Sensitivity is a bittersweet personality trait. Being sensitive by nature allows you to support a friend during his or her breakup, to empathize with and even stick up for the person being bullied, and to generally be the person caring about and for others. But being sensitive can also come with bouts of hypersensitivity. For example, someone may offend you, and your imagination takes off. You think that the offender does not respect or like you, while they have no idea that your feelings are hurt! Or, let’s say you are texting in class, and your teacher makes an example of you in front of everyone. No doubt, this experience is embarrassing, but the teacher is not personally attacking you as a person. She is just enforcing her classroom rules. Someone that is hypersensitive can misconstrue her reaction to mean that the teacher hates him or her. This can lead to the student possibly withdrawing from the class or badmouthing the teacher to other students. Either way, for a hypersensitive individual, this scenario has few positive outcomes.
Here are some useful tips to combat hypersensitivity and stay grounded in the reality and true intentions of a person’s words and actions:
1. Look at the situation objectively.
Although this advice is the most obvious, it is the hardest to do. When you are already feeling sensitive, it can be the most difficult thing to take your emotions out of the picture and see things objectively. But here’s a trick to try: next time you are feeling sensitive—your best friends went to dinner and didn’t invite you—pretend you are hearing someone else tell you this. What would your advice be for them? Help yourself understand that this situation does not mean that your best friends don’t want to be friends with you anymore (advice I’m sure you would have given to someone else if they came to you about this situation); instead, it could just be as simple as they both were hungry and decided to go grab dinner together, or they are in the same class and wanted to catch up about the midterm.
2. Put yourself in their shoes.
Another technique is to try to understand where the other person is coming from. Let’s use the classroom example mentioned above. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that your teacher hates you, put yourself in her shoes. She has a large number of students, she wants her students to be engaged with the lecture, and she has already asked a number of times for people to put away their phones. Given this perspective, aren’t her actions pretty rational? When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes, you can start to see that the person’s words or actions have nothing to do with you as a person.
3. Ask yourself why you found a given situation or event so upsetting.
In this teacher/student scenario, if you are the student, it is important to ask yourself what exactly it is that you are reacting to. Is it embarrassment? Are you rationalizing the embarrassment by blaming the teacher for not liking you, when you should just accept that it was your mistake and move on? Whatever the reason, remember that in the scheme of life, and even in the scheme of the class, this moment is just a little moment—it is not a huge deal. Your teacher probably has forgotten it already, so you too should take a second to understand why it upset you… and then let it go.
4. Remember that you are in control. If you don’t want it to affect you, don’t let it.
In so many incidents with hypersensitivity, the sensitive individual forgets that he or she has the power to not be sensitive. When your best friends have dinner without you, take a minute and figure out why it made you upset. Then ask yourself, is this rational? And if it is not, you have the power to not let it affect you. You have the control over yourself and your emotions to move on and focus on the positive.
Philosopher Alan Watts once said, “We cannot be sensitive to pleasure without being more sensitive to pain.” Thus, sensitivity is a two-sided coin: from sensitivity we gain the ability to empathize and understand the beauty in our surroundings, which we could not understand without also being sensitive to that which is negative. However, there is a point in which being sensitive becomes being hypersensitive, and this over exaggerates the negative. So next time you are in a situation and feel yourself becoming increasingly sensitive, follow the steps above and help curb your sensitivity to focus on the positive instead of the negative.
Article by Jordana Cohen
Feature Image Source: Today