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Sensitive People


JSMitchell

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I'm not sure where else to put this thread, so I apologize if it's in the wrong place.

Are there any sensitive people out there? People who see their sensitivity as a positive.

I'm an emotional person. After years of being told that being sensitive is bad, that it's just weakness, it's hard to see anything good about it. It's a part of my personality that I constantly feel bad about, look down upon, but I also know I can't change it (or at least, it'd be difficult to). So, I have to accept it.

Does anyone have anything good to say about sensitivity? Besides the overused "it makes you human, open, creative, compassionate" trope that I've heard so many times. I want to change my perspective on sensitivity, to not see it as weakness, but it's so hard to.

Can anyone relate? Are there other sensitive people out there?

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Hi, Teddy545.

Mostly, it's my parents and my family. My parents are the type of people that you have to be callous to get along with; you have to have thick skin. Growing up, they always treated my sensitivity as something to look down upon. They would ridicule me for being sensitive and got angry at me whenever I cried; obviously, I was met with very little sensitivity as a child. My parents believe that strength lies in being callous, not being vulnerable, in always being right (as opposed to empathetic), and in allowing the only emotion you show to be anger or nonchalance. Unfortunately, their values have affected me and have continued to carry on into my adult life, even though I know their ideas of what is strength vs. weaknrss are unhealthy.

There are other situations too. I used to get bullied as a child, among other things. So there's no one, specific situation in which someone has told me that sensitivity is bad. It's more so an ongoing idea that's been reinforced and shoved down my throat by others my entire life.

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I would consider myself sensitive but you would never know by my outward behavior. I suspect that this is the case for most dudes where we learn to bury and hide. We learn that anger and apathy are the "acceptable" ways of dealing with it or we get the p***y label by other men.. and women. I don't think people realize just how much pressure is placed on men to conform to certain expectations. I think women have made headway over the decades but men have lagged behind in terms of breaking away from (ridiculous) restrictions.

Regardless, I think that most people are sensitive. Projection is the defense mechanism of choice for folks that pretend to be cold and callous. Why is this even an issue? It has everything to do with vulnerability, which is considered weakness and cowardliness, particularly in Western society. The very thing we vilify most just happens to be a universal experience for humanity. We are, by definition, a fragile and dependent species. Take a look at any tragedy that we read about in the news every day and they're all case in point.

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Hi, you may want to google "highly sensitive person (HSP)". I believe 20% of the population have this trait (including me). We are just wired differently than most people although this trait certainly cannot be considered "bad". On the other hand, Western culture seems to often favor the less sensitive so it can at times make me feel like I don't quite fit in and that I have some type of problem when in all reality I may be quite normal. A good book I read was "Psychotherapy and the Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine N. Aron. She has a website devoted to the HSP type people. Good luck and I hope you can start accepting your sensitivity more - Detroitguy.

Edited by detroitguy
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Raising my hand, sensitive person here! It's good that you see it as a positive. I saw it as a bad thing for so long and was embarrassed by how easily I cry in front of others. I don't have thick skin at all and I don't believe I ever will, although through therapy I am learning to regulate my emotions more. I also learned in therapy that a person's greatest weakness can also be their greatest strength. I learned that there are a lot of really great things about being sensitive. Learning to accept that I am sensitive and am not trying to change that about myself anymore. It's who I am. It's who you are. The world needs sensitive people.

Detroitguy, thanks for mentioning that book....I never heard of it before, and I'm going to try to get my hands on a copy. Sounds interesting.

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I apologize...However, been told not to cry, my sensitivity is selfish, and showing your emotions on your sleeve is a weakness. Plus if get emotional means you were wrong and trying to manipulate people to forgive you. On top of that I either am someone who wants attention or smothering seeking people out.

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I agree with detroit guy, read up about the HSP. Normally very intuitive and perceptive about others feelings. Almost to the extent of people thinking they have ESP. Sensitive to cruelty to self and others because of that empathy. Often with higher levels of emotions and sensitivity to sensory stimulation.

I have hidden my sensitivity a lot in my life as I think sadistic people pick up that they can get to you. They have a radar that you are sensitive even when you try to hide it. I always think of them as being a little like wolves. I was shamed and targeted for my sensitivity and for being kind. I still hate the word kind. How sad is that that. And the word sensitive.

I have spent the last couple of years trying to be more authentic and being myself and not giving into shame about who I naturally am. Hiding my sensitivity. I am also pretty tough and strong. With many things I am the one who isn't affected. Spider in the room? me.

I sometimes think sensitive people are able to see an entire world that doesn't exist to others. Like a different dimension. There are a lot of people out there who are blind if we are talking in those terms. . Most people fall in the middle. Those ones right on the extreme end of the spectrum frighten me.

It's sad how many of us have been targeted for it. Or should I say it has been used as a weapon against us.

