A HSP at the dentist

Version 2

I attend the dentist every three months at present for management of a dental issue and after today’s visit it gave me the inspiration for my latest blog.

I often liken overwhelm to the traffic lights: Green for everything’s OK through Amber where things are a bit shaken up, to Red in high alert.

From the moment I enter, to quite some time after, I’m impacted by the whole dental experience. (Actually, I even scheduled the appointment to avoid affecting any clients later that day, so it’s present in my mind well in advance).

The receptionist didn’t have a beaming smile, that you might expect in a dental surgery. I take a seat in the waiting room. The dentist is running almost 15 minutes late; I’m not advised of this, yet I’m still “cool” and relaxed. It allows me look around the waiting room with its adverts for improving your smile, wondering if the receptionist has ever seen them. I decide to sit with my thoughts, no Instagram on my phone or magazine articles about Harry and Meghan. There are a couple of other people reading out of date sensational magazines. There are windows in the ceiling giving some natural light, perhaps making some of the fluorescent lights redundant. Well, that’s just my opinion as they are full on. I wonder if there are solar panels on the roof and conclude that another nuclear reactor is possibly working to power these alone. I notice a sign on the water machine that is straight out of the Victorian Guide to Parenting and am tempted to muck around with it, if only momentarily. Being banned from the dentist for having a water fight with a pensioner might make the local newspaper and might not be good for business as a therapist.

“Mr Wilson !”

The time has come.
I walk past the radiation warning signs and greet the dentist with the usual pastiming pleasantries; he’s got goggles and a mask on already and I’ve not sat down yet.

I avoid letting my mind run away with Sir Laurence Olivier cameos : “Is it safe?”

I decide to play a HSP version of “I Spy” and distract myself with all the sensations that are coming my way. I “enjoy” the fluorescent light before being reclined in the chair and notice the high wattage spotlamp – so this is what it’s like to be a rabbit or deer in the road at night, no wonder they don’t know what to do.

The dentist thankfully explains what they are going to do and I decide that I’d rather close my eyes than stare at them and their dental assistant.

I become aware of the radio playing through some speakers; it is the BBC so thankfully advert free; but there’s no music as it’s time for the news. Great, I don’t do the news, don’t they know, it’s always bad. The news is brief, then it’s a discussion about Prince Harry and Meghan. I think the royals are following me about and contemplate if I can get a restraining order on them; Prince Andrew might know a good lawyer? I am almost glad when I receive an injection. My mind is brought into the here and now as an errant drill goes in a part of my gum unaffected by the drug. As a HSP, you never know if you’re going to process the anaesthetic really well and need less of it, or if you’ll need more as the pain is real and felt stronger. Actually I might need another jab to numb the pain of the radio debate. The two “experts” can’t resist talking over each other, like two passionate Italians might do debating say food or football. Talking of football and Italy, another “mistake” with the drill and my foot shoots up in a reflex as I imagine I’ve just scored a goal Ibrahimovic would be proud of.

My tongue is fighting the tube in my mouth; it’s probably a draw at present, but you never know if VAR gets involved. A little water runs down my neck. Nice. I’m glad I’m not seeing a client shortly. At least my sensitivity allows me to believe the liquid is too thin and running too quickly to be blood. No, blood is the taste in my mouth as I swallow in between pauses by the dentist.

“All done, you’re good to go. Rinse your mouth if you wish”.

I take a gulp of this green liquid, that looks like anti-freeze, and it turns purple as I spit it in the sink. I’m on target this month. I could be spittoon champion of Stroud if don’t have too many injections.

I say thanks and goodbye as best I can as my mouth has gone south and make my way out as a drop of water or maybe “anti-freeze” runs down my chest.

I decide to text my partner, as they might not understand my speech on a call and start the wait for my mouth to regain its feeling, whilst wondering if I can drink in public without embarrassing myself.
I decide to risk it and enjoy a coffee with an amazing aftertaste; perhaps Lidocaine should be the new syrup of choice?

Keep smiling !



Feedback Loop


I often use art as a release, a valuable piece of downtime, and during one of visits to an art gallery, I came across artist Alice Sheppard Fidler, an artist local to me, and her latest installation.

I had met Alice previously at an SVA event and happened on a link between art and therapy, art expression, and with Feedback Loop, an exploration of addiction.

Some information about Alice’s installation

FEEDBACK  LOOP September 2019

Cotton hand towels, stitched to form continuous loop, aluminium ladders

Overall dimensions vary with installation

Feedback Loop, – states the artist Alice Sheppard Fidler – is a site specific installation made from cotton hand towels uses the existing architecture of the building to allow ribbons of intense blue to endlessly and relentlessly loop through space. The infinite scroll created by phone designers allows for a ‘seamless experience’, a desirable, never-ending news feed of social media. The hours spent receiving this feed, which advances with interaction, triggers repeated dopamine hits leading to addiction.  It is sometimes know as a social-validation feedback loop.



My interview with Alice

1. How do the contexts of the objects and materials you use affect the works that you create?

Examining the excess produced in the physical world, I work primarily with found and recycled objects, placing them in staged environments. Seeking to draw out their stored narratives and enabling new narratives to take place, these site-specific ‘stagings’ are transient and interact with the spaces they inhabit.

I question the value of making objects and our continued relationship with material things. However, I place a high value on experience, and the associated emotions that are drawn from physical interaction. My work invites an audience to become integrated with it, to be part of the ‘performance’ of it, drawing from the ‘drama’ of the physical moment.

2. Where do your ideas/inspiration come from?

My work examines the relationship we have with self, with others and with material things as we spend more time removed from a physical world and integrated into the digital. The site-specific installations I produce examine the ubiquity of the online spaces in which we live and at the same time the installations reflect upon the invisible power structures that directly impact our daily lives.

The work explores how we navigate between private and public space, how we inhabit and move between the physical world and the on-line world and how we move from a linear thought process to a networked thinking process. I question where the balance of power lies and where our identities begin and end in an increasingly networked world.

Although the digital world is intangible, I am researching the tangible things that happen there: how boundaries are built or broken online and how connections are forged or lost digitally between individuals, groups or nations.

