HSP stands for “highly sensitive person”. I don’t necessarily agree with the choice of words because it makes it sound as though something went wrong during the upbringing of said person who somehow needs to “man up”. The scientific term for this is SPS, sensory processing sensitivity, which has to do with the way stimuli and external information are received, transported and processed in the brain. This has nothing to do with your acquired character or the way you were raised, you are born with it and this trait is hereditary, meaning that if you look carefully at the family of an HSP, the chances are that you will find another HSP.
Before I look at why I am asking if HSPs are more likely to be vegan, I will give you a little bit of background. It is estimated that 15-20% of the population is born with sensory processing sensitivity. This doesn’t sound like a lot when you think that 80% of the population may have never heard of the term and may not really understand the trait. But this also means that up to 1 in 5 people present the trait, and to put these figures in context, if I am in a room of 10 people, I may even find another person like me! (Yes, I am an HSP myself.)
How do you know if you are an HSP? Common signs are: sensitivity to bright lights, loud noises, chemical smells, complex social situations, and a general feeling of overwhelm in situations that don’t seem to put our fellow humans to the test like they do to us. HSPs can also display higher levels of empathy, they can sense the mood of a crowd and pick up signs that go unnoticed to others. Do you see where I’m going?
Sensing and perceiving all these things is tiring. Because we process things more deeply, our brains work harder and we need to spend some time alone to recover. Being unable to rest the mind and recover can cause high levels of stress to an HSP.
Before I knew I was an HSP, I would say things like “I cannot listen to jazz on a Sunday morning”, or “this music is so loud I cannot hear myself thinking”, because this was the true way I was feeling, but these thoughts could also upset other people who could not hear these sounds the way I could hear them.
Other things that can overwhelm me are: the sound of an ambulance, the blue flashing lights of an ambulance, loud repetitive noises – like someone drumming their feet on the floor- a massive war rocket hanging off the ceiling at the museum, a picture of a sad animal in a cage, a granny with mental health issues walking alone at the pub.
Here I finally get to the point: if we HSPs can sense, feel, perceive most things more thoroughly, surely these things include pain and suffering. So I think I can perceive a sad look, a desperate mood more than most people. Of course, perceiving and knowing are one thing -whether I care and what my ethical choices are is something else.
Still, if I can perceive things with more detail, I have an extra opportunity to be more aware and have more evidence to make a conscious choice. So I want to ask you: if you are an HSP or think you might be, do you think this has had an influence on your decision to go vegan? Do you know many vegan HSPs?
I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback!