Life’s Survival Guide for Sensitive Souls

Are you a sensitive person?  I am.  Life can be a bit tricky for us sensitives, mainly because our reactions to things are not quite “normal.”  Here’s an essay on how I have come to view our sensitivity, and how I learned to deal with it.  Special thanks to my friend Tammy from A Day to Share with Tammy for inspiring this post.

Let me tell you about antennas.

I have come to think of human sensitivity as antennas.  We all have them, of course.  But we have them in different spots.  Some have them pointing upward, receiving radio signals.  Others have then wide and sideways, receiving TV signals.  Yet another antenna may detect wind, or tide.

We all have them, and we all receive signals.  But we all receive different kinds of signals, and at varying degrees of strengths.

Some of us have antennas that are more sensitive than others.  For example:

  • Physical: you body may react more strongly to medicine, food, and other physical conditions.
  • Sensory: you may have sensitive eyes or hearing.
  • Emotional: you may feel and empathize more deeply, like crying watching TV or reading a book.

The last kind is what I’ll mainly address here, though what I have to say may apply to other kinds of sensitivity.

Examples of Sensitivity

So, a sensitive antenna can get more out of a signal.  Let’s say you’re hearing something.  And you can discern words and meanings.  However, the sensitive ears may be able to hear more clearly and may be able to obtain more information — the little nuances, what kind of accents the speakers may have, the feelings behind what they are saying, and so on.

Let’s say you’re listening to music.  And you like to hear it at the volume level 5.  It’s loud but comfortably so, for you.

How will that feel to a person with sensitive ears?

Another example: you grew up in a family where everyone has a “potty mouth.”  One day, in a conversation to a friend, you jokingly say “ah, shut up.”

And you’re startled by the awkward silence that follows, accompanied by a pained look on your friend’s face.

Where you come from, “shut up” is a casual little phrase that is uttered often, nonchalantly.

Where your friend comes from, the same phrase is a curse or a rebuke, only reserved for more dire situations.

Your Sensitive Antenna

It’s hard, sometimes, to accept that you have a sensitive antenna.

My wife and I have largely become devoid of visual stimuli over the last few years.  We don’t watch TV and we seldom watch movies in theaters.  The only exception is that we rent Star Trek (currently watching Deep Space Nine) from Netflicks, and for my kids, a steady diet of A Little House on the Prairie, Veggie Tales, Berenstein Bears and Sesame Street.

This year, I saw one movie in a theater.  Pixar’s Wall-E.

And I came out of the theater, motion-sick.

Now, this is not the Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield.  This is Pixar.  Everybody watches Pixar’s movies.  They make it tolerable (well, they do more than that) for everyone’s viewing.

Except apparently, my system is now too sensitive for a modern-day cinema experience.  It’s a bummer, as I haven’t heard of anyone else getting motion-sick from a mere Pixar movie.  I really wanted to enjoy my one theater experience, but what goes for a general family entertainment is too strong a stimulus for me.  :-(

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32 Responses to Life’s Survival Guide for Sensitive Souls

  1. Pingback: Our Best Version | A Sponge’s Contribution: How to Channel Your Sensitivity to Do Good

  2. Pingback: Our Best Version | What I Am Not Thankful for

  3. Grace says:

    Ari,
    This was good! I like your ability to give acceptance to what some people reject in themselves.

    Most counselors have to fall in that too-sensitive category. It can indeed be a curse–or a blessing.

    thanks! G.

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Grace,

    Well, as I said above, any gift can be a curse if not used properly — and sensitivity is one of them. It can feel like a crutch at times, but there’s a positive side, too, which is something I want to discuss in the near future.

    As for counselors, my coach Tom Volkar said something wise the other day. “We all teach what we want to know.” Counselors become counselors usually because they themselves experience an issue/struggle with emotional pain. That said, sensitivity comes in a variety of forms, and when I look I need to make sure that my counselor has antennas in places where I want them. ;-)

    ari

  4. Jennifer says:

    Ari, that was a really neat post. We’re not TV watchers either – just rarely. Honestly, I usually never even think to turn it on, except when my husband asks me if we’re going to watch our favorite show – once a week. Sometimes I watch a little more, but VERY little.

