There are four key aspects of sensory processing sensitivity. Elaine Aron uses the acronym DOES to highlight them:
Depth of Processing: the tendency to process information more deeply
Overstimulation: they are drained sooner than other people when there is lots happening
Emotional Reactivity/Empathy: more reactive to positive and negative experiences and responsive to the emotions of other people
Sensing Subtleties: notice little details that other people might overlook or miss
I don’t talk about Emotional Reactivity much, but it’s been on mind of late. Elaine Aron suggests that HSPs are “more motivated to think about things by our stronger feelings of curiosity, fear, joy, anger, or whatever. But this intensity can be overwhelming, especially when we have negative feelings. That’s why we need to learn emotional regulation skills.”
Everybody regulates their emotions. It’s a basic human brain function whereby consciously or unconsciously you influence your emotions. There is some control over what emotions are expressed, when they are experienced, and how these things occur.
But it is a little more complicated than this. A lot of this regulation occurs at an unconscious level, which means that reactions happen without conscious thought. These can be influenced by childhood or under duress (outside of your control).
For example, when you are upset it may feel intolerable, but you don’t know why. Perhaps as a small child you were left without help when you experienced overwhelming emotions. Or you witnessed adults around you unable to regulate their emotions or control themselves. What would make you think you could possibly regulate yours? You’re just a child after all.
On the other hand, when you were a kid you might have learned great emotional regulation skills.
Luck is One Side of the Coin
You can’t do anything to change your upbringing.
We all experience luck when it comes to the cards we were dealt. But while this is true, our story doesn’t have to end there.
We can learn to regulate our emotions.
Researchers in the Australian Journal of Psychology found that HSPs are less likely to engage in 5 particular strategies that non-HSPs do more. These are processes that people use to regulate their negative emotions:
- Accept your feelings.
- Do not be ashamed of them.
- Believe you can cope as well as others do.
- Trust that your bad feelings will not last long.
- Assume there’s hope–you can do something about your bad feelings eventually.
In this episode of the podcast I ask why HSPs are less likely to do these things. We explore 5 sensory bugbears that might lead us to emotional reactions. And we will think about 8 DIY approaches to improving our emotional regulation skills.
DIY Approaches to Improving Emotional Regulation
- Build Routines
- Breathe Deep
- Get Creative
- Close the Loops
- See the Mind and Body as One
- Get Sleep