While observing the increasing impact of technology on our behaviour, I am examining the value of emotions associated with physical experiences in contemporary societies. In particular, I am interested in connections, loss and loneliness created through shared experience, both in the physical and online worlds.

3. Could you discuss your work Feedback Loop and social interdependency?

Feedback Loop, a site specific installation made from cotton hand towel, the kind still found in municipal buildings and public places such as schools and hospitals uses the existing architecture of the building to allow ribbons of intense blue to endlessly and relentlessly loop through space.

Through this work I aim to illustrate the power of the “seamless experience” provided by the infinite scroll on our phones and question whether the never-ending news feed of social media is as desirable as we think it is.

The hours spent receiving this feed, which advances with interaction, triggers repeated dopamine hits that can lead to addiction. It is sometimes known as a social-validation feedback loop. Experiments show we feast with our eyes. Phone designers, knowing this, turn human behaviour to their advantage.

I wanted to create an installation that we could feast our eyes on also and be drawn in by its beauty. It took some time to find the right material to serve the purpose. It needed to be an every day material and something that we held in our hands, something that stored the memory of repeated touch.

4.You did a certain amount of research. What do you want to highlight about addiction?

– Sean Parker, first president of Facebook, and one of its founding members spoke out when he left in 2017. Discussing its design and what tactics it used to manipulate and lock users in, he revealed how the company wanted to consume as much time and conscious attention of the user as possible.

– Parker and Zuckerberg knew that they were exploiting a flaw in the human psyche in order to increase their exposure and grow their business but that at that time didn’t care. Parker stated that they were aware then that the addicting and validating nature of Facebook not only changed users relationships with other human beings but with society in general.

– Since 2017, only two years, the relationship we have with our phones has changed significantly due to the growth in services the phones provide. Our phones have become entrenched in our lives so much so we are dependent on them in many ways and they sit in our hands as an extension of our bodies. An Ofcom reports states that smart phones are checked every twelve minutes and two in five adults check their phones within the first five minutes of waking.

– Despite phones being extremely useful and convenient, there is growing concern over phone addiction and the side effects caused by our desire to be constantly connected to many of these sites. It is questioned if they are all as useful as they claim.

5. Social validation – is this affecting young and older in equal measure?  Do you think we are all affected by this in different ways?

Social media networks, dating apps, gambling sites, auction sites and gaming platforms are all designed to draw us constantly in where we are sitting targets for persistent advertising and more recently for data harvesting.

Phone usage dependence in children and teenagers has been noted to have a negative impact on both their physical and mental health. Anxiety, stress, depression, attention deficit order, sleep deprivation and narcissism are issues that have all recently been linked to phone overuse. Interestingly there are many articles and websites now advising us on how to break phone use habits and how to deal with phone addiction.

6. Any feedback from your audience/public/visitors?

I exhibited the installation for one weekend only in a warehouse which is currently being established as a new art space. I chose to be there for the duration so I could spend time with my installation, observing how visitors responded to it and do some drawing from it. I also arranged for an improvisational dance/movement group I am part of to come down and perform a piece in the same space among the loops. I noted that some people like to have something to read about the work prior to their experience while others are happy to wander and absorb by themselves. I hadn’t specified for the work not to be touched, however generally everyone was very careful around it. Amusingly, one couple couldn’t resist touching it repeatedly. Most people seemed content to spend some time around the work and let it take effect. They wandered and stood still in equal measure.

I had some very interesting conversations with members of the public too, the content of which fell in to three categories: about the subject matter that had inspired the work, about how the work operates on a material level in itself and within the space and about how the material nature of the installation relates to the subject matter.

Certainly there was some crucial feedback from visitors with regard to ‘context’ and ‘object’ that can inform my practice going forward. Each time I set up a site-specific installation it is like making a new piece of work and working with stripped back, simple materials I put myself in a very vulnerable position, not so much to the audience but to the work itself. To have the chance to then explore the installation with others is invaluable. Adding the experience of moving through the installation with a group in the form of a ‘dance’ provided another layer of understanding.

Finally the feedback I was most surprised to receive was from the building itself. Having spent several days setting up and then three days with the installation in place, among the clatter of conversations going on around it with regard to addiction and dependency there was another dialogue in place. It felt like the architecture supporting the work had something to say.

I refer in this work, along side the subject matter of phone addiction, to the infinite, something never ending and eternal. By placing the blue loops in the vast hanger of space I allude to something beyond human. It’s funny but I got this strange feeling that after a while the blue loops and the building were just getting on without me.

7. Are you planning to tour with your installation?

I will be applying for opportunities for site-specific installations, while looking for buildings and spaces myself that I think suit the installation.


About Alice

Alice Sheppard Fidler is an artist based in the five valleys, currently working on a MA in Fine Art at UWE (https://www.uwe.ac.uk), and is a Creative Associate for Gifford’s Circus (https://www.giffordscircus.com)


+44 7961 133745



Therapy may help you with addiction, sensitivity and other issues: https://davidwilsoncounselling.com/


fullsizeoutput_c6cPhoto credits: Sarah Maingot, David Wilson

World Mental Health Day

Today 10th Oct 2019 is World Mental Health Day and this year’s theme is suicide prevention.
It is one calendar month on from World Suicide Prevention Day.
Statistics show that worldwide almost 800,000 people take their life each year; this is more than the combined total populations of both Iceland and Malta.
Or put another way, it is one suicide every 40 seconds.
And suicides are preventable.
In the UK, suicide is the main cause of death for young people aged between 20-34. After each suicide, family, friends, colleagues, even communities have to deal with the tragedy.
Suicidal thoughts can affect anyone, at any time.
Men and those in the LGBTQ community are more at risk. Suicide is also higher in Western countries and here three times as many men die as women from suicide.
Many have experienced suicide in their family, friends network, or workplace, and those that haven’t will perhaps be aware of a celebrity that has taken their own life: Ernest Hemingway, Robin Williams, Gary Speed to name a few.

Sadly there is still a stigma about mental health, which many are working to change. And not all governments have a strategy for suicide prevention.

