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Emotional Sensitivity: Are You Controlled By Your Emotions?

There are many ways that emotionally sensitive people are controlled by their emotions. Consider the following two situations.

Jen, an emotionally sensitive person, is a dentist who works hard and cares about her clients. She also has the personality characteristics of being overly agreeable. This means that she fears alienating others, to the point that she may not express her opinion when she knows others won’t agree. She is sensitive to what others may want to hear and she sometimes finds that she has different opinions about issues depending on who she is with. She easily sees multiple sides to issues so it’s easy to justify different views.

Jen was not being as effective as she wished in her dental practice. She was well-liked for the most part, though most people would say they didn’t really know her, but her clients kept returning with the same issues. Though Jen had the knowledge of how to educate and motivate her clients, her fears of alienating others and her fears of rejection got in the way. Her awareness was limited as she justified her choices to not confront clients or address issues directly. She would say, “I can’t make their choices for them,” and “If I upset them they won’t come back.” Her justifications were easy to accept because they held some truth. The problem was that she wasn’t addressing the issue at all. It wasn’t that she was trying to make the choice for her clients or that she was being overly aggressive.

Amy, also an emotionally sensitive person, wanted to be an author. She loved writing and her dream was to publish a book, but she reached a plateau. Her writing did not progress. She stopped going to her writing group because she believed they had nothing to offer her. She criticized her writing teacher when he offered suggestions, informing him that he didn’t understand her style. She expressed anger at the industry that she believed made it impossible for new authors to succeed.

Amy protected herself from pain by using anger as a shield. She also was closed to feedback. Others stopped offering feedback because of her biting responses.

Both Jen and Amy were unaware that they were controlled by their emotions and that their ways of coping with their emotional sensitivity was blocking their progress toward their goals. If you are an emotionally sensitive person, understanding how you cope with that sensitivity and how that style of coping is effective for you or gets in your way can make a difference in your life.

Awareness of how your emotions are affecting your thinking helps you make more effective choices.

1. Observe yourself. Do you react in a predictable way when you are emotionally aroused? Is that pattern helpful or not helpful in reaching your goals? Is it helpful in certain situations and not in others?
2. Are you justifying or explaining why you make certain decisions? Justifying and explaining may be cues that you are acting on emotion in ways that aren’t effective.
3. Do you find yourself criticizing those who offer you feedback or who don’t agree with you? Do you block or avoid feedback? That may be a cue that you are protecting yourself to the point you aren’t open to helpful feedback.
4. Do you have a strong need to be liked? Are there times you make ineffective choices or decisions you regret because you wanted to please others? Avoiding the upset of others may be getting in your way of achieving your goals.

Emotional Sensitivity: Are You Controlled By Your Emotions?

Karyn Hall, PhD

Karyn Hall, Ph.D. is the owner/director of the Dialectical Behavior Therapy Center in Houston, a DBT-Linehan Board of Certification, Certified Clinician, a RO DBT Approved Supervisor and Trainer and owner of, an online educational program. She is a trainer/consultant as well as a therapist and certified coach, author of The Emotionally Sensitive Person, SAVVY, Mindfulness Exercises for DBT Therapists, and co-author of The Power of Validation. Her podcast, The Emotionally Sensitive Person, is available on iTunes.

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APA Reference
Hall, K. (2017). Emotional Sensitivity: Are You Controlled By Your Emotions?. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 10, 2020, from


Last updated: 2 Oct 2017
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