A sensitive boy


I was what my mother called “a sensitive boy,” meaning that I got my feelings hurt way too easily. What I can tell you about being “sensitive” is that it doesn’t work worth a damn to go through life feeling slighted. This is why I gave it up. I no longer take much of anything personally. Even if it’s meant personally, I don’t judge an attack or a rejection as being a statement about me but simply as another person’s choice at a particular time in his or her life. If I can see how I unnecessarily contributed to any bad feelings, I will apologize without hesitation because honor requires it, and I do love honor because if a person has honor, most other virtues will follow. However, I don’t beat my breast in agony, and I don’t berate anyone. I also don’t give up on important friendships, and will, unless forbidden, continue to reach out from time to time for years after an important person has left my life. Not feeling hurt and needy has taken the stinger out of rejection, making this easy. It’s the former friends who never speak to one another again who are the walking wounded.

I have also found wisdom in allowing relationships to ebb and flow rather than being elated during the flow periods and interpreting the ebb periods as rejection. I would say to you that you don't know what's really going on with other people, so when they seem to be pulling away from you, let them go. They will either come back or they won't, and you can no more control the seasons of their lives than you can control the seasons of the year, although you can make a fool of yourself if you try. In all situations, remember your dignity because that alone is of far more value to you than any friend you will ever have. Even if you could persuade a thousand people to love you, you would be no less alone inside your head, so make yourself into someone whose company you cherish.

I stopped being “a sensitive boy” once I completely gave up the notion that other people have things to offer me that I need desperately but lack within myself. When I understood at the 100% level that my hurt feelings always had and evermore would be much ado about nothing and that no possible benefit ever did or ever could accrue from them, I found giving them up to be a profound pleasure. I won’t pretend to know how I might feel if Peggy should leave me after 42 years, but I’m quite sure that no one else can throw me off balance, and I really don’t think she can. It’s a marvelous way to live. It’s the difference between being sad at times versus being angry and despondent your whole life long over one relationship or another. 

I have just summarized in three paragraphs wisdom that took me several decades and considerable agony to learn, yet I don’t know if anyone else is capable of learning it in any way other than I did. If you're "sensitive," like I was, you've got a lot of hurt to look forward to, and you might as well at least try to cut it short by doing what now seems impossible, that is finding the ability to feel complete within yourself. This comes through remembering that you are ultimately alone, and that no one can save you. All the strength for living that you have at your disposal is already within you, and the only way for you to be saved is to develop it by thinking rationally about who you are and about who other people are in relation to you. Don't mistake them for being more than they are, and don't mistake yourself for being less than you are. Once you cast off your expectations of others, the feeling you will get is like going from black and white to color. Everything that was murky becomes obvious. You will wonder how it was even possible that you failed for all those years to see just how rich you are within yourself. At your deepest level, you deserve your fullest respect, and when you're at that level, being reviled or rejected is scarcely deserving of notice.

23 comments:

ellen abbott said...

Excellent advice.

Chartreuse said...

You must have white hair to be so very wise. Seriously, I can't remember when I last read three more important or useful paragraphs. I'll be forwarding a link to several people I know who could also benefit greatly from your wisdom, in my view - though, like you, I'm not sure this lesson can be taught or caught. It probably needs to be learned from life.

Elisabeth said...

Sensitivity in my mind is a strength Snow, but not one as you suggest when it threatens to overwhelm.

To my way of thinking we all exist on a continuum from the highly sensitive and exquisitely attuned to the more thick skinned folks who are almost insensitive, to the feelings and needs of others and likewise impervious to what they take in from others. I tend to prefer the sensitive to the insensitive folk.

I recognise your post is more about your recovery from a tendency towards excessive sensitivity and all to the good, but I still want to put in a plug for sensitivity that can be marshaled to the good of oneself and others.

It all begins with mothers and their babies where sensitivity and attunement are ideally at their height.

RNSANE said...

Snow, I am sitting here in Jaipur, India, after a huge monkey came into my room and stole my bag of tomatoes and onions, reading this profound bit of wisdom you've written and I think it is truly brilliant and something I wnat to take to my heart. Well said, well written, and I totally agree with you.

Natalie said...

The most beautiful thing I have read in years. I am not gone either....I am just 'over here', juggling way tooooo many balls. ♥♥ (one each.)

Charles Gramlich said...

I think I was pretty much of a sensitive lad myself, and maybe still am a little more than I should be. I can pout a little when certain things happen, and I'm not very proud of that.

Helen said...

Stellar philosophy .......

Myrna R. said...

You are enlightened, my friend. So glad you share your light on those of us who still have a long way to go.

I am hyper-sensitive. Your words, bring me hope.

All Consuming said...

Superbly wise advice "When I understood at the 100% level that my hurt feelings always had and evermore would be much ado about nothing and that no possible benefit ever did or ever could accrue from them, I found giving them up to be a profound pleasure" - This is one of the keys to being as happy as you can ever be. The only one with the power to stop our hurt feelings are ourselves. That's quite bad English, but I'm sure you get me. As soon as you can let go you feel so much better. For I am a wise owl too xxx

Putz said...

having been dropped by several bloggers i have leaarmed to have a thick skin, thank you very much, although i can also cry with all of you out there

kj said...

This is an amazing astounding piece of writing. To me it is unlike anything you have written before and it is the wisest and most helpful advice and insight i've read anywhere. I mean anywhere!

Snow, I will read this again and comment again. You've blown me away xoxo

Love
kj

Mim said...

