Highly intelligent, highly intense, highly sensitive person

First of all, to even begin to explore this topic (without stumbling over our own resistance to it), we have to get over the sticking point so many of us have about using the term “gifted” (as I’ve covered amply in a previous post). Let’s drop all the culturally indoctrinated stigma, because of a general dislike or suspicion of the label; stop wasting any more time in our process of self-understanding or from boxing-in what we think “gifted” means according to the kind of assessments that only scrutinise a relatively small part of what giftedness can actually look like in the flesh and get on with exploring this important topic. This post is going to be about so much more than high intelligence (I want to explore the experiences of high intensity and sensitivity too), but let’s get that one point straight before we start. If you were drawn to this heading and can allow yourself to be considered “highly intelligent” for a few minutes, without all the “yeah, buts” (“I didn’t do so well at school” or “I’m nobody special”) then we can begin.

Willem Kuipers of the website Ximension, who has been on his own journey of self-discovery and who only began to come to terms with his own gifted intensity in his late 40s (not unlike me, in my early 50s!) coined the descriptor Extra Intelligent People (XIPs) in his book Enjoying the Gift of Being Uncommon: Extra Intelligent, Intense and Effective. His reason for the book is that, quite often, “uncommon competence, creativity and drive remain hidden or partially used by its owners”. They may feel full of potential, yet lack the communication and organisation skills or confidence to “do much with it”, regarding themselves as stagnant, stuck, lazy or as a failure, even though they may be almost ceaselessly engaged in an intense pursuit of their own specialist interests or to be found forever deeply processing things that other people seldom seem to consider worthy of consideration. Rather than continuing to perceive the gift of being uncommon as a millstone instead of an enjoyment, he proposes some techniques they can use to make better, and more enjoyable, use of these traits.

Apart from being intellectually able in one or more areas, such people typically have three or more of the following characteristics (and if reading them gets you excited, as in, “at last this sounds like me”, that in itself is a clue). They often prefer autonomy and especially to work alone rather than in collaboration, have a low threshold for boredom, are deeply emotional (though this may have been suppressed), have difficulty bringing tasks to a conclusion, possess high intensity fixation and zeal when it comes to their particular areas of interest (almost total lack of motivation when it comes to the rest!), they also tend to be growth and progress oriented, inquisitive, and then they often strongly dislike smalltalk, “suffer fools badly” or tend to be impatient with others who can’t keep abreast with their thinking (which is generally a sign they are in the wrong environment dealing with the wrong people but it can have the unfortunate effect that they come across as dogmatic, argumentative or aloof and other people may label them “too much”). In fact, they may feel impatient with “the state of the world” in general, plus events in it can often make them feel very deeply distressed or weighed down.

Though strong in some areas, they quite often have deficits in some complimentary area of intelligence as, for example, confidently knowing they are right about something (it is, after all, their area of specialism) but having very low self-esteem when it comes to believing they have the right attributes to put what they know forwards and endure the scrutiny of others, thus they keep what they know to themselves or play it down (in other words, they may have imposter syndrome or be extremely poor at explaining, or justifying, how they know what they do in a world that over-values “qualification” of intelligence). This can lead to high perfectionism, crippling self-doubt, fear of failure and a desire to hide away rather than put their gifts forwards.

“The more intelligent people are the more they actually think they are dumb so they become unsure about themselves” (paraphrasing Kuipers in an interview on the podcast Eggshell Transformations, link below). Kuipers has coined the concept of Extra Intelligent People or XIPs. “Many XIPs carry old and fresh wounds caused by experiencing disappointment and rejection” he proposes on his website and I would say this is a common experience expressed in many of the places I have explored this topic of combined high intensity, sensitivity and intelligence (I have included some useful links below).

This can look a lot like rejection sensitive dysmorphia only its not “dysmorphia” (as in, distortion) but real in its foundations as these people have often experienced both passive and overt rejection of the particular way they are “wired”, as-in, their innate processing modalities and personality traits, all of their lives. In fact, I would say, the very suggestion that this is some sort of dysmorphia in their thinking is a form of cultural gaslighting that undermines the validity of their experience.