It can be difficult to express having suicidal thoughts to others due to a perceived view of being weak or maybe selfish. Consequently you may hide these thoughts, which may prevent you from getting the help you need. Having suicidal thoughts does not mean you will take action to end you life: about 20% of the population will have suicidal thoughts at some stage in their life, but less than 7% will act on these.
You are likely to have had some feelings of desperation, hopelessness, or worthlessness for a period of time beforehand.
It may be difficult to put your finger on the exact cause, as it could be a combination of factors.
When I was circa 25, I did have suicidal thoughts myself and felt both desperate and hopeless, and definitely not understood. I never got as far as planning, but it was a low point at a supposed prime time in my life.

I once had a counselling tutor who labelled suicide as a “cry for help”.
I remember challenging this at the time. It seemed like a judgement to me, as anyone at the point of taking their own life is by definition in a very desperate place.
I understand that circa 6/7 out of ten who tried but didn’t take their own life are glad they survived; which would leave the other 3/4 who still want to die and who may with the right help come to a difference stance later on.

Changing attitudes towards mental health may well need help from celebrities, TV, newspapers, and especially social media.
Some may argue that all these media actually contribute to low mood.
Many of us are on social media and can get drawn into comparisons, perhaps feeling inadequate or not good enough.

Personally I stopped watching the news (and TV in general) some years ago and feel better for it. A quick glance at an online newspaper this morning only has “bad” news: fighting in the Middle East, supermarkets ripping off suppliers in the third world, a person suspected of causing a fatal road accident claiming diplomatic immunity from the safety of their own country, 50% of children aged 11-16 say they have gambled (in the UK), a gunman arrested after a rampage; extreme weather causes cancellation of a Rugby match; and the daily update on the Brexit impasse.
There is not a single “good” thing in these top seven articles.
As for social media, much has been written about the algorithms, the “need” to compare yourself to others, the “high” of a “like” or new follower with the opposite also applying.

A start has been made to reduce with a view to eliminating as much as possible the stigma of mental health.
Suicide is preventable and a tragedy for the family and we need and must do more.


If you are in immediate distress or feel suicidal, then please contact:

UK/Ireland – the Samaritans on tel: 116123
You can still call even if you don’t have credit on your mobile, and the number won’t show up on phone bills.
Email: jo@samaritans.org
Visit the Samaritans website for details of how to get face-to-face help:

In the USA, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is: 1-800-273-8255
For Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is: 13 11 14

International – Other international suicide helplines can be found at Befrienders Worldwide: http://www.befrienders.org

Help for those bereaved by suicide:

Support After Suicide https://supportaftersuicide.org.uk/
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide https://uksobs.org/
Papyrus https://papyrus-uk.org
Winston’s Wish (grief in children) https://www.winstonswish.org
Cruse Bereavement Care https://www.cruse.org.uk

If you wish to help those ending the stigma of mental health, as well as those listed above, here are some charities to contact:

National Suicide Prevention Alliance https://www.nspa.org.uk/
Time To Change https://www.time-to-change.org.uk
Mind https://www.mind.org.uk

Photo credits :

WHO http://who.int
University of Leeds https://equality.leeds.ac.uk


Touchy Smelly Feely Noisy Tasty



British designer Tom Dixon has filled his King’s Cross hub with the flavours, the fragrances, the sounds, the colours and textures of the future.


Billed as : Presenting the flavours, the fragrances, the sounds, the colours & textures of the future, this event at Tom Dixon London (Coal Office, 1 Bagley Walk, Kings Cross, N1C 4PQ) runs until Sunday 22nd Sept 19.

Have you ever considered yourself sensitive or experiencing difficulties or challenging moments when your brain perceives overwhelming situations that can ‘attack’ your senses?

Have a go with this test and you might discover some nuances about yourself:


The High Sensitivity trait is also know as a Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) is a personality trait involving “an increased sensitivity of the central nervous system and a deeper cognitive processing of physical, social and emotional stimuli” – Sofie Boterberg & Petra Warreyn on their research at the Ghent University (2016).

For those identifying as highly sensitive, this assault on the senses at the Coal Office could be an interesting “experiment” for your sensitivity to the faculties of sight, smell, hearing, taste, and touch.

The entire Coal Office – from the studio, shop, factory and trade counters to the bar and restaurant – has become a multi-sensory lab with interactive installations, workshops and talks inspired by the five senses and how they shape the future of design.

Tom says: ‘As designers, we look at everything. We determine the shape, the colours and the aesthetics of a space before anything else. But here in the Coal Office we wanted to explore the role that all our other – often lesser recognised senses – contribute to our experiences of design; the smell and the taste of a place, the textures and tone of a space, the sound of an interior or the weight of an object – or even the most intangible of all – the sixth sense. Hence why we have called this season TouchySmellyFeelyNoisyTasty, because after all, we are multisensory animals.’ 

 Based on my experience, your own environment is key; keep in mind the DOES – Depth of Processing, Overarousability, Emotional Intensity, and Sensory Sensitivity.

In particular, Overarousability and Sensory Sensitivity can be spiked by touch, smell, feel, noise, and taste, and so minimising your exposure as an HSP, according to your needs, may make a dramatic improvement in your well-being.

#TouchySmellyFeelyNoisyTasty #therapy #therapist #counselling #counsellingonline #onlinecounselling #counsellor #personcentred #mentalhealth #HSP #ElaineAron

@kingscrossN1C @tomdixonstudio



Sensitivity Summit – Free & Online


The free online Sensitivity Summit starts Monday 16th Sep 19 and is aimed at highly sensitive adults and parents of highly sensitive children. It is also for those who are curious and about their personality, who may or may not be highly sensitive.

Original research by Dr. Elaine Aron suggested that the overall population of the world was roughly 20% highly sensitive; more recent findings hint at this being 25%, and maybe a little higher.

The key aspects of High Sensitivity, present in a Highly Sensitive Person are: Depth of Processing, Overarousability, Emotional Intensity, Sensory Sensitivity.

