The Highly Sensitive Person has a finely attuned nervous system, which means they can get easily overwhelmed or overstimulated by their environment. The trait of sensitivity comes with many gifts; however, highly sensitive people often feel the need to ‘hide’ their sensitivity – being told that it is a weakness or they need to ‘toughen up’. Many HSPs can struggle with low self-esteem or a sense that there’s something wrong with them, often pushing aspects of their sensitivity into the shadow. The more a person understands themself as an HSP, the more they can hold space for themselves as well as hold space for highly sensitive people in their lives.
What does ‘holding space’ for someone mean?
One of the most beneficial things we can do for highly sensitive people is to find a way to allow all parts of their temperament to be heard, seen, and acknowledged. If you’re in a relationship with an HSP or a friend or family member is struggling with their sensitivity, here are six ways you can hold space for them.
Holding space means to be present with their lived experience with unconditional acceptance; that is, not judging, criticizing, or trying to ‘fix’ them or their experience in any way.
When we can do this for a Highly Sensitive Person, we enable them to embrace their innate trait and step into their authentic power. You will find holding space for HSP enables them to express their vulnerabilities and ultimately will improve your ability to relate and communicate with each other.
Although there are subtle nuances, these principles apply both in a personal and professional context and are the ways in which I hold space for clients in my work as a Highly Sensitive Person Coach.
Table of Contents
Here are the six ways to make sure to hold space for highly sensitive people:
#1 Way to Hold Space for Highly Sensitive People – Offer Unconditional Acceptance
Even if it feels difficult to understand the experience of an HSP in your life, there’s so much value in accepting their lived experience and approaching what they’re saying with an open mind. Offer them unconditional, positive regard and listen to their lived experience with compassion and empathy.
#2 Way to Hold Space for Highly Sensitive People – Provide Space to Process and Integrate
Time for integration is so important because HSP process the world around them on such a profound level, they often have deep insights and they need time to integrate these experiences. We can also remind HSP to create space in their day-to-day life for processing, and this can be encouraged through journaling, a creative exercise, being out in nature, or drawing.
#3 Way to Hold Space for Highly Sensitive People – Take Time to Educate Yourself
We need to be fully educated on what high sensitivity is because there are so many myths and misconceptions which has led to many HSPs feeling misunderstood. Research into the biological basis of the trait is continuing to grow, and simply by acknowledging rather than disregarding the trait, we are helping sensitive people to feel more empowered.
Free HSP Webinar on Sensory Overload
Sensory Overload tends to be one of our biggest challenges as HSPs. It is when our senses take in more information than our brain can keep up with processing. You might be surprised that it is often the culprit of symptoms of emotional reactivity, anxiety, irritability, sleep issues, exhaustion, and even loss of productivity, creativity, and focus. What makes it extra hard is that the world isn’t set up for those of us with high sensitivity. Have you been challenged by your sensitivity and labeled as “too sensitive” or “overly emotional”? Do you know how Sensory Overload impacts you? Join me to learn more and uncover solutions that will help you thrive to your fullest level of wellness.
Sensory Overload & The Highly Sensitive Person Webinar with Julie Bjelland
#4 Way to Hold Space for Highly Sensitive People – Provide Validation for their Experiences
HSPs are tired of hearing phrases like, ‘you’re over- reacting’ or, ‘just get over it’ and ‘be strong’ – instead, the key is learning to hear, see, and validate HSP as they truly are. We’re not trying to ‘fix’ the person or offer them advice. Sometimes advice can be helpful when it’s needed or asked for. However, it’s important to remember that usually, an HSP doesn’t want to find out how to be different but how to be embraced for who they really are.
#5 Way to Hold Space for Highly Sensitive People – Extend Empowerment and Empathy
We can empower HSPs in our lives by offering them empathy, understanding, and reassurance. If an HSP is having a challenging day or struggling with overwhelm, simply acknowledging that it must be difficult right now can make a world of difference. There is a difference between sympathy and empathy, and this isn’t about feeling ‘sorry’ for the person, and it’s also not about that person being a victim. It’s simply enabling the person to feel heard, and this recognition can empower the person to attend to their needs rather than trying to push them to the side.
#6 Way to Hold Space for Highly Sensitive People – Provide Time and Space for Communication
Communicating with a Highly Sensitive Person and enabling them time to communicate their feelings and needs is so important. HSPs tend to think before speaking and may need some time to process what they need to say before they share. Putting pressure on an HSP to speak before they are ready isn’t helpful! Give the person the space and time, but encourage them to express their voice so they can be heard. HSPs usually have a lot to say when they are offered a safe environment in which to express themselves.
If you’re in a relationship or have a friend or family member who is highly sensitive, consider how you can start to implement or practice these principles when you’re spending time with the other person. If you’re a professional who works with HSP it can be helpful to ask yourself in what ways you are currently applying these principles. I have experienced that holding space using these six principles can make a huge impact and enable HSPs to embrace the parts of themselves that, unfortunately, were often shamed into the shadows or exiled because of childhood experiences. It is never too late to allow these aspects to be brought out of the shadows and for HSPs to learn to embrace their authentic gifts.
Looking for an HSP-Certified coach to help you align your life with your priorities?
Through my Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) certification with the Nickerson Institute, as well as being an HSP, I offer HSP coaching to develop specific goals around your HSP needs. We HSPs frequently deal with anxiety and overstimulated nervous systems that prevent us from achieving peace and attaining our life goals. HSP coaching with me includes a detailed review of your sensitivities and a mutually-desired plan for growth and management of this superpower to shift negativity and begin seeing yourself as the hero of your own story.
What is a Highly Sensitive Person?
Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) – the official name for the Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) – is an innate trait associated with greater sensitivity (or responsivity) to environmental and social stimuli. It is estimated that around 20% of the population is highly sensitive, and it is also found in over 100 other species, such as dogs, fish, and birds. The trait includes having more significant brain responses associated with awareness, self-other processing, and empathy. HSP also have high levels of self-awareness and an enhanced perception of the world, often seeing what is beyond the mind’s eye. Research has shown that those who are highly sensitive are deep thinkers, interested in spiritual ideas, and are also highly likely to engage in meaningful work.
Be sensitive, be free
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