The Union Path Podcast - A practical spiritual podcast about truth, awareness, and walking the path of unity.
The Union Path Podcast
"Sensitivity Is a Gift"
0:00:20 - John Coleman
sensitivity, it seems anyway, is one of those gifts that, almost in a paradoxical way, often initially presents itself as a burden. If we're a sensitive person and we've gotten through some amount of life, chances are we've heard about it and we've heard about it in a negative way. Oh, we're too sensitive, oh, we need to lighten up, oh, we need to cheer up, we need to calm down. But going through life feeling like we need to be different than we are obviously is not only extremely challenging, can be quite stunting, can be quite confusing, can be really difficult to try to find our way through life when we feel like something about the way we are is fundamentally wrong. And if we adopt this belief, if we internalize this belief, we can build all sorts of coping strategies. And often a lot of these coping strategies can be pretty unhealthy, can be pretty unhelpful. Sometimes these coping strategies can actually lead us further into confusion, further into losing a sense of who we really are and what really matters to us, where we're really going, what we really want. We can go through life trying to change ourselves, trying to be different than we really are. And if this is the case, if we've felt this way, if we feel this way right now.
I think it's useful to challenge this a little bit, to challenge these ideas of are we sure? Is this really true? Because obviously no one's perfect and obviously everyone needs to work on things, everyone needs to grow, everyone needs to evolve. No matter how advanced or good we think we already are, there's always room for improvement. This isn't about assuming that just because we exist, we must be perfect. But this is about adopting an idea, a default idea of self-acceptance, adopting a default idea that maybe, just maybe, in fact probably, there's nothing actually fundamentally wrong with me. Of course I have challenges. Of course I have things I need to work on. Of course I make mistakes. That's part of the human experience, that's how we learn and grow.
But this idea of being overly sensitive, this idea of being too sensitive, of going through life trying to constantly tamp this down, the effects of this can be really damaging. I'd make the argument that that's why a lot of us turn to unhealthy activities, turn to unhealthy substances, turn to any way to just kind of numb out, to drown out, to cope with what feels like just too much. Too much information, too much stimulation, too much input. We just want it all to just be quiet, just to shut up for a minute, just to be able to hear ourselves think. But the thing is, if we're already sensitive, if we're already any way, we do ourselves a pretty big disservice by not acknowledging it and honoring it, because we are how we are and we get much further by working with ourselves than against ourselves. That, at the core level, at the fundamental level of our ideas about ourselves, needs to be acceptance. Again doesn't mean that there can't be tons of things that we want to improve, tons of things that we want to change, but at some level we need to accept ourselves. We need to accept ourselves as we are and then move forward from there. Move forward with whatever growth and improvement and change that feels appropriate, that feels necessary for us.
Because one of the problems of feeling like we're overly sensitive and trying to drown that out, trying to tamp that down, is that we lose access to what is actually a gift or is actually a talent. Because sensitivity is a talent. It is a gift. Being able to sense things, being able to hear things, being able to see things, being able to know things, being able to intuit things that other people can't, that's a gift, that's a talent. That's what those things are. That is a unique ability. Am I trying to smash and squash our own senses?
But trying to admonish this gift and make ourselves insensitive isn't really particularly effective and isn't really particularly helpful, because we are what we are. We are who we are and, at the very least, we're losing the opportunity to actually take advantage of this. We're losing the opportunity that lies in our own sensitivity Because we're not actually engaging with it. We're trying to repress it, we're trying to suppress it, and in that repression and suppression, that conflict will play out in a myriad of ways, because if it's a fundamental part of us, it's never going to go away, cannot change who and what we are at a fundamental level, at a deep level, at our most base level, and so we might as well learn to lean into it, we might as well learn to accept it, we might as well learn to work with it, because, beyond just living with it, there has to be something positive in there somewhere. We have to be the way we are for a reason. There has to be some gain in being ourselves at a fundamental level.
The purpose of life, in my belief anyway, can't be just to deny who we are perfectly forever and then we die. The very least, that doesn't seem very fair, but more practically, that actually feels impossible. Because if we're going through life pretending, if we're going through life wearing a mask, if we're going through life being someone else, our real selves will peek through. We can't help it. We can't perfectly obscure who and what we really are. I think we've all noticed this.
When we get into relationships with someone, at first it kind of feels like we're meeting that person's representative, or the very least that person's idea of what the ideal version of them is. But over time we get to know more of the real them. But this isn't conscious. We see it peek out, we see it around the corners, we see it through the gaps. That if we're paying attention to people, they can't hide their true selves for very long. If we're really watching what they do, if we're really listening to what they say, if we're really paying attention to how they are, how they act, how things affect them, how they seem to affect other people, people tell us who they are. But we have to be willing to listen and interestingly, coincidentally, this is one of the areas where sensitivity is actually the most helpful this ability to quote unquote read people, read a situation, read a room.