About 30% of HSPs are also High Sensation Seekers – these are the four key aspects that would resonate with you even if you are not “high” in all four: thrill and adventure seeking; experience and novelty seeking, disinhibition (outside societal norms), boredom susceptibility.

There are 30 speakers, with six stating their interest and expertise in parenting highly sensitive children; at least two speakers will cover High Sensation Seeking; one therapist works primarily with couples and relationship issues; there are several sensitivity coaches, counsellors, and psychotherapists.

Visit the summit website for more information, speaker bio’s, and to register:





Perhaps being “annoyed” by a throbbing skin tag is more likely for HSPs.

There was little likelihood of cancer; yet the thing grew at an alarming rate over a short period. It felt like it was a huge lighthouse complete with revolving light and possibly a communications aerial for good measure. Left unchecked it would look like I had two heads before the end of the year, necessitating the need to change the gender on my passport to “Alien”.

Stop! Maybe this was a tad overthinking…

The day came for removal.
The doctor suggested the injection would be the worst bit.
This was a non-HSP assumption.
I barely felt the injection or indeed the incision.
But the smell of the skin cauterising was obnoxious if short lived.
Short and sweet I thought.
But the numbing injection continued to numb my upper right body and shoulder for the next eight hours. The following morning I’d forgotten all about the minor surgery.

DOES – Depth of Processing, Overarousability, Emotional Intensity, and Sensory Sensitivity (Aron, 2010).

Well I certainly processed it deeply, before, during and after.

Overaroused – I was definitely piqued by the experience if only for a very short time.

It was emotionally intense from the initial realisation I needed to do something about it right through to the numbness being slow to wear off.

And the sensory sensitivity showed more in the dislike of burning skin than the injection; the amount of time it took for the anaesthetic to wear off also affected me.

A reminder for HSP to be cautious with medication – you made feel pain more and need more drugs; you may also process the drug more efficiently and therefore need less, or be affected by the medication longer afterwards. Discuss with your physician/pharmacist if best to start on a low dosage and increase if required.

Medical Alert Tag

Terminal 3

Photo 1 D_J

I wrote this two weeks before schools break up in the UK.

There’s no one on strike and no long delays.

Yet there are few free seats in most areas except one restaurant.

There are more people in this departure lounge than the airport can really handle.


The noise level is loud. And constant. There are some kids who perhaps should be at school, whose parents may prefer to pay a fine than inflated high summer prices.

Then there’s the loud music pumping out of the nearest café, only interspersed with constant announcements for this flight or that.

And I’m still thinking about the “assault course” I just made through security to get here.

Think I’m tired, so the constant attack on my senses is definitely overwhelming.

Airports are not for HSPs.
They are a full-on experience for all your senses, and of course your wallet.

I overthink. There’s the potential hassle at the gate. Part of me wonders why I have to pay more for my bag than for me to go on the plane. The potential to be overwhelmed and overreact if “caught” with an oversize bag is huge. Then I wonder how the airline makes a business case for me to fly for 90 minutes.

I could just about take the train to my euro destination, yet the cost and time makes flying easier. But at what cost? And for how long will we be doing this?

I “survived” the airport and now it’s time for the flight itself.

This was almost an hour and a half of constant announcements, with even the safety advice by the cabin crew being interrupted by the captain for an ETA and weather report. There are constant adverts over the speaker during the flight and adverts staring at me plastered on the back of the seat in front; these are static stickers, but I’m sure they are working on LCD screens that can link to my mobile and target me better……

Don’t think low-cost flying is for HSPs either.

Time to practice some meditation so am more relaxed on arrival.

My love for nature and concern for the environment plus the anti-HSP experience may mean my flying days have come to an end.



Guest Blog: Health Unlocked


Recently I was asked to write for the popular health portal Health Unlocked. I hope the article inspires you to explore high sensitivity in more depth if you see some aspects of the trait in you. If this is a new discovery for you, I offer counselling and mentoring to highly sensitive adults, and parents of highly sensitive children, both face-to-face and online. See some of my testimonials.


Are you a HSP?

Dr. Elaine Aron first started her research into High Sensitivity in 1991 and her book “The Highly Sensitive Person” was first published in 1997; subsequently, it has sold almost one million copies and is available in 17 languages. Yet in 2019, High Sensitivity still seems “under the radar”, particularly in the UK. More recent research in 2018 suggests that the original estimate of 1:5 of the population being Highly Sensitive is somewhat conservative.

So what is Highly Sensitivity?

Those who are Highly Sensitive have a highly developed nervous system, which displays in a number of ways. It’s a trait just like other aspects that you have been born with. You don’t need to seek treatment and you won’t find a “cure”. It’s normal to be Highly Sensitive. Scientifically known as Sensory Processing Sensitivity (SPS) and is also present in many species of animals.

Dr. Aron’s acronym best sums up the key aspects of High Sensitivity:

DOES stands for Depth of Processing, Overarousability, Emotional Intensity, and Sensory Sensitivity (Aron, 2010).

Depth of Processing is about deep thoughts and feelings, or contemplation, both of oneself and the world in general. Perhaps you take your time reflecting, possibly to the point of rumination; it could be about you, your immediate family, your career, climate emergency, animal welfare, war.

You are likely to have a highly artistic and creative aspect to you, coupled with conscientiousness; this would be offset against an awareness of failure and any consequences.

Overarousability can manifest in many ways and will be a result of too much stimulation for you. You might be more sensitive to caffeine, alcohol, and other drugs, both prescribed and recreational; glaring or fluorescent lights, much preferring total darkness for sleeping; noise especially sudden, strong smells, “itchy” fabrics, too many people for the space you are in; pressure of tight deadlines such as at work or an exam. You may adapt your behaviour to reduce these common stimuli and take more time out alone to compensate.

Emotional Intensity will show in deeper, stronger, longer emotions both positive and negative; praise and criticism will affect you more. You will have a high level of empathy, possibly showing from a relatively early age, coupled with intuition and ability to be aware of others’ emotions. So you might be able to “read” others and be affected by their good/bad mood. You are not likely to want to enjoy watching violent films and TV programmes.

