I know, dumb title. If we’re
sensitive, we’re sensitive. And it’s
not a bad thing, to be sensitive, it’s
what makes us compassionate
toward others.
But, as a sensitive person, I know
that it can get in the way
sometimes – when I’m over-
sensitive it can sour my day, cause
problems in my relationships, or
make me overreact to trivial stuff.
The good news is that there are
ways to rein in our sensitivity so
that it doesn’t get in our way:

1. Don’t take emotional
reactions at face value.
Are you mad, sad, or feeling guilty?
Sure, there are times when our
reactions are warranted, but often
as not, we aren’t reacting to our
current situation, we’re reacting to
our past. If our parents used guilt
to get us to do what they wanted,
chances are we default to feeling
guilty when we’re not doing what
others want us to do. If our folks
were overly controlling, we can
react to innocent suggestions from
others as if they were attempting
to tell us what to do.
When an emotion hits, take a
minute to explore your feelings.

2. Are your emotions familiar, do
they remind you of past situations?
Or do they seem connected to
something else that is bothering
you? By digging into what’s at the
root of our reactions we often
discover a completely different
issue, and then we’re able to
address what’s really bothering us.

3.Manage your reactions.

When you feel your emotions
becoming engaged, when you feel
that wave of anger, sadness or
guilt, take it as a signal that you
need to stop and regroup. That
“I’ve got to do something NOW!” is
a clear indicator that you’re in
reactive mode and you’re probably
not seeing the situation clearly.
Take a breath and let your feelings
settle before acting and chances
are you’ll avoid having to do
damage control later.

4.Understand that it’s not all
about you.
I had a friend in high school who,
every Term, proclaimed that
one or more of her teachers hated
her. Sure, a teacher might dislike a
student once in a while, but hate? I
suspect that what she interpreted
as hate was merely disinterest, they
didn’t pay enough attention to her
and she saw it as active dislike.
When we’re sensitive we often
interpret what’s going on around us
as being “about” us – someone is
grumpy and we wonder what we
did to make them mad. But in
reality most people aren’t thinking
about us, they’re engaged in their
own struggle, focusing on
themselves – the same as we are.
By shifting focus away from your
reaction and getting curious about
what the other person is feeling,
you will most often find that their
actions don’t have a thing to do
with you.

5.Protect your feelings.

Sensitive people tend to take on
the world’s problems – when we
watch the news we feel everyone’s
pain. Or our spouse is in a bad
mood and we’re upset for the rest
of the day. One of the simplest
things we can do is to be careful
about what we invite in to our
lives. I watch enough of the news
to be aware of what’s happening,
but when they start to delve into
gory or traumatic details, I move
on. I avoid TV dramas with too
much brutality, and shows that
play excessively on our emotions.
But what about our co-workers or
family members? We can’t switch
them off like a TV! The trick here is
to, yep, not make it about you.
Your husband is cranky because
he’s having trouble at work? As
much as you love him, it’s his
problem, not yours, and you don’t
have to fix it, or him. By not taking
on other’s problems we’re better
able to help them and still enjoy
our own lives.
* * *
Being sensitive is a wonderful
thing, except when it’s not. There’s
a fine line between empathy and
taking on other’s issues and for a
sensitive person it can be hard to
keep a balance between the two.

A great rule of thumb is to ask
ourselves “Is this about me, or is it
about someone else?” If it’s about
us, then by all means, we should
get in there and do what needs to
be done. But if it’s about someone
else then our role should be a
supporting one, we can help, we
can provide a sympathetic ear, we
can contribute money or help raise
awareness, but we don’t need to
take on the pain and emotional
baggage that belongs to others

Elliot.  M

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