Surprise! You’re HSP and never knew it

Chef J”  had no idea what she was getting herself into when she surfed the computer early Saturday morning. But, by the end of the day, she found more than a dozen people who were “just like her,” struggling to make sense of a world that seems cold to the sensitivity of others.

Chef J —  which is what her license plate says, and so we’ll call her “Jackie” — found the group by accident. Looking for something to do in the early morning, she “Googled”  Meet-Up on the Internet. She found a section listing activities the same day, one starting at 11 a.m., and she decided to attend.

I saw the topic on ‘negotiations,’ and thought it’d be interesting,” she said after the 90-minute meeting in Ambler, PA, just outside Philadelphia. “I saw something about HSPs, but I had never heard of it until today. I didn’t know anything about them”

HSP stands for Highly Sensitive Persons, those of the world who possess a high degree of emphatic emotion and an in-grown sense of compassion. Many tend to “sense” things and read body language better than the so-called norm. Most reach adulthood believing they’re “cursed” with this outlook but find comfort in groups that show it’s more of a gift than a hindrance.

I didn’t know that I was one until I heard all of you talking,’ Jackie told the group of some 20 HSPs. “I saw myself in everything you said.”

Some are extraverted, others introverted, points out the leader, Sarah O’Doherty, a Brennan Energy healer who practices out of the Resiliency Center in Ambler. (See Once a month she helps the group focus on given topics, such as “Assertiveness and Negotiations” which was this month. “Spirituality” is for next month, the first Saturday in April. Some members meet informally outside the group in smaller numbers, as 10 of us did at a nearby tavern for lunch, where one could really learn from another.

Take Jackie. Served as a sergeant in the US army, with a tour in Germany. Like many of us, she had her share of troubled relationships. One time, after breaking up with someone, she decided to move to Atlanta, Ga.

I didn’t know anyone there,” she said. “No family or friends. “I just wanted to live there. I always did.” Hence, she moved there and made a life for herself.


But, not for long.

Born in Barbados and raised in New York City, she found her true “calling in life” at age 25, when she entered the restaurant business. “I was cooking since I was 10,” she said. “I always loved to cook, it just came naturally.”

She runs a “personal chef service” outside the Philadelphia area and can be contacted for professional work at

Now, let’s see how she will fit in at an informal Philadelphia HSP meeting at the Conshohocken IKEA with the international cast of characters in the next few weeks. Somehow, with the type of “chutzpah” she has already shown in life so far, I think she’ll do all right.

4 comments on “Surprise! You’re HSP and never knew it

  1. lidiascher says:

    While I appreciate the character of the post, I pondered…Do we need more labels? I am sure you have heard of the changes to the DSM. I felt that this may be an added label to the diagnostics some time in the near future. Do we need to give ego more reasons to run our personality? Perhaps just accepting who we are may be a more apt way to live 🙂


    • contoveros says:


      I don’t like lawyers. But if I can get into a room with attorneys who experienced combat, and are still sensitive enough to show compassion for both a victim and a criminal defendant without curtailing or giving up the rights of a client, then I feel more open to sharing. There’s not a “bleeding heart” among any good trial lawyers I know, only those that can still see a case from both sides and not be out for blood.

      Call it “more senstive.”

      I agree with you about the DSM. We don’t need any more labels. But I do like the taste of coke over pepsi. I like to be with Coca Cola. I like their “coke” trays better than pepsi’s. Even their jingles, like “have a coke with a smile” versus “the pause that refreshes.”

      Better yet, when a coke is on sale and somebody notifies me before hand.

      Haven’t gotten into any Myers Personality studies. Not unless I can get one that tells me who I am for free.

      michael jmaking friends the old fashioned way, by “feeling” them out one friend at a time.


  2. Seems to me that negotiations and mediation would be natural strengths for an HSPer. I think you mentioned meetup groups for HSP-inclined in one of my blogs once. I’ve been doing some digging, and they do exist in Toronto. Still not precisely sure what they’re all about but…..

    Yes, I can pretty much read most people within about 10-15 seconds of meeting them. As much as I prefer not to pre-judge anyone, the fact is, I can figure most people out that quickly, and it has everything to do with reading body language and facial expressions.

    So I don’t know if that qualifies as HSP, or if being HSP comes as a result of having ADD. (All these labels. Kind of much, sometimes. :))


    • contoveros says:

      Check out an HSP meeting. Cost me only $5. If you don’t like it, simply not return, or excuse yourself and leave with a sensitive smile.

      I like to listen and feel comfortable with others that seem to be describing me to a T. Didn’t need to assert myself the last session. I’m good at that. Negotiations have never been my strong suit, unless I developed trust with the other side, and I can name only a dozen or so lawyers I met in my 20-year career as a public defender trial attorney who I “felt” comfortable with such give and take.

      But when I found that trust, we moved heaven and the earth to reach a comprimise that would make Barack Obama smile brightly.


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