But what is that gift really? That's sensitivity, that's being able to take in the subtle, little nuanced sensations that we pick up, that other people may miss or just overlook, that we can see what things really are. We can get to the truth of people places things faster and usually more accurately, than other people, other people who would consider themselves less sensitive. And we can definitely get to the truth faster than people that were insensitive, because a lot of times insensitivity runs contrary towards the truth. The people who are the most insensitive are the ones who have to live in their own special reality, who live in their own bubble, who don't really seem to take into account other people. They have their own version of things that feels like the truth to them but doesn't really seem to be a shared truth with anyone else. And it's the way I see it anyway.
This is one of the many gifts of mid-age, of going through any kind of transition in our life where identity, our outward identity, the way we're thought of, the way we're seen, shifts a little. Those shifts are always opportunities to reorient, to reconsider, to renegotiate how we've been and how we want to be, and the more we do that based on who we really are, the better. When we go through these thresholds of change in our life, this is an opportunity to shed, to jettison what doesn't serve us, what isn't real, what isn't true, what isn't helpful, what isn't nourishing, what isn't good for us, what isn't right for us, what isn't actually us, and move towards a more true, a more authentic expression, a more authentic and true way of being. And if we find ourselves having stuffed down our sensitivity, if we find ourselves having to go through life constantly having to manage ourselves, constantly trying to be different, constantly trying to act like things don't really get to us, things don't really bother us, things don't really upset us. Conversely, things don't really excite us, we aren't really passionate about things, we aren't really fired up about things, we aren't excited about things, maybe we can find ways.
Use this as an opportunity to stop pretending so much and learn to work with our sensitivity, because, it is true, undeveloped or underdeveloped sensitivity can actually be fairly unhelpful. It can be really difficult to go through situations where our sensitivity isn't really developed yet, we haven't really gotten our arms around it, we haven't really developed the facility and the ability to express our sensitivity in healthy ways or kind of immature about it. And so this undeveloped sensitivity can be damaging or, at the very least, can be expressed in ways we don't really want to express it. But that's the whole reason of acknowledging it, that's the whole value in honoring it, so we can start to learn with it, we can start to develop it, we can take this talent and start building some skills around it, because undeveloped talent is only so useful. The value of undeveloped talent tends to run out fairly quickly.
What's really useful, what's really handy, is developed talent, it's working with talent, it's building a set of skills around it to be able to use it in a skillful way, in a mindful way, in a conscious way. And we can only do that through acknowledging it, we can only do that through leaning into it, we can only do that by being sensitive. Because if we are sensitive, we might as well be sensitive, but find ways to be sensitive in a healthy way, in a helpful way, in a productive way, in a way that doesn't cause us damage, that doesn't cause other people damage. That isn't a problem, because, like some gifts in my opinion anyway the gift of sensitivity is one that needs to be developed Sensitivity. When it kind of first comes out is a little rough, it can have some sharp edges to it, it can be difficult to work with, but we can get it better if we practice. We can get better over time. And this is true about any of our talents, this is true about any aspect of ourselves. The more we consciously work with it, the better things get.
Where the problems come in is when we deny our gifts, deny our talents, deny aspects about who we are, that we stuff these fundamental aspects of ourselves way far down, as deep as we can go, and then try to cover them up with our own acting, with our own performance, with unhealthy or unhelpful behavior, with unhealthy or unhelpful substances. Because again, at some point to live a full life we have to accept ourselves fully Warts and all blemishes and all problems and all deficits and all. We can't deny away fundamental parts of ourselves and expect to live a good life. Because if we are denying the fullness of ourselves, that sets us up to also deny the full life we actually want. There's a congruence there that a full life is lived fully with our full selves. And if we section off parts of ourselves and never be expressed, never be lived through, then we set ourselves up for an equally fractional life.
If we build a persona and a personality that isn't really us, if we express ourselves in a way that is actually someone else, then we find ourselves living someone else's life that will never really fit, that will never really feel right, that will never really feel comfortable, that will never really feel like ours because it isn't so in a lot of ways at least. In my opinion, we really have no choice. If we want to live a full life, we have to accept ourselves fully. We have to work with ourselves fully. We have to express ourselves fully, but do so in a developed and skillful way, do so in a conscious way.
In a funny way this is kind of the paradox of self-awareness Got to face value. It can seem like really getting to know ourselves, really going deep within ourselves, really exploring ourselves, really befriending ourselves, really honoring ourselves, is actually really self-centered, is actually really arrogant and kind of gross. But the truth is that the better we know ourselves, the more aware we are of ourselves. Often, the better person we become. Because all those qualities that we don't like, all of that superficiality, all of the fakeness, all of the manipulation and treachery, deception and just bad treatment that we witness from people is usually done in unconsciousness.
