The Empowered and Unempowered HSP From Struggling to Thriving

The Empowered and Unempowered HSP :
From Struggling to Thriving

Becoming an empowered HSP is a process.


Over the years of working with HSPs, I’ve synthesized what I think of when describing an empowered vs. an unempowered HSP ~ or someone who is “thriving” vs. “struggling.”   If you find yourself in the latter category, please don’t worry or judge yourself. Just know there is a way to heal, gain insight, and move forward to use the wisdom your empowered sensitivity has to offer. Thousands of HSPs are doing just that.

The Empowered HSP
The empowered HSP is someone who:

  1. Has a strong spiritual life and a sense of being worthy
  2. Proactive – taking time to figure out things ahead of time
  3. Resourceful in reaching out, finding answers, and asking for what you need
  4. Trusts their instincts and intuition to grow and change
  5. Has knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of the trait
  6. Takes the initiative to act vs. react
  7. Is good at setting boundaries
  8. Is  good as identifying, accepting, expressing, and taking care of one’s own needs
  9. Is good at identifying environments that support “thriving” and avoiding      environments that necessitate merely “surviving”
  10. Is good at recognizing strengths in self and others
  11. Perseveres at finding a unique way “to fit” in the world in a meaningful  way
  12. Does cognitive work to prevent the downward spiral into negative thought  patterns
  13. Feels in control even in the midst of chaos
  14. Promotes  the HSP  trait as a positive
  15. Honors  and recognizes their ‘priestly advisor’ gifts
  16. Can say ‘no’ without apology, anger, guilt, resentment or defensiveness
  17. Strives to find and follow a passion
  18. Is  responsive to “light” and “truth” as in ‘numinous’
  19. Is at peace, rest, centered in love (not necessarily with another person) but ‘love’ as a way of being.
  20. Has developed and practiced coping skills such as meditation, boundary setting, getting enough sleep
  21. Respects and honors the inevitable emotional reactions to disturbing events thus serving as a role model for authentic concern for others and world events – and when necessary chooses to act vs react in a way that honors ourselves and others.
  22. Trusts  in the beauty of their feelings and needs
  23. Understands and accepts the paradoxes of life, which necessitates a trust in what is not (yet) known
  24. We learn to be comfortable with ambiguity
  25. We eventually transcend the very labels (HSP, Myers Briggs, Enneagram, etc.) that have helped us along our journey.
  26. We learn to surrender to “what is” by asking ourselves: “Given what IS, what do I need now?” “What wants to happen next?” “What most wants my heart’s attention?”

The Unempowered HSP

The unempowered HSP is someone who:


  1. Is reactive, without taking time to identify and process emotions
  2. Insecure,  helpless, in a victim mode
  3. Stuck in untreated depression, anxiety, or other maladies
  4. Not able  or willing to reach out for help
  5. Is unaware of the trait, or in denial of the trait
  6. Shame based – untreated low self-esteem
  7. Can’t see  their strengths – only their weaknesses
  8. Becomes a doormat for others; or a caretaker for other’s issues
  9. Tries to ‘save’ the world (and others) thus burning out Self  in the process
  10. Stays in unhealthy situations; unable or unwilling to set boundaries
  11. Has no  initiative or courage to seek change
  12. Allows the culture to dictate the definition of ‘success’
  13. Does not own/take responsibility for their feelings and needs; unable or unwilling to set boundaries
  14. Sees only the negative in the world – tending toward depression, isolation
  15. Has a  silent angry temper & refuses to communicate openly and honestly
  16. Has a tendency to judge and/or be critical of others
  17. Lives or  creates drama situations; unable to extricate self; again, unable or      unwilling to set appropriate boundaries
  18. Unforgiving of past wounds, trauma, and people who have hurt them
  19. Has not healed from their own past wounds

Can Someone Be an Empowered HSP All the Time?

No, probably not. Becoming an empowered HSP is a process and a long journey for many of us. Maintaining the empowered state of mind is a day-to-day, situation-to-situation process.

With you on this journey and wishing you lovely, empowered HSP days,

 Use With Permission Only with full credit included.  Thank you.

 LifeWorks for highly sensitive people is committed to harmonious personal and social transformation aimed at creating inclusive environments of individuality, belonging, and mutual respect; self-discovery and healing; positive regard and goodwill.
Jacquelyn Strickland, Mentor, Educator, Activist, retired psychotherapist,  LPC

Picture of Jacquelyn Strickland

Jacquelyn Strickland

Jacquelyn became a Licensed Professional Counselor in 1993, and began working exclusively with highly sensitive people in 2001, shortly after the first HSP Gathering Retreat in May of 2001. Her private psychotherapy practice has now transitioned to mentoring and coaching, which is not therapy, yet definitely therapeutic for most clients. She also offers consultations and accepts speaking engagements about the trait of Sensory Processing Sensitivity. She is a member of ICHS – International Consultants High Sensitivity, a professional, national, and international group of HSPs who were trained by Elaine Aron in March of 2018. She makes a cameo appearance in the 2015 documentary film: Sensitive: The Untold Story, available at

Although not always able to accept new clients, please do inquire here about how and if we might best work together.

Depth of Processing

Depth of processing is the most basic aspect of our SPS trait, and results in the deep, rich inner life most HSPs experience. Research has shown more brain activation in the prefrontal cortex and in a part of the brain called the insula which has sometimes been referred to as the ‘seat of consciousness.’ This creates the tendency to reflect more than others about the “way the world is going or “the meaning of life.” By integrating information and experiences, from both past and present, the HSP’s unique depth of processing can enable a sense and understanding of longer term consequences and may be able to influence future decisions with more creative and expansive thought.