“Yes, I’m Sensitive!” 5 Things You Need To Know About Sensitive People

I remember being in the car with my mom.  I was upset about something, something that happened between us.  I remember it was an argument about one of my teachers, how angry they got me.  I don’t remember much else, but I remember that feeling of upset-ness.  Anger, shielding me from whatever pain was going on inside.

I was ranting and raving and all that, and I think she was trying to stay calm.

I remember, at some point there was this lull, and she said something like, “You know, Elad, I think you’re just a sensitive person.  Most people wouldn’t have gotten that upset over [insert whatever teacher said here] or [insert whatever my mother said here].”

I remember feeling this screeching inside of me, like someone had taken my internal chalkboard and run their nails over it.

“I’m not sensitive!” I yelled at her.

I’m not sure why it’s taken me 20 years to realize the irony, but here we are.

Yes, I’m a sensitive person, I’ve come to realize.  I think being diagnosed with bipolar made that easier to accept.

Over time, I’ve found a beauty to this sensitivity.  I’ve realized that it allows me to see and feel the world in a way that others may not be able to.  It leads me to explore the world, like a dog smelling something for the first time, I have to follow my senses wherever they take me.

But it’s taken a long time to find that beauty, to see it within myself and to realize that there are others like me as well.

“The Sensitive People,” I guess they’d be called.  The people like me who when the world pricks them with a needle, they bleed like an artery popped.  But that blood runs quick because every emotion is heightened, and so we have our own strengths, our own beautiful lives to experience.

So why did it take me so long to realize this, I wonder?  Why did it grate me so intensely when my mother told me something purely innocent and true?  Why did I see being sensitive as so horrible?

I’ve realized something over this time in my life, the part where I’ve learned to accept my own sensitivity: we live in a world (the Western one, you see, not the whole world) that does not value sensitivity.

Sure, we love it when our celebrities, probably sensitive people themselves, fall apart because of the stress of living in the lime light.  Sure, we love the art or whatever else can result from someone who has harnessed their inner sensitivity.  But sensitivity in the people around us, actually dealing with and seeing sensitivity in front of our eyes is at best uncomfortable, and at worst a reason for derision.

Now, I don’t blame the Normal People for misunderstanding what it means to live perpetually with a thin skin, or no skin at all.

I think we have this culture that has grown from toughness.  The world used to be much tougher than it is now, and it was probably necessary for folks like us to shut our pie holes, get with the program, and ignore that inner sensitivity.

And so let me offer an olive branch to my thick-skinned Normal brothers and sisters: I’d like to help you understand a bit about how we sensitive folks operate, and why you might be confused when we react a certain way to your actions.

1. We hate being teased

This one’s an interesting one, because teasing is, in many ways, woven into our culture without us even realizing it.  Jerry on Parks and Recreation gets teased as if it’s justified.  In practically every comedy, actually, there always seems to be some foil that is teased mercilessly by other characters (From Arrested Development to Veep to Curb you’ll find these characters.  Just look around).

Teasing (as opposed to bullying) is usually seen as a harmless sport, just a way of joking around.  In fact, when a Sensitive Person reacts negatively to teasing the response is usually, “It was only a joke!”

But Normal People, you need to understand: every tease to a sensitive person is extremely painful, even if said in jest and with no intention to hurt or offend.

Most of us get it: you’re just screwing around.  But my gosh, it still hurts us.  Especially if it’s about a fault we have or about something we care deeply about.  This culture of teasing has led many a sensitive person to hide away in misery, withdrawing from the people around him, or reacting angrily, or simply feeling pained and hurt.

Do you know a sensitive person in your life?  Do them a favor: never tease them.  They’ll love you for it.

2. Your tone is powerful

Imagine you have a knife in your hand.  Without knowing it, you’re waving it around, and every now and then scratching, cutting, or stabbing the person near you.

This is what the tone of a Normal Person is like to a Sensitive Person.  Granted, many Sensitive People have trouble controlling their own tones, which is quite sad.  But usually, Sensitive People are aware of the knife in their hands and regret when they use it.

