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If there was a drug that turned highly sensitive people into normal sensitive people, what would it change? And would you take it?” Jean-Christoph asked these questions to some of his first interviewees in the simply highly sensitive podcast. How spontaneously and decisively most of them rejected the fictitious drug for themselves surprised me.

My answer would be more ambivalent, I thought at the time. After all, I sometimes struggle with the disadvantages of high sensitivity – just like many other highly sensitivepersons ( HSPs). For my interview, therefore, I put a few thoughts in my mind. In our conversation, however, Jean-Christoph left out the question. But it has not let me go until today.

Therefore, I would like to deal with the idea or the thought experiment of an anti-HSP pill , as I would like to call it with a wink. By this, of course, I do not mean a pill against HSPs, but a remedy that temporarily switches off typical highly sensitive characteristics. I illuminate the potentials of such a pill and finally face the crucial question of high sensitivity, namely the question whether I would swallow the pill.

Regarding risks and side effects, it should be noted that high sensitivity is not a diagnosis, even if the pill and the drug in this article suggest a connection with a disease.

Less overstimulation

Highly sensitive people have a more permeable perceptual filter, which is why more stimuli get through to them. This in turn can lead to overload – either from very many or very intense stimuli. If a tablet were to switch off or at least lower high sensitivity, we would be able to tolerate or block out more things. The droning of construction sites, traffic noise, children’s screams – none of this could affect us. Crowds of people in shopping malls would be less stressful for us, and we could effortlessly remain quiet on crowded trains.

On the other hand, we would miss out on many things. For example, we would lose that handy error sensor that helps us find spelling mistakes in long texts. We would no longer be the first to notice our friend’s new hair color and delight her with it. We would overlook our guinea pig’s fatigue; we would not make an appointment with the vet and perhaps have to bury it shortly thereafter.

Every pill has side effects. We would have to reckon with that, too, if our showcase characteristic were to be hit hard, namely our empathy.

Less compassion

We highly sensitive people are good at empathizing with others. We often know what’s going on even before our counterpart does. However, this often leads to us getting too carried away. Then we burden ourselves with other people’s problems, although we ourselves have enough issues on our mind.

By taking the pill against high sensitivity, we would suffer less. We could remain calm when other people argue, complain when they attack us or treat us unfairly. We would be impregnated against the aggressions of other people or when they want to unload their package of worries on us.

On the other hand, our fingertips would bensense of what other people value us for would be lost. We would more often be at a loss when it comes to other people’s behavior. In any case, we would no longer be able to understand so easily why the bus driver is in a bad mood or the colleague is pouring out his heart to us for the 100th time.

I think many HSPs would like to turn off their empathy. Because that would make a big construction site easier for them: differentiating themselves from other people.

Better demarcation

Among highly sensitive people, hardly any topic is as present as the demarcation from other people. The protagonists in my book also find it difficult to say no and feel guilty when they do. With the anti-HSP pill, they would be a little less concerned about what others think. They would be better able to distinguish what is their responsibility – and what is not. This would allow them to assert themselves more easily and with a clear conscience.

In this way, we could also consume news without letting it get too close to us. Then we wouldn’t have to turn away from world events – because that doesn’t help anyone anyway. A thicker skin would therefore be very useful.

However, we could become too ind ifferent to everything – for example, if we overdose on the pill. Then no one would care about what needs protection in the world. Certainly, the environmentalists and animal rights activists of today are committed to good causes precisely because of their high sensitivity and world-weariness.

However, let’s keep in mind another benefit of the anti-HSP pill: namely, more peace of mind.

Less brooding

Highly sensitive people question everything. They weigh and analyze. That’s why I stand in front of the shelf in the supermarket for hours and can’t decide on a shampoo. The mental cinema often leads nowhere, if I’m honest. That’s why I, like many other highly sensitive people, would like to turn off my head sometimes. Just live and not think everything through.

The fictitious miracle pill would shorten our thought processes. We could leave things as they are and not go through them umpteen times. That would save energy and make us more relaxed.

But would we then still be the conversation partners that we are as highly sensitive people? Probably not, because our threads of thought would quickly be spun out. We would be less able to follow, less able to think in a networked way, and would have fewer ideas overall. Gone would be the self-written poems, creative business and gift ideas.

These facets are just the tip of the iceberg. The pill would eliminate many more. We just can’t cherry-pick. But if we were to cut corners, would we benefit overall? Or would it be our fellow human beings who would benefit?

Who would benefit from the anti-HSP pill?

First of all, we ourselves would be the beneficiaries, if our fully automatic empathy mode could be deactivated (more about this in my manual for the highly sensitive partner). For a few hours – why not? Or even a few days? We would have to pay less attention and manage our energy.

