the German Homepage of Tattva Viveka: Von der Hochsensibilität zur Quantenphysik