The Benefits of Being Sensitive

Tue 2015-06-16

I would like to rant a little bit about sensitivity (which is also called decreased latent inhibition if you want to research more) and how great it really is. (Disclaimer: this is going to include a lot of examples from my own experience, so please excuse how self-absorbed it may appear to be.)

I consider myself to be a sensitive person and a lot of people see that as a flaw. I cry at everything. Loud, crowded concerts send me to the bathroom in tears. Violence in a show disturbs me for weeks, sometimes a lot longer. I take everything personally. And I’m the one who ruins her makeup over almost every scene in her sister’s high school play. It would seem that sensitivity is all sadness and many tell me I’m too sensitive.

But what about the benefits? There are so many.

  • Because we feel the bad so deeply, guess what else we get to feel more strongly? Happiness! Bliss! Excitement! We feel everything more than most people and that’s not a bad thing.

  • When you hurt so very badly in response to violence and pain in real life as well as movies, that means you are empathetic. Empathy is considered by many to be a virtue. It means you are deeply caring and understanding of others and compassion is a very positive trait.

  • Since sensitive people take in so much rather than filtering it as others do, it is easy to teach new concepts to them. Those who are sensitive can use that to quickly understand new concepts.

  • Creativity also comes as part of sensitivity. Sensitive people can use their awareness to look inward and access a very clear view of the brilliant rainbow of thoughts, feelings, and ideas inside of them.

  • Attention to detail and perceptiveness usually come in the package of sensitivity. This insightfulness can be very beneficial in certain careers and is considered a positive quality.

  • We get more feeling and meaning out of everyday experiences. That pie tastes REALLY good and that sunset is AMAZING and that symphony is SO beautiful that we are moved to tears.

  • Our connections to other people, living things, and the world around us is very strong so it’s easier for us to overcome our desires for the greater good. Plus, since we deeply care about our relationships, we make great friends!

Every aspect of sensitivity involves deeper, more intense feeling and sensing. Personally, this enriches my life and lets me see and appreciate all of the brilliant hues within it.

The consequences of sensitivity are easily minimized with mindfulness and some aren’t even problems at all.

  • One of the most significant negatives for sensitive people is being easily overwhelmed and overstimulated which can cause pain, fatigue, stress, anxiety, and so on. For example, the anxiety of being in a crowd and my complete mental collapse after a busy day are symptoms of sensitivity. But this can all be resolved by being aware of my feelings, which is easy for sensitive people. I know when I need to take a break to reduce my stress in crowds or prevent mental fatigue, so it’s easy to avoid those negative emotions. -- Also, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with preferring camping to concerts; it’s all a matter of taste.

  • The most significant “negative” for me is being so strongly affected by the emotions of others. There are a lot of situations and experiences that I simply cannot handle. The explosive arguments frequent in the household of my boyfriend’s family deeply upset me though I’m not personally involved in them. There’s just so much hate I can’t handle it. I can’t see a lot of movies and shows because I can’t handle the pain experienced by the characters. I’m an emotional sponge, but watching my favorite animated children’s movie after that disturbing R-rated thriller isn’t going to fix the hurt inside. There’s a lot I can’t handle. But I don’t find my empathy to be a flaw. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a virtue. It just comes with painful consequences which can be minimized, for example, by going to a different room when arguments erupt in the Sutton household or by asking my friends for advice on which anime to watch and not seeing movies rated R for violence.

  • We default to the “flight” response. For example, at a team meeting with disagreement and tension, you may want to run and hide in the bathroom the whole time. But you have to be present and try to handle all the negative vibes you’re absorbing. Being the peacemaker and facilitating communication solves that. Though sensitive people such as myself may prefer the flight response to conflict and we love running away, we need to be aware of the importance of conflict resolution. I’ve been a lot happier since I learned to confront conflict and resist the urge to run away.

  • We need alone time and sanctuary. Some loved ones, such as your significant other, may not understand why you don’t want to spend every free moment with him. I need some free time for myself to unwind with Netflix or zone into introspection during a solo errand run. But that’s nothing that communication can’t solve!