I too think this is a very good piece of writing - and so heartfelt.

I gave up on being sensitive years ago. Sometimes people do or say things that are purposely hurtful to me and I am saddened by their actions - truly saddened. I often try and stay away from those people, not "not talking" but just giving myself space away from them.

Someone said something to me the other day that could be taken as hurtful - not to me, but about someone I love. there was no reason for her to say this - it could only have been thru trying to hurt me, or make me uncomfortable. All it made me wonder was "why do you have the need to say something like that to me - it could be so hurtful". I certainly didn't take it personally - At ALL. Thank goodness.

rhymeswithplague said...

Snow, why did you take that other post down? I hope it wasn't something I said. It was meant only as an observation, not a criticism.

Snowbrush said...

"Snow, why did you take that other post down? I hope it wasn't something I said."

Yep, it was all your fault okay, but I guess you didn't get my response.

YOU: "Snow, this post seems a bit, well, self-involved."

ME: "Robert, I can scarcely tell you how much I appreciate that. In fact, I might just pull the post and go back to it another time. I knew something was bothering me about it, and you crystalized what it was."

Back to the present. I can always put it up again after I've had a chance to work it over some more, but I thought you made a good point from the perspective of one who, unlike myself, hadn't put hours into writing it. Editing enables me to correct many things but the resulting familiarity blinds me to others.

SkepticalDeb said...

Wonderful post! Being too sensitive is quite possibly my biggest challenge. I hope I soak up some of your words of wisdom.

SkepticalDeb said...

Do you think that those who bully sort of place blame on their target for feeling the impact of being shunned or demeaned? It's never their fault, but a "weakness" in the poor person they attack.

I guess it doesn't really matter as ultimately it's still how we handle the situation that really counts.

I wish with every fiber in me that I was not such a sensitive person, but even if I wasn't, I don't know that I'd ever have thick enough skin to not suffer when someone I dearly love disowns me... I recently was admitted to the hospital with chest pains following an event that was profoundly demeaning--I was caught off guard, though, too. I've also been disowned by this person.

I'm also an atheist, and I've been the receiver of unexpected hostility from that same person, who is a Christian and demanded at one point that I "pretend" to believe so that I don't upset other family members. I'm also now cut off from several cousins because I was talking about Carl Sagan and science "too close to Easter." Amazingly, they called me "insensitive."

The only way I can see through some of this is to somehow become less sensitive, but I'm struggling to get there.

Snowbrush said...

Skeptical Deb, the last Deb I heard from was a Christian Deb, so it's good to have a balance in how my Debs are affiliated (ha). I just wish that, like her, you had a blog.

"I wish with every fiber in me that I was not such a sensitive person, but even if I wasn't, I don't know that I'd ever have thick enough skin to not suffer when someone I dearly love disowns me..."

I have two good friends who were disowned when they left the Jehovah's Witnesses, and I lost lifelong friends when I left the Church of Christ. The latter occurred 40 years ago, and it still hurts. When you trust someone, and they abandon you, it IS going to hurt unless you're a stone, and I don't know that I would even want to be altogether immune to that. However, as I see it, the expectations that I once held of other people made them unrealistically responsible for my emotional welfare, and that SET ME UP for disappointment. Now, I try to think of people as being like dogs or cats in that the good they can bring into my life is dependent upon me holding somewhat low expectations of them. I must accept them for what they are rather than insisting that they be what I want them to be. Because my disappointments with others have been invariably based upon me expecting something from them that I didn't get, by expecting less, I get hurt less. The important thing is to do this with acceptance rather than bitterness. It's not that people are bad--anymore than dogs and cats are bad--it's just that they're limited. I hope I'm making myself clear.

Snowbrush said...

P.S. "Do you think that those who bully sort of place blame on their target for feeling the impact of being shunned or demeaned? It's never their fault, but a "weakness" in the poor person they attack."

By your use of the word "bully," I take it that you have your answer, but, yes, people who treat you badly aren't going to say that they're doing it undeservedly because in their minds, you do deserve it.

CreekHiker / HollysFolly said...

I SO wish my mother could get this... she spends decades being angry at something so minor and stupid. She's 89 and wonders why no one spends time with her...it's so sad.

rhymeswithplague said...

Meow! Or Woof! Whichever you prefer. And being held in low expectations is better than not being held at all.

You read it here first.

kylie said...

a man i loved beyond wildest imaginings taught me all of this. i might not be as far along the road as you are snow, but much more than i was.
it's lucky he did because otherwise i might have killed myself when he left my life.
i still cant figure out what happened.

you express this very very well, my dear snow

Kendal said...

Good post, I know I disappear a lot. I go from having too much on my plate to not doing anything at all.

Sometimes I procrastinate, but not because I don't want to do it, I just can't get enough energy going to do it. We all have got our quirks, bad habits, and preconceived notions of the world.

Until I met, online, a Mississippian I too thought of them all as ignorant white haters. Talk about my over inflated ego that I was this great, non judgmental compassionate human being. If we are all honest with ourselves aren't yin and yang. We try, but even the most liberal has their faults. On the opposite end they have some good, somewhere. Z was a kind, and pretty liberal guy with the same faults we all have. We met in a Xena Warrior Princess chat room started by a group of people that wanted a place to curse, joke and talk about X&G relationship. We felt they were a couple but we would get over run by closed minds.

I learned that everyone there wasn't like Mississippi burning. Thanks for sharing the story.

Joe Todd said...

I think you were talking about me LOL..