High Sensation Seeking and the Highly Sensitive Person – You May Be Surprised!

Pleased to provide you with this podcast that I recently did for Patricia Young, of Unapologetically Sensitive. We discuss high sensation seeking, always a favorite topic.

Episode 64 Tracy Cooper


Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career


Burnout Runs Deeper Than “Too Much Work”

The problem of burnout is a common one among highly sensitive people. One of the most necessary aspects of what we do that will make it worthwhile is meaningfulness. When work lacks that quality, we too often will fall into a rut of either alienating ourselves by tuning out (in effect, becoming robots) or suffer in a position we come hate for far too long.


We know from Vantage Sensitivity, a well-researched theory that finds that we HSPs do far better in positive and supportive environments and far worse in negative and unsupportive ones, that the conditions we experience deeply effect how we feel, think, and function. This article’s focus on autonomy, mastery, and belonging is a simply a restating of Self Determination Theory’s autonomy, competence, and relatedness, the three components all people desire most. We HSPs are always on the leading edge of being effected by stimulation before others and experiencing that more deeply than less sensitive people.

Brad Stulberg’s discussion of obssessive passion versus harmonious passion is timely but is also the flow state of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi restated. For example, “harmonious passion is when an individual becomes completely absorbed in an activity because they love how the activity itself makes them feel” is autotelic and in line with Csikszentmihalyi’s flow experience. Csikszentmihalyi describes the flow state as a channel, rather like a river, with anxiety on one side of the river when over-challenged (skills do not match task) and boredom on the other side when the task is not challenging enough or we do not have control, immediate feedback, or the task is uninteresting.

Burnout is the intersection of boredom, lack of autonomy, lack of meaning, and a hyper awareness of a future orientation, when things will be better or at least one can leave the workplace. The flow state focuses us completely in the NOW, the present moment and dispels all anxiety and worry as the task at hand becomes absorbing and self-propelling.

We don’t necessarily become burned out because of too much work; rather, we burn out because the work lacks meaning, we have little control over how it is done, or the work itself is unchallenging. This isn’t to say that a repetitious task cannot be useful or that we cannot experience well-being from it. Indeed, we can use any repetitive task as a way to focus our attention on the here and now. The flow state can be raking leaves, digging a hole, or washing dishes. Burnout occurs when we have nothing but repetition.

Are you in a state of harmonious passion with you work? Do you experience the flow state often?


Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

(both now available as audiobooks)


Highly sensitive men’s weekend at 1440 Multiversity!

Our highly sensitive men’s weekend at 1440 Multiversity, March 13-15th is now at 35 registrants!

The number continues to grow and we would like to invite all last minute HS men to join us! If you’ve been weighing whether it will be worth it please consider that we will create and hold a completely open and inviting space for all to be seen and heard. There will be lots of relating to other HS men, learning their experiences, and making friendships that can be transformative.

Join myself, Dr. Elaine Aron, and John Hughes for the first-ever HS men’s weekend!

faculty 1440 hs men



Kids Don’t Need to Stay ‘On Track’ to Succeed

The unexpected path to success: this notion seems to hold true for HSPs and non-HSPs alike. Few people “know” what they want to do after high school, though most kids are highly pressured to have a plan in place that is rock-solid and guaranteed to end in good results. In our modern world, where companies have zero loyalty to the employee, it is truly incumbent on each one of us to explore multiple avenues that we might take, conceive, develop, and grow side gigs while we are working, and make choices that will put us in a supportive and encouraging growth environment.


We know from Vantage Sensitivity that HSPs do far better when they are in a supportive environments and far worse when in unsupportive ones. That seems a given right? HSPs tend to serve as the vanguard for the human species and if something feels off to us it is probably off to less sensitive people too, who may just not be as aware of it yet as we are. I’ve interviewed many HSPs and HSS/HSPs over the years, and very few communicated to me a straight path leading directly from high school or young adulthood, to a great career that they loved. This is especially true for the high sensation seeking HSP, who may prize novelty and new experiences more than success or stability.

It’s a fact that your path will most likely take many twists and turns and that you will likely beat yourself up over the jobs you had to leave because they didn’t work out or because you don’t seem to fit in very well like others do. It’s time to just accept that inner critic as a fact of life and move on, while being self-aware of what is appropriate as far as what we may have done versus how the environment was unsuited to our needs as sensitive human beings. The inner critic can be a badgering bully but you can also tame it.

If you have children it is important to begin encouraging them to simply be who they are, if they’re sensitive, and not feel any stigma or sense of limit. Encourage their curiosity the most because curiosity can lead them far in this new world where opportunities are there for the curious and the persistent. But do not make the mistake of assuming that their trajectory will, or should, resemble yours. Let them make poor choices and fail so they can learn from what a mistake looks like.

We HSPs can easily become helicopter parents because we are very conscientious, even perfectionist, and we know how much it hurts to be a square peg in a world of round holes. Many of us do not want for our kids what we suffered with in finding a reasonable career but there may not be a better way. Some amount of mistakes and false starts seem to be the majority path to eventually finding a good fit.

