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Why HSPs Need To Gather  
by Marcia Norris

(excerpted from the August 2001 issue of Comfort Zone newsletter)

When Elaine mentioned to me last fall that she was considering the idea of an 'HSP Conference,' my initial response was sky-high enthusiasm. I thought about the fascinating potential topics of discussion, learning about how others cope with all the stuff that plagues HSPs, finding commonalities and figuring out how I stack up.

Group Photo 2002Then about one and a half seconds later I was wondering where on earth I would ever find the energy to do it. All those unfamiliar people, sharing sleeping and restroom facilities and having no idea what I'd find at mealtime. That enthusiasm and the dread existed side by side -- and both at full force -- right on through the event itself. I'd venture to guess that a large number of you understand exactly what I was feeling. It's an HSP thing.

Given that HSPs are 10 to 15% of the population, very few of us knowingly live in proximity to each other. Only an infinitesimal number actually have the privilege of meeting with other HSPs on a regular basis -- typically in formal support or therapy groups in or near metropolitan areas. [Just writing that sentence makes me feel alienated.] Finding those of a similar temperament is tough, if not outright against the odds. It took contributions from Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado, Texas, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Sweden(!) and all over California just to get 30+ of us together.

That means that most of the time HSPs face the prevailing world alone, without peers. Most of us spend our lives steeling ourselves against friends, family, and coworkers who don't understand why we can't simply "fit in." One woman who attended realized that she hadn't needed to "explain" herself all weekend. What a blessing. What a relief. HSPs need to gather so we can write our own rules -- even if just for a few days.

And write our own rules we did! My favorite was the freedom to "pass." If somebody didn't want to speak or felt overwhelmed they could just say "I pass." I for one reveled in the lack of requirement to conform. Nobody even blinked when I decided to duck out of a session Saturday afternoon to take a nap. Out in the larger world I'd likely have been met with scorn. At the Gathering I was actually well within the rules. So cool. It's an HSP thing.

I had the opportunity to conduct a "Quick Poll" and pose questions to the group that would not be asked in any "normal" group. HSPs need to gather so they have the chance to see the ways they are, and are not, like other HSPs. It gave everyone a giggle to see who raised their hands in answer to questions like: Who considers their pet to be among their best friends? How many have "come out" as an HSP to family and friends? Or, which of you are always the last one in a group to finish eating a meal? Those aren't ordinary questions. Why not? It's an HSP thing.

We came away validated, fortified, and armed with phrases to defend and explain ourselves. We saw how we were stronger than some and weaker than others, articulate or tongue-tied, thriving or stuck in our lives, accepting of our trait or in denial. But managing as best we could. We talked about the joys and drawbacks of being highly sensitive. That's why we need to gather.

It's an HSP thing. And I wouldn't have it any other way.


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