There are two main reasons we need to campaign for highly sensitive people. The first reason we need to campaign for highly sensitive people is that this will make the world better for every person on it – whether they are high or low in sensitivity.
This may sound grand, but it’s true. Extensive research in over 100 species shows that 15-30% of the population is highly sensitive to their environment. Sadly, highly sensitive people suffer ill health much more than others, and often feel excluded because of their difference. We are all impacted by such a large proportion of humanity – around one in five of us – suffering debilitating illnesses and failing to fulfil their potential.
Boosting the economy by unleashing the potential of HSPs
Scientists have found that highly sensitive people develop more illnesses than others, due to overstimulation.
This high rate of ill health reduces the ability of this 15-30% of us to work and contribute to the economy. It holds highly sensitive people (HSPs) back in their careers, and often leads to burnout and leaving the workforce altogether. And their sense of exclusion may also lead to HSPs marginalising themselves and not sharing their talents and innovations in the public domain.
HSPs’ unique ability to identify societal problems and create innovative solutions
Ill health and exclusion on such a huge scale – affecting over one billion people worldwide – would be a serious issue, whatever the characteristics of those people. It affects all of us, and all of our organisations, if we do not hear the voices of such a large group of people. Time and again scientists have found that organisations make worse decisions when everyone thinks the same, as they experience the cognitive bias known as ‘groupthink’. Due to the different way their brains work, HSPs think differently from the majority. The highly sensitive brain processes information more deeply, picking up more subtle body language, and making HSPs more empathetic. HSPs’ ability to pick up small differences in the environment also makes them more creative.
Scientists have found that a species as a whole is more likely to survive if 15-30% of their population is highly sensitive. This is because the sensitive animals share with the wider group their ability to pick up danger sooner and benefit more from positive environments.
But our social norms mean that instead of living the way their bodies need them to, HSPs are conforming to the way the majority lives, and suffering ill health as a result. As a result, the 15-30% of the population who evolved to help all of us through their enhanced ability to take advantage of positive environments and to quickly spot threats, often find themselves marginalised and on their sickbeds.
There are many threats we currently face as a species. Climate change, environmental degradation, political division, and economic instability. And there are many opportunities, such as the fourth industrial revolution. Now more than ever, we need to hear the voices of those who are uniquely able to identify threats and exploit opportunities.
Tackling illness and exclusion
The second reason we need to campaign for highly sensitive people is to help highly sensitive people themselves. Around one in five of the people you walk past on the street. Every fifth colleague in your workplace. Every fifth elderly person seated in the common room in residential care homes around the world. To address the misery etched into too many bodies and minds. The more frequent infectious diseases, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, migraines, chronic muscle tension, insomnia and a slew of mental health problems. All of these problems preventable, if our workplaces and wider environment was suited to their needs.
We need to campaign for highly sensitive people to stop one in five of your family members, neighbours, friends and colleagues silently feeling ashamed of the way their brain and body works. To stop them feeling the need to be someone their central nervous system just won’t let them be. To stop them feeling they need to hide who they really are, to instead live like the majority, and suffering physically and mentally as a result.
And we need to campaign for highly sensitive people for the one in five children sitting at school desks around the globe. To prevent them from developing chronic physical and mental health problems. To prevent them from feeling rejected by their parents, relatives, teachers and friends. So they can grow up feeling loved and accepted for who they are, and able to innovate for the benefit of us all.
So whether we choose to campaign for highly sensitive people because we want to help us all, or we choose to campaign so that we end the suffering of HSPs, we do need to campaign for highly sensitive people. And we need to do it now.