The long struggle with yourself, your memories, your environment

There are varying opinions on this next assertion, but more consensus than not, that this type of intelligence in combination with high intensity and sensitivity quite often overlaps with certain overexcitabilities (I would certainly concur from personal experience). I have already described, in more detail, the five areas of overexcitability, as identified by psychologist Dąbrowski (see earlier post). To recap, they are psychomotor, sensory, intellectual, emotional and imaginal overexcitabilities – and I have all five of them, in varying degrees!

Having any one or more of these adds a whole other dimension to the struggle of having the combined traits that this post is dealing with.

If you happen to have sensory over excitability, which I would describe as being a Highly Sensitive Person with bells on, then your entire environment can feel like a battleground and may have done so since, or even prior to, the day you were born; in fact the birth experience itself may have saddled you with hidden trauma. The more I have allowed myself to pick through some of the traumatic or otherwise memorable experiences of my early life, the more I have been forced to acknowledge that my sensory environment profoundly affected me throughout, and way beyond, my formative years, deeply influencing the way I interact with the world today. To quote Kuipers “you learn your behavioural strategic patterns in the first 20 years of your life and then you’re using the rest of your life trying to cope with them”.

In my case, I have had to accept that some fairly everyday exposures such as human touch (firm and benign touch from someone I feel really comfortable with being generally fine; uninvited, tickling/taunting, surprise, possessive or invasive touch really not!), contact with certain fabrics, certain smells, lighting conditions or noises, the texture and aroma of certain foods, chemicals and the like, plus the sheer volume or unrelenting nature of some sensory triggers, and even extremely subtle sensations that other people don’t seem to notice, including other people’s moods or unspoken intentions, really affected me as a child and continue to do so in many cases. These were struggles that nobody else in my family seemed to relate to at the time…though I have since found that I was not the only one…so there was the added belief that I was “abandoned” to deal with them all alone, even disparaged or attacked for alluding to them. All of this impacted me far more than I realised, for years, affecting my baseline of health, happiness and performance and increasing my sense of isolation and of feeling easily overwhelmed.

This is an apt time to mention Elaine Aron’s definition of being a Highly Sensitive Person, a descriptor that applies to about 15 to 20% of the population, to varying degrees (I test at the most extreme end of the scale) and which is known to be a genetically advantageous trait so it is certainly no flaw. It also has nothing to do with introversion as 30% of HSPs have been found to be extroverts; rather, here is the defining quality. According to Aron, HSPs absorb more information from their surroundings than others, and they also analyse it more deeply, often subconsciously. It is this depth of processing that singles them out and makes their experience feel so intense, compared to a lot of other people.

Add this to some of the overexitabilities, to high intensity and intellect and you have quite the little bomb waiting to go off!

Being around some of those heightened sensory triggers I mentioned, to this day, affects my ability to process what is going on in the deeper recesses of my mind (keeping me from the best my intellect has to offer) and, ultimately, it fatigues me so deeply, sometimes to the point of almost not functioning at all…unless I can gain regular and effective respite via the creation of a far more controlled sensory environment (compared to what most humans happily put up with).

This state of high sensitivity, where it really begins to impact your everyday life to a very large extent, is called “sensory-defensiveness”; and it can be there from birth or become more severe or be triggered by further life experiences. I am currently rehabilitating myself from my worst era of it yet (as far as rehab is ever going to be possible) using techniques referred to in my earlier post on the topic. However, I have also had to learn to accept that some of this is likely “hard-wired” into me, as part of my intrinsic sensory make-up as an intense, highly sensitive, overexcitable and, in various ways, neurodiverse individual. Still, the work I have been doing recently using Sharon Heller’s book “Too Loud, Too Bright, Too Fast, Too Tight: What to Do if You Are Sensory Defensive in an Overstimulating World”, including my own adaptation of the Wilbarger Protocol (plus dancing, weighted blanket and creating a sensory “diet”) has gained me a lot of headway.