  • My sensitivity can cause me to be very critical of people who don’t care as much as I do. After a disturbing scene I think “what sicko gets entertained by this?!” but most people are not so sensitive as I am. Also, my strong connection to the world, intolerance of pain, and affinity for deep thought have led to passionate Negative Utilitarian morals (minimized pain = moral action) and so it takes a lot of effort to remind myself that morality is different for everyone. Just because someone doesn’t do what I think is “right,” doesn’t mean they’re “wrong.” But although it’s difficult to not be critical of others, it’s very possible and I’ve been working on reducing how self-righteous I can be.

  • We can also be very critical of ourselves. I’m very susceptible to self-hate due to my strong sense of responsibility and morality. It was terribly bad in my teens but I learned to cope and forgive myself.

  • Society doesn’t “get” sensitive people. It can be very painful to be misunderstood. The key is to find people who understand and appreciate you, even when you’re freaking out because you think your classmate hates you (she probably doesn’t).

Overall, the consequences of being sensitive are absolutely bearable -- especially since our self-awareness makes it very easy to manage ourselves and our emotions. I definitely think the pros outweigh the cons. If only everyone could see it that way!

And actually, everyone is sensitive to some extent. It’s all relative and some are just more sensitive than most. According to Dr. Elaine Aron, if you agree with 14 or more of the 27 statements below, you’re a highly sensitive person (I got 21).

  • I am easily overwhelmed by strong sensory input.

  • I seem to be aware of subtleties in my environment.

  • Other people’s moods affect me.

  • I tend to be very sensitive to pain.

  • I find myself needing to withdraw during busy days,into bed or into a darkened room or any place where I can have some privacy and relief from stimulation.

  • I am particularly sensitive to the effects of caffeine.

  • I am easily overwhelmed by things like bright lights, strong smells,coarse fabrics,or sirens close by.

  • I have a rich,complex inner life.

  • I am made uncomfortable by loud noises.

  • I am deeply moved by the arts or music.

  • My nervous system sometimes feels so frazzled that I just have to go off by myself.

  • I am conscientious.

  • I startle easily.

  • I get rattled when I have a lot to do in a short amount of time.

  • When people are uncomfortable in a physical environment I tend to know what needs to be done to make it more comfortable (like changing the lighting or the seating).

  • I am annoyed when people try to get me to do too many things at once.

  • I try hard to avoid making mistakes or forgetting things.

  • I make a point to avoid violent movies and TV shows.

  • I become unpleasantly aroused when a lot is going on around me.

  • Being very hungry creates a strong reaction in me,disrupting my concentration or mood.

  • Changes in my life shake me up.

  • I notice and enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, works of art.

  • I find it unpleasant to have a lot going on at once.

  • I make it a high priority to arrange my life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations.

  • I am bothered by intense stimuli, like loud noises or chaotic scenes.

  • When I must compete or be observed while performing a task, I become so nervous or shaky that I do much worse than I would otherwise.

  • When I was a child, my parents or teachers seemed to see me as sensitive or shy.

According to Dr. Aron’s research, 15-20% of people are highly sensitive and 30% of those people are extroverts like me.

Hopefully this has helped you understand sensitive people better, whether you are or are not a highly sensitive person yourself. Being sensitive doesn’t mean you’re always sad or crying; it means you feel everything deeply. It doesn’t mean we’re overly-emotional; we are actually very self-aware and simply have a lot of emotion to manage. Sensitive people aren’t antisocial; they just prefer quiet activities to loud ones and prefer the company of friends to that of strangers. And most importantly, sensitivity isn’t a negative trait! It’s just another way that people are different and unique.

I credit my happiness to my sensitivity most of all. And since it’s so easy to manage the sad effects, I experience a lot more of the benefits of sensitivity than the consequences of it. As long as you practice self-awareness, sensitivity is a very happy thing! So celebrate your deep experience of life and give love to your sensitive, compassionate friends!

By Britt, Category: Psychology

Tags: persuasive /

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