Posted 6/13/2008 4:49 PM (GMT -7)
So, in another topic, nervymeg mentioned looking at the gifts that being more sensitive can bring to us.
What a fascinating idea! It ties in with something I've been thinking for a few years, and which I wish I could use to create a new career for myself. I just never tied it in with anxiety thing before reading nervymeg's post.
If you're interested, read on, but as usual I write too much!
All my life I was told I was "too sensitive," or that I "think too much." I hate hearing those things even now, on the rare occasion I hear them. Those two statements are negative judgments on the way that I am. They do not offer any helpful criticism. They do not, for example tell me exactly how I can STOP thinking "too much" or being "too sensitive." These two statements just find fault with me, and at the same time, make it sound like I will ALWAYS be like that. Like someone saying, "you have hazel eyes." or "You have a nose."
When I had a preschool age child, I read the book "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk." The authors explain the way that most parents shut their children down- and devalue the child's feelings and thoughts. Not only does this lead too the child not WANTING to communicate with us, but it can lead to negative self-esteem issues.
A simple example is the following scene:
CHILD: I'm hungry!
PARENT: You CAN'T be hungry. We just had lunch a short time ago.
CHILD: But I AM hungry!
PARENT: Don't be silly. Go play.
CHILD: I'm HUNGRY NOW!
PARENT: That's enough. Go to your room.
Or maybe the parent tells the child to put on a sweater because it's cold. The chlld says she does not feel cold. The parent says, "Put on your sweater NOW. It;s cold out today and I don't want you catching a cold."
I don't know about you, but this rang very true for me, and in the 12 years since i read that book, I have noticed that nearly everyone treats everyone like this. Relationships, friendships, work, everywhere. You come home uspet becaus of something someone said at work and your significant other says, "I'm sure your boss didn't mean it. He's got a hard job, and probably just was blowing off steam." Or "Well, just move on. No reason to dwell on it." And you end up feeling worse than you already did.
The reason is we all need to be HEARD and so often we are instead DENIED. More recently I got interested in "Nonviolent Communication" or "Compassionate Communication," which is very similar, but goes further. The founder, Marshall Rosenberg, teaches that we should give people the gift of really listening. We can stop arguments and even sometimes deflect violent reactions if we simply try to LISTEN To what the other person is trying to say.
So, for example, when my BF came home late again on Tuesday, and didn't call to let me know what was going on, I was angry when he got home. I said something angry. He said something angry back and so it went, escalating to shouting and name-calling before I was able to step back and stop the arguments.
What if, instead, he had recognized that I was trying to tell him something with my anger? What if he had not reacted to it but recognized it as a signal and said, "You sound really angry."
ME: Yes, I'm angry. You bet your a** I'm angry. Duh!
HIM: You're REALLY angry. Can you tell me why you're so angry?
ME: Why do you think? You're late again. i thought things were going to change when I broke up with you and you were so sad and started trying harder to be considerate. That lasted a day and a half. Now you're back to excluding me from your life and making me feel like you don't even like me or think about me.
HIM: Sounds like you're really feeling let down by my behavior. Is that right?
ME: Well, YEAH. Duh! You keep hurting me. I'm an idiot for giving you chance after chance to hurt me again.
HIM: You're feeling really hurt, huh?
ME: Yeah. (start crying, not angry now)
And there would've been no angry fight which derailed us for hours and which, even after my heartfelt apology, he called another "scar" on our relationship and can't let go of.
I have learned to be able to do this for other people. It really works. Once my BF was mad at me for something I didn't think was a big deal. I listened, apologized, gave him affirmation for his feelings, and yet he still kept coming back to the room and going on about it. I stayed calm and didn't defend myself or start the roller coaster of "Oh yeah, well YOU do such and such." But nothing seemed to make him feel better. He's not usually very angry, so I knew something was really bugging him. I decided to really REALLY listen to him. I started doing that thing called responsive listening, which involves basically restating what the person just said, in different words, and asking them if you got it right and if there is more they want to say. And as I did this, he started to relax and say more about what was bothering him. Eventually his anger was gone, and in the process I learned a lot about things he had been holding in and feeling bad about. i also saw myself differently. I had always been the one who could talk about my emotions, and he never did. I learned that day that he DID have emotions, he just couldn't talk about them. Because I didn't know what he was feeling, I had assumed that my emotional needs were bigger, and had sort of ignored big parts of him.
Anyway, the problem is that most people don't know this technique, so I spend a lot of energy giving to them, and listening, and then I get, "Oh well. Just let it go" when I try to talk to someone. It's frustrating.
But the career part came from thinking about this character on one of the Star Trek TV shows. She was an empath and her job was to translate the emotions of others for the captain and crew of the starship. Basically, some alien would be on the big screen in the command room, screaming at the captain and saying, "I will KILL ALL HUMANS!" and the empath would turn to the captain and say, "I sense anger," and the captain would nod wisely. It was silly.
But, I was having a lot of trouble at work, as were others, because our administration COULD not and WOULD not allow us to discuss the very real issues that were causing all of us a lot of stress. I eventually quit my job, and am now broke, all because of their refusal to communicate or LISTEN. The president of the company even stood up and walked out in disgust when some of us tried to insist on a discussion in a management meeting.
So I started thinking that I have this special skill- I understand the costs of poor communication skills. I understand it because my feelings are hurt so easily. I'm so emotionally sensitive that an insensitive word can tumble me into a day of being incapacitated with self-hatred. Because of these sensitivities, I'm great at customer service.
What if I am not "TOO" sensitive but "VERY" sensitive, as in "very smart" or "Very talented." What if sensitivity was valued in our society instead of shunned. We no longer live in wilderness and have to fight off wild animals and unfriendly invaders. We can afford to value sensitivity! It's more important than ever, really, if you look at what happens when nations can't communicate and their disagreements become wars. We now have the power to destroy entire cities with a single bomb or chemical weapon. We really can't afford to NOT be sensitive.
I've been trying to figure out if I can use this TALENT of being very sensitive to create some sort of consultant business. I feel like I could really help workplaces, like the one I left this spring. I sat with my boss for an hour and a half and really saw that he and the main boss are just ASTOUNDED that managers are struggling and unhappy. Sure, our workload more than doubled, with no addition of staff, but it's because the bosses have worked so hard and made us so SUCCESSFUL. How could we possibly compain? They automatically discounted everything we said as some sort of sour grapes or pettiness. But if it came from an outside consultant, they'd be all ears.
Anyway, that's my story. nervymeg's post was, if you can believe it, the first time I realized the anxiety is part of my skill of being very sensitive.
I told you this would be really long, and I'd write too much! Did anyone make it all the way through?