The higher the pressure of suffering, the greater the support for the anti-HSP pill would be. There might also be a majority for it among our fellow human beings.. After all, it would suit them if we highly sensitive people were suddenly more uncomplicated. For example, I don’t want to be an extra sausage, nor do I want to be a burden on others. But I become inedible when I am hungry, overtired or extremely stressed. If I could eliminate these special effects with a pill, I’m sure my partner wouldn’t mind.

Thus, the pill would make us less likely to get in trouble. People would wonder less about us and we would be more compatible with the world outside. Maybe then more jobs would come into question for us. Rigid working hours, open-plan offices, dull tasks – with the appropriate doping, we would be able to cope better, which would have economic advantages for some people. On the other hand, highly sensitive people are often tinkerers and inventors, artists and scientists (or used to be). Without them, the world would be less colorful and innovative. These losses cannot be quantified, nor can they be outweighed by the benefits.

In any case, with the anti-HSP pill in our blood, we would no longer be who we are. High sensitivity is not our only trait, but it is an essential trait. Thus, the pill would change more than we suspect at first glance.

Now we come to the crucial question: Would I swallow the pill?

The crucial question: Would I take it?

I would like to answer this Gretchen question of high sensitivity with an anecdote: A few years ago, I was on a week-long business trip with my supervisor, which honored me but also cost me a lot of energy. There was no break, rest or retreat. I had to coordinate appointments, find addresses, understand subway maps and navigate street networks. On top of that, there were the usual treats for highly sensitive travelers: Small talk, big-city noise and conference rooms cooled down to 18 degrees.

After the first week, I was already crawling on my toes and just trying to function. I could hardly enjoy the foreign countries anymore. I had no nerve at all for the usual tourist naps and souvenirs. I get a rash from mugs, key chains and t-shirts printed with landmarks. One day, however, my eye caught a brown vial in a shop window. It was homeopathic Rescue drops. On the label of the remedy, which was unfamiliar to me, I read something about “acute stress” and felt confidence welling up inside me. I was more than stressed and hoped to get through the remaining days of travel with these drops. I grabbed the vial and headed to the checkout with it. It was to be my only souvenir from that trip.

Years later, that vial still sits on my bathroom shelf – exactly as full as it was in the store window. I took the remedy with me everywhere, to lectures, appointments and in restaurants, but in the end I did not swallow the drops. Maybe I didn’t trust the effect enough. Or maybe I don’t take medicines lightly in general. Above all, however, I always thought:

You only take them when it’s really bad.

The drops were my emergency kit, which I only wanted to unpack when it couldn’t get any worse. And that moment didn’t come, at least

not on the trip and in the weeks afterwards. It would be a few more months before my body threw in the towel from exhaustion. But on the trip, it never felt like I needed the last resort.

Crucially, it calmed me to have the drops with me.

This is what the anti-HSP pill question reminds me of. I would certainly be one of the first buyers. I would carry them with me everywhere as a backup

, just as I always carry lip balm and hand cream in my purse and usually forget to take either. I would carry the hypersensitivity pill around the world in the same way and probably not swallow it. It would, however, give me a sense of security: When the going gets tough, it would be my emergency anchor.

However, the thought of an emergency anchor also stirs resistance in me: it may well be that I wouldn’t take the anti-HSP pill on principle, because nine days out of ten I am strong and have my pride. Somehow I don’t want to have to take chemicals to be compatible

, to be considered okay by others and myself.

In a way, the pill would be surrender, after all – as drugs generally are, at least in my view.

Drugs and “Homeopathic” AlternativesWhile the

miracle pill described does not exist, many of us (whether highly sensitive or not) turn to other pseudo-narcotics such as alcohol and nicotine. We use them to dampen unpleasant moods and sensations. For example, there’s the after-work beer, which is supposed to help us wind down

after a hard day and quickly becomes a habit. The quality of my sleep suffers so much from alcohol that I only consume it as an exception. In addition, alcohol increases depressive tendencies and anxiety, which is another counter-argument for me.

Fortunately, there are homeopathic

alternatives. When everything gets too much for me, I try to sleep more, for example (if you have trouble falling asleep, the falling asleep podcast helps). I also cancel appointments and work less. This helps me to be more rested and to better tolerate sensory overload. I also exercise for balance and recharge my batteries in conversations with people who are good for me.

Another realistic and for me relatively new alternative to the anti-HSP pill is meditation. For many years I failed in my attempt to acquire this technique, as I also admit in my book. Now I have finally gotten started and draw much strength from the habit (which is why I help others learn it).

Not to raise false hopes: Baby crying still drives me crazy, and I might still freak out if a leaf blower is going on next to me. But I’m relaxing more often, and as a result, I’m better equipped to face the world outside, without chemicals.

A miracle pill may seem tempting – whatever you take it for or against. But let’s focus instead on what we can do in the here and now.

Because that’s a whole lot.

Now tell me, how do you feel about high sensitivity?


I look forward to comments.

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