Are You Emotionally Sensitive? Here's Why That Can Be Your Greatest Asset
It's a fact of life that some of us feel our emotions much more strongly than others, and if you've ever been told to suck it up or stop being so sensitive, you're definitely not alone.
It's called emotional sensitivity, but regardless of what you've heard, it's not a bad thing. In fact, according to psychologist Dr. Tracy Thomas, that sensitivity can be the most important tool in your arsenal. She's an expert on the subject, and we spoke with her about why sensitive people get such a bad rap, and how to deal if you're one of them.
Sweety High: What exactly is emotional sensitivity?
Tracy Thomas: Emotional sensitivity is really a superpower. Certain people have a level of emotional capacity where they are highly intuitive and able to feel a lot of what's going on around them in the world, and within their own self as well. They experience more, emotionally, than other people do. They feel love the deepest and can be the most loving, caring and compassionate people.
On the flip-side, emotionally sensitive people can feel even love in a slightly painful way because it's at such a high level that they don't necessarily know how to process effectively. It's an incredible gift, but they have to know exactly how to harness both powerful positive and negative emotions in the right direction. Otherwise, it can overwhelm people and give them a lot of difficulties.
SH: What can emotionally sensitive people do so their emotions don't overwhelm them?
TT: Remember that emotional sensitivity isn't just about deep and intense emotions. Intuitive capacity is also heightened. They feel not only their emotions, but other people's. They may not even know they have this awareness, and they're constantly soaking up a lot of information.
I'm a highly sensitive person myself. Even when I'm very focused on a number of things, I feel a lot of emotionality, and reactivity, all around. I can feel it globally if I tune into it. So I direct everything I feel into the direction of an outcome. If I feel something like anger or grief, I channel all of it into awesome intentions and outcomes. Instead of letting it overwhelm me, I asked myself what I can create with that anger, using it as a creative force rather than a disruptive one. That's probably the most important thing for people to understand.
If we don't, there are all kinds of negative symptoms. We can feel sick to our stomachs, feel heart palpitations, and experience physical tension and high blood pleasure. But when we direct that emotion into creating a specific outcome, that allows your entire force of emotion to have a positive impact instead of a negative one.
SH: What misconceptions do people have about emotional sensitivity?
TT: The top misconception is that emotionally sensitive people are weak or fragile. The word "sensitive" has been seen as a pejorative term, when it just means there's an increased sensory capacity. Your instrumentation is very high. They sense everything more acutely than the average person. That's a good thing.
Emotionally sensitive people need to know what to do with what they feel, and so much of the time, since most sensitive people are affected so negatively by what they're feeling—which isn't even necessarily their feeling. They have this incredible gift to know what's not good, what doesn't work, and they can bring that compassion forward and make the world a better, kinder place, solving issues for people in innovative ways.
SH: What suggestions do you have for emotionally sensitive people to navigate their everyday lives?
TT: Being in self-connection every waking moment of your life means that instead of chronically and unintentionally picking up on everything around, you're always monitoring yourself, your actions and your emotional state. Ask yourself if you're in an intention or a reaction. You're going to have more of your own experiences rather than picking up other people's.
At the same time, as a therapist and psychologist with this gift, when I want to understand someone's experience, I can open up and expand my connection to someone else. What does it feel like to be them? I can immediately understand that.
When you're in a constant, connected intention, you're doing the things you mean to do, instead of always reacting. That creates a boundary. Reaction can mean going into unwanted directions and absorbing more than they ever intended.
SH: What are some of the most productive ways to channel negative feelings?
TT: Start with being self-connected and having a relationship with yourself. When you have a relationship with yourself, it's not that different from observing another person's emotions and behaviors. Be in charge of yourself as if you were guiding another person. You actually end up doing what you intend to do. You'll start to notice changes in your emotional state, and the moment you start to feel your emotional state dropping, you can build it up again by asking yourself one simple question: "What's my intention right now?"
Being in an intention works to elevate your emotional state, and if you can keep doing that—What's my intention now? How about now?—you're putting yourself in a positive emotional state instead of getting into a chain reaction of feeling a little nervous or stressed, and then all of a sudden you're in a full-blown panic attack. The moment you feel stressed, ask yourself what you want your outcome to be, and you'll always find yourself moving forward instead of getting trapped. It gets rid of that anxiety, stress, depression and distraction and changes your whole way of being. It's the best and most foundational life skill that a person can have.
When you start practicing that at a young age, you get to skip over a ton of the drama and traumas that human beings—especially emotionally sensitive people—go through. Those feelings can impact people cognitively and impact their schoolwork and relationships. When they keep track of themselves and then decide to shift to an intention, the cumulative effect will elevate their ability to succeed. Without that, life can be a big struggle.
SH: Why did you find it important to create an Emotional Sensitivity Test?
TT: I created the assessment to help people understand that, even though emotionally sensitive people have a lot of similarities, they are still unique. Everyone's sensitivities vary. Some people experience stimuli at a higher and more intense level. Some people experience this stimulus as more of a physical thing, while others are visually or auditorially sensitive. There's such an amazing spectrum of different types of sensitivities, and that's not a negative thing.
I want people to understand their unique version of emotional sensitivity so they can know what direction to take it in. They answer questions about their sensitivities and experiences, generating a report about their archetype and some guidance on how to really use sensitivity as a superpower and put it to the best use.
You can click HERE to take Dr. Tracy Thomas's Emotional Sensitivity Test, and for more on the subject, click HERE to discover the seven signs you're emotionally evolving.