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HSPs in Prison
by John D, a California prisoner


There is a children’s story about a mythical creature called a Bunyip. Sorry, I do not remember the author. The Bunyip is from the mud of a billabong. He is struggling to figure out what he is. He keeps asking, “What AM I?”
This is the same for me and my fellow HSPs. An HSP is a Highly Sensitive Person as defined by Dr. Elaine Aron, in her book The Highly Sensitive Person. We make up between 15-20% of the population. In the past we were called shy or introverts. We are much more.

Who am I? What am I?

I am,

• easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input
• able to see many subtleties around me
• bothered by noise, light and chaos
• conscientious of others
• full of a rich inner life that is complex
• affected by others’ moods
• moved by art and music
• identified by others as shy and withdrawn
• instinctive and introspective
• a priestly advisor

Dr. Aron’s research on this innate trait has been a God’s blessing to understanding “Who am I?”

So, who am I really? I am an HSP but what does that mean in my life?

Like Jon, I am an inmate. I have been incarcerated since 2003 in either county jail or the state prison system. In California the legislature has declared the purpose of prison is to punish. For the public, they say rehabilitation, but it is mainly up to the inmates to seek out those opportunities. Prison for HSPs is far more complex and rehabilitation is important.

My psychologist believed that in order to be rehabilitated I would have to understand who I am and how my decisions led to my incarceration. She suggested Dr. Aron’s book. As I read, my mind was opened, my psyche understood. I am an HSP and that’s both normal and okay!

Prison life is constant chaos, noise, moody people and often dangerous. Many people here are aggressive, immature and warriors. Those perceived as weak, shy, sensitive can be bullied. We must learn to cope and live within our HSP trait. I wear foam ear plugs and spend a lot of time on my rack (bed) away from the chaos. I attend church and participate in an emotional healing course. I work in an office to avoid crowds. I will survive.

HSPs genuinely appreciate your on-going support and encouragement. Thank you for taking the time to understand who we are.

© 2011 Permission to publish granted by John D