I have long been paranoid about being sensitive. In this post and the next, I want to try to distinguish between two ideas: sensitive and brittle.
I’m the sort of person who actually does watch for trigger warnings because, well, I react to certain topics very poorly. I appreciate having when people are being courteous about topics that I may react to.
Recognizing where I’m sensitive, where I over-react, where I need to be gentle with myself, all of these are good. Ducking over to the dictionary:
quick to detect or respond to slight changes, signals, or influences.
- easily damaged, injured, or distressed by slight changes.
- (of a person or a person’s behaviour) having or displaying a quick and delicate appreciation of others’ feelings.
- kept secret or with restrictions on disclosure to avoid endangering security.
(I’m skipping the bit about being psychic, that may be relevant, but I don’t have anything useful to say on that front.)
In order for me to appreciate the feelings of others I have to be sensitive. This leads me to the strange conclusion, since I want to be able to do that, I want to be sensitive. The same pieces of me that allow me to appreciate another person’s feelings are the pieces of me that can get hurt. The same pieces of me that need to be kept secret in some situations are good to keep secret sometimes because they can be hurt, and they are valuable. This means in order to be sensitive to the feelings of those I care about, I must respect my own sensitivity.
Tune in soon for a quick essay on being brittle (which is a closely related but different idea). If there is interest , I’ll also write my views on the difference between tough and resilient.
How do you maintain the ability to be sensitive to the feelings of others?