Chasing the mirage – Looking for love as Highly Sensitive Person (HSP)

“Love is fire and I am wood burnt by the flame.” – Qais ibn Al-Mulawah (Majnun)

If you are a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP), you are going to have extremely complex relationships. You love intimacy. You yearn for the closeness of deep, personal relationships. However, finding one and keeping one are two different things. In a world where most people are looking for a fun-loving, easy-going relationship, HSPs can often find themselves on a search for something that seems to exist only in our minds. They are often chasing a mirage.

We care deeply about people don’t expect anything in return. We do it because we can feel other people’s feelings so intensely. Our empathic nature means we put ourselves in other people’s shoes all the time, usually without even realising we’re doing it.

But things become challenging and this hypersensitivity becomes a curse and despite all its great qualities, it does no favour on relationships, unfortunately.

HSPs are intuitive

We tend to intuit and absorb our partner’s energy, and become overloaded, anxious, or exhausted when we don’t have time to decompress in our own space. We’re super-responders; our sensory experience of relationship is the equivalent of feeling objects with 50 fingers instead of five.

HSPs pick up on subtleties in a room or conversation. If our significant other is upset, we’re going to notice it so profoundly. Sensitive individuals are very intuitive when it comes to mood shifts, whether it’s a quippy remark or even just a different texting tone. “Are you angry?”, “Do you still love me?” are the kinds of questions we often ask to placate the inner chaos.

We are insane lovers

“If chaos is a work of art, then my heart is a masterpiece.” – D. Antoinette Foy

Driven by our emotions, we don’t take any relationship lightly, according to Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person and one of the original scientific researchers of HSPs. “We don’t think about anything if we’re not motivated by some emotion, whether it’s curiosity, love, anger or fear,” she told The Huffington Post. “We think about things because we feel something about them.”

We’re more emotionally reactive in our interactions

We cry a lot. A partner who is understanding of our tendency to show our emotions is ideal for a successful relationship, Aron pointed out. “Sensitive people can’t help but express what they’re feeling.”

Subjugation (People Pleasing)

If you are an HSP, it’s very very likely that you have had a disturbed childhood. Rejection and sense of isolation makes your childhood worst and affects your future ability to cope with relationships, especially when you are an HSP.

You are more likely to become a subjugator. Subjugators are passive people-pleasers in their relationships. The unconscious process being “If I’m extra nice to you and make you feel amazing with every bit of my being, then you will have to stay and love me. You won’t reject me like the people in my past did.”

By making yourself subservient to your partner and prioritizing their needs over yours, you might think you are doing them a favour by adding value to their life. But in reality, you are setting up a lose-lose dynamic that hurts both of you. You don’t get your emotional needs met, and your partner often feels like they bear the weight of being responsible for your mood (since your mood is so dependent on how they feel moment to moment).

Fear of rejection

Again, an HSP with disturbed childhood would mess relationship with fears and paranoia.

Therapist and certified coach Karyn Hall, PhD says: “The need to be accepted by others, to have a sense of belonging, is a profound human motivation, one that is felt in some way from birth throughout life.

“Our natural state is to live in communities. Belonging to a community contributes to a sense of identity and purpose.

“When someone is rejected by members of a desired group, anger, loneliness, anxiety and depression often result.

“Rejection is not only painful but rejection that happens early in life is thought to reduce the person’s ability to cope with future relationships.

“When children are consistently teased and left out, they are more likely to develop interpersonal rejection sensitivity.

“Interpersonal rejection sensitivity is a hyper-alertness to the social reactions of others.

“When someone has rejection sensitivity, they anxiously expect and rapidly perceive and overreact to rejection.

“Because of their fears and expectations, individuals with rejection sensitivity may misinterpret and distort the actions of others.

“They then react with hurt and anger. The other person is confused, doesn’t understand, or sees the rejection sensitive person as too high maintenance.

“Individuals who are rejection sensitive often see rejection by others as a statement that they are unacceptable as people. They see rejection as being a judgment about their worth as a person.”

You may cling to potential partners because you’re afraid of being left and you have been conditioned to have an underlying belief that the relationships that you need most deeply will not work out in the long run. While you desperately want love and affection more than anything else, you are also terrified of letting others in to love you deeply.

In Aron’s research, she’s also noticed that HSPs may have a characteristic called “mate sensitivity,” or the ability to quickly assess what pleases their partner and act based on that knowledge. This behaviour also goes for platonic relationships as well.

“They not just in tune to what’s good for them but also what’s good for others,” Aron said. In other words, it makes us happy to make our significant other happy.

We need help with intimacy

Aron says that people with more sensitive and excitable constitutions and personalities “need help with intimacy.” She explains:

“Maybe we are afraid, have been hurt, and can’t forget it. Or we have trouble being known and appreciated for who we really are. Or we have trouble in relationships because of our different needs, so that we always feel ‘too much’ or ‘overly sensitive.’”

She also says highly sensitive people are “more likely to find sex to be mysterious and powerful, to be turned on by subtle rather than explicit sexual cues, to be easily distracted or physically hurt during sex, and to find it difficult to go right back to normal life afterwards.”

Like all romantic partnerships, our relationships take patience, understanding and work. We just may have a few extra tears thrown into the mix — and there’s nothing wrong with that.

We are rare. It is very likely that we wouldn’t be able to find people who love us back and understand our complex personalities. According to a research, most of HSPs spend their lives alone despite the fact that they are extremely ‘thirsty’ for love. We can create things from our suffering and pain. Aron believes high sensitivity is a gift as well as a curse. it depends on us that how we utilise our uniqueness.

Maybe we can share our stories and immense pain with the world and translate it into a universal language. Our chaos has a potential to create and change things, maybe we won’t get love from an individual but from people whom we motivate by our sufferings and story of survival. Let’s not push things, and allow the things to take place in their own contexts. After all, it’s pain that is followed by creation, beauty and happiness.

Hamza Rao

Hamza Rao

Hamza Rao is a member of the staff at Daily Pakistan. He can be reached at He tweets at @HamzaRaoxxx