Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), Introverts, and Feelings of Loneliness

I want to write about Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs), and feelings of deep, profound, gutting, “loneliness” that they often find themselves having to deal with.

To begin with, the majority of HSPs would probably describe themselves as “Introverts”, in the sense that they recharge energy not through being in a group of people, but rather by having some time to themselves.

For that reason, HSPs will find it inevitably important to schedule sufficient periods of “downtime” into their lives.  Whether that means breaks from work, from friends and family even, etc.    It is important for them to have enough time for themselves to recharge, for their own mental and even physical health.

That said, from speaking with and working with many HSPs (and also from personal experience), I have found that HSPs are still likely to have dealt with (sometimes very acutely), at certain times in their lives (or for extended periods, or chronically even), feelings of “loneliness,”  “aloneness,”  wanting companionship, or just feeling a bit too alone.

It is interesting, because on one hand as HSP’s, we demand and crave aloneness — yet on the other hand, we can feel acutely separated and alone at times.

Part of this may have to do with our natural differences from others — as a minority of the population (say, 15-20% it is often estimated),  HSPs are outnumbered by those who think and feel perhaps not to the same degree of depth, or in the same way,  so they may isolate themselves,  consciously or unconsciously, from the grunting and mawing of regular society, which can be so exhausting, and often unfulfilling.

So why then should HSP’s also complain of feeling “too lonely” at times?   Are HSP’s just complainers?   Do they just want to have everything “just right”?

There may be something to that last suggesting — of everything needing to be “Just Right.”  We might call this the “Goldilocks Syndrome” (can’t be too hot, too cold, needs to be just perfect, or one feels uncomfortable).    Many of us as HSP’s may have been criticized, mocked, or blamed for seemingly being so hard to please — though we may be reluctant frankly to make demands on others,  others may see that we are made uncomfortable by anything outside of a specific range.

That is to say, that while HSP’s are more sensitive to goodness, joy, and beauty, they are also equally more sensitive to pain, sadness, and suffering.   There is a quote from Alan Watts to the effect that,  “One cannot become more sensitive to joy without correspondingly becoming more sensitive to precisely the same degree to suffering.”

Thus, while HSP’s may be able to derive tremendous joy, a wonderful feeling of serenity, calm, and fulfillment from just sitting alone quietly, perhaps by a river somewhere doing nothing  (one recalls Ram Dass saying, that after all of his years of spiritual practice, he is perfectly happy just to sit and look at a wall all day long — it brings him great joy);   at the same time,  they are also more sensitive to the negative feelings that may be associated with being a bit “too” alone.

That what others, the majority of the population, may feel as vague boredom,  for the Sensitive Person it may be a feeling of being struck from the depth of their heart, with a profound aloneness, sadness, lack of love, etc.    Even if they are not alone chronically!  Even if I was with my partner, best friend, or at work yesterday, if today I am suddenly all alone with nobody to turn to, this feeling may sneak up like a snake through the weeds!

It can certainly be surprising, for those of us who love solitude so much, to suddenly feel afflicted by our solitude.  Who saw it coming?   But it may help, at least a little bit, just to know that this is entirely a natural phenomenon, it is part of our being more sensitive to both the good things and the unpleasant in life;  we need not be ashamed of it;  and at the same time we need not (though we surely know this already!)  make a big deal of it either.    We can remember,  the most important words on the signet ring in the well-known story:   This Too Shall Pass. 

God Bless and Love to all Sensitive Persons who have felt loneliness, and who may even be feeling it now.   Here are some particular ways to deal with loneliness, as an HSP  (OK, just one overall suggestion, but perhaps more to come later:   )

  1.  Go Out for a Walk or Bike Ride (or some similar exercise) in a Natural Place

Nature and Exercise are two profoundly healthy and healing stimuli for the body, especially  for the Highly Sensitive Body.    Studies have found that people dealing with depression, may receive the same mood life they got by taking an anti-depressant pill, from simply going for a brisk walk.  Just 5-10 minutes of exercise (just tell yourself that, and you are likely to start enjoying yourself so much after 5-10 minutes, that you will want to stay out for 30 minutes or more — the whole day even),  has been to shown to lift one’s mood immensely.

If you want a longer term plan,  pack up some water bottles, a snack or two, etc., whatever makes you feel comfortable, maybe bring a book to read or something interesting to look at,  put them in a backpack,  and head out for a long bike ride somewhere.   Make a day of it.  Make your own picnic.   If it is a nice day, you are sure to end up having a glorious day on your own.

There is a quote from Emerson to the effect that, the Oyster becomes more beautiful through healing it’s own shell with Pearl.

That is, when you can learn to deal with your emotions yourself, and to sit with (or bike with, walk with, run with, exercise with), what you are feeling, you become stronger, more beautiful, a more real person.    All the best people are the people who have struggled with physical or emotional pain or difficulty.    All the most meaningful people’s lives have been fraught with tough times of varying degrees.

So perhaps we should celebrate our loneliness or feelings of pain, no?   It makes us deeper, more compassionate, more beautiful people in the end.  Even if you can’t tell that that is happening now.