Updated: Mar 12, 2021
“You’re so Sensitive!”
When I was growing up I came to view being ‘sensitive’ as being weak. It meant ‘too much’ ~ too emotional, too reactive, too dramatic, & taking things too personally. Every time someone implied or told me I was ‘sensitive’ I felt ashamed. It was like there was this whole part of me that was broken or wrong in some way. No matter how hard I tried ‘not to care’ or ‘not to take things personally’ I did & when I did I judged myself even more for being ‘too sensitive.’
The reality is I’m sensitive. I’ve cried twice this week watching Schitt’s Creek (David & Patrick season 3 seriously!) & I feel the effects of everything from the food I eat to subtle shifts in my environment. The difference is, today I respect & honour this sensitivity. More then that, I’ve learned that this perceptiveness is incredibly useful in connecting with myself, my clients, & my world. When we hone our sensitivity it becomes a gift. It teaches us how to honour ourself & others, diffuse conflict, & speak in ways that are impactful & heard.
The Strength of Sensitivity
Years ago when I was teaching yoga full time my manager came to evaluate one of my classes. I knew through the grapevine that some of my peers had found their feedback quite challenging & also that my manager was somewhat conflicted in evaluating us. As we settled in for class I could feel myself buzzing, my nerves were shaky, & my mind was grasping on ways I might impress.
Instead of ‘trying’ to push aside these feelings, or berating myself for ‘not being calm!’ (both of which I would’ve done years earlier), I settled into my body & felt the subtleties of sensation & emotion. I spoke directly to this uneasiness ~ through posture, metaphor, & breath I guided the class to meet their experience & emotions with tenderness. I didn’t think about what I ‘should’ say, instead I listened & felt how each word landed in my body & in the breath & presence of my students. Intuitively, I sensed that I was speaking to my manager, not my narrative of who they were or with an agenda to impress, but to them as they were in that moment.
At the end of the class my manager came up to thank me & I could see the emotion in their face. It was touching. They never actually gave me feedback or evaluated the class. They didn’t need to. It was a point of real connection & that's all it needed to be.
Sensitivity is a gift. It allows us to meet others with warmth & welcoming. Attuned our sensitivity is like a compass that gently guides us into that which desires to be seen, healed, or heard. When this sensitivity is reactive it may be defensiveness, hyper-vigilant, or overwhelmed. But even here it carries wisdom & the reminder to meet our self with that same warmth & care.
Attend in You (A Place for Reflection)
Sensitivity tends to be destructive when the impetus of control ~ that which we are trying to appease/ evaluate/ understand ~ is outside of ourself. If we are in constant evaluation of how our being/actions/ words will effect the other person, how people might perceive us, or even how our ‘handling’ of a situation fits some idealogical construct we are likely not fully in ourself.
To Attend in You means to give yourself the space & permission to ‘feel’ the entirety of your experience from your personal perspective. All thoughts & emotions, no matter how 'unseemly' are welcome. In witnessing & clarifying your experience you can begin to discern those areas which require attention & care.
It’s helpful to journal your thoughts & feelings, particularly if they tend to spin in your mind.
Some journalling prompts;
~ I feel…
~ I feel angry/ frustrated/ annoyed because…
~ I feel sad/ hurt/ disappointed because…
~ I am scared/ nervous/ worried because…
~ I feel embarrassed/ ashamed because…
~ I am sorry/ remorseful that…
~ I want/ desire/ hope that…
~ I appreciate/ love/ am grateful that…
~ I keep thinking that…
~ I believe they…
Take Time for Creativity
Sensitivity breeds creativity. From a powerful piece of art or music, to a craft made with love creativity is a way to move our emotions into expression. Here our passion & perceptiveness are fuel. They allow us to shine light on the infinite perspectives of human experience & bring them to life through image, sound, & metaphor.
Creativity is always with us. Like emotion or understanding the creative process is often one of excavation ~ it is both about creating a piece & allowing the piece to create itself through us. Whether painting, dancing, music, or writing creativity is a journey into & through ourself. As such, it's through the process of creativity that we often uncover greater self awareness & understanding.
Some creative prompts;
~ Write a Haiku
~ Sing your favourite song
~ Dance each emotion you are feeling
~ Draw the situation as a dance of colour
~ Imagine yourself as another person & write about your day
Explore & Address Your Needs
There are universal human needs ~ belonging, safety, connection to name a few. We often experience these universal needs as specific desires (i.e. wanting quality time with our partner). In order to address our needs it can be helpful to acknowledge both the specific & universal aspects. This help us to make specific requests or to find alternatives when our specific desire is unmet.
It’s important to remember that having different needs from someone else (i.e. your partner or parent) doesn't make you wrong, nor is it an assessment of your value. There will inevitably be times when your needs won't be met & these times are also valuable. By acknowledging & grieving unmet needs we integrate the experience & often discover rich ways of meeting & supporting ourself. These times help us to clarify what we value most & help us choose in the direction of these values.
Speak to What You Sense (Empathy)
As you become comfortable in your inner world you develop your intuitive intelligence ~ the ability to sense & assess what you're feeling without taking it personally or becoming reactive. This ability to listen deeply will help you meet others & yourself as you are instead of trying to be what you 'think' you need to be.
When we're sensitive there is often an impulse to defend or avoid discomfort before something happens. The strength comes when instead of avoiding we use this perception to engage more deeply. Perhaps we inquire about what we sense (i.e. "I'm sensing some apprehension, is there anything you'd like to share with me?") or share our experience of what is (i.e. "When you said that I felt myself getting defensive, I need a moment to gather my thoughts"). By speaking to what we sense we honour it & give room for clarification. This helps us to refine our intuitive intelligence & feel more steady in our experiences.
Skills of sensitivity are integrated through time. We can support this process by intentionally acknowledging & appreciating where we are, small daily wins, & by releasing the idea that we 'should' be further ahead in some way.
All interactions, even those where feel hyper-sensitive, defensive, or triggered are informative. Take a step back, calm your system, & reflect.
~ What new insights or realizations have you had?
~ What felt good or right?
~ Was there something specific that felt really uncomfortable?
~ What did I do that was new or that I'm proud of?
As you reflect acknowledge & appreciate even the smallest pieces of insight or learning. Even the action of looking at a situation you would have avoided is a win. This is a life practice, one of progress not perfection. It's through baby steps that we build the capacity to run.
About the Author
Amy Thiessen is a coach, writer, & musician who focuses on helping women connect to their confidence, purpose, & self esteem through voice & communication. Offering a holistic approach Amy helps individuals uncover & overcome their unique blocks around voice & communication, connect to their self esteem & purpose, & ultimately express themselves in a way that is empowered & impactful.
If anything in this blog sparks your curiosity & you're interested in developing your skills in sensitivity please reach out! It often takes the support of another to fully acknowledge & integrate those blind or extra sensitive spots. The goal of In Resonance Coaching is to help you see & understand yourself through somatic awareness, gentle inquiry, nervous system regulation, & a trust that you hold the truth for yourself (though you may need help finding it). If you would like to feel more clear, confident & empowered in your relationship I would love to help you get there! You can book a 20 min session with me with absolutely zero strings. Here you can learn more about In Resonance Coaching & we can check to see if we are compatible. And I PROMISE that if I don't think I am a real fit or I believe there is a better therapist for you I will pass along their info.