According to Dr. Elaine N. Aron, author of “The Highly Sensitive Person,” 15-20% of the world is highly sensitive. This minority group senses stimuli from within themselves and in their surroundings much more intensely than the rest of the world does. They also experience thoughts and feelings that are very different from those of others.
Throughout my blog, I have written about various types of highly sensitive people (not just people with OCPD) and the different ways in which they experience the world. I have written about those who feel very different emotions that most people do not feel, those who think very different thoughts that most people do not think of, and even those who see and hear very different things that most people do not see or hear. After reading over the stats of my blog and seeing the interesting terms that my curious visitors plug into their search engines to find my site, I felt inspired to write about another aspect of high sensitivity.
Some highly sensitive people not only experience sexual thoughts and feelings much more intensely than other people do, but they also experience sexual thoughts and feelings that might be very different from those of others.
Highly sensitive people do not conveniently choose what stimuli enter their senses. Sometimes what enters is overwhelming, disturbing, or very different. This just comes with the territory of being highly sensitive. It is quite normal for highly sensitive people to experience sexual thoughts and feelings that are different from those of others.
When highly sensitive children experience their different thoughts and feelings (whether they may be sexual, emotional, imaginational, intellectual, spiritual, sensual, etc.), what they need to hear is, “I acknowledge and validate your thoughts and feelings, child. They are real. They come as a result of your heightened sensitivity.” Unfortunately, most of the highly sensitive population grow up being told that their thoughts and feelings are wrong.
But just because their inner experiences are real does not necessarily make it a good idea to give highly sensitive children complete freedom to follow all of their thoughts and feelings. Boundaries can help protect highly sensitive children from going too far down a path that ends with more pain and stress. For children with OCD, their thoughts of catastrophic events are real to them and they feel the immediate need to prevent those events from ever happening. When they are left alone without any boundaries, many of them go ahead with their preventative measures which, overtime, become compulsions that are extremely difficult to break later on.
Sexuality is one of those areas that many children are left without any boundaries. But do boundaries even need to be set in this area? Unlike the OCD example I have given above, no one can really argue that any path in sexuality, whether it be heterosexuality, homosexuality, or other, ends with more pain and stress. There are happy same-sex couples and there are people like Erika Eiffel who are married to objects. But one thing for sure is that most highly sensitive children are not fully aware of what really happens in their brain when they repeatedly act out on their sexual thoughts and feelings. They do not know what they are getting themselves into.
Sexual attraction works like a compulsion. After repeatedly acting out on sexual thoughts and feelings, the body and mind begin to automatically produce all the chemicals related to mating whenever the object of sexual attraction is present. The person that it affects feels like he or she has very little control over how he or she feels. This applies to heterosexuality, homosexuality, and other sexual preferences. If people ever want to develop sexual attraction for something different down the road, while it will be very difficult, it is not impossible. It is a matter of consistently accessing different neural pathways in the brain by behaving and thinking differently (read more on neuroplasticity). But since old neural pathways, even the ones that are not accessed any longer, still remain inside the brain, past sexual attraction cannot be completely erased. It always just sits there. There is no “cure.” But that does not mean change is impossible.
Sexuality does not always begin with the presence of sexual thoughts and feelings. Sometimes it is the absence of sexual thoughts and feelings that causes highly sensitive people to explore their sexuality. Highly sensitive people do have a tendency to place more meaning in the lack or absence of expected thoughts and feelings.
Finally, I would like to end off with a fun video clip by College Humor:
Did you notice how many of the stereotypes used in this clip also relate to high sensitivity? The focus on details, empathy, etc.