Growing Up Emotionally Sensitive: Survey Results
Most of the people who identified themselves as emotionally sensitive and completed the second survey were women (87.6 percent) between the ages of 40 to 60 (51 percent) with 29 percent between 25 to 40.
Most were college graduates (37 percent). Over 60 percent of those who responded to the survey said they hide their emotional sensitivity so others do not know the intensity of their emotions.
Many consider themselves flawed as humans because of their emotions (68.2 percent) and are uncomfortable when complimented about their character (61.6 percent) and their skills (61 percent), which likely makes it more difficult for them to foster a positive sense of themselves.
It appears that accepting being emotionally sensitive is quite difficult for a lot of our readers.
Family Reactions to Emotions
This negative self-judgment may be related to childhood experiences. Many of the people who responded said their emotions were not accepted in their families, though their families reacted in varying ways. Some had supportive parents who accepted whatever emotions their children experienced and helped their children feel safe, but not all.
Some of those who responded to the survey were protected by their parents, perhaps overprotected. Others were neglected for different reasons, including having large families with limited money and time, parents with addictions, parents with mental disorders and parents who were emotionally sensitive themselves.
Others were abused in some way. In some families, only the parents were allowed to have emotions, similar to the idea that children are to be seen and not heard. In other families, only one parent was allowed to express emotions, sometimes because the other family members were afraid of that parent. In other situations, only the family member labelled as “the emotional one” was allowed to express emotions. In other families, the children were “invisible.”
Many (59.8 percent) said that negative emotions were not accepted in their family. Some parents didn’t acknowledge negative emotions at all and hid behind a positive mask. Their children never saw them experience sadness or anger. These parents were always “fine.”
Other families punished the expression of anger, sadness or fear. Some families would react negatively to any statements that upset the family and often the children in the family couldn’t predict what would be upsetting, so they stayed silent. Some said that no emotions were accepted in their families and others said only anger or only “quiet and happy” were allowed. In other families the children were told what to feel.
Some children were made to apologize and ordered to say “I love you” to the person they were angry with. When they felt positive emotions, parents might say “why are you so happy?” or, “you won’t be smiling for long.”
The pain involved in emotions not being accepted was evident in many of the responses. When sad or angry, some were told to “not act ugly” and to go away until they got that “ugly look” off their face. For some people, when negative emotions were expressed, their parents’ reactions were punishing. Statements such as “I’ll give you something to cry about,” “No one wants to hear your problems,” “Everyone feels that way,” “Put a smile on your face,” and “Ignore the bad feelings and they’ll go away,” were made. Some parents were adamant that “outsiders” not know their childrens’ upsets.
In some families, negative emotions were the norm. When some respondants were children, they believed they were to blame. Some were hit when they expressed negative emotions and others were beaten. Some who responded were beaten severely by their father when their mother reported minor problems that occurred during the day while he was at work.
Emotionally sensitive people grow up in all types of families, no different than those who aren’t emotionally sensitive. It seems that they are likely to blame themselves when their families have difficulty with their intense emotions and tend to see themselves as flawed. Given the difficulties many had in their families because of emotions, it is completely understandable they would struggle to accept them as adults.
Note to Readers: Thanks to everyone who responded to the survey and added to our understanding of being emotionally sensitive.
Hall, K. (2012). Growing Up Emotionally Sensitive: Survey Results. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 23, 2015, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/emotionally-sensitive/2012/07/growing-up-emotionally-sensitive/