Over the years, as a way of coping with this additional way of being (this time, painfully) “different” to other people, I had to learn to dissociate from my sensory triggers, to mask or anaesthetise them with various distractions or addictions; some of them obvious (such as drinking, addictive consumerism, pretending to be who I was not, challenging my nervous system to live on the edge of high-adrenalin to make sure I was always in fight or flight as yet another means of exiting the existential pain in my psyche). In this, I include the kind of “spirituality” that, when I came to it after my health crash, further ungrounded me from my body (signing up for yet another program or retreat can be another way of not dealing with the intensity of real and present emotions that deserve our immediate attention). Then I channelled my sense of aloneness into a feeling of “being special” or “above” worldly concerns that disassociated me from grounded experience even more than ever. In the process, I opened up all my boundaries, giving away all sense of inherent selfhood (the very thing that had helped preserve myself, against the odds, in my youth) in favour of some lofty spiritual ideal, kidding myself I was at one with everything when, really, I was making myself ever more vulnerable to all the most intense sensations of my existence, whilst my psyche became like an absentee landlord, head in the clowds, leaving my body to flounder; it was a dreadful mistake for me to go this way but it taught me a great deal that I had to experience for myself.

In a long and painful process, I have had to learn, the hard way, that spiritual bypassing is just another form of highly addictive dissassociation and not what either myself, or the world, needs right now. To survive this next phase, we all need to be here and present, fully invested in the world that needs our urgent attention…and we each get to start by doing our own housekeeping, tending to the garden of our own direct experiences (no more head in the sand), feeling what is real. Yes, it is intense but then I am intense and so I have to assume I was born for these times. I have come to realise my memories and my emotions are not here to torture me but to guide who I choose to be, in this moment. My body isn’t damaged or faulty but speaking to me so I am learning to sit with it…and trust it!

In the process of “numbing myself” for so long, I missed out on the heightened sensory abilities that bring about equally heightened pleasure, appreciation and joy (of the grounded variety…), which deprived me of some of the best gifts of being the way that I am, inside a human body. Now, I am unpeeling all those layers of cover-up in order to better know myself and to learn what it takes to make my environment comfortable enough so that I can optimally function; not through ever-increasing detachment from life but by curating the best possible, most rich and enjoyable, experience of it.

When your strengths are also uncommon…and undervalued

It’s very possible that, if you are this way, you have struggled to be appreciated “just as you are” and have always felt the need to adapt to other people’s expectations; in fact, if you have turned the full beam of your talent towards this, you may well have become a great master at it, expending a lot of your energy in the process of just trying to blend-in, not rock the boat or become invisible. You may even have detected at an early age that your differences, whether labeled as “deficits” or “gifts”, would not have been made welcome, or that they left you feeling exposed or unsafe, in your family of origin or at school. Your adaptation strategies, of masking, blending, hiding away and suppressing, may have begun even before you could talk; as I recognise in myself via strong memories that have come back to me lately, of times when I suppressed sensory excitabilities rather than cause an undesirable “fuss” that would attract adverse attention.

As life continued, you may have learned that the currency of your particular gifts is not “legal tender” in the barter systems that make up most of our schools or places of work. You may have been smart but not necessarily in the same way as other people, or as expected by adults around you, and there may have been deficits (such as social challenges, different ways of processing information or sensitivities) that distracted from your smartness or stole your confidence. You may have done your best to convert what you had into some other currency…or just given up to this so-called state of abject poverty when it came to your sense of worth or ability to thrive. The idea of being an “alien” living on the “wrong planet” or playing a “game whose rules you don’t understand” may have become your go-to way of regarding your situation, thus what is the point of trying?

Meanwhile, unless you have private interests that keep you strong or some life crisis throws you back into the kind of pursuits that first engaged your interest, before life went off the rails, you may forget to stoke the fire of your particular fixations…but probably not forever, since you have a certain drive and a relentlessness when it comes to those and you are probably busy processing complex ideas even when you feel down. Hopefully, these interests will eventually seed the pursuit of an alternate perspective of “who you are” in the bigger context of life (than the narrow confines of “family”, “school” or “career” allowed); one that may help you to find your way back to yourself and the kind of information that puts you in touch with others who share your intensity, sensitivity and high intelligence, with all its wonderful quirks. The internet has been a godsend, for many of us, in this regard and, in my case, listening to podcasts on these topics has become one my very favourite ways of feeling connected to something, and somebody, I can relate to!