Edited by Fizzle
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I read "The Highly Sensitive Person" by Elaine Aron several years ago. 20% is a substantial number of people. I qualify as HSP and there's no doubt that many of us on this forum would as well. It makes me wonder.. are there HSP's that don't have some kind of mental health concern?

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I am definitely in this category. A lot of times I feel people's emotions and moods even when they try to hide them. I think it is definitely a useful trait!! Can be hard sometimes but I've never viewed it as negative really... Although I suppose I am a woman and therefore people are more supportive of a woman being sensitive and intuitive.

My perceptions are very useful, helps me greatly with my work in the social work field and is really great for interpersonal relationships especially with new people. I can chat with anyone about anything because it's very easy for me to read other people and pick up on their emotions and feelings and therefore say the right thing to make conversation flow naturally. In my previous employment where I did child abuse investigations it was really really useful, although emotionally exhausting, however rewarding when I was able to sift thru the real monsters from parents simply struggling due to addiction. It's also a very good safeguard when u are in a scary or dangerous situation or environment,

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Are we talking about sensitive, as in easily hurt or offended, or perhaps empathetic - sensitive to the feelings and/or needs of others?

People tell me I care too much and and I am easily offended. Caring too much is a waste of time. It never helped me.

Edited by duck
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Although the term empath comes with some alternative stuff that is a step too far for my scientific mind (I think a lot of things are true but have a scientific basis) there is some helpful advice linked to the concept. Like visualisations. I think being HSP does potentially come with some problems even though it is and should be an advantage. Not that I ever thought it was though! I think the right parenting means that someone wouldn't have problems and would know how to mange their HSP-ness, I absolutely have met HSP's who don't have difficulties.

I feel like my HSP stuff no longer makes me unwell and in the past it definitely added to my problems. It's been all about boundaries for me. I was porous before. I have developed ways of managing that porosity better. I am no longer in constant psychological pain with other peoples emotions. I am about half as sensitive to comments or other interpersonal stuff as I used to be. I am better at letting others own their own emotions.

When it comes to being a target I am afraid that is still where I don't have peace. I am way less of a target because I am less porous and because I am less obsessive about monitoring tiny fluctuations in environment. But I still believe the psychos out there smell me out. That probably has more to do with other stuff too.

wrenn, the safety advantages backfire when dissociation is involved. I switch off at a certain point and that unfortunately makes me a target and unable to use my skills to accurately assess environments. I have a very young niece (not long out of toddlerhood) who has been diagnosed with a dissociative disorder and see a lot of myself in her. Lucky girl to get help so early. Some of that help seems to be aimed at being an HSP. There are of course other reasons for the dissociation but I think HSP + early experiences make it more likely.

The other factor of course is that I believe that difficult environments are one of the things that can develop HSP. Being made responsible for others emotions,. Needing to be vigilant. Needing to be tuned into the emotional state of those around us for psychological reasons or more. Parentification or enmeshment.

Edited by Fizzle
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One has to know their limitations, and stay in balance... Or they are just imbalanced..

And a wound is very sensitive till it is cared for and healed, if not it worsens, gets infected and can cripple...

But healed scars are called proud flesh, and not as sensitive, and tougher... Like a muscle is actually tearing damage is done in use, that is why they get sore, and the healing causes more mass by scar tissue... And GIVES STRENGTH.

Healing must take place, or it stays a open wound.

Edited by Alienated2
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I am a super-sensitive individual. When I feel something, it is very intense, sometimes so intense that I can't handle it. I sometimes find myself in need of a distraction to put aside the emotion until I am ready to deal with it. As with everything, there are good and bad points, but I will only list what I believe to be positive about sensitivity.

Good points

  • We don't hold grudges for very long
  • Our anger is fleeting. We can't stay angry for very long
  • We are more sensitive to the needs of others
  • It is pure ecstacy when we are happy.
  • Sometimes, we can help others to be less selfish and to view events from a different perspective
  • We love more intensely than others that are less sensitive
Edited by screwygirl
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I have to say that although I don't hold grudges or hold onto anger (except at myself) I personally don't think they are related to being sensitive. I'm also not sure all those who are HSP seek out intensity. Just some thoughts. Others can say how they are.

Edited by Fizzle
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I try to make my sensitivity an asset over a curse. I enjoy having a keen understanding of things and being a good artist. I just wish I could put those things to use more often. I wish I can avoid certain painful interactions and avoid beating myself more often. (And yes, it's harder when you're a male, for sure).

Edited by Kabuto
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I don't know... I've never viewed being sensitive towards others as a particularly positive trait for me to have. Great for others, bad for me. The only benefit it's brought me is being thoughtful about my writing and catching on quickly to the motivations of others when I can stand back and take a good look at them.

Sensitivity has made me a free therapist. Sensitivity has made me that friend that you go to only to vent, without you needing to catch yourself if you openly trash talk groups they're part of. Sensitivity has made me that person who has to say "no" when friends say "yes" and be ostracized for it. Sensitivity has made me that person that broken people try to latch onto for stability, often becoming the target of their anger and dysfunction.

