Sensitivity


Welcome to the ‘Look At All The Women’ Carnival: Week 3 – ‘The Eclectic Others’

This post was written especially for inclusion in the three-week-long ‘Look At All The Women’ carnival, hosted by Mother’s Milk Books, to celebrate the launch of Cathy Bryant’s new book ‘Look At All The Women’. In this final week of the carnival our participants share their thoughts on the theme ‘The Eclectic Others’ (the third, and final, chapter in Cathy’s new poetry collection).

Please read to the end of the post for a full list of carnival participants.

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Sensitivity by Marija Smits

Sensitivity by Marija Smits

 

Sensitivity

(a tanka)

 

Noise, movement, people,

chaos; my jangled senses

fret – rebel. I long

for quiet solitude, but

finding none I turn within.

 

MARIJA SMITS

 

When I used to teach biology at secondary school one of the first things I had to explain was ‘The 7 Signs of Life’. We used a helpful acronym – Mrs Nerg – to remind us of these 7 characteristics of all living things:

Movement

Reproduction

Sensitivity

Nutrition

Excretion

Respiration

Growth

I immediately picked up on the word ‘sensitivity’ – what a beautiful sounding word! But what exactly did it mean? Well, in essence, it means that all living things display sensitivity, which is the ability to detect changes in their environment. At the time I didn’t think much about how sensitivity applied to me (I was too busy explaining how bacteria and plants display sensitivity) but now sensitivity is something that I think about a huge amount.

After reading Quiet by Susan Cain, my amorphous thoughts on sensitivity became much more concrete. I wrote about my take on Quiet here, and how I found it to be a powerful read. In Quiet, the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron was referenced to quite a bit, and, thirsty for more information about sensitivity I bought it and am currently relishing every page. This is from the preface:

“Cry baby!”

“Scaredy-cat!”

“Don’t be a spoilsport!”

Echoes from the past? And how about this well-meaning warning: “You’re just too sensitive for your own good.”

Although the first three ‘echoes from the past’ weren’t a strong trigger for me – the last one was. After hearing this from trusted people on several occasions (and hearing it from myself too!) I was pretty sure that I was somehow ‘broken’. After all, the world is a tough place, and you just gotta toughen up. But Elaine Aron goes on to explain:

Having a sensitive nervous system is normal, a basically neutral trait. You probably inherited it. It occurs in about 15-20 percent of the population. It means you are aware of subtleties in your surroundings, a great advantage in many situations. It also means you are easily overwhelmed when you have been out in a highly stimulating environment for too long, bombarded by sight and sounds until you are exhausted in a nervous-system sort of way. Thus, being sensitive has both advantages and disadvantages.

So when I realized that it really is okay to be sensitive – that’s it merely about physiology I felt so much better. Understood. On a more even keel. It doesn’t take away the stress I feel when I do the school run or walk through a busy shopping centre or go to an event – all those people! all that noise! all that movement! – but it makes me appreciate the advantages – the fact that I am moved by the sun filtering through a canopy of leaves, a musical phrase, a line of poetry, a book, or even a bunch of coloured pencils (this really is incredible exciting to me at the moment!). It means that I can spot typos, concentrate for long periods of time and pick up on subtle nuances in the emotional state of my loved ones. So there are some benefits, right?

I think it’s important to point out that it’s not only women who are highly sensitive. BOTH men and women can be highly sensitive. Our western society seems to allow for sensitivity in women (to a certain extent) but in men it’s not so desirable. After all – the world is a tough place, and you just gotta toughen up.  

But here is my answer: NO. I cannot toughen up; I cannot make myself less sensitive, and I will not put on a constant persona to become the gregarious, social extrovert that society wants me to be all the time. Remember my wild woman post? Being wild is about being true to oneself, and this is me – often brought to tears over something sad, beautiful, or funny: often stroking my children’s hair – because, really, it’s just so beautiful with its fine texture, gorgeous smell and myriad subtle colours: and often in a dream world too, turning inwards to find the much needed soul-reflection which provides me with refreshment…

Of course I have strategies for managing my sensitivity and I admit that I’m constantly working on keeping my boundaries in place so that I give myself sufficient quiet time and room and space to be me, while ensuring that I put myself ‘out there’ enough to keep me stimulated, my ideas fresh and motivation high. I often have to remind myself that it’s okay to assert myself and fight for my own rights. But we all have our challenges, we all have to find balance in our lives. Just knowing that others (eclectic others!) are like me and experience similar sensations helps a lot.

