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If you are emotionally over-sensitive, it can be difficult for you to manage and change because you may feel vulnerable, defensive, threatened or you may not know what to do to become less sensitive. However, it is worthwhile to work on overcoming emotional over-sensitivity because it may be hampering your ability to live a full and happy life, to be be more connected to others and to express yourself better. It is possible to adjust your emotional sensitivity. Do it with patience and understanding.
Being overly sensitive is not, in itself, a bad trait but it is likely to lead you to assume slights that you imagined, or are not intentional. You will be easily hurt by comments and actions that are ‘normal,’ that most people do not find hurtful. Misinterpreting constructive, everyday interactions can limit your ability to lead a happier life.
It’s important to balance your sensitivity with common sense, confidence and resilience so that you do not over-react to life’s everyday events. This article explores ways for you to overcome emotional over-sensitivity that may be holding you back.
Be sincere about your feelings and look within. One of the greatest difficulties is the way the mind responds to events and therein lies the big challenge. The mind often reacts out of habit and sometimes because it wants to, but there is a variety of reasons a person may feel sensitivity. You can reach this realization once you have done some insight work into yourself and your own life. It might help to understand that this first step usually is the hardest, as it is possible to spend many hours of conflicted self-talk and contemplation before you can really admit that you could be too sensitive for your own well-being. This includes going over the whats, hows and whys.
Generally, there are not many people who are really able to honestly look inside themselves and admit to the truth of what they see is happening, so you probably find this step is a big challenge.
Set yourself some groundrules as that way you have a scope within to explore and can still be in control. The very fact you’ve chosen to examine your sensitivity is a big step forward and can be an act of kindness to yourself when done to improve your emotional wellbeing.
Explore your sensitivity. There is a host of questions you can ask to gain understanding, such as the subject of the sensitivity as well as if you feel sensitive to many things in general (perhaps social-wide issues). Perhaps you’re very sensitive to a particular person or group of people? Does the depth of your usual sensitivity vary? Do you react in a big way or a small way to things you perceive as hurts or emotional harm? Try to explore all the subtle details of what or who sets off your sensitivities.
Meditation is also an activity you can look into for exploring the sensitivity. If you’ve been resisting it, such as because you think it’s a waste of time, or feel nervous or afraid, then it is an excellent way to understand what is prompting you to think that way. It is wise for beginners to find themselves an instructor, or an experienced friend who can give good advice. You might be surprised at how it can open pathways inside yourself to greater personal understanding, especially for a person with many self-perceived sensitivities. Mindfulness is an excellent format of meditation to look into as you can start to identify the individual feelings, motivations and complexities and address each issue in your own time.
Find out if there is a particular trigger for your sensitivity. Often sensitivity rests in specific areas that have key triggers. For the main part, these triggers form from our five senses such as an image, colour, a scent, sound, or a sensation recalling a past event or reminding you of a person. Or, the trigger may be more direct, such as being in a certain place, such as a cemetery, hospital, school, open spaces, someone’s house, etc.
Other triggers might be patterns or habitsyou’ve developed over time to cope with work, or relationships that you find challenging without questioning whether this pattern is healthy for you. In the case of a pattern or a habit, it can be harder to discern the impact on your sensitivity because it’s likely to have become an avoidance strategy in order to calm your sensitivities, but recognising it is essential.
- Writing down your sensitivity triggers in a journal can be helpful as this allows you to transfer the abstract thoughts about your alleged sensitivities and turn them into concrete words upon paper. Sometimes just in the doing of this, you can begin to see the idea of the sensitivity changing and being replaced by a more realistic view of the trigger or situation.
- The triggers are individual in nature. Even if someone you know has the same trigger about the same issue, how it affects you might not affect them the same way. It really is coincidental, not universal.
Take your time. You have to know something really well before you can act on it, otherwise it is like heading into a new area after glancing at a map without understanding the map first – you haven’t enough understanding of the area to be able to travel it well and getting lost is almost certain.
Only once you have identified the how, what, why, when and how of your sensitivity, can you start to train the mind. Go over the exploration and the trigger finding outlined in the previous steps as many times as needed until you feel comfortable that you’ve grasped a better understanding of your own sensitivities, their source and their impact on your daily life.
