In this world of being politically correct, socially acceptable and morally accountable comes a new participant bringing with it the ability to regulate how others perceive who you are, what you should say and how you say it. Our sensitivity cuts two ways. Either we can be considered too sensitive (hyper) or insensitive (hypo). But before we get too deep into pros and cons it would be best to be clear on what we mean by being sensitive.
Most of us, at least initially, associate sensitivity with our physical modes in connecting with our environment. That is to say, what we see, hear, taste, smell and feel (tactile) is usually what first comes to mind when we talk about our senses. But the word itself isn’t limited to just the physical. When we’re by ourselves or just dealing with bodily sensations our perceptions are mostly just physical. But when we connect with others the field becomes expanded to other domains which are structured and monitored by our minds and our perceptions of how we are affecting others or being affected or perceived by others.
The word sense can be used in terms of a noun or a verb. The noun will describe a state of being and the verb will describe our action. This differentiation is at the root of how we apply its meaning. As a noun it will be what we perceive or believe to be true or not. As a verb it will be the act of sensing itself but not necessarily what we are sensing.
When we are by ourselves sense is more about the verb or the act of sensing such as “I see the sun is setting” or “I feel the chair slipping out from under me” which we most likely feel but not necessarily say to ourselves. In contrast, when we are with others its emphasis is more on the noun and a statement about what’s being sensed. Such as “I sense that you’re wanting to leave” or “I sense that you’re being considerate.” So, when the sensing is connected to others and the state of things the mind assesses and pronounces the condition. When the sensing only involves ourselves, the verb or the action is felt and the mind doesn’t come into play. Although the state may only be the direction of the sensing when we’re alone, it’s the action of sensing that is most important. But when the sensing involves others, it’s the state, condition or conclusions arrived at that’s most important. Notice that in both cases, alone or with others, both the noun and verb are in use but which has more emphasis is determined by whether we are alone or not.
This may seem like splitting hairs but it’s very important for understanding how we process our sensing and how it’s perceived differently when dealing with other people. When we’re alone, we focus mostly on the action. When we’re with others we focus mostly on the results of that action. That being said, let’s move on to understand our thresholds for sensing relative to the intensity of what we’re receiving.
For some of us, we limit our ability to sense to our physical faculties. In doing this it also mutes our capability to sense beyond what we sense physically. Why? Because when we open up to other dimensions such as intuition or feeling we can become overwhelmed if our environment is perceived as being very stressful. It feels like there is too much happening for us to comfortably process. Much of the stress we feel in our day to day environment comes from waves and energy surges coming from others that broadcast below our physical senses that run contrary to where we prefer our head space to be. That is, what comes from the outside world often seems to feel overly coercive and interferes with the peace and comfort we work at establishing within our own space. This seems to be felt the strongest by those of us who are introverts. Introverts are, the most often, very sensitive receivers of emotional currents. Generally, extroverts are too busy projecting to notice that anything is being received, let alone, that it might have any effect on them. What is ironic is that many extroverts project as strongly as they do so they don’t have to feel or receive. They may be conscious of what they’re doing but most often they’re not. So the extrovert projects their own current to mute or dampen the incoming interference and the introvert simply turns off or mutes their “receptors.” Both extroverts and introverts receive but they handle the “overload” differently.
So, back to our hyper and hypo sensitivity. If what I say follows, then introverts are perceived as being hyper-sensitive because they are being perceived as being too sensitive to what others project and extroverts are perceived as being hypo-sensitive because by projecting they are being perceived by others as being insensitive or not listening to what others might feel from their projections. Remember, both are simply trying to prevent being overloaded and losing their balance and comfort.
Now, let’s take this understanding a step further. It is usually the introverts that accuse the extroverts of being hypo-sensitive or insensitive and it is usually the extroverts who accuse the introverts of being hyper-sensitive or over-sensitive.
Let’s bring one more dimension into play; the method or ploy used by each to get what they want. Now mind you, I’m looking at their individual conditions as being representative of personalities who are imbalanced.
People who feel ineffectual in dealing with the world and who are extroverts often assume the position of a bully. They will use their projection as a means of overwhelming others into behaving in a way that makes them feel like they have control. The extrovert’s tool of choice is fear. When the ones they bully object to their attempted coercion, the extrovert accuses them of being hyper-sensitive.
People who feel ineffectual in dealing with the world and who are introverts often assume the position of the persecuted. They will use accusations of oppression and persecution as a means of shaming others into behaving in a way that makes them feel entitled and must be compensated for their oppression. The introvert’s tool of choice is guilt. When the oppressors refuse to offer retribution, the introverts accuse them of being insensitive. This method of manipulation has often been referred to as the Tyranny of the Weak.
So, when someone accuses you of being hyper-sensitive, a little red flag should be raised in your awareness. Where is this accusation coming from? Am I really being hyper-sensitive or is it simply a ploy to manipulate me into giving them what they want?
When someone accuses you of being insensitive, are you really being so or is it simply their ploy to make you open up to what they want you to believe that they are entitled to?
Both ploys are immature and come from a place of low self-esteem. They believe that their feeling of being undeserving has left them no other option but to get what they want from you than through manipulation. Whether they get what they want this way or not, either way, it is a hollow victory for them. If these are people who you value and are close to you, your only option is applying tough love and adhering to what you want but making them aware that when you give to them it is because you choose to not because of their manipulation. Over time, your repeated pointing to this understanding might eventually make them feel comfortable enough with you to trust your right to choose your own life path and values and to trust that what you feel about their worth might be enough for them to accept themselves as being “worthy.” Realize, you may be counteracting years of childhood training that told them otherwise. Do what you can do in this way and it may provide enough encouragement for them to change their opinion about their own value. The need for manipulation may then just fall away.