You’ve probably heard about serotonin. It’s one of the two major neurotransmitters (the other is dopamine, which I’ll write a little about another time). How much a person has available depends on genetic factors.
Every gene has 3 possible variations – ‘short-short’, ‘short-long’, and ‘long-long’ (how’s your high school biology memory going?). There’s a gene called the serotonin transporter gene. Its ‘short-short’ variation, called the ‘s-allele’, gives a person less available serotonin.
Now, you might think immediately that this is a bad thing – after all, serotonin is about feelings, isn’t it? Less serotonin = depression. Right? Wrong , actually. This is what researchers used to think, because SSRI (selective serotonin uptake inhibitor) drugs help alleviate depression. But this is, in fact, a ‘very inconsistent link’, says clinical psychologist and researcher, Elaine Aron. Further research has found that serotonin isn’t linked to depression, per se. So what is it linked to?
Having less available serotonin, due to the s-allele variation, isn’t about depression itself, but about sensitivity to good or bad environments. (Does this sound familiar?). S-allele carriers ‘took substantially longer to reflect before making difficult choices’, and were ‘emotionally risk-averse’ (more careful) when there was a low probability of winning, but emotionally eager to take a risk when there was a high probability of winning.
So, people with this s-allele are more careful decision-makers; more reflective and thoughtful – more cautious – when making complex decisions and considering risks. Overall, this gene variation seems to lead to better decision-making.
And what’s really interesting is that about the same percentage of people carry this variation as have a Highly Sensitive temperament. One of the markers of this temperament is… more careful, reflective decision-making. People with this temperament have a strong ‘pause-to-check’ impulse – stopping to think before acting, when risks are involved or it’s a complex decision in other ways.
On the other hand, they can have a strong curiosity impulse – the desire to discover, learn, and take creative risks. So, unless they’ve had very difficult childhoods or other traumatic past experiences, these two impulses can serve them very well, balancing each other and leading to a well-rounded person who is both creative/innovative and sensibly cautious when it matters.
Doesn’t someone like this sound like a highly valuable person to have around? A gift – and a protection – in an organisation aiming to operate smoothly and successfully? How are the Highly Sensitive people in your organisation going? Do you know who they are? Do you know how to help them play this vital role?
I help organisations learn about the gifts and needs of sensitivity, identify who has the Highly Sensitive temperament, and create workplaces where people with these gifts can thrive.
My workshops and consultations will help you answer these questions, and begin to truly harness the unique gifts of the Highly Sensitive people in your workplace.
Tamara - Sensitive Thrive is my consulting business. I believe that the world needs Highly Sensitive people who are flourishing. We need their hope, insight, wisdom, and awareness of beauty and possibility. My vision is to help create a culture where this temperament is known, understood and valued; where organisations seek Highly Sensitive people to work for them, because they know what they can do. Where HS people feel like they fit in their workplaces, because those workplaces also fit them. A world where HS people belong, thrive, and flourish, and the world is better for it.