How have your kids followed a squiggly path?


Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Article Link:


New HSPs and Entrepreneurship study!

Do you work for yourself? Do you own a small business or businesses? Have you found ways to have a career outside of working for others? I want to hear from you for my new book on HSPs and Entrepreneurship!
Participation in this study is completely confidential, meaning your name and other identifying information will not be used in any publications. Your part will simply consist of providing written answers to about a dozen questions about your experiences as a small businessperson/entrepreneur.
If you are interested, please send an email to tmcooperphd@gmail.com.

High Sensitive Men’s Weekend

I am happy to report we now have 29 HS men signed up for the upcoming weekend at 1440 Multiversity! This first-ever weekend for HS men promises to be quite an immersive experience, yet will also be empowering and enjoyable. 1440 has some incredible amenities to partake of in down times.


Join us and please share!


Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career
Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Please click here for link to workshop.


Invest in Yourself in 2020!

Invest in yourself in 2020! That’s the main concept I feel compelled to advocate towards for highly sensitive people for this year and for the coming decade. Year after year, many of us make resolutions at the start of each year only to watch them gradually fade away like the last vestiges of a sunset. So much for good intentions and fresh starts! This year is different, though, because 2020 begins a new decade and is sufficiently far enough from the year 2000 that we really must start to think about how to best prepare ourselves for everything that comes next in our lives.


The founder of Sensitive Evolution, Maria Hill, alluded to just this topic when she stated,

“In order to become truly self-reliant and develop the resilience that comes with it, you need to engage with the world, to put up with the risks of failure and being hurt. Many sensitive people, because they have been devalued and invalidated, think that living in a limited way is the only solution that lets them manage the challenges of their sensitivity and survive.

What many sensitive people do not realize is that there are some skills they need that will help them feel more confident and empowered that shielding cannot give them. When skills are combined with energy processing and inner work, a sensitive person can become formidable.”

Too many HSPs live in a fairly limited way that focuses a significant amount of energy on shielding and limiting interactions, while simultaneously not devoting enough time to truly growing and developing their capacities in meaningful ways that can pay big dividends throughout the life course.

Maria advises us to “do our inner work because it can save us,” and I agree completely! It’s the inner work that we fail to address in our defensive posture as the world seemingly rains blows down on us from many directions, sometimes at once. Yet, the more of a defensive posture we choose to maintain, the less we are free to truly live. An insular life is just that: insular and protected from what we have found to be detrimental, scary, or uninviting, yet it is often those scary things that offer us the most growth opportunities!

Being willing to leave our comfort zones and really “hang it out there” may seem too risky for many HSPs, who prefer to take a very cautious and planned approach but I submit to you that life is a daily risk and we are always in an unplanned and chaotic reality, we simply choose to subscribe to illusions otherwise.

This may sound like lofty idealism so let’s list a few very practical and realistic ways we can invest in ourselves in 2020 and prepare for what comes next:

1) Thinking for ourselves is a skill we all must gain in order to be truly rational thinkers. The two main limitations to effective thinking are egocentrism and sociocentrism or thinking that is self-centered or group centered. Too many of us rely on the thinking of others to be valid and well-reasoned because we do not possess the skills to think critically and creatively. How to make that happen? Check out the Foundation for Critical Thinking website where they have tons of free resources and books you can purchase to start you on a lifelong journey towards rational and creative thinking. Website: http://www.criticalthinking.org/. I teach critical creative thinking to my students and I can tell you that the tool kit they graduate with is indeed powerful!

2) Examining our perceptions helps us sort out how we are interpreting events. Even though we may be quite intuitive that does not mean our intuition is always right or that we are perceiving life events accurately. Often the intensity of feeling in a moment may cloud our ability to perceive reality in a way that is balanced, patient, and fair. Resorting to ego simply leaves the bully in charge. Never be afraid to question your thoughts, that requires both intellectual courage and intellectual humility. This goes hand in hand with developing our rational and creative thinking abilities because both allow us to engage with our intuition and assess our thinking using universal standards or criteria to think with.

3) Learning how to demonstrate your value as a highly sensitive person may seem like a daunting task but until others understand the value in processing ideas and input more thoroughly, combined with high empathy, sensitivity to subtleties, filtered through a broad range of emotions, and, ultimately, better planning that is typically more creative, innovative, and less impulsive, they will only see your quiet ways as “too slow,” “too inefficient,” and “out of sync” with the fast pace of the working world. Your task is to find one project you can bring to the table that utilizes your full abilities as a highly sensitive person, assuming you already understand its potentialities, and show applications that are better than they would have been otherwise. Some of you may be exhausted with feeling like you need to prove anything to anyone, but that is self-limiting thinking that simply throws up a shield and never demonstrates your value in ways applicable to the real-world. We HSPs are not meant to exist in a vacuum, we are integral to the overall species and hold great value to all people. Our task is to find the right way/s to apply our capabilities.

