The Gift of Sensitivity
Often when I point out to a client that they are sensitive, I get a response like: "I know, I wish I was tougher . . ." or "How do I change that?". With personality traits such as sensitivity there is no changing that aspect of who you are. The best thing you can do for yourself is accept it and learn how to use your gift to your advantage.
Psychological researcher James H. Fallon is a Professor of Psychiatry and Human Behavior at the University of California, Irvine. He made a discovery of his own during a research project that scanned the brains of murderers. He had used himself in the blind test of MRI brain scans and to his astonishment he was one of the few that tested positive. And although Sociopathy and Psychopathy are traits of cold hearted killers, he's not worried about his potential. He embraces the gift it has given him to be less emotional and always clear headed in a crisis. I would imagine it helps him in his work, though it may be challenging for his family that he has no more emotion for them than anyone else (as he states in the documentary Genetic Me). If he can find the positive in a hard hearted trait, what is the potential for someone empathy! Endless!
The trait of sensitivity may appear the polar opposite. Highly Sensitive People (HSP's) have a large range of very deep emotions that many see as a burden, but I have never seen it as burdensome to be able to empathize. The ability to feel what another person is feeling and therefore know how to help them, is a gift. The sensitive parent is one that can attune to her child, know what s/he is hungry, tired or sad and teach them how to satisfy their needs. You know how to extend comfort where people barely notice a problem.
There are many other positive traits that come with being sensitive. The brain of an HSP is wired to process more information, and at a deeper level. This creates a situation where detailed work, pattern analysis and identifying connections that may seem obscure to others is an easy task. The first studies in sensitivity were actually studies trying to quantify giftedness, according to Elain Aron, Ph.D in her 2004 DVD workshop The Trait of High Sensitivity. It is Aron’s hypothesis that many HSP’s are leaders in their communities, healers and traditionally in society would have been shaman or advisors to the king - like the mythical Merlin.
What about the tendency to stop and think where others are jumping straight in? In our new world society, the Americas, this is seen as a liability. Our society is still too young, too close to the pioneering roots in which it is more important to be able to hike through brush, clear the land, fight off others trying to encroach on your territory than build a cultured society deeply grounded in art and empathic negotiation. Other societies, old world societies, do prize the traits of thoughtfulness, quiet contemplation and compassion. Although living in a society that does not prize your defining features can be difficult, even traumatic at times, it is important to teach the warriors in our society compassion, mercy and the ability to make connections that will both deepen our societal bonds and create peace amongst all races, religions and creeds.
If there ever truly is a zombie apocalypse, the James Fallons of the world will reign. But here, in the real world, we need barometers of the heart and soul to guide our society to a higher evolution.
What part of your personality do you find the most difficult to bear? Maybe it is more than one aspect. Make a list of all the positives that may come from each quality.
For instance: Many HSP’s do not have a huge group of friends that they see on a weekly basis. In fact, they need a fair amount of down time and can spend a lot of time alone or with one other person. Being a “loner” in our society is often frowned upon, even ridiculed. So where is the positive in that? HSP’s tend to be less extraverted (though not all) which means they have a small group of friends that they connect with on a very deep level. This kind of connection is so much more rewarding, fulfilling and is a true growth experience for both parties. If this is true of you, then you might need to let go of the idea that to be “normal” you should be getting out there, finding a big group of friends to have an idle chit chat. If it is not rewarding for you, then why engage with it? That is not YOUR normal.
Instead of trying to conform (and contort yourself) to a normal meant for the ideal 80% of a population that you don’t belong to, spend some time discovering the really gifted you. It does not look like the rest of society and that is a good thing. We have warriors and we have healers. We have Generals and we have trackers. Without the opposite side the world becomes a very violent and hard place. Your contribution is essential, especially if we are to teach the next generation a different way of being.