It’s 12:02am, January 1, 2012, and I’ve spent a quiet evening with a friend, neither of us acknowledging the fact that it was New Years Eve, but nonetheless, using the evening to process some thoughts and feelings about our path in life.
I had gone to bed at around 8pm, about 20 minutes after reading a passage from ‘The Highly Senstive Child’ that disturbed me, triggered me and required me to go deep (sleep in this case) to process the shocking revelation that had just occured.
I had written in an earlier blog post that I had been benefitting greatly from having been introduced by a friend to the concept of ‘The Highly Sensitive Person’, and how it seemed to be a step towards a new reframing of how we preceive mental illness, ADHD and other things. Since beginning to frame my experience around the concept of a higher sensitivity, a lot of things have been falling into place, and I’m feeling better about myself.
I’ve had my reservations about Elaine Aron, Ph.D, and her book, and the following it has received since it was first introduced to me, but I trusted that it had resonated somehow with my friend, who is as critically minded as anyone I know.
It wasn’t until I started reading the Highly Sensitive Child, and the description in the introductory chapter about the difference between HSC/HSP and ADHD that I realized how wildly different the authors framework is from my own. She’s a psychologist, and so it’s not surprising that despite going out on a limb and seeking to shift the paradigm somewhat, that she doesn’t have the same kind of perspective I do. I’ve long understood that the shift in paradigm I seek will not be led by the same people who created it, but by people who are pushing back against the idea that medical professionals should be defining our experience of the world, and dominating conversations about something like ‘sensitivity’.
Essentially, Dr. Aron believes that ADHD and HSP are two completely different things. She believes that ADHD, as well as things like Aspergers and Autism, are disorders and HSPs/HSCs are ‘normal’. She even uses the word normal several times to reinforce this.
I had already been alerted to the ablism of her approach by another blogger, who took issue with an essay describing the difference between HSP and the autistic spectrum. That didn’t prevent me from being completely winded when I read this chapter. It was like a tool that had been incredibly helpful to me was being taken away; that the empowering experience of believing that I wasn’t sick or abnormal or suffering a disorder was ripped from under me, once again marginalized and misunderstood.
I slept for about 3 and a half hours, and when I got up for a drink of water I was able to describe to my friend what had occured. During the course of the conversation with her I realized that I had not lost anything. This concept, of high sensitivity and the coping strategies I had learned for it, has helped me greatly, and if anything, I’ve gained some understanding that will help me in the way I communicate my experience to others, and which further illuminates the connection between this sensitivity and various ‘disorders’ that I believe are harmfully diagnosed.
People with ‘mental illness’ and ADHD like myself who recognize themselves in this HSP concept have every right to it as ‘normal’ people. Dr. Aron’s does the world a great disservice by marginalizing people with ‘general lack of executive functions, such as decision making, focusing and reflecting on outcomes.’ These were never my strong suits either as a child (to say the least), and I’ve struggled hard to improve them, despite my parents and teachers not having any reference for what I was going through. (This was before ADHD was ‘discovered’ even, and had I been born a few years later, I would also now be struggling with the effects of Ritalin).
Imagine all the parents who pick up Dr. Aron’s book, who could benefit from this framework, being told it didn’t apply to their child because they had been labled with this bogus drug company invented disorder which is almost wholly based on an inability to tolerate the repressive prison like atmosphere of public school.
So I just wanted to put that out there into the world as soon as I could, then go back to bed. The concept of high senstivity does not belong to this horribly misguided psychologist, and we don’t have to mention her name every time we talk about our sensitivity, as seems to the case with situations like, “I’m a Highly Sensitive Person, which means, according to Dr. Elaine Aron, Ph.D in her book…”
We can claim space in this new framework as well, make it our own, despite the limitations placed on it by this one person. We can use the helpful knowledge imparted by her or anyone else and take what we need, leaving those parts that don’t resonate with us. I am grateful for the revelation I had tonight. I want to continue exploring this line of inquiry, and perhaps I can share that with other people who have been marginalized, misunderstood, drugged and labled. I think we are that much closer to the empowering frameworks that will allow us to heal by seeing first that we are not as damaged as most people think.