Sensory Sensitivity there is some overlap with some aspects of overarousability; would you notice I’ve changed a picture in my therapy room from one wall to another, between sessions, for example?

Want to take a simple test to see if you are Highly Sensitive?


And to check if your child may be highly sensitive:


David Wilson is a Highly Sensitive Person and dad to a Highly Sensitive Child. He continues to explore the world of the HSP through personal therapy and writing on the subject.


Web : https://davidwilsoncounselling.com/

Email : davidwilsoncouselling@tutanota.com

 Tel : +44 7421 046591


Guest Blog: Brighter Spaces


I work out of Brighter Spaces, in Islington London N1, and they asked me to write an article on high sensitivity and here I offer an overview to readers on the trait. Please see my website for further reading and other links.

I offer counselling and mentoring to highly sensitive adults, and parents of highly sensitive children, both face-to-face and online. See some of my testimonials.


The Highly Sensitive Person

Let’s face it rather then focusing on the usual stereotype connected with sensitivity, especially in a western culture that clearly seems to prefer confident, bold extroverts, it is important to highlight more and more that a highly sensitive person has so much to offer to themselves firstly, and to others and society in general. All too often a highly sensitive person may be seen as having negative tendencies, when in fact, as in most things, there are both strengths and weaknesses; they need to feel confident enough to contribute their unique gift to society.

Sensory Processing Sensitivity is also known as vantage sensitivity, high responsiveness, and most commonly high sensitivity; Carl Jung is credited with firstly observing the trait in 1913, but it wasn’t until the first research by Dr. Elaine Aron and her husband was carried out leading to the publication of the bestselling book “The Highly Sensitive Person” in 1999, that the door opened for acceptance of the existence of high sensitivity into the psychology mainstream.

So what is high sensitivity?

It is a genetically inherited trait, also found in over 100 species of animal, present in males and females in equal measure, both introverts and extroverts (roughly 70% / 30%) where a highly developed nervous system operates, resulting in deeper processing and more intense feelings, both good and bad. More recent research has proven that different processes take place inside the brain of a highly sensitive person, than a non-sensitive person, subjected to the same stimuli. And being a trait, it is not an illness, a diagnosis, there is no “cure”, and it won’t be found listed in DSM V.

Dr. Elaine Aron identified four key areas that would be present in a highly sensitive person under the heading DOES:

D       Depth of processing – this manifests as depth of thought or feeling and may well affect speed of response because of this – Dr. Aron coined the phrase “pause to check” and this is particularly evident in highly sensitive children. As an adult, a person might contemplate the meaning of life or other deep topics such as what is happening to the environment. They are likely to come up with fantastic ideas when applying themself and these may include unusual insights.

O      Overarousability – this may show as fussiness as a child and in adults as chronic stress and having difficulty with change. The need for more sleep than others would be apparent due to the amount of thoughts, feelings, general information being processed.

E       Emotional Intensity – this applies equally to positive and negative emotions; a highly sensitive person may cry more easily, through sadness or joy, and conversely laugh out loud at something silly or even more subtle. Empathy is present as is a highly developed sense of fairness and justice. A highly sensitive person may also be very aware of the emotions and moods of others.

S       Sensory Sensitivity – this would have been present as a child and continued to adulthood, though the position on the sensory spectrum may have evolved; noise, taste, light/dark, touch, smell, can all be prevalent. A highly sensitive person will normally notice the tiny details others may miss; subtle changes to a room; a ticking clock or dripping tap.

Some simple aspects to consider when looking at defining high sensitivity:

  • Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as lighting – too light or dark, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or emergency services’ sirens?
  • Do you get knocked off balance when having to do many tasks in a short time?
  • Do you make a point of avoiding violent films and TV programmes?
  • Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
  • Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
  • Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
  • As a child, were you seen as sensitive or shy by parents, caregivers and teachers?

Here are some links to more complete questionnaires on Dr. Aron’s site :



Many famous people have shown highly sensitive traits and some openly acknowledge this (Alanis Morissette ) and given the creative side to the highly sensitive trait, perhaps it is no surprise many are in the arts.

There has been much research in recent years to further the information on High Sensitivity and yet still much is not known, including exactly how the trait is inherited.

For me this quote by Perl Buck from many years ago sums up high sensitivity perfectly:

“A human creature born abnormally, inhumanely sensitive. To him…a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death.”


David Wilson is a BACP registered counsellor working out of Brighter Spaces in Islington, and has a studio in Stroud, Gloucestershire and also works worldwide online.




Meet the Therapist: welldoing.org


Here I am being “interviewed” by welldoing.org a portal I use to interface with clients.
As well as general counselling, I offer counselling and mentoring to highly sensitive adults, and parents of highly sensitive children, both face-to-face and online. See some of my testimonials.



What attracted you to become a therapist?

I worked with some counsellors in the late nineties and early noughties in what was a forerunner for the old NHS direct line, and got talking to them about their role. It really sounded like something I would like to do and would enjoy, so I vowed to do an initial skills course when time and finance allowed.

Where did you train?

I trained at the Wealden Institute in East Sussex and also at the Iron Mill College in Exeter.

I’ve done various courses for continuing personal development including advancing my knowledge of High Sensitivity, which has become my specialisation, at the National Centre for High Sensitivity in Andover. The National Centre is connected to Elaine Aron, in the USA.

Can you tell us about the type of therapy you practise? (what it means for clients, why you chose it)

I am an integrative humanistic therapist, which allows me to call upon a range of modalities as I see fit. Occasionally, if appropriate, I might even share some theory with a client and Transactional Analysis lends itself well to this.
I remember attending an open day for a psychodynamic course and deciding it really wasn’t for me and going home and doing some more research and coming to the conclusion that on an integrative course was where my interest lay. In the last few years I have been focusing part of my professional development on High Sensitivity. I also found that even if not that well known in the UK, the HSP trait awareness is getting stronger which has become apparent via the number of clients approaching me both for counselling or mentoring.


How does (type of therapy) help with symptoms of (please select one of your areas of expertise)?

