Having friendships and/or family members you feel close to is often a primary part of living the life you want to live and is one of your biggest challenges. Interactions with others are often the most emotional experiences you have, both in rewarding and painful ways. If relationships are part of your life worth living, determining how to make this work for you will be important.
Keep Your Priorities in Mind
Relationships are naturally full of ups and downs. There are so many times you will have urges to break off a relationship and to never speak to a person again. In many cases though, that’s using avoidance and/or abandonment as a way of responding to a problem. You avoid the immediate pain of hurt and vulnerability but in the long run your relationship is damaged.
When you are emotionally sensitive your emotions can rule your life. The more painful emotions exhaust and drain you, sometimes to the point that your days are about avoiding hurt rather than living your life. You may dread the mornings and crave isolation though at the same time you are lonely and hate that you think you don’t belong. You may be sad or constantly tired. You may decide there is something wrong with you that you can’t deal with issues and be content like others seem to be able to do, so why try? At some point you may find that you have focused on emotions such as hurt, resentment, grief, and fear that you no longer think about the life you want to lead. You get lost in the pain and lose sight of your goals and dreams.
Emotionally sensitive people experience more intense emotions that are more easily aroused and that last longer than those who are not emotionally sensitive. You react faster with greater emotional intensity that lasts longer. Your emotional reactions can be triggered by television shows, magazine articles, places that trigger memories, anniversaries and other events. Interpersonal issues are one of the most challenging areas for you.
With a strong fear and sensitivity to rejection, even routine events such as a friend canceling lunch plans can bring on a tornado of emotions that are difficult to manage. With this difficulty in relationships, so much of life becomes stressful, such as attending classes, dating, participating in friendships, interacting in group activities, having roommates, and working with others. Some of you withdraw and become isolated as a way of avoiding the pain of relationships. Others experience anguish and suffering on a regular basis with little relief. Working on interpersonal skills and ways to manage emotions in relationships can help you reduce the suffering you experience on a daily basis. Improving your interpersonal resiliency and skills is complicated. Four options for getting started (based on the work of Marsha Linehan, 1993) include the following:
Valentine’s Day may be one of your favorite holidays. You see it as an occasion to celebrate your relationship. Or maybe you think Valentine’s Day is just a tool for businesses to sell cards, flowers and chocolates. Whatever your view of the day, there are some strong reasons to celebrate love.
1. If you are good at connecting people, then you are likely to be a happier person. Whether it’s a business, friendship or romantic connection, introducing people who form a relationship is good for you. Your happiness is increased when the introduction is successful, so it’s also a bit risky.
2. A 75-year long study done at Harvard was dedicated to finding the secrets to a happy life. George Vaillant, the head of the study, said the most important finding is that the only thing that matters in life is relationships. Happiness, according to his study, is about the love in your life and finding a way to cope with life so you don’t push love away.
3. Having relationships in your life will make you happier. These relationships provide you with validation of your value and competence. The relationships don’t have to be family or friends in any particular balance–just close relationships.
4. Love and passion inspire people to great accomplishments. Think about people who have made a positive difference in the world. Many of them were driven by their love for humanity.
5. There’s evidence that relationships decrease your stress and improve your physical health.
6. Loving connections with others can help erase the emptiness some people feel.
7. Having close relationships enhances the positives that you experience and helps minimize the pain of the negatives.
8. Relationships with pets make us happier too. Loving a pet counts.
You can probably add other benefits to this list. Knowing that you have support and “belong” is a key step toward your well being. For emotionally sensitive people, the vulnerability required to create close relationships can be daunting. Staying isolated may seem …
For emotionally sensitive people, trusting someone is often a huge challenge. Everyday, in one way or another, you probably ask yourself if you can trust different people. Trust plays a central role in your relationships, your business decisions, choices you make about your health, how you love, and how you invest your money. The need to trust is uncomfortable and scary. It points out that you are vulnerable. You may fear being rejected or judged. Yet you can’t get the outcomes you want in life and meet your needs without trust. You need the cooperation of others. Your pattern of trusting or not trusting others may make relationships and cooperation more difficult.
When something goes wrong, one of the first responses many people have is to blame someone. Being at fault may bring up many fears. If you can blame someone else, you can avoid the painful feelings of guilt and shame. You can avoid the fear of not being good enough and perhaps the resulting fear of abandonment. Maybe you panic when you may have done something wrong or taken action that didn’t work out because in the past others have rejected you or perhaps punished you for making a mistake. Blaming is the way you attempt to protect yourself. Whatever the reason, blame usually leads to conflict and damaged relationships in addition to blocking problem solving. Time spent blaming only delays finding a solution to whatever happened.
I’ve just completed several months of intense work, all by my choice. Today I do not have any deadlines that are pressing and nothing that I have to do. There is much I could do, but nothing I have to do. I can just breathe, enjoy the moments of the day, and be grateful.
Urgency means requiring swift action and seems to include a nuance of importance. If something is urgent, it is important and needs to be done quickly. Somehow my urgency sensor is stuck in the “on” position. I perceive urgency and react as if my activity is critically urgent when all I’m doing is going to the grocery store or taking a shower. I feel pressure that time is passing and I’m not going to get it all done, or won’t get it done on time. What “all” is and why it has to be done is not clear, if I even consider it. When I drive to the office, there’s an urgency to get there on time. When I’m going through my day, there’s an urgency keep to the schedule. When I’m at the gym, I am focused on getting the workout done so I can get on to the next activity.
When your emotions are intense, you may find yourself playing it safe in life. You don’t want to take risks for fear that you would be rejected, fail, or not be able to handle new experiences. Really, what if you lose it completely and break out in tears in front of total strangers? Maybe you don’t trust yourself to take reasonable risks. Maybe in the past when you’ve broken out of your routine you’ve gone to an extreme and the consequences weren’t pleasant. Selling all your belongings and moving to Mexico is not the type of change that I’m talking about.
Maybe you’re afraid of change though you don’t really know why. The idea of not waking up in the same place and seeing the same people and following your routine is most unpleasant.
Sam and Ellen were best friends. Together they shared movies, devoured pizza, and watched football. They talked about whatever thoughts came into their heads and they were comfortable with silence too. If Sam needed help, he could count on Ellen. If Ellen had a rough day, Sam was there to help her get past it. When Sam couldn’t find a job, Ellen looked at ads and gave him leads she got through her friends. They supported each other through the hard times.