Finding the gift inside the struggle

So, once you recognise this bundle of traits and how they express themselves, you find you are surrounded by others wired at least a little like you; may even identify some of them amongst your longest lasting friends (so now you realise why you have gone the distance with each other when so many other friends have fallen by the wayside…), or other family members. However, not everyone gets to the point of choosing to allow their differences to come to the surface. Some feel deeply unsafe doing so, or fear that they might lose their identity at work or at home. If they are managing to get by with their quirks well hidden (especially possible if they do not have one or more “overexcitability” to contend with), they may continue to keep their differences to themselves, all their lives. For some of us, that simply didn’t work out and, even if we managed to be the “good child” growing up and beyond (a very common protective device) things eventually became all too much, throwing us into some sort of life crisis that made it quite imperative, for our mental health, to get very real and dig to the bottom of who we really are, how we are individually “wired” and what that truly feels like, then what it needs in order to thrive. It can be the very lynchpin of a healing journey to do so!

Acknowledging “the treasure chest of exceptional qualities of your family” (Kuipers), even if other family members are not comfortable doing so themselves, can be a great gift and a tool for deeper understanding of yourself, perhaps also of your children and those habits that help and hinder being who you truly are. Looking back across your family line, you may notice a trend of rule-benders or change brokers, those who dared to relocate and change their whole lives around rather than accept the status quo or sink into the mire, regardless of whether they had the means to make an “intellectual” or “financial” success of themselves. You may notice uncommon interests and successes in your wider gene pool; all of this can fortify the sense that your genes are not an accident or a curse but a gift, in the right hands. You may also notice a deeply ingrained family belief at work, locking family member’s exceptionality into some sort of invisibility contract, as I did , such as this one: “make sure not to appear different to others or it could be extremely dangerous for you or for all of us”.

You may even discover that (through trial and error) you have eventually partnered with someone with exceptionality, even though the two of you may be quite different in your gifts. Shared intensity and complexity can be a dynamic force behind a relationship and its perpetual evolution as you both explore the full extent of your interests and a mutual desire for personal growth.

So, you may not be Einstein…

…in fact you may be all-but invisible. You may not be, nor ever have been, a high achiever, or perhaps you excelled at school but disappeared into the cracks as an adult. Perhaps you had a breakdown or gave “it” all up to lead a quiet life of self-fuelled interests. Perhaps even those have lost their sparkle or their “point” lately, or you feel as though you have become borderline depressed, though it’s really a loss of purpose, the feeling that you don’t fit into anything you witness going on in the world right now, leaving you feeling detached. Perhaps you suffer from a sort of existential depression that began, if you’re being honest, when you first noticed you didn’t “fit in” as a child, yet you always hoped to find some meaning or answer to it all by now…though it still eludes you. So, you may not be Einstein but you are certainly not run-of-the-mill; your depth of processing only gets deeper and more complex and, meanwhile, all that discontent with “what is” makes you a powerful agent for change, if not in the world at large then at least in your own circle of influence.

Being around people that have high expectations of you may somehow make you feel worse; more stupid, clumsy or under-qualified to do anything so, though you shine all on your own, you fail to see what use that is to the world since it doesn’t fit with the value system on which our culture is built (which is all about celebrating fame and measurable success). The desire to be famous, rich or renowned may be low to nonexistent in you and, as soon as you “work for” someone else, you may find all the fire goes out of your intellect or you become obtuse, disorganised. You may have this inner dread: if I admit I am gifted I will have to do something amazing with my life (recognise this? I just happened upon a blog on this very topic) and it rings like a death knell on your enthusiasm for doing anything, no wonder you don’t want to admit you are gifted!

