“If the dimension of presence or awareness is missing, then you are lost in the reaction. Then you become the reaction, and you don’t know who you are.” Eckhart Tolle
High sensitivity can make our life much richer, but it can also be a distressing and disorienting experience.
Probably starting when we were too young to have the cognitive ability to sort it out, many of us learned that identifying ourselves as highly sensitive (perhaps privately, and not to others) helped make sense of the turmoil.
But some writers such as Eckhart Tolle warn about losing our authenticity in identity labels.
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In her article Every Blessing and Curse is a Choice. Choose the Blessing!, Jenna Forrest writes:
“I would bet that a lot of us were fully prepared for our own funerals by about age seven, figuring that we were soon going to die from sensory overload.
“From the very beginning, the world was stirring me like a whisk.
“Life in general felt upside down, inside out and backwards.
“From my three-foot tall childhood viewpoint, my city looked littered; the music in our house was too loud; chemical cleaners and detergents smelled too strong; and cars sped too fast.
“Sensing the bad mood of every stranger walking down the street didn’t help.”
Jenna (top photo at age six) is author of Help Is On Its Way: A Memoir About Growing Up Sensitive.
Also see her site Profound Healing For Sensitives.
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Elaine Aron, PhD, addresses one of her newsletters to sensitive teenagers, and notes, “Persons your age may score lower than others [on the sensitivity self-test] and still be highly sensitive. This is because adolescence is the time in life when people born with this trait are often the least sensitive, especially to noise and having to do more than one thing at once.
“There are many theories about why, but I will not bother you with them. And, you may find you have your own.
“Also, there are as many baby boys born who are highly sensitive as there are girls. By your age most males score lower on the self-test. The reason is obvious. It is so difficult to be highly sensitive in this culture if you are a man. So most sensitive men and boys are trying to hide their sensitivity.”
From newsletter article by Elaine Aron: For Highly Sensitive Teenagers, Part I: Feeling Different.
Also see more articles on High sensitivity by other authors.
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In his book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, Eckhart Tolle writes about spiritual development and gaining awareness of our real identity and calling.
“What is reactivity? Becoming addicted to reaction. The more reactive you, the more entangled you become with form. The more identified with form, the stronger the ego.”
Tenisha continued, “My question has to do with—I’ve always related being reactive to being sensitive. And being sensitive allows me to be very passionate about things, allows me to connect with other people and be emotionally available to my friends and family.
“So my question is, how can I retain sensitivity and be passionate about things and keep that, but not allow my ego to get stronger?”
Reacting is not the same as sensitive
Tolle responded, “Well, reaction may appear to be a sign of sensitivity, but actually reaction is not sensitive. Reaction is a conditioned way of responding to a situation… all reaction really comes from the past because it’s part of the way in which you’ve been conditioned.
“And because it comes from the past, it is never totally adequate to the present moment.
“So sensitivity is actually lost when you’re reactive, and true sensitivity comes when you are absolutely present in a situation and see, This is how it is, and you totally face the situation as it is.”
From article Eckhart Tolle On Sensitivity.
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Related article: Are you drowning in a sea of sensitivity? It’s time to walk on water By Ane Axford, MS, LFMT –
“I have often heard an analogy in the psychology field that creative geniuses and those who experience mental disorder are in the same water.
“The difference is that one is swimming and the other is drowning. Let’s talk about this water. These fluid, intangible, ever-changing emotions. Sensations.”