Kathryn Pearson puts her struggles in life down to being a sensitive person, now she has written a book. Catherine Scott reports.
Growing up Kathryn Pearson didn’t understand why she sometimes struggled with the world around her.
Unbeknown to her she developed her own strategies to cope with the world she was expected to fit into, although at time she find it very stressful.
“It was only when she had her own daughter Yasmin that she realised that it was her sensitivity that had caused her problems.
“I wasn’t aware of the term ‘sensitive child’ when Yasmin was born, but quickly realised she was different from other babies,” explains Kathryn a former teacher who retrained as a therapist.
“ Instead of exploring, she sat surveying her surroundings with quiet curiosity. As a toddler, she was clingy. At parties she’d gravitate away from the noisy children, and it would take mammoth reassurances on my part to convince her to leave my side.”
She confided in a friend whose own introverted child displayed similar traits, and she told her about the work of an American clinical psychologist, Dr Elaine Aron, who has discovered that the part of the brain that deals with empathy and sensory information is different in sensitive people.
“High sensitivity isn’t an illness, so there is no diagnosis, but on her website Dr Aron has a list of 23 traits common to sensitive children — from their tendency to complain about scratchy clothing to a use of ‘big words’ for their age and a concern at the prospect of climbing heights,” says Kathryn, from Sheffield. “Yasmin — who has barely ever so much as scraped her knee in the playground because she is so cautious and was a walking dictionary by the age of four — shares 20 of these traits.
“Reading Dr Aron’s book was a revelation. I realised I wasn’t neurotic or a bad mother, and Yasmin wasn’t shy or destined to be a loner. My daughter was simply sensitive — and instead of seeking to suppress this sensitivity, I have encouraged Yasmin to embrace it as part of her personality.”
It also made Kathryn realise that she too had many of these traits.
“I’m an only child and my parents divorced when I was five. I was a sensitive child and the rest of our family was pretty rough and tumble. There was a lot of pressure in those days to try to toughen up children like me, especially if they were boys.
“I was withdrawn and very emotionally sensitive. I’d get upset very easily. I suppose I always knew I was a little bit different from the rest of my family. It would have been far worse for me if I had been a boy.”
Kathryn, now 34, says at school she developed strategies to ensure she didn’t get to over whelmed.
“If I knew I was going to be busy then I would make sure that I had time out to try to keep myself on an even keel.”
But once she went to university it became increasingly difficult to maintain.
“I remember one of my friends at university thought the strategies were ridiculous and made fun of me and so I stopped doing it and that caused me a lot of problems for the next ten years. I turned my back on my own physical needs which I now know was a huge mistake.”
It resulted in Kathryn ending up in a job that she was entirely unsuited to.
“I became a teacher which is a stressful enough job for anyone, but for someone as sensitive as me it was horrendous.”
It took it’s toll on Kathryn’s health, even working part-time and she realised that she had to take action when it all became too much for her one day.
“It was a round the time I had my daughter. I wanted to be the best teacher and the best mum and I was putting so much pressure on myself it was making me ill.”
She started to look at alternative such as tapping and EFT
“It helped me shift massive emotional stuff which caused painful patterns of behaviour, such as lack of focus and self-sabotage.”
She also became a teen yoga instructor, a career she loves.
But it was realising that she was a highly sensitive person, not “mental” or “neurotic” that was the biggest revelation.
“Had I realised that I would have stuck with the strategies I had developed intuitively as a child rather than turning my back on them and causing myself so many problems.”
But seeing herself ion Yasmin, she is determined that she will give her sensitive daughter the tools to cope with the world around her.
“Of course, there are those who claim mollycoddling our children will prevent them from learning vital lessons. One friend says that by describing my daughter as sensitive, I have effectively given her a license to throw strops. But I don’t agree.
“Managing Yasmin’s lifestyle is also key to controlling her sensitivity. I make sure she is in bed by 8pm — tiredness makes her moods more irrational. So too does excess sugar.”
Now Kathryn is sharing what she has learnt about her child with others first in a blog and now in an ebook entitled The Sensitive Subject.
“While sensitive children can be challenging, their sensitivity is ultimately an asset, and if handled well, their empathy could make the world a better place,” she says,
“I am also now the proud parent of a sensitive child myself, and after six years of discovery and trial and error, I want to share what I’ve learned - parenting her and parenting myself to manage our sensitivities so that we can thrive in modern world.”
For more information and to download a copy of The Senstive Subject visit www.kathrynpearson.co.uk