Perhaps you’ve tried on the labels “autistic” or “ADHD” but they never quite fit; in fact, you don’t fit into any shape-sorter that you’ve ever found…except, this idea of intensity combined with giftedness and high sensitivity is starting to ring a loud bell. By navigating via these descriptors, you start to find you are part of something; a sort of shabby collective of highly individualised people with diverse special interests, none of whom are particularly good at relating to others but who, together, share similar traits that can be related to in the broadest sense, and that’s a start. For the first time in your life, you realise you are not completely alone, that you can learn from the experiences of others, that all is not lost and there are positives since you are very far from being broken.

Our collective specialism is that we are non-conformers, outside-the-box thinkers, who feel, notice and process deeply and intensely and who can’t be stereotyped or (healthily) suppressed or shut-down; also, that we give of our best when we are allowed to do it (whatever it is) our own unique way, to be ourselves and to express who we are by being playful and creative with our lives. Our drama and our intensity is how we fuel our passions and those same passions, bizarre as they might seem, lie behind our greatest gifts to ourselves and everyone else.

Find your helpful analogy…but don’t ever limit yourself (again)

Once you start to seek, you will find various analogies for people like us. You may come across the idea of being an “orchid” (requires certain conditions to flower) or of a race car with bicycle brakes (an analogy made popular in VAST/ ADHD communities, though I have heard the race-car analogy used in many formats around the idea of living with intensity; a race car, after all, takes time to learn how to handle and requires special care, and fuel, to keep it on the road). There is also the idea of having a “rainforest mind” (Paula Prober’s description of people who are sensitive, dramatic, emotional, curious, and smart). I think we can all imagine how a rainforest flourishes in many layers, from the forest floor to the high canopy and how abundantly it regenerates, not just for itself but for all life on earth, given the right circumstances and respect.

Use what works for you, or what helps you convey yourself to others if you have to; but don’t get stereotyped…that’s not what you are about, at all!

Also, have you tried on various labels to “explain” your particular brand of neurodiversity or to try and diagnose why you feel so different to everyone else? If so, be careful not to pathologise yourself as though faulty in some way; being different is not a case of “being broken” (and, for your information, giftedness and high sensitivity are also neurodiverse traits since they are not typical, yet neither of these are considered a pathology). If you settle on “autistic” or “ADHD” for a while, don’t let it limit you or stop you in your continued self-enquiry. Remember, our societal use of those labels tends to lean towards defecit or describe the way we perform when we are most struggling, not when we are in our element (which should really act as a cue that we need to review our current circumstances and how they are not appropriately meeting us where we are at).

I know, for myself, I seem most autistic or ADHD when I am wrong-footed by expectations that are geared for people that are wired differently to me, which is generally a reflection of those ill-fitting expectations, not my own lack of abilities. So whilst it can be a relief to land on these labels in order to explain ourselves away with some diagnosis or other, we also need to be prepared to break-out of the limitations of our own greatest idea so far, ready to move onto the next one. In other words, beware of trying so hard to fit into a particular label, diagnosis, identity or community of people who share certain DSM criteria that you begin to tweak, trim and edit yourself to match their experiences, at the expense of your own unbiased exploration and growth. This is so easily done (I’ve done it myself!) if you spend a lot of time around certain forums or sources of information. Yes, I know, you sometimes feel lonely and crave a sense of identity, but labels are limits and being limited isn’t why you are here!

You may also identify as an HSP, as I mentioned above, or even as an empath. There are some great materials on these two topics and a lot of it can be so helpful but, again, don’t see the label as limiting but potentiating. Focus, if you can, on the gifts of being this way; all these many resources I mention (more under my Highly Sensitive Resources tab, above) can help you to explore how, yet try to keep your identification with them loose and playful. I always say, once you’ve bought the t-shirt you’re in trouble!

Working with your intense emotions (as I shared in my last post) can also really help. Emotional intelligence is likely part of your spectrum of gifts, alongside your intellect (after all, you probably experience emotions intensely too, when you allow them out; and they can be really useful), yet if you have spent a lifetime suppressing your emotions because they are not valued, tuning them out or attaching them to trauma, this side of your skillset may be vastly underused so the more work you can do to liberate and utilise your emotions the better; not, so you get to identify as “emotional” but become more balanced (than a lot of people who routinely ignore or numb their emotions).