    I’ve read some of the discussion here about channeling sensitivity. After glancing at your post the other day and reflecting on something else as well, I was thinking about how God made some people more sensitive than others. I was thinking about how it is especially important for those people to train themselves with good healthy thoughts to bring on the emotions that are good and healthy – in other words to direct them in the best possible way – I believe it was Maya who said something about channeling it in the right way. If a sensitive person is brought up in a negative way then imagine how intensified their negative emotions will be. But on the other hand, a sensitive person who is brought up or trains themselves to think in a positive way will have beautiful emotions. Maybe that’s getting into your next post though.

    My mentor was very sensitive, but finally learned to channel his thoughts in the right direction. His sensitivity was beautiful as I knew it.

    My mother is EXTREMELY sensitive. I am forever trying to figure out how to best handle her sensitivity.

    Hold off on those Pixar films :) – Save those for renting along with your Star Trek. :)

    Jennifer´s last blog post..A Thanksgiving for You

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Jennifer,

    Uh, yes, well — now I don’t need to write any more on this topic, after you put it together so beautifully. ;-)

    Sensitivity is a gift, but unless you learn to wield it correctly, it can be a curse. Just like any other gifts. Sounds like you’re having to tip-toe around your mom — which is, unfortunately, a common social effect for those can’t quite channel their sensitivity in positive ways. My father was sensitive, too, and my mother had to be careful. My wife and I are both very sensitive, but in different ways.

    I thought a Pixar film was a safe bet — sigh. :-( Next summer I’m going to see two films, Star Trek and Harry Potter. I hope they don’t get too ambitious with camera movements. ;-)

    ari

  5. sharon says:

    The differences with our sensitivities are quite surprising. Regardless of the emotional circumstances some people can still be happy and peaceful. Some crumble easily, and some never seem to falter. I guess it’s all mental. To an extent I believe we can control our sensitivity..

    sharon´s last blog post..10 Lessons to Create A New You

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Sharon,

    Thanks for the comment — yes, the individual differences can be quite staggering. As I said, two people coming out from a single situation can have totally different reactions — one could be traumatized, while other may not feel anything.

    I do believe that we can control our sensitivity, though I’m not so sure about if we can really change the sensitivity itself — we can learn to deal with exposing our antennas more fully or we can guard it, we can also learn better ways to deal with the signals we receive. I’m sure if we tried hard enough, we can change our very nature, but my inclination is to accept ourselves for who we are and change how we deal with ourselves.

    ari

  6. Robert Henru says:

    Have you read the Highly Sensitive Person series by Elaine Aron? I’m reading one of her book right now, and it is indeed explaining my characteristic so far.. HSP (Highly Sensitive Person) and HSS (High Sensation Seeker). I indeed feel the same way as what you said here… “man should be tough and strong” We sensitive men sometimes have difficulty to accept that. Glad to know a friend like me =D it’s really encouraging… you’re a musician and blogger, self-employed, you’re really an example of HSP living your life, your style.

    By the way, mind sharing your love story? =D. I’m reading HSP in Love, and wondering how HSP can find a girlfriend =D Partly that i found difficult is my sensitivity towards the flaw/incompatibility with female friends that I know, also perception that they desire of strong and tough man. Maybe an idea for your next blog post? =)

    Cheers,
    Robert

    Robert Henru´s last blog post..Making Work Work for HSP by Barrie S. Jaeger

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Robert,

    That sounds like a book I must read! Thanks for letting me know.

    Oh, and one correction — I am self-employed, but I also have a “day job,” a full-time employment, as of right now (Nov 08).

    I do have a story of how I met my wife, though it doesn’t address some of the issues you’re talking about.

    http://ourbestversion.com/2008/06/how-i-found-my-soulmate/

    This one may also be to your interest:

    http://ourbestversion.com/2008/08/how-to-get-ready-to-meet-your-soulmate/

    I’ll definitely consider addressing your specific issues for a future post. I can tell you — that us sensitive men make fabulous husbands. ;-) Yes, I think it’ll be useful to let more women know that our kind exists, and what we can do for them. ;-) Thanks for the ideas!