 Since I became more specialised in High Sensitivity, I can see that my approach is helping people to deal better with the outside world together with nurturing via self-care towards a more deeper and richer inner self.

What sort of people do you usually see? (age, common difficulties, individuals / couples / teens etc.)

I see individual clients from early twenties to their sixties, though most are professionals in their thirties and forties. The most common aspects clients bring include: low self esteem, anxiety, depression, addictions, and great desire to improve their quality of life through counselling sessions.


What do you like about being a therapist?

To quote a term used in Barrie Jaeger’s ‘Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person’, I’d say it is my Calling. There’s a buzz when a client makes some progress, takes a difficult decision or makes a change that is tough for them; seeing a client raise their self esteem is hard to quantify. As a counselor I can see that the whole being of my clients can also benefit not only their life, but also the whole sphere of their journey.

What is less pleasant?

The government and society in general maybe don’t take mental health seriously enough, meaning there is too many that perhaps don’t access the services they need. For my part I’m happy to discuss my fees for those on a low income. Maybe being optimistic one day .. the whole system will open the gates to a more holistic and wellbeing approach .. regardless of economic or educational background.


How long youve been with welldoing.org and what you think of us? (please mention anything you particularly like about the site here, whether or not you are using the booking system, have you joined the welldoing.org therapist community on Facebook?)

I’ve only recently hooked up with welldoing.org; thus far I like your website from the point of view of a therapist and due to the layout imagine it works well for clients too. And there are interesting articles to read in your weekly newsletter, to nurture and inspire my own research and knowledge.

Do you ever suggest books or apps to clients?

Most definitely, if I think it will be beneficial; for a gentle introduction to TA, Robert de Board’s Counselling for Toads is a great read, and often turns up in second-hand bookshops; Matthew Johnstone’s books including Quiet the Mind and I had a Black Dog; Making Work Work for the Highly Sensitive Person is a frequent recommendation; and the forest bathing text, Shinrin-Yoku by Dr. Qing Li.

What you do for your own mental health?

I find yoga keeps me centred; cycling along the local canal in Gloucestershire allows me time to think; as does a trip to a local wood or common. Before that it was (and still is) the water (by the sea when possible). Exposure to nature is paramount.


You are a therapist in London N1, plus Stroud, Glos.

What can you share with us about seeing clients in that/those area(s)? (do you think there is anything about the area you work that defines your client base?)

Most of the clients that approach me are happy to see me in London and / or on–line. Some come from abroad so and are happy with digital interaction while others prefer to meet me in person. It’s very personal and also depends on why they are coming and if on-line therapy is appropriate. I think my specialisation in HSP is the one that is ‘creating’ my demographic, overall.


Whats your consultation room like?

I like the calming, neutral décor in my room in N1. My consultation room in Stroud is more spartan but practical and ideally located right in the centre, close to bus routes, rail station and car parks. When on working on-line, I use a calm room at home, with no personal touches and white calm neat walls. I need to feel comfortable myself to ‘pass’ the feeling to my on-line clients. In some ways, the environment where I practise on-line is even more important.


What do you wish people knew about therapy?

Well most, but not all, clients know what counselling is and isn’t; occasionally I need to explain that I’m not going to tell them what to do or make a decision for them. My HSP clients seem to know a lot more about this trait and have done some research before approaching me perhaps whilst discovering it. I wonder how much going to see a counsellor is seen as a ‘bad’ thing. It is great support for any person’s life. We all need support (one way or another) at some stage and getting that help can enrich your life. You can benefit from it and resolve issues that maybe were too ‘big’ to face on your own. Thanks to new magazines, more websites, portals, I do believe counselling is now more acceptable even if mental health overall has some way to go.


What did you learn about yourself in therapy?

When I first went to therapy as a student counsellor, I wondered if I’d have enough to say to fill 60 minutes; then I quickly realised there’s always something you can learn about yourself. You are on a journey of discovery where you might travel along making progress, yet never get to the terminus. Clients teach me something everyday and in a different way I Iearn through supervision.



Art on the Couch: The Creative Process of the Artist

LCW_Freud Museum_My Desk Christie BrownThe Freud Museum invites artists Christie Brown and Barnaby Barford to explore the creative process behind the production of their work, chaired by psychoanalyst Lesley Caldwell. Both artists have formerly exhibited their work in the unique space of Freud’s former home, 20 Maresfield Gardens.

The Museum’s participation aims to offer an interesting and unique contribution to the London Craft Week agenda, demonstrating the application of psychoanalysis to artistic creation. The Museum has an impressive repertoire of site-responsive exhibitions held in its unique space throughout its 33-year history.

London Craft Week (8-12 May 2019) is an annual event that showcases exceptional craftsmanship through a journey-of-discovery programme featuring hidden workshops and unknown makers alongside celebrated masters, famous studios, galleries, shops and luxury brands.


Christie Brown is an artist and Emerita Professor of Ceramics at the University of Westminster, London where she helped to establish the Ceramics Research Centre UK.  She graduated from Harrow School of Art in 1982 and set up her studio in north London. Her figurative ceramic work is informed by myths of origin and metamorphoses, the fragmented narratives associated with museum collections, and the parallel between archaeology and psychoanalysis. Her most recent exhibition was at the V&A Museum of Childhood in Dream On, which focussed on the dreams of children. Past exhibitions include DreamWork at the Freud Museum 2012-3. She is represented by Messums Gallery and her work is featured in several private and public collections in Europe and the USA.

Barnaby Barford’s work explores the fundamental questions driving human nature in terms of our hopes, dreams and aspirations, our fears, frailties and failures, of what drives us to constantly want more, and society’s incessant need for growth. Working with words, he makes sculptures and drawings that explore who we are and why we are like this. Barford has been Associate Lecturer at Central Saint Martins since 2004. He is represented by David Gill Gallery in London and his work has been exhibited internationally with solo shows across Europe and the US, including a survey exhibition at MoCA Virginia (2013).