Over 10 years of personal work, and I can stand up for myself but not repel it entirely.

It just feels like a token pat on the back. "Hey, at least you're a nice, soft mat for when others walk all over you."

Edited by Licorice
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I always knew different people responded differently to things. Internally I mean, not externally. Part of my radar. But when it hit home in a very graphic way was when I passed around an empathy and systematising test (Baron Cohen) at work and at home. Probably about 20 people altogether. I did it lightly and in fun at the time and people participated in the same way.

It was way more interesting than I expected. Seeing what happens internally for people written out in black and white was very enlightening. And seeing which ones had so little empathy (astoundingly little for some) made a whole lot of sense when looking at past behavior. One person who was a classic bully and manipulator got the lowest score. She also didn't care one jot. Thought it was funny. I think it would be hard to move her at all. Emotionally speaking that is. I found her answers shocking. Close to zero interest in or response to others emotions or well being. I realised the bullying and manipulation was just an interesting game for her and a way to pass the time.

I know we aren't talking about empathy and rather sensitivity. I suspect there are people who consider themselves sensitive who are only sensitive to what people do/say to them rather than being sensitive to other peoples feelings. Narcissistic types.

I think I have heard that HSPeople form about 15 % of the population (or 20 depending on source). Empaths form about 4 %. Psychopaths 1 %. I sort of dislike the term empath too but it does describe certain things I find for me and has been of help to me. I doubt the terms empath or HSP have any scientific backing of course! One would have to define each aspect of them too. Although it seems Dr Elaine Aron has compiled a test and defined it.

I know they say that HSP traits are innate. I wonder if that is intensified by certain experiences.

PS. hmmmm ... it looks like I will have to do some reading. Just did the sensation seeking test and am now reading about the behavioral activation system. Very high on sensation seeking.

http://hsperson.com/pdf/The_highly_sensitive_brain_%20an_fMRI_study.pdf

Edited by Fizzle
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Hi JSMitchell.

I'm sorry to hear about the problems you have had with your family. They sound neglectful. Sensitivity is certainly not a bad thing, but it sounds like your family have conditioned you to think this way. Too many parents want their children to grow up to be exactly like them which is unhealthy.

I'm not sure if I'm sensitive in the traditional sense, but I do believe in treating people how I expect to be treated in return. Callous and cruel people tend to be hypocrites when it comes to empathy and kindness. They expect other people to be empathic, thoughtful and sensitive to their needs, but are not willing to give it out. Callous people tend to subscribe to the belief that you can either be the bully or the victim, the hunter or the hunted, you decide. But human nature is, of course, far more complicated than this rigid belief.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I have to say that although I don't hold grudges or hold onto anger (except at myself) I personally don't think they are related to being sensitive. I'm also not sure all those who are HSP seek out intensity. Just some thoughts. Others can say how they are.

Sorry, I should have said sensitive people have a very difficult time holding grudges. At least that is true for me. It also depends on what you mean by sensitive. I am an extremely emotional person, and the emotions I feel are intense. I never said I seek out intensity; it is just present within me. I love intensely. When I cry, I feel like I am in a bottomless chasm. When I am happy, I feel like I can fly. When I hurt, the pain is so overwhelming that it paralyzes me. When I am afraid, the fear floods my senses and I can hear my heart beat. When I am angry, it is so fierce that I tremble uncontrollably.

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Wow this is an interesting thread. I too am an HSP. I think that what the author says about HSPs is that when they are nurtured properly they do not have as hard time in life. However if they are nurtured improperly it can be very terrible for them. I think thats true.

I call myself a HSP gone wrong. Because I was rudiculed mocked and tourmented for who I was. And that was by my mother. She relentlessy ridiculed and demeaned my every word and even action. That tore me apart. It sort of fractured me. I was way too sensitive to handle that. And she hated my sensitivity. She would not even cry when her own son died. But she made sure to ridicule me when tears came out of my eyes,. Please know i love her very much. And would protect her to the end. So while it may sound like I am angry with her, I love her very much.

Part of the HSP for me is that I have this pesky thing where I pick up on energies of people. So if there are imbalances i actually feel them. Its kinda horrible. It keeps me inside and away from people a lot. But I also pick up on balances which is awesome. eg today I was in the parking lot of a grocery store. There was a girl with her mom. She was probably around 15 years old. Probably autistic or perhaps fetal alcohol syndrome. Something like that. The mom was not a birth mom. Adoptiive mom. anyway, this girl had the most amazing light and heart. What a soul !! I could feel it so strongly. When I was in the store I told the mom what an amazing soul her daughter is. The mom said she knew. And was impressed that I could recognize it. the daughter gave me a big old hug. So thats the upside of HSP. But growing up it was a nightmare. I was a HSP balloon in a house of pins, lol.

Edited by lillyp
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