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Unapologetically Sensitive

We explore how sensitivity weaves itself into our lives; the richness that it adds, and the strengths we have BECAUSE of our sensitivity--and some of the challenges it poses as well. You may learn to live a bolder, brighter life.

Jul 30, 2019


The Highly Sensitive Brain—What the Research Says, Esther Bergsma MA


Esther Bergsma


Esther joins us to discuss her studies of HSPs and how their brain works. First, we discuss the differences in HSPs and non-HSPs. We discuss that the brain is active in many more areas then the non-HSP. Esther shares that one of the major areas that the brain is always turned on to is social context. HSPs are always asking what others think of them. We also discuss the role anxiety plays for the highly sensitive person and how HSPs have optimal option ambition which makes them want the best outcome. Esther discusses research in emotional granularity and introspection. We discuss Esther’s style of working with clients to figure out what’s going inside. We focus on the strengths of HSPs, and we end discussing the four-step process that Esther uses when working with children in order to help them identify their feelings.


  • “There’s so much misunderstanding around the term, people think its about being sensitive to light.”
  • “The area that’s always tuned in is the area surrounding social constructs. What is someone else thinking of me? Does he accept me? It’s always on.”
  • “The troubles we experience as an adult often come from our strengths.”
  • “Cut out images from a magazine just because it feels good. Then analyze why it makes you feel good.”
  • “A lot of HSPs built these walls because they have been hurt in their lives.”


Esther Bergsma, MA, is a frequent speaker on High Sensitivity in the Netherlands. She is an author, trainer, scientific researcher and expert on High Sensitivity. Esther has been project manager with the Ministry of Social Affairs and at a Union. After a burnout that lasted four years, she discovered she is highly sensitive, and has two highly sensitive children. She wrote the book Hoogsensitieve kinderen (Highly Sensitive Children) which included research amongst over 700 parents, and the book the Highly Sensitive Brain (both are in Dutch).

Esther wants to create awareness about the trait from a more scientific angle. She tackles skepticism with easy-to-understand but scientifically sound information, both verbally and written. She speaks for medical professionals, psychologist, teachers and managers. Last year, she conducted international research to gain awareness on the trait of High Sensitivity in the workplace. 5500 Highly Sensitive Persons from over 20 countries participated and the results are as important for HSP as for employers.

Hoogsensitief.NL is initiated by Esther to create a place for HSPs to meet, learn and share.


  • Lisa Feldman Barret How Emotions are Made
  • There are many misunderstandings around the term HSP
  • HSPs are actually deep processors.
  • HSPs are perceptive and also and notice subtilties and emotions in others.
  • The brain processes in a lot more areas in HSPs. 10-20 in HSPs and 4-5 in non-HSPs.
  • HSPs tend to have difficult childhoods, and tune into social contexts and wonder how they are seen and how they fit in. This often turns into anxiety disorders.
  • If HSPs have good childhoods, then they learn to manage their emotions better. They are still intense but they know how to manage it.
  • Optimal Option Ambition: connect to the best outcome. Keep everyone happy, keeps brain making loops, but the options HSPs come up with are more creative.
  • HSPs tend to be good at self-reflection. Often asking themselves can they be better, how can they improve.
  • Emotional granularity is important for HSPs. Use the right words to describe what’s going on, so you send the right messages to your body.
  • Introception: Feel what’s going on inside our bodies and help connect our brain to our body.
  • Emotional Intelligence: Knowing what’s going on in yourself. Connecting to others.
  • Esther helps her clients figure out what they want/need by cutting out images that make them happy.
  • It’s important to remember the brains function differently then others. Try not to be like others. Take breaks and remember you may be better at some tasks.
  • On the subject of Highly Sensitive Children, it’s important to give our children the ability to talk about their feelings. We need to honor, validate their feelings. It’s about understanding, acceptance, guidelines and steps for future.



Patricia Young hosts the podcast Unapologetically Sensitive, and works with Highly Sensitive People (HSPs) helping them in understanding their HSP traits, and turning their perceived shortcomings into superpowers. Patricia is passionate about providing education to help HSPs and non-HSPs understand and truly appreciate the amazing gifts they have to offer. Patricia works globally online with HSPs providing coaching. Patricia also facilitates online groups for HSPs that focus on building community and developing skills (identifying your superpowers, boundaries, perfectionism, dealing with conflict, mindfulness, embracing emotions, creating a lifestyle that supports the HSP, communication and more).


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Music: Gravel Dance by Andy Robinson

Editor & Show Notes: Cianna Reider –