About HSEs

The Secret Gifts (and common struggles) of a Highly Sensitive Empath

By:Jennifer van Wyck MA RCC MSM

What is a Highly Sensitive Empath (HSE)?

This is a personality type that is connected to your sympathetic nervous system, where a part of your brain receives more sensory information. Unlike other personality types, this one is based on how your brain is physically wired. What this means is that HSE’s are receiving and processing much more information than the average person. Therefore although you can use the different aspects of being HSE to your benefit there is very little you can do to change how much information you receive and the time it takes to process it. 

            The Highly Sensitive Person is a mixture of two concepts. The first concept was created by Elaine Aron, who developed the term “highly sensitive person.” This is related to actual physiological makeup. The second concept is that of an empath, which describes the type of person who has a very big heart and strong intuitive abilities. While these concepts are similar not all highly sensitive people are empaths, and not all empaths are highly sensitive people. A highly sensitive empath is someone who fits into both of these categories.

            Highly Sensitive Empaths (HSE) make up about 20% of the population. They are “other” person-focused, which means they think more about others and making others happy than about themselves. In an effort to please others they often try to change themselves. They are likely to blame themselves for arguments or misunderstanding and take on 200% of the responsibility in their interpersonal relationships. HSE are very uncomfortable when other people are upset with them, and can get preoccupied worrying about other people’s opinion. HSE have an incredible ability to feel the joy, pain, and sadness of others, often trying to take on feeling other’s negative emotions in an effort to help. Because of this, many HSEs can often feel anxious, overwhelmed, depressed or exhausted. Additionally, because HSEs are focused on other people and try so hard to not hurt or offend others they can get hurt when others don’t treat them the same way. It may be difficult for them to know what they want since they often don’t consider this question. HSEs usually struggle with asking for help, and despite their intense emotions, they may have difficulty communicating how they feel in a vulnerable way.

            Highly Sensitive Empaths can often feel as though their big heart is a burden. But, when taught how to use it effectively their big heart is a huge gift not only for themselves but also for their loved ones. HSEs are usually the people that really care about their families, their communities, the environment and they frequently have an affinity with animals. HSE are often the artists, inventors, philosophers, teachers, and compassionate leaders of the world. They are great at seeing the big picture and how everything is interconnected. While they have a lower tolerance for stress, they are very strong individuals, and are often the ones that people go to for help, advice, or to be consoled.

Why is this important to know if you are a Highly Sensitive Empath?

Being aware that this is your personality type can save you decades (if not your whole life) of ineffectually trying to change the more difficult aspects of being HSE. For example, often HSE’s struggle to be less sensitive or they push themselves so hard that they experience burnout multiple times during their life. Trying to change your physiology of perceiving or feeling more is a battle that you will not win unless you completely shut off your emotions. This is unfortunately what many HSE do. However, when you shut off your emotions you numb yourself to everything in life: the beautiful and good as well as the ugly and difficult. Once HSE’s understand their strength and struggles, they can stop wasting energy in wrestling against themselves. Instead, use their strengths to improve their lives and the lives of everyone they come in contact with. When HSE’s are connected to the power of their heart they are able to see the complexities of how to make the world a better place, as well as inspire others to do the same. Their capacity for love surpasses those of the normal population and motivates others to be more loving and kind. When HSE’s accept their gifts then they can start moving forward instead of being stuck trying to make themselves into something they’re not.

So how can you use being a Highly Sensitive Empath to improve your life?

Step 1: Knowing what you’re struggling with is the first step to understanding how to truly create lasting change. Now you can stop banging your head trying to change this aspect of yourself. Instead, you can put your energy into places that are controllable, such as using your big heart to make your life more nurturing, productive, fulfilling and peaceful. Understanding yourself allows you to start seeing your infinite strengths. This is extremely important especially for HSE who are experts at emotionally beating themselves up. But there are four more steps you also need to master.

Step 2: The second step is learning how to protect yourself. It is important to understand the motivation behind protection. Protection is the process of creating a safe and compassionate space for your heart. The world can seem like a scary or dangerous place, protection does not come from this fear. The more you focus on fear, the more fear will be all that you can see, which does not make your heart feel safe.

Protecting yourself needs to be motivated by love: love of your heart and wanting to create a calm sanctuary for it. It is important for you to learn how to surround yourself with peace and calm no matter where you are. That way you will be able to relax and be less defensive. Protecting yourself properly allows you to feel free to be yourself, and to ask for what you need.

Effective protection helps you deal with difficult people and difficult situations appropriately, it increases your energy and makes it possible for you to reach your potential. It is important that you are able to physically protect yourself (visualizations are great for this). As well as learn how to make yourself as emotionally healthy as possible so when someone hurts you, your confidence stays strong. Ironically putting walls up or hardening your heart makes your heart more brittle and easily heartbroken. When you stick a needle in a balloon it pops because it is only a shell and filled with air. When you stick a needle in an orange, which is full and juicy, the orange is not affected.

Step 3: The third step is perfecting how to make yourself happy and healthy. As mentioned previously many HSEs don’t know what makes them happy. Fundamental to this step is creating a relationship with yourself and your heart, so that you know what it wants and needs at any given moment. The key to happiness is to be able to listen and hear your heart and then take care of it at that moment. And yet so many people don’t know how to listen to their hearts. Their focus is on things outside of themselves. The ironic thing about some schools of psychology is that they often focus on using your thoughts to shut down your heart. And your heart, as an HSE, is your biggest strength.

Step 4: The fourth step is learning how to deal with negative emotions appropriately. It’s important to learn how to deal with emotions like guilt and worry (which are common for HSEs). Otherwise, negative emotions can get out of control and often lead HSEs to sabotage their lives and those they love. This can lead HSEs to get caught in a downward spiral. It is essential to learn how to work with and learn from your difficult emotions so that you can process them and let them go. This step uses your negative emotions as guides to finding and addressing the root of the issues you are grappling with. 

Step 5: Lastly, it is so important for HSE to learn how to connect to others in a healthy way. Since HSEs have such a big heart they often want connection more than anything. HSEs are often scared of getting hurt, and so struggle with sharing their deep feelings. They focus so much on being there for others that they don’t allow others to be there for them. This creates one-way relationships that are unhealthy and certainly not nourishing. When HSEs learn how to create deep meaningful emotional connections their lives become exponentially richer, energized and meaningful. Healthy boundaries are essential for healthy and nourishing relationships.

What can you do to embrace your superpowers?

There are many ways that you can significantly improve your life as an HSE. Now that you understand what a highly sensitive empathy is, why it matters, and what you need to do/learn to dramatically increase the love, connection and peace in your life.

Visualizations are a powerful way to quickly heal your subconscious and intentionally decide what you want in your life. I have created a number of visualizations to assist HSE’s to move from being overwhelmed & exhausted, to becoming a huge loving force for good in the world. I am an HSE and understand the struggles, as well as the quickest route to being able to connect with all the immense beauty and love in the world, and reaching your fullest potential. To receive my free grounding visualization which is a fundamental first step for all HSE’s please sign up for my mailing list. To access all the visualizations I have created please press here.

Additionally my book “The Good Thing About Mortar Shells: choosing love over fear” is a fantastic resource of how to move out of anxiety and depression into a place of love and fulfillment. It is full of practical techniques to help you maximize your strengths. You can buy it here.

I am also available for 1:1 sessions, please contact me if you are interested in learning more about this.

Lastly, you can sign up for my newsletter to find out more information on the online course I’m making especially for HSEs.

Whatever you decide to do, please know that you are so needed in the world.

Love and Light,

Jennifer van Wyck MA RCC MSM