(This is a personal review of The Highly Sensitive Person in Love, by Elaine Aron PhD)
A Mixed Bag
The information in this book is no doubt correct. But along with the science we also get the author’s personal opinions and worldview. There is also a bit of pseudoscience mixed in with this science. So, be prepared for a frustrated and critical review of this book.
Highly Sensitive Persons is a very useful and meaningful category, however, it seems Dr. Elain Aron only addresses the HSPs that are agreeable in nature. I am likely an HSP, but I am rather disagreeable, meaning a lot of her advice rung only partially true, and partially annoyingly unapplicable.
This means that I relate to her research, but almost never to her personal examples. So very often it is not “we,” since she apparently doesn’t take low Agreeableness into account at all.
Writing Style, a Little Too Friendly for Me.
The fact that Dr. Elain Aron constantly refers to the reader as “We,” as in “we HSPs” Makes me feel like I ended up in some sort of weird special club I didn’t sign up for and that the author has all the secrets to how it works. It also makes me feel like she lacks the scientific distance and objectivity hoped for in this topic. Further, it seems to actively invite the author to assume we have all suffered exactly like she and her clients have.
There is a reason why in academic writing we are encouraged not to use a personal pronoun. It’s because you need a certain amount of scholarly distance from a topic in order to talk about it objectively. This constant use of “we” seems to allow for the author to make certain assumptions and just assume that “we” are all nodding in agreement.
Political Presuppositions shown as if they are Universal Fact
So I hope you like feminism and suffer from gender stereotypes. I went through a feminist phase in high school so I know where she’s coming from, and what she’s saying, but it is a little weird to have politics come up in a psychology book along with the assumption that no reader has other views.
Consider the example she gives of a woman with an overbearing mother, and a father who always agreed with the mother’s parenting. She later calls this same passive father “domineering” – within one sentence of each other! At least be consistent…! And she cites the pseudoscientific “goddess culture” research. Either this book is rather old (because these ideas were accepted for a period) or she just isn’t aware that the dream of women and goddess centered ancient cultures turned out to be a nightmare.
You see, ancient men and even modern men can get really violent if they are competing for a woman. Goddess centered cultures were incredibly destructive; not the feminist utopias that the early research hoped to uncover.
Assumes You also had a Difficult Childhood
And actually cared that people didn’t relate to or understand you.
I also hope, in addition to being a feminist, that your childhood was difficult because you’re an HSP, and that you didn’t accept yourself because you were too sensitive. That appears to be prescribed life path according to this book. Again, as a disagreeable man I didn’t have very many doubts about myself. Instead I had vicious regrets if I, upon reflection, realized that I had behaved in a way I didn’t like and maybe accidentally or intentionally hurt somebody. This is a much different HSP childhood experience.
So, 3.5/5 for knowledge. The audiobook narration is just fine. But wow 2/5 for writing. This is almost like an educational diary. Even though it’s from an expert, it’s a whole lot of opinion too.
Because the information is apparently accurate and useful, I may do my best to trudge through the otherwise irksome style this book uses. I just hope things get a little less chummy and a little more professional deeper in.