Sensation-seeking and extroverted sensitives
In addition to being highly sensitive, there are other temperament influences that can affect your sensitivity. Bear in mind that no label can encompass the beauty of who you really are. Labels are simply tools to help you understand yourself, know what you need, and give yourself permission to be who you are.
Two temperament traits that often interact with high sensitivity are high sensation-seeking and extroversion.
High sensation-seeking sensitive souls?
Highly sensitive souls have a strong "pause-to-check" system, also called a "behavioral inhibition" system. This means that when we enter a new situation, we pause (even imperceptibly) to determine whether or not it's safe to proceed. Sensitives also have a lower than average threshold for overstimulation; in other words, we become overstimulated more easily than the average person.
High sensation seekers, on the other hand, are people who operate with a strong "behavioral activation" system. This means that they like to "go-for-it," try new things, and don’t hesitate before jumping in. High sensation seekers have a lower than average threshold for under stimulation, also known as boredom.
Oddly enough, it's possible to have both traits, and be a high sensation-seeking, highly sensitive person. How's that for a confusing state of being?
Sensitive people who are also sensation-seekers love to try new things, like traveling to new places or trying out new restaurants. These can also be overstimulating activities, however, which can be challenging for their highly sensitive aspect. It's tricky to balance not getting too bored and not taking on too much.
Ultimately, this means that high sensation-seeking sensitives have a very narrow range of optimal stimulation. In other words, it’s challenging to balance the urge for new experiences with the need for quiet time. It’s a real balancing act. Some people say it’s like having "one foot on the brake, one foot on the gas."
Elaine Aron offers a quiz to determine if you are a sensation-seeker in her book, "The Highly Sensitive Person In Love."
If you think you are a sensation-seeker, remember to take care of both needs equally. It's a bit like being a parent to two children with opposite temperaments. They both deserve to have their needs met.
Here are some clues about whether or not you might be a high sensation seeker:
* Do you enjoy novelty and experiencing new things?
* Do you like to explore new places?
* Do you love try new foods and restaurants?
* Do you like taking "safe" risks?
* Do you have a love/hate relationship with routine?
* Do you find yourself swinging back and forth between taking action and needing to recover?
* Do you find yourself worrying about "missing something good?"
Extroverted sensitive souls
In the classic sense, all sensitive souls are introverts. Carl Jung defined introversion as the trait of having a deep, rich inner life that is at least equally important to our outer, "real" life.
The contemporary understanding of introverts is that they are people who recharge their energy by being alone. Extroverts are people who recharge their energy by spending time with other people.
Most people think of extroversion in terms of socializing. By that definition, 30% of sensitive souls are extroverts. Often it is a learned skill that results from living in a large family or social neighborhood.
Elaine Aron clarifies in her book, "The Highly Sensitive Person" that socially extroverted sensitives will be more likely to avoid socializing when they are overstimulated, as opposed to other extroverts who find it easier to relax when they are around other people.
This means that if you are an extroverted sensitive, it's challenging to balance your needs to socialize and to withdraw to rejuvenate, because you need both.
Are you an extroverted sensitive? Here are some ways you might identify yourself as one:
* Do you find it easy to talk to others?
* Do you like to talk out loud to figure out what you want to say?
* Do you like to fill in the quiet spaces in a conversation?
* Does it (sometimes) recharge your energy to spend time with other people?
For all the challenges these dual-temperament sensitives face, there are some advantages. Extroverted sensitives may have a leg up in areas like self-promotion. Sensation-seekers are great at going for it and getting things done. Since many sensitives thrive with solo work, these skills can be of real benefit.
In the end, I believe that the more we understand about ourselves and our make-up, the easier it is to give ourselves what we need. I encourage you to continue your voyage of self-discovery.
Copyright July 2008, Jennifer K. Avery
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Jenna Avery, the Life Coach for Sensitive Souls, offers an original coaching program designed to guide highly sensitive souls to a deep sense of inner rightness, so they are inspired to step forward and shine. You're invited to visit her website at www.highlysensitivesouls.com to take her free online assessment, "Is Your Sensitivity Working For You?"