4) Know thyself is an old adage but holds especially true for HSPs. Sensory processing sensitivity is a complex trait that you will not get to know overnight, nor will you appreciate its full potential until you have thoroughly lived with it at a high level of self-awareness. Read, think, relax, repeat… You should never be finished with knowing yourself. There are too many ways for you to get to know yourself to ever exhaust them in one lifetime. Explore, explore, explore and be open to new ideas, ways of being, and open to change.

5) Skills, the rarer the better! If you are stuck in your job, maybe you need some new skills. Seek out the types of skills that are in demand, or that will be, and learn them, whether by enrolling in a course, reading on your own, joining a social group dedicated to that topic, or asking someone who is already knowledgeable to teach you. If you are working in unskilled labor jobs your likelihood of moving up is slim. Train for something better, invest in yourself now and it will pay off for a lifetime. This is true for you and your family! If you do nothing but what you’ve been doing, and that doesn’t seem to work, what will be the result in 5, 10, 20 years? The same, so invest in yourself now and acquire those rare skills. Obviously be mindful of avoiding for-profit schools and fields with little demand. Do your research on what’s in demand and talk with people already doing what you propose to do! You will, of course, want to carefully consider how these new skills will allow you to manifest your strengths as an HSP.

6) Start a small business! Not only will you be free to choose what you do and how you do it but also who you do it with. Owning and operating a small business puts you in charge but be mindful of knowing what you are doing before you jump in. Take some courses on business management, marketing, accounting, and leadership, or work for another small businessperson to learn the ropes. You can start a business and grow it into many employees or one with few workers. You can even be a one-person show and succeed quite well, depending on your business focus. Start small and build it on the side while you still have another career. That mitigates the risk and allows you to avoid much of the stress of having to make that sale or borrow to expand. There are a million business opportunities in the real-world and the online world so seek them out and do your research. Obviously, not all businesses are a good idea, nor will they all work in your geographic location. Online stores equalize much of this but, again, do your homework and see what’s working for other people.

7) Connect with like-minded others, whether they are HSPs or not, humans need to connect with at least one other person whom they can confide in when things get tough. As we age, this connection becomes even more crucial to well-being and happiness. Many of you are more introverted and it’s hard to establish meaningful friendships, let alone lasting ones. Acknowledge that people will come and go and never stop meeting new people and cultivating new friendships.

8) Start and maintain a dedicated self-care practice. Learn to eat well for your body in ways that reduce inflammation, move you from the industrialized processed food system, and keeps you moving, limber, and flexible. Stay hydrated and avoid sugars of all types, they are increasingly becoming known as toxic to humans in so many ways. Several sugar substitutes are available now that work quiet well including Erythritol and Monk Fruit and will not spike your blood sugars. Make room in your life for adequate sleep and rest periods. You likely need a bit more sleep each night than do less sensitive people, simply because your body absorbs and processes all the stimulation you take in to a greater degree; that takes a toll and you cannot function well without enough sleep. Self-care for HSPs is essential! You cannot skimp on this and expect to thrive.

9) Invest for later. If you have not started investing in your personal investment portfolio there will never be a better time than now! Time is your friend and, simultaneously, not your friend. The sooner you begin investing in vehicles like dividend bearing growth oriented stocks and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) with low expenses, the sooner you can take advantage of growth in your investments and enjoy the dividends, which should be reinvested into more stocks or ETFs. Do that over your working life and the compounding effect of growth and investment will multiply your money incredibly! Start now and invest a small amount each week, or each month. The easiest way is to have that money taken out before you see it and sent directly to your account. Look into your employer’s 401K program but be mindful of expenses which can eat up your profits. I recommend M1 Finance because they allow you to invest in fractional shares. I also recommend the Roth Ira in the US as the best investment for working people. HSPs are well-known to be good planners but are you planning for your financial life? Start now…

10) Heal from trauma. If your childhood was unsupported, chaotic, or abusive, you have likely experienced a number of Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs). There is good help available that can help you move beyond the trauma you experienced and enter a new phase of life where you largely leave those experiences, and their lingering effects, behind. Life is truly YOURS to make of it what you will. Life is also too short and too fragile to allow what you could not control to exert influence over your life. Make your life YOURS and stop living in the shadows of your past. It may be a long path to healing but start now and invest in yourself!

These are a few key ideas you can use to invest in yourself in 2020 in real ways that will help prepare you for what comes next in your life. What other ways have you planned to invest in yourself in 2020?

Please share!


Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career

Thrill: The High Sensation Seeking Highly Sensitive Person

Entrepreneurship and the HSP

Hello HSPs and HSS/HSPs!

I am writing a new book on entrepreneurship and the highly sensitive person and would like to invite all HSP and HSS/HSP entrepreneurs or small businesspeople to contribute their experiences to this follow up book to Thrive: The Highly Sensitive Person and Career. Since Thrive was released in 2015, I have become a strong advocate and believer in the equalizing power of self-employment for HSPs and HSS/HSPs.

Your participation will consist of providing written responses to a survey designed to gather your overall experiences as a HS entrepreneur. If interested, I humbly invite you to be in touch at tmcooperphd@gmail.com.

Please consider sharing this post to your social media to help this effort! Thank you!