Lesley Caldwell is an Honorary Professor in the Psychoanalysis Unit at UCL. She is a psychoanalyst of the BPA and a guest member of the BPAS, in private practice in London. With Helen Taylor Robinson she is joint general editor of the Collected Works of Donald Winnicott (OUP, 2016). She has a long-standing interest in Psychoanalysis and the Arts and her latest publication is Rome: Modernity, Post-Modernity and Beyond(Legenda 2018).

More details:
Talk, 9 May 19:00 – 20:30
Booking necessary, 75 places, £13, £11 concession

Read More:

Photo Credit: My Desk_Christie Brown_Freud Museum for London Craft Week




34th International HSP Meet – Dorset UK


This is an article I wrote after attending the International HSP meeting in June 2018, the last one to be held outside the USA. If you are highly sensitive, I highly recommend meeting other HSPs; there are several monthly groups on meetup.
I offer counselling and mentoring to highly sensitive adults, and parents of highly sensitive children, both face-to-face and online. See some of my testimonials.



A personal journey at the 34th HSP Gathering Retreat – Dorset, England,

 June 14-18, 2018

By David Wilson


I first met Barbara Allen-Williams from the National Centre for High Sensitivity in the UK (www.hspsensitive.com) earlier in 2018, and from this meeting became aware of the HSP Gathering Retreats co-founded in 2001 by Jacquelyn Strickland (www.lifeworkshelp.com ) and Dr. Elaine Aron (www.hsperson.com) in the U.S. After learning that the next, the 34th HSP Gathering was only two hours away from me by road, I did everything I could to attend.


One of the things that really struck me prior to the event was Jacquelyn’s email two weeks or so beforehand. In it she shared being anxious about what to expect, what the participants might be like, and how the event would unfurl. For me this showed real ownership of her vulnerability as well as her strength and obvious sensitivity; it allowed me to consider my own thoughts and feelings, my reservations and apprehensions. I knew at this point I was going to really enjoy the gathering.


There was some preparation, or homework, prior to the event. This was extremely useful and I saw it as part of the course. There was an article to read by Dr. Elaine Aron; some thought provoking questions about what you wanted to get from the retreat; anything you would like to ask Jacquelyn or Dr. Aron; and a 2 hour, 2013 Soundcloud recording of a lecture Dr. Aron gave in New Zealand. Although this lecture was five years old, it was still very informative and current. https://m.soundcloud.com/highlysensitive/elaine_aron_wellington_nz_2013


I had a long think about what I really wanted to get from this retreat. I had heard from Barbara that being together in a room of HSP’s was really different, magical even, and this energy was certainly something I wanted to experience for myself. I am a trained therapist and learnt of the trait in 2015, yet I was still eager to learn more about high sensitivity as well as perhaps sharing some of my knowledge. Finally, I wished to make connections with my “tribe”, which I hoped might last beyond the retreat.


So after this preparation work, the arrival day came round really quickly. I had taken a gamble with the English weather and had chosen to camp. Apart from a brief shower early one morning, with rain tapping on the canvas around 5:00 am, it was a gamble that paid off. I initially pitched fairly “publically” for a highly sensitive person, as suggested by the venue, close to the toilet and shower block, but after the first night hearing what I imagined was a giant washing machine with boulders inside it (it turned out to be an anaerobic digester) I decided to move to a more quiet location with a breath-taking view and a whole field to share with various birds and the odd squirrel.


The grounds of the location were simply stunning, a huge estate with an array of different trees, a sea of green in every direction, with even the lake covered by algae. (www.gauntshouse.com)


The group was facilitated by Jacquelyn from the U.S., and she was joined by co-hosts Barbara Allen-Williams from the U.K. and Annet deZwart (www.highsensitivecoaching.com) in The Netherlands. The attendees were relatively international too, with the 24 participants coming from England, Scotland, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and the USA. The group was 20:4 in favour of women; no real surprise there, perhaps. As regards extroverts to introverts, the ratio was 6:18 which is exactly 30% of the group, as per Dr. Aron’s original research. I loved the diversity of our group because for me, it really made things more interesting and is what made it work so well.


The ground “rules” were certainly different from other retreats you may go on:   Focus on Needs, Not Approval, and Trust the Process, even if feeling confused or vulnerable, always asking: “What is there for me to learn in this moment? And, “What do I need in this moment.” There was no obligation to attend any session, or turn up on time, or stay for the duration; no pressure.


The first evening I knew would be “interesting”, when everyone would be finding their feet and starting the process of getting to know each other. Although we were brought together due to our trait, and being judged wasn’t going to be on the cards, I know I still get overwhelmed in groups. We were asked to introduce ourselves, and say a few words about what we resonated with in the pre-course reading. When feeling overwhelmed, it is very easy for me to forget what I want to say. In the past, I have often found myself not listening to others because I was too focused on what I “should” say. Then afterwards, I would focus on what I forgot to say. I made a concerted effort to change this pattern for this group and gladly was able to do so. Time will tell if I can repeat this.


There was plenty to take in on the first evening: the comprehensive programme booklet to read, new people to talk to, and the location to explore. So adhering to, “focus on needs not approval”, I went off to sleep.


Day two started with a grounding meditation, and then we briefly covered safety, which, for me, knowing what the dynamic can be like in some groups, was very important for all of us.

Jacquelyn then shared a really interesting aspect from my point of view: A Spiritual Journey to Empowerment for the HSP. This presentation covered so many angles and despite having done lots of work on myself, I took so much from it. Even though I started off on my own spiritual path some time ago, I learned this spiritual path is not any easier than staying in the mainstream, yet it is most definitely more authentic, more natural, and better suited for a HSP. I am grateful to have left mainstream culture, or as Jacquelyn calls it ~ “Highway 101” ~ and perhaps gone a bit too far off the beaten track on occasion, but thankfully, have never returned to the “mainstream highway.” This session confirmed that as an HSP, I am on the right path and it will be helpful to draw on this knowledge when I find myself experiencing difficult times.

There was a “free write” exercise, which for someone largely in their head, I found more difficult than I thought it would be. It was touching to hear heartfelt sharing from others who seemed to find the free write exercise helpful and illuminating.