If any of this makes sense to you in any way, please do let me know. But quietly. [Although you probably figured that out ;-)]


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Book cover for Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women by Cathy Bryant

Look At All The Women is now available to buy from:

The Mother’s Milk Bookshop (as a paperback and PDF) – we can ship books around the world!

and as a paperback from Amazon.co.uk.

It can also be ordered via your local bookshop.

If you’d like to know more about Mother’s Milk Books — our submission guidelines, who we are and what we do — please find more details here:

http://www.mothersmilkbooks.com/

Please take the time to read and comment on the following fab posts submitted by some wonderful women:

‘Heroines and Inspirations’— Cathy Bryant, guest posting at Mother’s Milk Books, shares two of her own powerful, inspiring poems, and the stories behind them.

‘Sensitivity’Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person.

Georgie St Clair shares her creative female heroines in her post ‘Creative Others: Mothers Who Have It All’

‘The Eclectic Others – Or What Would I Have Been Without You?’ — Kimberly Jamison posts to her blog The Book Word a thank you to the women of literature and history who have been in her life, shaped her life, saved her life and gave her a future.

‘Barbie speaks out’ — Ana Salote at Colouring Outside the Lines shares a platform with feminist icon, Barbie.

‘Her Village’ — An older (much older than most) first time mother, Ellie Stoneley from Mush Brained Ramblings firmly believes in the old African adage that it takes a village to raise a child. To that end she has surrounded her daughter with the love, mischief and inspiration of an extremely eclectic bunch of villagers.

Survivor writes about the inspiring life of La Malinche and her place in Mexican history at Surviving Mexico: Adventures and Disasters.

Sophelia writes about the importance of her community as a family at Sophelia’s Adventures in Japan.

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11 comments on “Sensitivity

  1. […] mentees learning so much, and I learnt a good deal about myself. (It once again confirmed for me my high-sensitivity — I worried a lot about being the best mentor I could be. I worried about getting stuff wrong. I […]

  2. […] the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron, I remembered reading about ‘chronic overarousal’ (or chronic overwhelm). This is when […]

  3. […] ‘Sensitivity’ — Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person. […]

  4. Sophelia says:

    Wow, this is a relatively short post but it brings up so many thoughts for me! Although I am perhaps somewhat more sensitive than most, my son is further along in sensory processing disorder territory. He spent the first eight years of his life in an orphanage surrounded by mostly older boys for whom the default state of behavior was a performance of machismo. For a child who loves climbing trees to watch beetles, and picking flowers, and who shuts down in loud, crowded spaces, it was a very hard environment and his “failure” to thrive there left him feeling that he was flawed. It has been a tremendous privilege to see him grow in confidence of the value of his sensitivity. A few months ago his class were giving presentations on what they wanted to be when they grew up, and he proudly declared “I want to be a kind person”. His classmates didn’t laugh; they cheered.

  5. e11ie5 says:

    I’m in love with Mrs Nerg … what a wonderful acronym. Sensitivity is vastly underrated, and I say that as someone who has been accused of being pathetic rather than sensitive. To me being sensitive is about awareness, about openness and about the possibility of love.

    Wonderful post and I LOVE your picture too … thank you

    • Marija Smits says:

      Thank you Cathy, Ana, Survivor and e11ie5 for your very kind words. I really needed to hear them tonight as there were patches of rough in my day today. You have touched me greatly :-)

      [p.s. and yes, I’m probably going to cry now!]

  6. Survivor says:

    There used to be a place in the world for such sensitive people. They were given positions of honor rather than told to conform. How sad that culture has changed so much.

  7. ana salote says:

    Beautiful post, beautiful picture. I’ve never understood why quietness is viewed as a social handicap in our culture. Far worse, imo, are the people who don’t seem able to have a thought without vocalising it, no matter how banal. You’re very lucky to feel the nuances and take such pleasure in them, and to enjoy your own mind without needing outside validation.

  8. […] ‘Sensitivity’ — Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person. […]

  9. Cathy Bryant says:

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE this post. I remember, “Stop being oversensitive!” – as if there is a pre-agreed level of acceptable sensitivity… Frankly I think the world could do with a lot less toughness and a lot more sensitivity. The books and theories sound fascinating too. And a bunch of coloured pencils IS exciting – so many possibilities! So many rainbows!

  10. […] ‘Sensitivity’ — Marija Smits shares a poem, with an accompanying image, that gives a glimpse into the inner workings of a highly sensitive person. […]

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