Can Being Highly Sensitive Make You ‘Abuse-Proof’?

A man tries to grab a highly sensitive woman’s arm

Being a sensitive person has many positive traits, like your high degree of empathy. But this can also make an abusive person take advantage of you. Here’s how to fight back.

Trigger warning: Abuse 

Let’s face it: Highly sensitive people (HSPs), like me, are sometimes hesitant when it comes to telling people about our sensitive nature. This is because we have various traits that can be taken advantage of by other people, like our strong degrees of empathy, compassion, and sensitivity to other people’s needs.

As a result, more HSPs fall for toxic relationships. This may mean they stay in unhealthy situations longer; after all, they are people-pleasers and may want to “help” or “rescue” their partner. 

But while an HSP’s traits can make one vulnerable to toxic people and narcissists, it can also serve as a protective shield against abusive relationships. How? By using the various HSP traits as superpowers instead of stumbling blocks in their relationships.

In fact, when young children are in abusive environments, even if the child was not an HSP to start with, they will actually move up on the HSP scale and become higher in sensitivity. Their gene expression cranks up sensitivity precisely because it’s a safety mechanism against abuse and danger — HSPs are more alert and more likely to notice when the next threat is coming before it hits. (Interestingly, children in the very most supportive and loving homes also increase in sensitivity, because they get more out of the nurture thanks to the sensitive Boost Effect. It’s only “average” homes — which is most homes — where they don’t become more sensitive and may become less so.)

Now, let’s get into the HSP superpowers you possess that can help you combat abusive relationships — even though you may not have been aware of their “powers” before.

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HSP Superpowers That Can Help Protect Them From Abusive Relationships

High sensitivity

Sensitive people have the ability to sense and to process various stimuli more so than others, including very subtle clues from their environment. They are quick to perceive the energy and mood of another person, too (whether they want to or not!). 

This is a superpower that HSPs can fully use to determine whether the person they have a relationship with is likely to be manipulative and abusive.

Here are some situations where you can apply your high sensitivity in detecting red flags in your relationship.

  • You can just feel it in your gut that something is not right. Don’t underestimate your intuition. Sometimes you could just feel that something is not “right” in your relationship. You may not determine it immediately, but there is usually a good reason why you feel that way. Keep an open mind and be on alert for other things that could explain the way you feel about the other person, too.
  • You feel overwhelmed by the other person’s constant mood shifts. One sign of manipulative people in a relationship is their constantly-changing moods. One day, they’re the epitome of sweetness and romance. The next day, they’re mad at you for something that can be so trivial. As a result, you’re always on-edge and don’t know what to expect next from the person. While there are days when you want to break off from the relationship, when the person is nice again, you may change your mind — which only perpetuates the unhealthy cycle. As a sensitive person, you are more sensitive to changes in someone’s emotions. Be sure not to ignore the emotions you feel.

Highly-detailed observation skills

HSPs are highly adept at noticing the slightest changes around them. You can use these observation skills to keep you informed of any indications that your partner is being dishonest with you, manipulating you, or is basically disregarding your feelings and needs.

Here are some events where you can use your power of observation to reveal the true nature of your partner.

  • You notice subtle slip-ups in their words. Along with sudden changes in their moods, many abusive partners are inconsistent in their words, too. They’ll say one thing, then change it later as if it’s no big deal or as though they never said the initial thing. When you point out what they said earlier, they won’t admit it — they will gaslight you and make you think you were incorrect in remembering what was said. In this way, they may shift the blame so they look innocent. But don’t be fooled!
  • Pay attention to their body language, too. Usually, you can tell when someone is lying to you when they cannot look you in the eye or if they fidget a lot. 
  • You notice their disregard for your boundaries. Manipulative partners often act as though they’re utterly concerned about your welfare. They claim they love you and care for you… But when you try to enact boundaries, they won’t have it. They prefer things are under their terms, not yours.

Need to Calm Your Sensitive Nervous System? 

HSPs often live with high levels of anxiety, sensory overload and stress — and negative emotions can overwhelm us. But what if you could finally feel calm instead?

That’s what you’ll find in this powerful online course by Julie Bjelland, one of the top HSP therapists in the world. You’ll learn to turn off the racing thoughts, end emotional flooding, eliminate sensory overload, and finally make space for your sensitive gifts to shine.

Stop feeling held back and start to feel confident you can handle anything. Check out this “HSP Toolbox” and start making a change today. Click here to learn more.

Deep thinking

Highly sensitive people are deep thinkers since they process information on a deeper level than those who are less-sensitive. This also causes them to notice things others may overlook. So as much as they notice the “good,” they also can — and should — notice the bad.” 

Here are some of the signs an HSP can take note of to alert them that they may be in an abusive relationship.

  • You see various control tactics from your partners. In abusive relationships, partners are often manipulative and try to take control of the other person’s life through various means. This can be done through financial control, such as when you are forced to give all (or a certain amount) of your income to your partner. Or perhaps you are not “allowed” to have your own job. Or they need to know where you are at any given time. They may get jealous when you want to spend time with your friends and may not believe you when you tell them where you are. These examples are just a few indications that you are dealing with a controlling partner.
  • You notice constant criticisms that belittle you. An abusive partner is not only someone who hurts you physically, but they also hurt you emotionally — and may cause severe damage to your self-esteem. This is because you are being controlled to think lowly of yourself. They want you to depend solely on them and their criticisms have a more intense effect on you. Though it hurts a lot, you should use the pain you experience as an alert mechanism to think more deeply about your relationship.

When in Doubt, Use Your HSP Superpowers to Combat Abuse

I can go on and on about how your HSP traits can combat abuse — but then this article will be a book! But I hope you were able to see how the more you use your sensitive superpowers, the more you can escape from the psychological and/or physical abuse you can escape from. 

Highly sensitive people have many traits that allow them to be compassionate and understanding of other people. But, unfortunately, some people take advantage of your positive HSP traits and try to keep you in an abusive, and unhealthy, situation.

Whenever you are in doubt that you’re in a healthy relationship, start making a list of your positive HSP traits and how they can help combat abusive behavior. In no time, you’ll see how your sensitive traits will overpower the negative behavior. I also recommend you reach out to a therapist or mental health practitioner to get the help you need.

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