Myers Briggs can be helpful and Kuipers talks about this in the interview attached but, as he points out, people in this target group can often test as two types at once, which is of course “against the rules”, which can be quite confusing. Depending on personality type, there can be some significantly varied responses to the idea of giftedness, its value, validity or relevancy and this can profoundly affect whether a person is prepared to own the very fact about themselves.

Using Myers-Briggs to get to know myself much better has been one of the most profound tools of my life (along with Enneagram). True to my “NF” idealist type, I have quite been consumed, literally all of my life, with the questions “who am I, how do I relate to the world, how do other people relate to me?” such that these have become the very focal point of my existence. My point of view has always been the feeling that, in finding out about myself, I am also finding out about the world (what more reliable viewpoint could there be than the specialism of what my own direct experiences teach me?) so I feel no hesitancy or guilt about pursuing this line of interest, since it is not as self-consumed as it may seem to those who don’t understand me. I guess this is why I am now fully open to exploring my giftedness, intensity and sensitivity with all the same rabid curiosity I have always brought to life!

Making a difference to yourself…and via yourself, others

As you gain confidence in this realisation, you also realise that you can make a profound difference to yourself and that this is no small achievement. By making this difference to yourself, you become so much more whole, more balanced, more aware and more conscious…as regards yourself and also other people. Your ever-improving state of inner harmony and self-confidence starts to ripple out to the world and into your environment, influencing others just by being the example of itself. As the old saying goes, we cannot give love until we first love ourselves, nor can we help anyone else until we put on our own oxygen mask.

When it first occurs to you that this bundle of qualities is the true format of your long-resisted “differences” (and you are not, in fact, broken…just intense, sensitive and intelligent in some unusual ways) its like coming home and there can be a great sense of relief, as I can attest to.

Kuipers describes how he only became aware of his sensitivities many years into his life, in his late 40s, so that “the traditional story of childhood trauma is, in a way, even now still coming out of my own closet”. He has devoted the last couple of years to becoming even more aware of these sensitivities, how they work, how he is profoundly affected, even shaken, by the environment. He reports “I have become more and more happy with myself each year and that process is still in full swing, I’m very glad, am proud, to say” (interview on Eggshell Transformations podcast). I can concur, having also been on this journey of deepest self-discovery for, really, all of my life, most intensively for the past five years and most concertedly of all this past 8 months or so since the term “intensity” first came across my radar and called me in. Like Kuipers, I can report a deeper sense of personal fulfilment, centredness, inner joy, peace, calm and integrity…in fact, a significantly more positive sense of who I am and what that amounts to than I have ever experienced across the entire sum of all my life experiences before!

What happens next is “you dive into a process of rewriting your own biography and that is hard work…but it’s so very worthwhile and rewarding” (Kuipers, as above). You will inevitably have to tackle that oh-so strongly triggering word “giftedness”, as I mentioned, but you cease to regard this as some sort of objectively verified measure or mark of your intelligence but as a subjectively perceivable recognition of some of the characteristics of giftedness, in its broadest sense, as have been mentioned throughout this post. Moreover, you likely don’t seek verification so much as you now instantly benefit from the deepest sense of self-understanding and appreciation you have ever possessed in your life and this needs no outward stamp of approval.

You also learn to have compassion for yourself and then, by extension, for other people (which helps with some of that impatience you feel towards the world). Yes, you have to practice this and its constant work in progress! It also helps to find the right environment, also the right people, so that when you are with them they don’t consider you “too much” but appreciate your qualities, your intensities, your quirks, and no apologies required for just being you (just as they are themselves). When you become overloaded, you learn the ropes of what it takes to defuse that acute intensity (reduced sensory load, grounding, movement, expression, meditation, yoga, qigong, buddhism, stoicism, listening to the body, acknowledging your emotions, whatever package works for you) in order to find a respite and recover yourself for a while; again, no apologies for pulling back and retreating to where you can recover yourself as and when this becomes necessary. You have special needs (not flaws, I said needs) so go to meet them, for yourself, as no other person was able to meet you before!

