One almost universal experience I have with clients is that they underestimate the impact their temperament has had on their experiences in the world. They often blame themselves for “the way they are”, but the way they are is often related to temperamental characteristics and not a matter of choice. However, particularly for sensitive people, and for those who are more introverted, they may hear that they are too sensitive, not outgoing enough, that they need to speak up, and so on. This sort of feedback can impact the self image of anyone who may already have a relatively poor sense of themselves in life.
Temperament is defined as “the combination of mental, physical, and emotional traits of a person” or “consistent individual differences in behavior that are biologically based and are relatively independent of learning, system of values and attitudes.” That is right—temperament is biologically based—in other words, we don’t choose it, and we can’t really change it.
If we understand our temperamental differences, and appreciate them, we can understand more about what we need and why we need what we need; we can understand why some people are more naturally outgoing while others need a lot of alone time; why some people seem to have an endless amount of energy and spark while others are quieter and tire easily. We can appreciate that none of this is good, or bad—it just is.
There are many tools available to explore this topic—here is just a small sampling.
Have you ever been told that you are too sensitive? Do you startle easily, get overwhelmed by loud noises, too many things happening at once, or things light harsh lighting and certain smells like perfume? Do you have a hard time tolerating alcohol or medication? Do you have a very hard time concentrating when you are on sensory overload? If so, you may be a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP). Dr. Elaine Aron started writing about this particular personality/temperament type over twenty years ago. If you click through to the website you will find a quiz and a ton of information about what an HSP actually is. This trait (I am DEFINITELY an HSP) and learning it exists tends to be very validating for those who have it and have never heard it named. I would encourage you to check it out.
Podcasts for Highly Sensitive People
I strongly recommend episode #65: Narcissists & HSPs, with Nikki Eisenhauer.
This is a website for “introverts and highly sensitive people”. There are some great articles and this website has an active Facebook Page, as well as a podcast. This website pushes out a ton of material, and I really enjoy reading what their writers produce.
It can be extremely useful to know more about your own temperament, and there are many ways to do this. The Myers-Briggs Indicator Type Indicator (MBTI) is a well known test that many people have taken in college courses even in work settings. If you haven’t taken the Myers-Briggs test yet, there are a few ways to do so. The official website offers a longer version of the test, but there is a fee attached. Psych Central (this is one of many similar versions available) has a 16 question shortened version that should give you the same results. The results from the test sort people into one of sixteen personality types.