When you are emotionally sensitive, getting through each day can feel like walking through a carnival full of interesting booths and people but alert to small dangers everywhere. The path is uneven, people are running in the crowds without looking where they are going, some of the games are rigged and mosquitos are buzzing around ready to bite. While most people barely register these issues, they can ruin the day for you. Someone making an off-hand comment, being criticized, learning that a friend didn’t invite you to join her and other friends for a movie, a boyfriend breaking a date–all are painful for you. While it’s not I-can’t-stand-it kind of pain, it’s enough to create difficult feelings of sadness and rejection, even when you know these routine events happen to everyone and weren’t meant to harm you. At the end of most days you’re covered with emotional bruises. And those bruises add up.
Emotional bruises are those hurts that make it more difficult to get through the day and bring your mood down. You’re tired and wounded–know the feeling?
You might protect yourself with anger. It’s like always having your boxing gloves on and in defense mode from the moment of your first encounter with the world. Others hide or withdraw; sometimes pretending they don’t really care about people or situations when they really do. Or you might hide from the world. You can’t get bruised if you aren’t out in the world, well, at least as much. Avoiding the sadness or hurt doesn’t work in the long run. Hiding from emotions is like hiding from life. You’re not really living life.
So what can you do to help those emotional bruises not be so deep and go away faster? How can you be less afraid of living your life?
Find Yourself a Rock
A Rock is an over the top, completely supportive person who absolutely believes in you. Whatever is up with you, that’s important to him too. This person wants to help, wants to be there for you, and obviously cares about and adores you. When others criticize you, your Rock has your back. Your Rock tells you the truth and it’s clear even when he’s saying something not so great that he still thinks you hung the moon. When you make mistakes he’ll tell you and it doesn’t change the way he feels even a little bit. Everyone needs a Rock. Having a Rock helps you stay grounded and gives you a sense of safety. Your confidence goes up and minor emotional hits don’t faze you so much or at all. Whatever others say, you’ve got your Rock. When you see him daily or frequently, it’s like you are wearing Teflon.
If you don’t have a Rock, find one. Until you do, maybe you have a Rock in your family or someone who you don’t see often. Maybe a grandmother. Throughout the day, whenever you’re feeling bruised, talk to that person in your head. Remember what they would say to you and how much they love and believe in you. Call them frequently if possible.
Also consider being a Rock for someone else. Giving that kind of support to another person seems to have some benefits for you as well.
Spend Time Laughing
When you’re emotionally sensitive life can seem quite serious all the time. Being on guard to protect yourself is serious business. So make time to be silly and fun. Dance. Find ways that you laugh out loud, big belly laughs that bring tears to your eyes. Even if there’s nothing funny, laugh anyway. And sharing the laughter with other people is even better. There’s something about laughing together that says you are accepted, you belong.
Find a Place to Belong
Having a place to belong is like having emotional safety. Part of the insecurity and reactivity of the emotionally sensitive is the fear of being cast out and rejected. Being alone in the world is a pretty scary idea when you think of it. In this case I’m not talking about going to the movies alone or being alone for dinner. I’m talking about not having a team–being alone to figure life out and to battle whatever might come your way. When you have a place you belong, a home, that’s emotional safety. We naturally seek to belong to groups. People join groups that have similar beliefs, values or interests such as midnight street skaters, people who have red hair, chess players, gourmets, movie goers, Baptists, environmentalists and singles.
Finding a place where you belong is not easy. Your place might be a hideaway in nature that you share with only one or two others. Maybe your place where you belong doesn’t include other people at all.
So when you have these emotional basics you aren’t so susceptible to emotional bruising. That’s a huge step actually because then you’re not so afraid of life. When you’re not afraid, you’ can live the life you yearn for.
My research study about emotionally sensitive people has been delayed but I am expecting final approval soon. If you contacted me about participating in the study, I thank you for your patience.
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Last reviewed: 4 Aug 2013