Sunday, May 24, 2015

The Highly Sensitive Person

Sensitivity. I've been thinking about this topic and life lessons learned by knowing people who are sensitive and also not sensitive. 

I think sensitivity is a two way street, meaning it's not enough to say, "I'm a sensitive person, I scored as highly sensitive on my therapists tests, I take things personally, I react with a knee jerk, etc etc", but not also provide sensitivity to other people. There are two people who showed me this so clearly. They've shown me how NOT to behave. Both people I've known since childhood and both say they are "highly sensitive" people. Both are very outspoken and are the first to say their political, religious, child rearing, marriage, financial advice- regardless of whom they offend. One of them unfriended me several years ago, out of the blue. We had been having playdates and have a close mutual friend. I wrote her a handwritten card to ask if I'd done something and would like to talk. She never responded. I ran into her mom not long ago and she was going on about what her daughter and grandkids were up to, as if I was still a good friend.  I said, "to be honest, I have no clue what she's up to because she unfriended me on Facebook and ignored a mailed card." Her mom didn't seem fazed and said, "oh she is just like that. So sensitive about things."

So her sensitivity about who knows what made it ok for her to cut off a friend and ignore that friend's attempts to fix anything I totally unknowingly did? That's sensitivity on a one way street. It bothered me for a really long time and I wish she would have been able to say, "you did X that offended me, my response is to unfriend, I hope you understand." Instead it was radio silence with an unfriend (and block). As I age I learn that despite age, faith, degrees, family, etc, some people lack the emotional capacity to handle things in a healthy manner. 

Another 'friend' unfriended me a while back, then said "oh I thought you didn't care what goes on in my life. I'll add you back!" (That should've been a red flag). She proceeded to add me back and then continued her very strong posts about what is right and wrong (guns, marriage, parenting styles, birth styles, faith styles- you name it and she has a very strong opinion). I made the mistake of commenting on a blog post about parenting/date nights/friends without kids about how tired I am with a very difficult child and how I agree- it's tough when single friends don't get it and compare their long work day with my life. She snapped back and said that wasn't at all what she was saying and blah blah blah. Knee jerk reaction! Within minutes she unfriended me (again) and blocked me on facebook and instagram (haha). This is the friend who blogs about what a sensitive soul she is, what books sensitive people should read, etc....yet the sensitivity seems to only apply when it is HER feeling sensitive. There is no sense of, "wow, my argumentative name calling political posts might hurt someone. Wow, my posts bad mouthing religion and former pastors and peers might really hurt someone's feelings. Wow, my unfriending/refriending/unfriending might be hurtful." Weird, right?

I am not always sensitive, empathetic, kind, Godly, or loving. Certainly not. I want to be. That's the goal. I am sensitive, but man, what I'd hate to be is someone that declares I NEED SENSITIVITY, PEOPLE!!! But won't extend it to others. That's just ugly. I was hurt when people I'd known 20+ years behaved this way, but now I can see how unhealthy they are. Wouldn't it be tough to go through life shunning anyone that doesn't agree with you, no matter how nice they are about it? How do you grow, learn, try new things, see new viewpoints? Have an open mind, your brain won't fall out!

People are varying degrees of sensitivity and the scale is broad. I am sensitive, but I'm trying to learn to "assume good intent." In my own sensitivity, I don't want to show others I don't care at all about their journey. I don't want to walk around looking for hurt, seeing everyone through the lens of "they don't like me, they are going to hurt me". Instead, assume good intent, allow people to have a bad day, month, year, and offer grace.

If you ARE sensitive, BE sensitive.

~ Diana