Very few people set out to do those sorts of things on purpose. Often those behaviors are a reaction to something else, usually a reaction to something that that person is desperately trying to keep hidden. So we are encountering, we're interacting with their defense mechanisms, with their force fields, with their shields that they've erected around parts of themselves that they not only don't want anyone else to know exist, they themselves don't even want to acknowledge. And the unfortunate thing, too, is that if we're sensitive, we can find ourselves doing the same thing. If we don't acknowledge our sensitivity, we can become really defensive. We can get really good at attacking other people as a way to assuage attacks on ourselves, as a way to deflect what we perceive as attacks on our own sensitivity, as attacks on who and what we really are. So again, it behooves us, just for our own good, just for our own growth, just for our own development, to honor and acknowledge ourselves, to appreciate ourselves, to be able to see ourselves fully and then find ways to express ourselves fully and, all along the way, seize opportunities for growth, seize opportunities for improvement, seize opportunities for refinement. And while we're doing this, also know.
Sensitivity is a gift, it is a talent, but like all gifts and talents, in order to really be fully used, it has to be developed, and we can develop it by leaning into it. We can start by doing something really simple. We can start by learning how to listen. We can start by getting quiet and listening to ourselves. This is what every meditation practice is about, at least at the start, is just paying attention, using these abilities around sensitivity to be able to pay full attention, to pay deep attention. That's part of the gift.
And notice. Notice what our thinking is really like. Notice what our inner dialogue is really like. Notice what's actually happening inside of us. Notice what feelings we're harboring. How does our stomach feel right now? How does our heart feel right now? How does our throat feel right now? How does our head feel right now? Just notice, and, when we notice, inquire after it.
Well, why would that be? What does my throat feel like I'm being kind of lightly strangled. What does my head feel like it's caught in a vice? What does my heart feel like there's someone sitting on my chest? What does my stomach feel like it's subtly being twisted? And if we have these awarenesses, to sit with them, get curious about them, wonder why would that be? Why would my head be constrained? What am I not allowing myself to think? What am I not allowing myself to entertain? Or what am I feeling like I'm being forced to think that I don't really believe? Where are my ideas in conflict? If my throat feels tight? What am I not saying? What am I not expressing? What words am I holding back? If my heart feels heavy? What pain am I experiencing right now? What's hurt me? What am I sad about? My stomach feels like it's twisting, bothering me right now. What am I doing that I don't want to? How am I living that isn't really me? What deception am I a part in, or am I a party to? This is where this gift of sensitivity really shines. I'm being able to take that sensitivity and point it inward, really be able to look and see, to know what's going on right now, in this moment. What's happening for me right now? What else can I know about my experience right now? How can I deepen my understanding about what's really happening to me, what's really going on?
Of course, we can expand this sensitivity in an outward way too. We can go for a walk and do nothing more than just listen. Hear the sound of our feet on the pavement or the ground. Hear the sound of our clothes rubbing as we walk. If it's not the middle of winter, what are the birds doing right now? Who's mowing their lawn? Is that a leaf blower? I think that's two leaf blowers. And just listen, not to get anything, not to learn anything. Just develop the ability to hear, to really hear, to really pay attention to what's going on.
If you want to expand it a bit, look around what's around you right now. What do you notice? Can you look closely at something you've walked past a thousand times and notice something new? If you walk past a tree, can you look at the pattern in the leaf? If you walk past a rose, can you notice the intricacy and the delicateness of the flowers? Look around, see what you see. Deepen your awareness with your surroundings, with what's happening.
Lean into your sensitivity, learn how to listen, learn how to feel, learn how to sense. You can do this intuitively too. When you think about a situation that's happening right now or a situation that you're thinking about doing, sit and get quiet and just hold that situation and see what comes up. What do you feel intuitively? What is your body doing? If you're thinking about doing something, if you're trying to make a decision, you feel yourself leaning towards it or away from it. If you sense one of these, that's interesting because, in my experience anyway, that's a bit of a fundamental clue that your body either wants to go or it doesn't. Maybe your body knows something that you're not fully aware of yet. Think about various situations to see what comes up, see what associations come up.
Sit with your sensitivity, develop it, listen, honor it, feel, see. This is how the gift sensitivity gets developed. This is how it starts to get really useful by using it, by trying, by practicing, by developing it. This is the only other ability we could be born with. Yeah, it's amazing to be good at something the first time you try it, but what's even better is if you develop that talent, you develop real abilities around it. We can do this with our sensitivity. Our sensitivity can be in service of us, instead of a burden, instead of something holding us back, can actually propel us forward. It allows us to go into and through life with more information, with more clarity, because as we develop it, we'll learn to trust it, we'll learn to use it, it'll become a valuable tool. It'll become a very valuable thing we can do to help us go through life in a more skillful way, in a more conscious way, in a more awake and aware way. And we can get to this point if we honor it, if we use it, if we lean into it, if we acknowledge it, if we develop it, because sensitivity is a gift, is a gift that not only helps us every day but can help us live our best life.