"The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine N. Aron, Ph.D., 1996

A Book Review by Norman Cousins

This book has much to say that might interest members of the Right to Quiet Society. The main theme is that 15 - 20% of the population are Highly Sensitive Persons (HSPs). They have a nervous system that is much more sensitive to sound and other stimuli than about 40% who define themselves as "not at all sensitive". In the middle is a group with moderate sensitivity, but there is quite a gap between HSPs and the not-sensitives.

Aron states "Having a sensitive nervous system is normal, a basically neutral trait. You probably inherited it.... It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings...it also means you are more easily overwhelmed...in a highly stimulating environment...until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way. Thus, being sensitive has both advantages and disadvantages."

She notes that, like most people, HSPs perform best when their nervous system is moderately aroused, when they are neither bored nor over-stimulated. However, what is moderately arousing for most people can be highly arousing for HSPs, and more than that leads to becoming very frazzled indeed. HSPs then shut down - what Pavlov called "transmarginal inhibition". It is therefore important for HSPs to pay attention to their level of stimulation. When people have no control over stimulation, it is more upsetting, even more so if they perceive it as being victimized e.g. if someone refuses to turn down a radio after being asked.

The book has many self-tests and exercises to determine one's sensitivity, to reframe incidents in the past, and to deal with present stimulation. It ends with "Tips for: health-care professionals working with highly sensitive people; teachers working with highly-sensitive students; and employers of highly sensitive people".

I found the book to be reassuring - yes, I'm an HSP - and helpful in giving me a rational approach for day-to-day handling of noisy situations.

-Ed. note: I also self-identify as an HSP, and was greatly moved by the way this book described my reality so accurately when I read it a few years ago. The accompanying "Highly Sensitive Person's Workbook" contains a discussion of ways to cope with noise. For further information, visit Dr. Aron's web site; resources for HSPs are also available at the Toronto-based site of Thomas Eldridge

Annual General Meeting - October 23, 2001

The meeting was called to order at 7:35 p.m. by president Hans Schmid. Copies of the financial statement were circulated for the attending members' information. The minutes of the previous AGM were published in the Spring 2001 newsletter.

Hans gave an overview of the year's activities:
Under sunny skies some 1,200 of our yellow leaflets were again distributed to interested members of the public on International Noise Awareness Day, April 25, 2001. We are most grateful to several of our members who volunteered their help. Unlike in 2000, in 2001 we had no media attention on INAD. However, on April 30, Hans, together with Toronto doctor Fred Harris, was interviewed by "This Morning" host Shelagh Rogers on CBC Radio1 on the hot topic of the noisy leaf blowers. This interview was repeated that same evening. Excerpts of it were aired again in July, after Vancouver city council decided on July 12 to first restrict and, as of Feb. 2004, ban the use of gas-powered leaf blowers1. Our members Roy Silverson, Dr. Jeremy Tatum and Johannes Halbertsma addressed Council on this issue with compelling presentations. Other interviews were given to a Hamilton, Ontario, radio station and columnists of the National Post, the Ottawa Citizen and the Los Angeles Times. Notably, the Ottawa Citizen ran a series of very good articles about noise in August, and the CBC TV consumer affairs program Marketplace highlighted the noise issue in a segment.

Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Spring 2002

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