Be brave and begin to unpack the sensitivity. Study it intently, studiously and compassionately. Only once you really can admit that you don’t find that this particular sensitivity helps you at all will the mind actually start to see that it’s better not to be so sensitive.
- Ask yourself whenever the sensitivity occurs, what benefit is it, how is the feeling or the thought chain helping you? If it helps you more, write down the process in your journal but it is recommended that you get used to questioning your sensitivity wherever you may be, whether or not you have the opportunity to write it down.
Beware that you’re not deceiving yourself or entrapping yourself in a bigger problem. There is a danger of being upset or “haunted” that you are experiencing sensitivity at all. This is the most subtle if not dangerous aspect as it piles one’s problem onto another. It can also lead towards harming yourself and other people sometimes out of anger, but also out of fear and despair. Some cases, as well as dishonest cases, have been known also to use their emotional state as a way to manipulate themselves and others.
If you do find that you have been feeling overly sensitive about issues and other people but feel that nobody is aware or cares about your sensitivity, it can help to remind yourself that everyone is sensitive about something – it does not just affect the few. What does differ is that some people have learnt to shrug their shoulders when something sensitive confronts them and to keep on walking without letting it harm them.
This detachment doesn’t mean they’re cold-hearted or uncaring; it means that they too have struggled to overcome sensitivities but have made a choice to know which battles to fight and which things are best left as they are so that they can expend their energies in the most constructive ways possible.
- The most difficult part of letting go is that mind knows all the tricks and indeed it supplies us with them. The problem is the parts of the mind that enjoy being wild with emotions and desires prefers to stay that way. This part of the mind cares little for the wellbeing of the person or others and will present a host of challenges to prevent you from training the mind. Often a person may defend themselves by assuming that everyone else is callous and shallow of heart, when the reality is more likely that it is the mind trying to hold on to the way it is. Occasionally people who appear to cope better are more emotionally resilient, a state of being gained through self-courage and personal choice (often arrived at through much reflection) to remain strong in the face of adversity and the less kind things in life.
Take your time and realise that it’s a matter of balance. Consider that it’s possible for one part of the mind to want to be sensitive and think about the issue and that it’s possible for another part to not want to be involved.
As you progress in your desire to overcome excessive emotional sensitivity, seek to let the side that wants to get upset or overly sensitive wane or slide into the background, all while bolstering and strengthening the side that says “thanks, but no thanks, I’d rather stand tall and strong”. Tell yourself that it is both okay anddesirable to allow yourself to strengthen the more resilient part of your mind.
Continue being patient and resourceful. Eventually you will have a foundation to build on, but it really does take time. Sensitivity is much like a habit and you have to retrain your mind to not get involved. It can be as simple as to think “There is sensitivity arising again” so that you can then say thanks but no thanks and let it go, just as you’d shut the door on a hawker who has come to ply their wares at the most inconvenient of times.
Focus on looking for the good or the tolerable in whatever situation you’re in, even if it’s just the reality that things will change soon.
- If you’d like to learn more, the article How to let go of thoughts and feelings explores this subject in a little more depth.
- Take care that you don’t go too far the other way, and become frozen or aloof; you should still be yourself. The parts of the mind that enjoys running wild is an extremophile, so it finds one extreme to another just as desirable. In practice howere it is the middle ground that makes the best result.
- Determine if you may be codependent; it is very prevalent in the developed world, and a prime symptom is over-emotionalism, or “young emotions.”
Build strength. With continued observation of the mind, eventually you will just “know” sensitivity for what it is whenever it arises. At that instant of recognition, you’ll be reminded that you have no interest in being that way and you can let it go quickly without becoming distressed. Eventually you can retrain the mind to not be so sensitive.
It is wise to remember that this is a personal internal journey that can take a lifetime and it is likely to be something that you will need to revisit regularly. When it gets hard, think about the impact on the generation looking up to you for an example. It can really help to realize that you are not only helping yourself to be a stronger, more balanced person but you’re also teaching your children how to do the same, and to implement the thinking tools to improve health and wellbeing.
- One small step at a time, as hard is it is, is better than sinking into despair, stress and worry. Take your steps as and when you can; you’re more likely to succeed with small changes regularly than a large attempt that causes you to give up completely.