I vividly remember sitting in class on the last day of fourth grade. As a parting gift my teacher went around the classroom and gave each of us a word that she felt described us. The exercise was meant to be encouraging.
My word was “sensitive.”
Immediately, I was mortified. My face turned bright red and, in true sensitive fashion, it took everything in me not to burst into tears.
As a fourth grader I had already internalized that being sensitive was a bad thing! Feeling deeply and displaying emotions was something I believed I needed to fervently fight against.
As I sit across from people of various ages and backgrounds, I realize that I was not the only one given the message that feelings and emotions are bad, that they get in the way, or that they are plain wrong.
So many of us fight tooth and nail to push our emotions down or cover them up. We believe that emotions are a problem, that they make us weak, or that they are a nuisance.
Unfortunately, the result is often one of two things:
- We become numb and disconnected from our emotions.
- We become overwhelmed by our emotions and fear them.
Sometimes we go back and forth between the two. None of the above options are particularly helpful to general functioning and overall well being. They often lead to mental health problems, physical health problems, and relational difficulties.
Let me suggest that there is a better way. While it may be a stretch to ask you to automatically embrace sensitivity, I will recommend the following practices:
View Emotions As Information:
Consider how you think about your feelings and emotions. Instead of blaming them for everything that is wrong in your world, what if you approached them with curiosity. There is a reason that you are feeling the way that you are feeling, your emotions are giving you information.
Work On Accurately Labeling Emotions:
Learn to accurately label your emotions. This may sound like an easy task but it is often very difficult. Naming your emotions can help calm the limbic system and help you regulate.
Build Emotion Regulation Skills:
Take time to gain skills that help you to acknowledge and appropriately regulate your emotions. You do not have to live disconnected or overwhelmed. Finding what works for you might take some time, however there are many ways to effectively regulate.
We are here to assist you in this so please don’t hesitate to reach out.
These practices have had a profound impact on my own journey and have helped me to be more regulated and feel more alive. I hope the same for you and your personal journey with emotion.
Maybe you too will discover that sensitivity is actually one of your greatest gifts.