The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person: Balancing the inner explorer with the inner homebody

“Do you want to go skydiving with us this weekend?” my partner asked on a Thursday morning.

It had been a long week, and I was feeling emotionally tender, so my initial response was one of contraction, an inner “no” that made itself known in a sudden urge to curl up under a weighted blanket. 

But as the day went on and I began to emerge from my cocoon, I started recalling stories I’d heard from friends who spoke about their skydiving experiences with stars in their eyes. “Life changing. Awe inspiring. Peak experience.” I checked the forecast for Sunday. 80 degrees and sunny. I took a walk and saw a sticker on someone’s bumper that said “jump more, bitch less” with a picture of someone in the telltale skydiving pose. 

My inner adventurer, who gets antsy and starts to feel dull and lifeless when there’s not enough novelty and exploration in my life, started to speak up. 

“It’s a sign!” this one said excitedly. “You’re going to regret it if everyone is out there skydiving without you.” 

My inner homebody, the part of me who holds the highly sensitive tendency to proceed with caution, not take any undue risks and certainly not engage in anything as highly stimulating as jumping out of a plane at 10,000 feet, still wasn’t so sure. 

I spent the next few hours deep diving on the internet to assess the possible risks and rewards of going tandem skydiving. The more cautious parts of me began to relax as they read the statistics and called up friends who’d done it already and provided words of reassurance and encouragement.

Ultimately, I said yes, and found myself in a tiny plane with 5 trusted people and a tandem instructor who exuded easy confidence. I jumped, feeling both overwhelmed and amazed. The experience seemed to happen in a flash. I landed back on the ground feeling proud that I’d done the thing.

But then my energy was wiped for the next several days. I canceled social plans where I could and took it easy in the evenings, going to bed extra early. The highly sensitive parts of me were letting me know in no uncertain terms that they had not fully signed on for this skydiving experience and were needing some extra care and tending to.

Can a highly sensitive person also be high sensation seeking?

Yup!  These two seemingly contradictory aspects of personality can definitely coexist in the same person. While high sensation seekers seek novelty, excitement, and intense experiences, highly sensitive people (HSPs) are deeply attuned to subtleties, process information deeply, and can be easily overwhelmed by stimuli.

My skydiving experience taught me the importance of caring for and honoring both aspects of who I am:  the high sensation seeker (HSS)  who thrives off of exploring new ideas and activities, and my highly sensitive part (HSP) who requires time and space for introspection and recharge.

Do you feel like your high sensation seeking and highly sensitive parts are in a battle more often than a cooperative dance? If so, here are some tips for navigating life with these dual traits:

Build self awareness

Seek to deeply understand your unique blend of traits and how they influence your preferences, reactions, and needs. It can be helpful to first build a relationship of acceptance, appreciation and compassion with both aspects of who you are, one at a time. 

You might do this by allowing each part to have its say out loud or in writing, creating art or making a playlist that represents your high sensitivity and high sensation seeking sides. Working with an IFS therapist in Philadelphia who specializes in the intersection of high sensitivity and high sensation seeking can give you the dedicated space and container for coming to deeply know and honor each of these parts.

Diversify your environments

Making sure you have a peaceful and orderly environment to retreat to is so important for the highly sensitive person. Create environments that support your sensitivity, such as quiet spaces, soothing music, or nature retreats, while also embracing opportunities for adventure and exploration.

The highly sensitive parts of me were very happy to know that they had a peaceful place to return to post-skydiving in a quiet, dimly lit room listening to a favorite podcast. While I love the ability to work from home, my sensation seeking parts are always happy that I have a physical office space to travel to at least once a week.

Honor internal boundaries

Living with both HSS and HSP traits can make it feel like you have one foot on the gas and one foot on the brakes. It can be a challenge to find a balance between seeking out stimulating experiences and creating spaces for relaxation, introspection, and self-care. My skydiving experience taught me the importance of carving out intentional time for both.

Rather than attempting to meet the needs of both aspects of who you are at the same time, try negotiating a deal. For example, if you’re trying out a new workout class after work, you might assure the more introspective part of you that you will make time for a familiar and soothing activity when you get home that evening. 

Embrace your uniqueness

Celebrate the richness and complexity of being a high sensation seeking highly sensitive person.  The combination of these traits allow you to experience life with both breadth and depth. You can appreciate the beauty of a quiet moment just as much as the thrill of a daring adventure. 

Seeking more support around integrating high sensitivity and high sensation seeking? Working with a highly sensitive therapist in Philadelphia can bring you the support you need to navigate life with greater self-awareness, balance, and appreciation for the richness of your experiences. Schedule a free consultation today!

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