Are we doing those who are sensitive a disservice?

silhouette of asian woman behind tree branch near endless ocean

It’s my stop on the Blog Tour for Sensitive by Hannah Jane Walker.

Here is some of the book’s info: Hannah Jane Walker is a very sensitive person, along with at least a fifth of the population. Like many, she was conditioned to believe this was a weakness and a trait that she should try and overcome. When she had her first child and realised that her little girl was sensitive too, Hannah decided to find out whether sensitivity might in fact be a positive trait. Her question led to some fascinating answers and ongoing research that suggests survival and thriving is not only limited to the fittest, but to the sensitive.

I was fascinated by this book. I read The Highly Sensitive Child by Elaine Aron a couple of years ago, and so was interested in Hannah’s take on the subject of sensitive people. I enjoyed how she combines accounts of her lived experiences with wide-ranging expert interviews. Her research is extremely thorough, thought-provoking, and some salient points shall stay with me, which is generally the sign of a good book.

I was particularly interested in the observations about our connection with nature, now compared with the past. Hannah tells us, “To live in balance with environment requires the skill of sensitivity – to hold the idea of ourselves as part of something”. When I suffered burnout and functional neurological disorder in 2009, I felt like I was missing a layer of skin – physically and mentally. I was stuck in hyper sensitive mode. Nature was one of the things which helped me to heal. I was able to tune into it in a more intense way than I had ever done previously, and it helped me to feel part of something bigger than myself. This gave me hope and a break from my day to day worries.

And the chapter about gut instinct was fascinating. It referenced interoception – the brain’s awareness of your bodily state – which I first heard about when I took part in the Uncertainty Experts. To use interoception is to listen to our brain’s conversation with our body. Boy, I wish I did that as I was heading to burnout.

This book will appeal to anyone who is sensitive or hangs out with sensitive family or friends. And to anyone, like me, who is super curious and wants to learn more about people. The biggest lesson I take away from books like this is that we are all different. This book in particular, demonstrated that there is a sliding scale of sensitivity, and we need people from across the spectrum – both in our work teams and in society as a whole. The positive traits are not always celebrated as much as they should be. On a more specific note, in the chapter about sensitive people at work HR Consultant Christine Garner gave advice for team meetings. I will do my best to offer diverse ways for people to contribute and give feedback. Some people, particularly highly sensitive people, may need more time than is offered to contribute.

Phrases like “they are too sensitive” are almost always used as a pejorative, a way to put someone down or to move away from emotions which make us feel awkward or embarrassed.

I hope this book helps those who are sensitive to find their place in the world. And for me? I will be more careful how I use the word sensitive and will continue my quest to be understanding of others.

I was gifted a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Hannah Powell is a book blogger, author and director of two garden centres. Her award-winning memoir, The Cactus Surgeon, compares her days in the concrete of London, leading to burnout, with her nature-rich upbringing in rural Essex. It’s a nature and health memoir full of mindful moments.

3 thoughts on “Are we doing those who are sensitive a disservice?

  1. I really enjoyed this book! It is full of interesting insights into the sensitive person and their connection to nature. I learned a lot about myself and my place in the world from this book.

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