In one of her newsletter articles, Elaine Aron addressed the differences between giftedness and sensitivity, in both children and adults. She wrote about being the invited speaker at a conference on developing gifted children, and comments:
In the past others have also wondered if more sensitivity might be the same as being more intelligent, generally or in some special way.
So I would like to address this question.
Why Not To View Sensitivity As Giftedness
Aside from the considerable problem of just defining giftedness or even intelligence (for example, is it global or is any talent a gift or form of intelligence?), I have resisted viewing sensitivity in these highly positive ways for three reasons.
First, in my experience, not all gifted people are highly sensitive. I know too many non-HSPs who are highly gifted. In fact, I wonder whether each temperament trait, at its extreme, might yield a type of gift.
For example, my brilliant non-HSP husband is extremely persistent. He works on a problem until he solves it. Period. Surely that is a gift of a different type, but what a “rage to master.”
Or how about those non-HSP high sensation seekers? They explore endlessly and seek novelty and novel solutions–surely that makes them or some of them creative, or appear to be.
Second, it is my experience that not all highly sensitive people are gifted. That is, at least as adults, many HSPs are not expressing some talent in a way that others would recognize as outstanding.
Further, most people like to think of giftedness as special and rare, saying it only occurs or should be said to occur in 1, 3, or 5% of the population. If one accepted that definition, all HSPs definitely could not be gifted. High sensitivity occurs in 15 to 20%.
Finally, third, I think I did not even consider equating it with giftedness, intelligence, reflectiveness, awareness, or other positive spins because I wanted a neutral name for the trait.
I also wanted it to apply to all levels of the body, from skin and immune system to neocortex, and to all species, from fruit fly to human.
Of course “sensitive” is not a neutral term either. Indeed, I wonder if there are any terms that are truly neutral to everyone. But at least its positive and negative connotations seem to be balanced!
However, there are two sides to every question, and sometimes the two sides are fairly even and certainly interesting. So let’s begin with the main question, what does it mean to be gifted?
And then, the bigger question, is your HSC [highly sensitive child] gifted? Are you gifted?
Continued in her article The Highly Sensitive Child (and Adults, Too): Is Sensitivity the Same as Being Gifted?
Dr. Aron is author of book The Highly Sensitive Person.