Hypersensitivity: Is it a Challenge or a Gift?

Rebecca Menard, Energy Therapist
Blog Post

I am often asked what is a multisensory intuitive empath? To which I could answer: it is a gift I have actualized that originates with my hyper-sensitive neurology. People are fundamentally the same. We all share about 99.5% of the same genetic code. But, that .5% can make a world of difference in how we view and experience ourselves, others and the world around us. One variance in this half of a percent is the atypical neurology of autism.

People on the autism spectrum often have sensory differences from neurotypical individuals. We tend to have more extreme sensory receptivity. This can be in a hypo or hyper direction and it can impact some or all of the senses. Personally, I reside on the extreme hypersensitive side of the range, which can be challenging in this chaotic world filled with stimulating activity. It can feel uncomfortable, even painful at times.

For myself, fluorescent lighting feels so oppressive I want to cry, loud noises jolt my body causing muscle spasms, and I am extremely sensitive to anything on my skin. I do what I can to limit my exposure to sensory input and wear soft clothing. I also utilize tools like sunglasses and noise cancelling headphones to dull my senses.

But what’s most challenging for me is my sensitivity to people. Their physicality, thoughts and emotions can be like a fire alarm going off, even when they are still and quiet. Any discord, emotional upset or sickness in people can consume my attention and prevent me from engaging other thoughts or activities until it is resolved. This can make crowds intolerable if I am tired or otherwise unable to boundary the sensory input.

Hypersensitivity is often thought to be a negative thing because of the challenges it presents. It can invite statements like “stop being so sensitive” or worse, from average to hyposensitive people who do not understand. But I have found there is another side to this state of being that can deepen and enrich the experience of life. Hypersensitive people take in the subtleties that others often miss. Having a heightened sense of one’s environment allows for the appreciation of the nuance and beauty of colors, sounds and textures, and it can provide valuable information for navigating the world.

As a child, I dealt with floods of sensory stimuli that drew my hyper-focus, engaged my hyper-systemizing brain, became my area of special interest and ultimately my life’s work. I spent my childhood rocking for hours, observing and playing with the movement of energy. I thought everyone was as empathic and acutely aware of sensory input as I. It wasn’t until I ventured out into the world that I realized my awareness was unusual and this sparked my curiosity to understand why.

I became deeply fascinated with the inner workings of human beings and human consciousness. People seemed like puzzles to me and I wanted to know how all the parts fit together and worked. I sought to understand why others were not aware of subtler energies. As I explored this query, I began to see my sensitivity as a gift and I couldn’t imagine how people navigated without this level of awareness.

I have come to realize how I use my sensory awareness to compensate for my most significant challenge…communication. I grew up being asked if I could speak or if I was a mute. When I did speak, I spoke with a southern accent despite not having anyone in my life from the south. People’s use of language continues to be a mystery to me. I am extremely literal and take others’ speech in this vein. Subtext, nonliteral innuendos and jokes often go over my head.

So I have learned to rely on my sensory awareness. I may not understand the implied subtext in what someone is saying, but I can feel what they feel when they say it. I can sense the shift in their energy, tone and mood. I have found this input to be more reliable than my ability to discern what someone actually means by what they say. I find the same is true in how others receive me. I am much more effective in expressing myself nonverbally, with my presence and actions than putting words to what I want to convey.

I self diagnosed about twenty years ago, but I don’t fit the typical stereotypes connected with people on the spectrum and no one believed me. I decided to get an “official diagnosis” in recent years to give myself some backing when confronted with the familiar “NO, you’re not on the spectrum…” I want to be a part of breaking down incorrect stereotypes, and I felt the official diagnosis would be important.

I am a slender, middle-aged, blue eyed, blonde, female empath, and I am on the autism spectrum. This is just a part of who I am, but without my atypical neurology and hypersensitivity, I would not embody the unique traits of being a multisensory intuitive empath. My hypersensitivity along with my other hyper-orientations have allowed me to develop my own body of work and skill utilizing sensory information to facilitate healing and growth in myself and others.