I’m not sure the author of this article fully understands highly sensitive people or Sensory Processing Sensitivity. I’m okay with the term “sensitive striver” as a descriptive term but she loses me at recommending listening to our intuition as a way of circumventing overthinking. First, it is precisely intuition, which HSPs are typically quite high in, that sparks us to think and reflect more on a problem and possible solutions or action plans. If we “go with our gut” we miss the point of Sensory Processing Sensitivity as an evolved psychological mechanism, or adaptation, that allows about 20% of the population to process ideas, concepts, and all stimuli to a greater degree in the brain. Our brains are literally built for deep thinking and reflection and not built for quick action and fast decisions. The fast thinking and quick decisions are what less sensitive people make and what they are better at. The problem is not every circumstance is suitable for quick decisions where gut instinct arrives at an intuitive decision without rational thought processes coming into play.
Now, it is true that HSPs are not born as rational thinkers because critical thinking is a skill one must practice and attain over a lifetime. HSPs, however, are better at spending more time in reflection on a problem and allowing the interplay between rational thought and creative thought, where alternatives and options are generated, to find a space before arriving at possible actions.
There is also much to be said for developing a keen sense of mindfulness about our internal processes so we do not fall down the rabbit hole of overthinking. If we are aware that we are better equipped to spend more time in reflection and the interplay between creative thinking and critical thinking, it is also reasonable to, at some point, begin to allow our intuition to rank our possible options and action plans. What’s the point of generating alternatives if we can never arrive at a decision? I do agree with the author on that point.
I do not agree on the implication that all “sensitive strivers” are chronic overthinkers or perfectionists. Many of us, in fact, do learn when good enough is good enough, simply as a matter of living in the world where imperfection is all around us. The point is to have our voice heard and to have it be valued. To do that, we need to really be able to “own” the way we process ideas, concepts, and problems in a deeper, more elaborate way and understand and appreciate that, in the end, it will come down to looking at all of the options that we have generated so carefully and choosing one, while knowing lesser options may have worked equally as well.
Time and practice, plus experience, will lead us to learning to trust our intuition to some extent but avoid the trap of going with gut feelings at all times over rational thought because they are very different processes. Rational thought uses logic and a set of universal standards to reason with that is entirely missing from intuition. HSPs especially need to develop as rational and creative thinkers because we do have a need for a broader “toolbox” when the deep thinking and reflection occur. The more tools we have, the better we will be able to work through their advantages versus disadvantages, and the more options we can produce, generate, and create.
I’m not so sure we should be admonished to “stop overthinking everything” so much as to think using a more developed tool kit, mixed with a fair amount of intuition as we move through the process. I have learned that most HSPs tend to not have had good mentoring early and lack meaningful ways to understand themselves, to practice self-care in the way that we really need to in order to be sustainable as people who experience life in a more intense way, and we particularly lack, as does most of the population, in the areas of creative thinking and critical thinking.
Build out your toolkit and your time spent thinking will be less about overthinking and more about productive thinking that generates innovative and novel options and alternatives.
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