Later that day we did a “Conversation Café” (www.conversationcafe.org) following a set of guidelines that are designed to avoid judgement, and foster curiosity and sincerity. I teamed up with the three other guys to discuss what being a HSP means for me as a man. This was a powerful exercise, validating, empowering, and very humorous on several occasions. We later summarized our findings to the group, and heard from all the female HSP’s in the group how much they valued the sensitive traits, such as compassion, empathy, and deep processing that come with being an HSP male.


During day 3 there was a viewing of Sensitive: The Untold Story, the 60 minute film by Dr. Aron, featuring Alanis Morissette, and also a brief appearance by Jacquelyn, the co-founder of the HSP Gathering Retreats. (www.sensitivethemovie.com) I had already seen this and been moved to tears, so this became the only organised event I missed. Instead, I teamed up with a few others who had seen the film, and went in search of the sea, as the gorgeous Dorset coast was only a few miles away.


Art Night took place that evening and I happily used the words and images that jumped out at me to make a collage. I wonder if in future events, coloured pencils, pens, and even paint could be on offer? Having done my collage, I then set about unleashing my creativity completely and designed a HSP flag, using a shade of blue similar to the UN Flag to symbolise the world, peace and unity. I added a star as I feel all HSP’s are stars in their own way, then raided the remains of the cut outs for the collages, and added the letters HSP. I just needed to pop outside and scour the ground for a suitable fallen branch, and the “flagpole” was made; perfect for an “HS Republic” somewhere on earth?


By Day 4, I was feeling more open and liberated as well as tired.

We started by addressing a “rupture” within the group, and from my more distant viewpoint it was handled well by all concerned. It made my think that you never know what might come up with a mix of people, even HSP’s, and group dynamics can be very powerful.

Annet, Barbara and Jacquelyn then shared their unique way of staying centred and connected to the “Authentic HSP Self.” Annet shared about her work with the Energy Leadership Index (ELI); Barbara shared how she connects to a larger purpose for the HSP; and Jacquelyn shared a model she created to curb rumination called Integrated Wholeness of the Heart. Each short presentation was equally valid and interesting, but I was most drawn to the ideas concepts from the Energy Leadership Assessment.


Knowing that tonight was Creative Night, I started to wonder what I might do. I knew I wanted to participate in Creativity Night, because the opportunity was too good to pass by. Initially, I thought of writing a comedy play about being a guy and a HSP. There wasn’t really much time for the writing, let alone any time to rehearse and this assumed the other three guys were up for it. Shelved. Maybe buoyed by the fact that there was a Swede and a Dane in residence, I wanted to make a Kladdkaka, a Scandi chocolate cake. I didn’t have any ingredients, or a suitable baking tray; the Gaunts House kitchen was off limits for health and safety as well as insurance reasons. However the attentive staff, not wanting to dampen my enthusiasm, suggested I could use an ordinary oven in one of the guest accommodation apartments. So the option was there, but again “needs not approval” meant I shelved this one too. A poem it was.


We were told that Creativity Night has always been a very special part of the HSP Gathering Retreats, and I would have to say this evening was one of several highlights of the HSP Gathering. A few creative HSP’s took the initiative to turn the large ballroom at Gaunts House into a magical room with candles illuminating and reflecting off the mirrors. Everyone that participated had a unique talent to share including stories, song, comedy, poems and even handmade wooden necklaces. Two residents from Gaunts House decided to join our evening sharing original songs and poetry accompanied by guitar. An elderly resident, a gentleman from Guatemala walked to the stage assisted by his beautiful handmade cane for stability. He recited passionately two poems in his native language. Although most could not understand the language, his heartfelt expressions were a very moving and inspirational experience. Many of us had tears in our eyes, as did he. It was a truly amazing and emotional evening.


Before Creativity Night, and our own live performance, there was still time to Zoom to America for a live link up with Dr. Elaine Aron. Elaine gave a talk called “The Shadow Side of Belonging” following up on the theme of the Gathering which was “Knowing and Being Known as an HSP: Our Role in Belonging. This was followed by questions and answers and several pearls of wisdom. This was right up there as another one of the Gathering’s highlights. Due to time zone constraints, our time with Elaine lasted 90 minutes but it seemed to be over in 90 seconds.


The final day invited us to watch a short 20 minute film featuring children, who were most definitely highly sensitive, sharing their experiences being in nature. This film was created in the Netherlands by Culturele Mediaproducties and MediaFonds, in conjunction with the NPS. This film really blew me away and sadly there was no immediate time to discuss, as our final “Nature as Teacher & Healer” exercise was upon us. We were instructed to “wander about outside following a sense of what we were attracted to. This special place would be a place outside where we felt welcome and at peace, and it would become our place where we were invited to welcome all of our senses: what we were seeing, feeling, sensing, thinking and to become aware of any images or memories from past or present to enter this special place with us. To walk barefoot around my chosen tree was fantastic. This time I even managed the “free write” which ended up like a non-rhyming poem, summing up the intensity of all my feelings generated by my attendance at this unique retreat.


Returning to our group after the nature exercise, the 18 introverts were encouraged to share first this time. I think Jacquelyn got this about right, not too much pressure, but just enough to encourage some of the more reluctant amongst us to speak up first. This included me, and I was glad I could speak allowing my emotions to be part of what I shared.


It was then the beginning of the end. I remember saying to the group that people do endings in different ways and they are all OK; so I hugged some, shook hands with one, and didn’t say good-bye at all to one or two others.


Throughout the course, there was plenty of opportunity to mingle, socialise, swap stories as well as have time for yourself. Looking back now, I would have liked to have spent more downtime for myself, but this was obviously my choice.


So if you asked me, “Would I go to a gathering again”? I’d have to say “yes” perhaps to a location in mainland Europe or America. For the moment I think my HSP wife would enjoy a retreat perhaps somewhere near New York, so she’s now next in line ~ maybe the 35th HSP Gathering Retreat to be held in Phoenicia, New York, September 30-October 4, 2018.


Finally, I would say that it is important that you are in a good enough place yourself, and if you are up for some personal development and wish to learn more about the HSP trait, then you would really enjoy it.