Am I really, 'too sensitive'?
Put your hand up if you have ever been the target of this dismissive verbal slap.
Yes, me too. And it hurts. A lot. It feels shaming.
Why? Let's take a closer look at what "sensitive" really means.
The Concise Oxford Dictionary (1980) defines sensitive as “having sensibility (capacity to feel); very open or acutely affected by external stimuli or mental impressions...”
OK. "Sensitive" means the capacity to feel. It means that a person is open to his environment and internal thoughts. Quite frankly, I call that being alive. In fact, I would call it a necessary skill to be able to respond to life. In the animal world, using the senses (open to the environment) is a critical ability. It keeps the animal from being eaten by predators; and it allows predators to hunt their prey. Finely tuned senses are essential.
So far, so good. Then how is it that “being open to the environment and affected by external stimuli” i.e. sensitive, is bad or undesirable for us?
What were the circumstances when you were told you were "too sensitive"? Had you just commented on a social injustice? Were you unhappy about a personal remark that was made?
I have noticed "sensitive" is often used to silence someone; to shut down their voice when the speaker wants to minimize the other person's viewpoint. Sadly, that is why this label stings. It is meant to dismiss, to disrespect, to demean.
However, that is an “ad hominem” logical fallacy. The speaker is attempting to discredit an argument by drawing attention to characteristics of the other person instead. Simply put, they don't like what you said, so they attack you as a person, instead of what you said. It is meant to throw you off balance and it usually does — at least it does for me.
Your worth as a person has just been questioned so of course the natural human thing to do is defend yourself. Hence, they don't need to have sound reasoning; they only need to attack others personally. Hmmm, sounds fishy to me. I don't like it one bit.
Are we meant to be insensitive then? "Insensitive" means we are not in touch with ourselves, our truth, our feelings, our values. It means we are numb. Numb to the pain or joy that might be bubbling up within us. Numb to the world around us. Numb to the pain of others. When that happens we quickly reach a state of freeze and an inability to follow our own inner guidance or truth. We have lost our authentic voice and may be subject to the whims or dictates of others.
"Sensitive" involves attending to our own feelings and reflecting on why we feel the way we do. No blame of others. No guilt for self. Just curiosity and taking responsibility for our feelings in this confusing, conflicted world in which we live.
Sensitive means truly being alive. So I say hooray for being sensitive!
What do you say? I'd love to hear.