Thoughts on Sensitivity
“Wonder is not a disease. Wonder, and its expression in poetry and the arts, are among the most important things which seem to distinguish men from other animals, and intelligent and sensitive people from morons.”
In a forum for Highly Sensitive People (HSPs), someone asked a question: What do you think are the good things about being sensitive? It’s a question that’s repeated often, outside on forums as sensitive people drowning in overwhelm ask this of others and themselves. It’s a question that comes up in our heads as we bob up and down in feelings and reactions that threaten to wash us over. It’s a question we need to answer for ourselves in a culture that constantly devalues sensitivity.
So, what are the good things about being sensitive?
I am touched and transformed by beauty. When I connect with the outer world, engage with it with all of my imperfect self, I have the inner capacity to nourish myself. When I take photographs, for example, I am completely in the present. I drop down deep into a cool well. I come up feeling a sense of an inner core that can hold me up. I am self-reliant.
I have an imagination that I often use to conjure up monsters, but that also gives me the capacity to enter into an enchanted world. It’s a special lens through which I transform my world. The world of meaning and magic is just beyond. I like it better than the real world most times. I have used this imagination as an escape before. But used properly, I think it’s a healthy impulse — this drive to search for the wonderful, this need to go on an adventure of the soul.
I have tried to tame this impulse, to water it down, this understanding, this knowing that I know. I have tried to become normal, even though normal does not exist. Maybe that’s part of our problem, maybe that’s a big part.
Not being ourselves takes its toll. Making ourselves like someone else takes its toll. As a sensitive person, I need to be all I am — a creative, an artiste, a dancer, someone who cares. When I look away from someone who needs help, a part of me dies. I feel less about myself. I can’t justify this turning away.
When I don’t engage with the world creatively, I am trapped inside my overactive imagination. But when I write, I can make worlds on paper. I can breathe life into them. When I dance, I can feel the essence of who I am. I am free, a gypsy. When I give, my life expands and this expansion makes me happy.
Knowing and expressing me, even if it does not match what conventional success looks like, makes me happy. Being myself makes me as happy as much as negating myself leaves me empty.
If you care, express your caring in the world. If you want to write, write. Whatever makes you feel like you, do that. Your awareness of sensations means that if you don’t, you will get pulled into a swirling vortex and a slide down.
But maybe it’s as easy to dance up a storm, to throw some colors into the world, to be your own, unique, complex self. Maybe once we do that, we can get beyond the need to look for understanding, for validation from people who might not understand us.
Abraham Maslow said: “A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.” Maybe you are a musician, an artist, a poet. Maybe you are a psychologist, a nurse, or a teacher.
Maybe your sensitivity does not have a channel that it can flow into. Maybe it needs expression. Maybe it will carve great caves and underground tunnels when you let it flow, and not clamp it down believing all the horrible tales you have heard about it.