trustEmotionally sensitive people sometimes have difficulty trusting themselves. There’s often good reason for this; when someone has intense emotions, she can’t be sure how she will react in different situations with various people.

Most emotionally sensitive people have experiences in which they’ve reacted emotionally in ways they wish they hadn’t. Maybe they feel embarrassed or ashamed of the way they’ve behaved in the past and fear repeating that experience. Often they can’t be sure of how they’ll react if they become jealous or angry or envious of someone else or if they feel intimidated or judged.

Even when there isn’t an emotional threat of any kind, just not knowing how you might react around other people can be scary. Sometimes being skillful and then sometimes being unskillful can be confusing.

Even individuals with strong social skills find that they sometimes no longer have the ability to use those skills in situations where they feel threatened in some way, whether by criticism or competition or situations that are new to them.  One of the worst parts is that they often can’t predict what situations will be difficult for them.

Emotionally sensitive people often are on an emotional roller coaster, so they can’t trust that their positive mood will last.  They want to believe that the darkness of despair won’t return, but it often does. In addition, the emotionally sensitive are often reactive to the moods of others.

When in a group, it can become difficult to keep the sadness or pain of others from becoming their emotion too. Sometimes the emotionally sensitive may misread the cause of others’ emotions, blaming themselves when that isn’t the case. It makes sense that the emotionally sensitive would have difficulty trusting themselves in terms of knowing their thoughts and emotions are accurate and their behavior understandable and logical.

This fear of not being able to predict their reactions and their ability to cope with various situations can lead to isolation and avoidance. The emotionally sensitive will often rather not go to a party than risk returning home depressed, thinking they are social outcasts because they talked with only one or two people or perhaps found they weren’t able to mingle at all.  They would rather not go to a play or lunch with friends and risk a panic-like fear of not wearing the right clothes or of having someone be angry with them.

They often stay away from group activity for fear that they will take on the pain of the others who attend.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the key to regulating emotions and learning the skills needed so that emotionally sensitive people can be more in control of their internal experience and thus learn to trust themselves. The first step is to learn to be mindful of your internal experience. Mindfulness gives a pause that allows you to recognize that your thoughts and feelings are your thoughts and feelings and may or may not reflect the facts of the situation.

Mindfulness also gives you the opportunity to identify what your emotional experience is and what belongs to someone else. It is an inner way of saying “mine” and “not mine.”

Labeling emotion and thoughts as information to be considered helps create enough distance that actions are less impulsive. Being mindful of your anger, for example, is different from becoming your anger. It is the difference between watching a train go by and being on the train.

Mindfulness of emotions allows you to smooth out the emotional storms, often by being mindful of self-judgments and letting those go.

Note to Readers:  My sincere thanks to everyone who has completed our second survey. If you haven’t participated, please consider answering the questions on my new survey about being emotionally sensitive. I’ll be closing the survey soon. Results will be given in a future post.

 

Creative Commons License photo credit: LWPrencipe

 







    Last reviewed: 14 Jul 2012

APA Reference
Hall, K. (2012). Learning to Trust Yourself Through Mindfulness. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 31, 2014, from http://blogs.psychcentral.com/emotionally-sensitive/2012/07/learning-to-trust-yourself-through-mindfulness/

 

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Karyn Hall, PhD is the author of the above books.
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