Why hypersensitive people are vital.
You’re always a little ashamed to admit you’re a hypersensitive person. You feel like you’re attending a ‘sensitives anonymous’ group. You’re almost apologising for yourself.
- “Hello, my name is Marie-Louise and I am hypersensitive.
- “Hello, Marie-Louise!”
Since last Sunday (the first round of the presidential elections), I’ve been feeling slightly nauseous. I spent Monday in a state of partly sadness, partly anger and partly discouragement. The last time I felt like this was when I started smoking again after having stopped for more than 10 years. And yes, also in 2002 (when Le Pen father was for the first time ever on the second round of the presidential election). But oddly, I felt less alone at that time. I remember it doing me good to see that everyone was in the same emotional state as me, sharing in the indignation and exaltation. It changed me because usually, I was always the hypersensitive one, the one being told she was overreacting. I was too sensitive. Nowadays I get the impression we’re all hyper-blasé (considering the mild reaction to Le Pen daughter's being in the second round of the presidential election this year).
I’ve worn this label like a manufacturing defect since childhood. And like a lot of people with whom I share it, I quickly learnt to hide it. I remember going to school and telling the class about an animal exploitation documentary with tears in my eyes. My classmates were cynical, disillusioned and irritated.
Pretty often it seems emotive sentiments are met with anger and rejection. This is where the feeling of being too sensitive comes from; not understanding and not being able to stop being so sensitive. This is when you get labelled “too” sensitive. As if there were standard levels, an acceptable limit on sensitivity.
For a long time, I ran away from conflict and heated discussions. I had a tendency to become flustered and not be able to find the right words. Too sensitive.
Once our emotions get the better of us, our first reaction is to try to repress them, to control them.
Socially, being emotional has long been seen as a sign of weakness,
as much for women as for men. The only difference is we ‘forgive’ this ‘flaw’ more easily among women. Poor women, so fragile, so emotional, so sensitive. But the pardon takes the form of sidelining women. One more justification for why women are incapable of taking on too much responsibility, for example. But it’s also an unfair and inadequate generalisation, for men as well as for women.
I feel as though the lines in this area are becoming more and more blurred. We women, we want to be strong, determined, to be fighters. Does this have to be at the expense of our sensitivity? And when we ask men to be more sensitive, understanding, gentle, why should that mean a drastic reduction in their masculinity? The question of gender and expressing emotions deserves to be treated as a totally separate subject, but I would say it seems to me that linking hypersensitivity to gender is over-simplifying it. This veils the principal issue of even being able to express one’s sensitivity in our society, regardless of gender, without being ridiculed for pathological sentimentality.
What if our emotional sensitivity were an indicator, a barometer, a sign of our scale of humanity?
What if, by contrast, some people appear to be hypersensitive simply because we live in an over-anesthetised world?
We have a tendency to think our modern societies are built on a logical vision anchored in shared, chosen values. But our choices are not always determined by reason. To be honest, emotions, desires and feelings hold an important place. Emotions have always helped mankind to make decisions, to elaborate and revise their values. They contribute just as much to a feeling of belonging, upon which society is built.
In this case, not being able to share our emotions is a worrying indicator of the difficulty we have in expressing our humanity.
And imagine a total lack of emotional reaction in certain situations, when so-called fundamental values are called into question?
If emotions reveal our values, what does a lack of emotions reveal?
What does ridiculing those who express their feelings show?
When I’m talking about emotion, I’m talking about legitimate, sincere and authentic feelings, the kind of spontaneous spirit that moves us. We already have enough vulgar and phoney imitations of emotions thrown in our faces all day long in the form of entertainment. It’s just so many desperate attempts to deny the ambient emotional numbness.
When we don’t react in the face of injustice, inequality and violence, we lose touch bit by bit with our own humanity.
Our sensitivity is our guardian.
Yes, we could perhaps learn to protect ourselves, but not from what we’re feeling. What makes our emotions painful is often the sense of a lack of understanding or helplessness which accompanies them. Verbalising these feelings is a starting point which would allow us to better accept them, to start building on them to finally work through them.
By accepting and embodying our hypersensitivity, we can stay in contact with our own humanity.
Letting others witness it puts us all in the same human context. For me, this is the catalyst that makes societal change and ethical progress possible. When, for example, slavery or even segregation were unquestioned norms, some people’s repeated indignation was more than necessary for consciences to question themselves. It’s in situations like this that hypersensitive people are vital. Their intense empathy makes them more sensitive to situations which don’t yet incite a greater number of people into action. Their capacity to express their emotions is what calls into question the established ethical norms. Those who were carried away by the fervour of Martin Luther King’s speeches, were they too sensitive?
When our desire ‘to be’ is buried beneath our desire ‘to have’, we lose our capacity to feel,
which adds to the general numbness. We become overtaken by a kind of emotional laziness which can quickly transform into intellectual laziness. By accepting our emotions and expressing them, we awaken and nourish our desire to be, to act and to hope.
Our emotions make us feel alive.
We are all sensitive beings and our first goal should be to feed our capacity to feel in order to anchor our motivation to act. More than ever we need hypersensitive people to help us reconnect with our humanity.
What's your experience of being labelled 'hypersensitive' and did you feel the need to hide or overcome your ability to feel deeply?
How do you find freedom within your emotions?
Let me know in the comments or come over to the Heroic Mindful Women Facebook group to continue the conversation.
Love, freedom and emotional waves,