Even allow yourself to hyperfocus if you are onto something and its not doing you harm. I’m hyperfocusing on this today; its the most I’ve got into a hyperfocus state of writing for some time (since I have been getting my kicks from more research and self-enquiry, freeform journaling, experiential stuff, not so much public writing, lately) and I’m as high as a kite but I also sense I need to stop and do some self care, to remind myself I have a body, about now…so I will!

Back onto your own axis

Having felt so deeply displaced for most of your life, coming back onto your own axis can be a powerful thing. You realise that you were only ever meant to spin on your own “centre” or core being, not anybody else’s but, having so few examples to learn from in childhood (not even many public role models you can think of, since our culture has not enabled our type to thrive), you had to go it alone…and thus you learned such a lot along the way, being as inquisitive and probably perfectionist as you are, but it was slow and often arduous, frequently lonely. So, now, pat yourself on the back!

Nothing you have now realised about yourself is just “a given” since you have sifted through everything, trying it on for size, checking it is an exact fit before putting it on for very long (since you feel so profoundly uncomfortable trying to be anyone else); and you are still in constant search, still always prepared for growth, optimistic, evolution-minded, since you have learned that nothing is ever truly fixed. As such, you are incredibly self-actualised, rather than being a product of outside influence or environment, and this makes you relatively rare, also useful in a world culture that over-specialises in assimilating as many people as possible into a one-size-fits-all box.

These times call for the anomaly, the “outside the box” perspective, more so than any other era before this. Your anomaly-ness contributes in ways you don’t need to measure by conventional means since such measures are quite meaningless when it comes to identifying anything that is fresh enough to truly surprise or shake up the world…or, at least your world (its all the same). Whether you do this “shaking” loudly or quietly, publicly or in private, matters not so much as that you do it…remember, ripples and butterfly effects…so just be you, and do all you can to own the “you” that you truly are, as comfortably as you can make yourself, and meanwhile enjoy the ride!


Eggshells Transformations podcast – a wonderful podcast resource for intense, gifted and highly sensitive people

Specific episode interviewing Willem Kuipers, as referred to above – Being Uncommon

Eggshell Therapy coaching and blog

Ximension: Get Going With Extra Intelligence and Intensity – Willem Kuipers

Third Factor – online magazine about uncommon people

Your Rainforest Mind – blog resource for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

The Highly Sensitive Person – website of Elaine Aron, who first coined the term HSP in her groundbreaking research

More resources under my Highly Sensitive tab above.

2 thoughts on “Highly intelligent, highly intense, highly sensitive person

  1. This is really useful! Since I’ve retired, I don’t feel “autistic” because I am able to adapt my schedule and environment and social interactions more to what I need. I like the term “neurodivergent” best, because it’s inclusive, and I have disagreements with the DSM’s definition of autism. I do find that in interacting with others it can sometimes be a useful shortcut to say I’m autistic, but sometimes I’ll just say I have social communication challenges, or auditory processing challenges, or sensory processing challenges, and that seems to work well, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes me too…I use the auditory processing excuse quite a lot and intend to use sensory processing challenges/sensitivities quite a lot at the wedding we are going to soon if anything comes up, I feel a lot more comfortable with these descriptors, also because they do feel more accurate now that I’m relaxing more (interesting what you said about retirement!) and since I’ve been taking some supplements that reduce my systemic overload (especially NAC, which is known to help with autism…basically its an antioxidant so its clearing my system; which also points at my autistic responses being a sort of toxic overwhelm state, in one form or another). I set the ball rolling for an ADHD diagnosis months ago but it took so long before I heard back that I now vehemently don’t want to pursue it as it doesn’t feel relevant or necessary. When I’m in a good place, these neurodivergences bring more gifts than problems as I wouldnt change them and my joined up thinking about everything important is getting clearer as do more of the things I referred to in the post.


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