    ari

  7. Chris Edgar says:

    Thanks for this post Ari — I can definitely identify with much of what you say here. I’ll also share a perspective that’s helped me get some clarity on this issue. When I’m having an experience where someone else is expressing a lot of intense emotion and I’m wanting to get out of there, I’ve come to see a subtle way in which I’m blaming myself for the feelings they’re expressing, or at least seeing it as my job to fix them, and then resenting them for “dumping all their crap on me.” When I realized this, and that I’m not actually responsible for their feelings, it began transforming the way I relate with people. — Best, Chris

    Chris Edgar´s last blog post..Projections, Part II: How Our Judgments Of Others Can Teach Us About Ourselves

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your comment, and a great insight. Yes, when you’re emotionally wounded, it’s easy to take things too personally, getting too involved — when you’re sensitive, you do have to watch the distance between you and others at times. But it’s just like anything else in life — we learn who we are and we learn how to best deal with ourselves.

    ari

  8. Cath Lawson says:

    Hi Ari – I guess I’m quite sensitive too. As you say – different folk with different backgrounds would be offended by different things. If someone told me to shut up, I’d probably cry.

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Cath,

    Oh really? That surprises me — you put up a strong, tough front on your blog, or at least that was my impression.

    ari

  9. Nat says:

    Hey Ari! you commented on my blog (nat4thblog) so I just dropped by to say HEY! I love your blog. It inspires me everyday.

    Is it alright if I put up some of your posts on my blog? With credits to you, of course. I like some of the topics you write abt like this topic of sensitivity. I myself am ultra sensitive. I get pissed and upset for tiny reason and get confused about it. that’s when I turn to blogs like yours to help enlighten myself and eventually I’d want to share with others as well.

    anyway, if you feel like visiting me to say Hello, I’ve moved to natmsatar.livejournal.com and yes, you’re still on my links list :D:D keep in touch!

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Nat,

    Welcome to OBV! Thanks for stopping by to say hi.

    Nat, you’re welcome to mention or quote what I write. I do ask that you don’t make a direct copy of any titles or body text, because duplicate content is a big no-no for Google (I’m sure you knew that, but just in case….). Thanks so much for asking, however. I’m glad you think highly of what I write.

    I’m off to Thanksgiving holidays, but I will come by some time and look around at your place.

    ari

  10. Tammy Warren says:

    Hey Ari,

    Sensitive. Wow…what a huge word with many definitions. Words don’t usually bother me. It is the actions that do. I really need to work on that. I think I need to remind myself to forgive as a action is occurring so that I don’t hold that emotion in. On the other hand, I have allowed myself to block out words lately. I do need to pay attention and feel words(referring to spoken words). I guess for some of us that is a little defense mechanism that is built in our lives. As time changes, so does a person.

    You know that Dylan is my sensitive child. I think the post about Dylan being sensitive is the first post that you and I really became online friends. He does see things so much different. He has awakened me to the idea of just how sensitive things are to some. It was good to hear your take on that. I think about that often.

    Movies, TV, and I don’t get along. I can’t still for one and I just don’t like watching or hearing negatives all of the time. Pixar movies, well…they are the best.

    I wanted to say that I enjoyed the song above (Lucy Struck Out). Also, a special thank you for the mention above. I am so glad you are continuing to grow as a blog and keeping it personal. It meant a great deal to see the mention.

    Well, I am going to pull down my antennas and go out there and tackle racking leaves. My body is not relating to well to the cold right now.

    Thank you Ari!

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Tammy,

    Yes, I still remember that conversation we had. I’ve been meaning to write this ever since! And thanks for your kind words about my song.

    ari

  11. Laurie says:

    I believe I am a mixture. I feel things more intensely than others but I also can tolerate others feelings, and am not easily hurt by others words. I don’t over react. I am also an extrovert and enjoy more socialness than you do Ari. I don’t try to fit into a mold but am striving to be the me I am meant to be.

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Laurie,

    Sounds like your sensitivity is in a slightly different place than mine — or it may just be that you’re better adjusted than me. ;-)

    ari

  12. I can totally relate to the emotional sensitivity. I wrote about that a while back, The Life of an Emotional Sponge.

    You are right on the mark: “..as an emotionally sensitive can vividly feel others’ anger, sadness, and frustration. Not only do sensitives have their own emotions to deal with, but they are constantly bombarded with other people’s feelings. It can quickly get overwhelming.” It can be a blessing in cases I know when people are upset even if they are not showing any outward signs, so I know I need to approach them differently. But it can be a curse in cases when I cannot enjoy things if the person I’m with is not enjoying it. Or when I’m watching a movie and feeling deeply sad when something terrible happens to a fictional character. Realizing this sensitivity and accepting it does help in the emotional sorting process – whether it is something you are feeling for yourself, or something you are picking up from others.

    Also, just wanted to let you know that I gave you the “I love your blog” award. :)

    ~ Kristi

    Kikolani | Poetry, Photography, Blogging Tips´s last blog post..Thursday Things

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Kristi,

    Yes, I do remember you post. In fact, I’ll use that word on the post where I’m going to talk about how to use our gifts for a good purpose.

    ari

  13. Melinda says:

    Ari,

    I very much agree with you on sensitivity–and I also believe that some people are born with more sensitivity than others–but that it is also an aspect of yourself that you can develop. I see it as though it is any other kind of talent–such as singing or artistry–some people are born with more of those talents than others are–but we can all become more adept at signing or artistry, if we allow ourselves to open up to it and work on developing it.

    Take care,

    Melinda

    Melinda´s last blog post..Continuing on a Spiritual Path

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Melinda,

    I don’t disagree with you that people can develop sensitivity, but I’m not sure who wants to, and what for, if you don’t have it — can you think of a reason? I suppose a very callous person who has a habit of hurting other people’s feelings may want to develop emotional sensitivity. Now, that’s a problem I can’t relate to. ;-)

    ari

    Melinda Reply:

    Hi Ari,

    I guess I didn’t explain myself very well–what I mean as far as being a sensitive goes, is that some people are born with more natural intuition than others are. We all are born with a certain amount of intuitiveness (or what I think of as being a sensitive)–and this is not just for others but also in ourselves; learning to listen to our inner voices and being receptive to the messasges we receive. So, what I mean is that while all people are born with a certain amount of this intuitiveness/sensitivity, some people are naturally equipped with more but others can develop this ability, I believe.

    Melinda

    Melinda´s last blog post..Giving Thanks

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Ah, yes, that makes sense. I do agree that we can improve and better some of our antennas, and learn to catch more signals.

    ari

  14. Maya says:

    Wow, Ari, what an awesome post!!!!

    I can relate at every level.

    Only after I accepted my sensitivity, did I get to challenge it in the right direction.
    Being sensitive is a blessing. It is a source of endless energy once we have found out how to channelize it.

    I could have a day long talk about this topic …. it is a big part of who I am.

    Maya´s last blog post..Are you a storyteller? What is your story?

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Maya,

    It’s nice to find someone to relate to, isn’t it? It seems rather hard for people who don’t share this sensitivity to really understand this. I hope this helped a little.

    ari

  15. This post makes me view my “sensitivity” as a gift instead of a curse. THANK YOU!!!

    Kathy – Virtual Impax´s last blog post..Steps to Starting a Small Business: #7 Your USP – Unique Selling Proposition

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Kathy,

    It is a gift. We just have to learn how to use it. More on that, coming up….

    ari

  16. I’ve always regarded myself as “over-sensitive”. That somehow implies there is a norm of sensitivity and I don’t comply with it. If in fact there is a norm, I’m skewed to the soggy far right of it.

    And that’s what I have against my sensitivity – its sogginess! I rarely go to the cinema either. Too often, I’ve spent my time staring at the darkened ceiling, trying to jam sobs back between my teeth. Too often, I run out of handkerchiefs and tissues, groping for one last dry corner. My sinus block and I can’t breathe well – definitely not my idea of fun.

    This can happen in so-called comedies. My Best Friend’s Wedding had my friends rolling in the aisles while I choked up over Julia’s inability to relate. I’ve cried in cartoons – anyone remember Yacky Doodle? The slightest hint of sadness has me tearing up and the floodgates open.

    I’ve learnt to attempt to choose movies and books that have a positive, uplifting or just plain funny theme. Fortunately, the other side to the coin is that I laugh readily and see humour in lots of situations, too. This helps me save on tissues and means I get to breathe more easily.

    Ari Koinuma Reply:

    Hi Susan,

    Thanks for sharing your personal stories. It does feel like a handicap sometimes, doesn’t it? “Soggy” is a good way to describe us. ;-)

    ari

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