Your tone, dear Normal Person has the power to either bring us up to unimagined heights or to stab us in the heart.  You’d be amazed how much an angry tone from one person, especially someone we care about deeply, can destroy an entire day for us.  It’s how we’re hardwired, and not something we can control except to shove all the emotion we feel under a layer of anxiety or anger or depression.

3. We love touch, positivity, and TLC

Just as we are sensitive to the negative things in life, we are sensitive to the positive.  Things like a tender touch on the shoulder by a loved one, or praise for a job well done by a boss, or even a caring word from a stranger can make our day beautiful.  We absorb so much, and when positivity surrounds us, we feel it deeply (incidentally, Sensitive People, this is why you need to search out the people who will give you this).

Just one word.  Just a gesture.  It will change our day.  And we’ll be forever grateful to you.

4.  We often mask our sensitivity

We live in a culture, as I’ve mentioned, that does not take kindly to the Sensitive folk.  It frowns and scratches its head as it tries to ponder and understand the behavior of someone whose day was ruined by a tiny tease.

And so you may not know that you’re dealing with a Sensitive Person.  You could even be married to one, or managing one, or given birth to one.  But you might not know it by the way they act.

Most Sensitive folks have had enough experiences being misunderstood that they hide their inner nature.  They take on jocular tones when someone teases.  They get angry instead of crying (which is what they really want to do) when your tone cuts into them.

The worst of all is when they’ve spent so many years trying to end their sensitivity that they think they’ve conquered it.  Really, these ones usually tend to be cynical and jaded, their brains almost always working on overdrive to keep their emotions hidden and unknown.  Instead, running to “logic” and other such devices to mask who they really are.

The point is this: if you suddenly see a bizarre reaction from someone, one that seems perhaps agressive or cynical or passive/non-reactive, you may be dealing with a “blocked” Sensitive Person.  It is in these cases even more important that you deal sensitively.  This is a person who’s been through the worst of it and has chosen (concisously or unconciously) to take the hiding way out.  And try, if you can, to identify these people in your life.  They will need your positive embrace more than anyone else you know.

5.  No, the internet doesn’t help

Many people seem to think that having a screen between them and someone else is some sort of protective shield for the other person.  So everyone from the Normals to the Sensitives will lash out, or tease, or shame without a thought as to how this affects the person on the other end.

You can see some interesting results from the most extreme of these situations. In some situations where people were witch hunted online, the worst public shaming someone can really get on the web, there have been some people who have reported symptoms of PTSD.  Some haven’t left their house or stopped using the intenret.  And then there were others who were completely fine afterwards.  At the time it was hard for them, of course, but they quickly righted themselves after it was all over.

A Sensitive Person can’t just let go of negativity or pain after he or she has absorbed it.  It stays with them, perhaps like a literal wound of the mind that takes longer to heal than others.

So, just remember, Normal Person, when you’re behind that keyboard that all the things above, from tone to positivity to teasing, can affect us Sensitives.  There is no difference except that you can’t see how much it hurts us (or raises us up).

Sensitive People are everywhere, even if you don’t realize it.  Perhaps the biggest tip I can give to a Normal Person is to simply become more aware that such people exist.  As I mentioned before, they may be so good at hiding this reality about themselves that the closest people to you maybe Sensitive People and you might have absolutely no idea.

Try to keep an eye out.  Try to raise your own sensitivity a notch.  Just to be aware of who might be one such person, someone who may not even realize it themselves.

And, of course, life is better for everyone when we’re generally more positive, less tease-y, and more aware of the emotions of others.  So it never hurts to practice these traits anyway.

Either way, I hope this post was helpful.  I believe the internet will allow us Sensitives and you Normals to connect more, to understand each other more.  Here’s to a new era of Normal-Sensitive relations.





23 responses to ““Yes, I’m Sensitive!” 5 Things You Need To Know About Sensitive People”

  1. Tzvi Kilov Avatar
    Tzvi Kilov

    Thanks for the candor of this piece and for making us sensitive (argh) to these concerns. I consider myself perhaps ex-sensitive? Callused sensitive? As we know from past interaction, I’m certainly not as sensitive as you are, though perhaps I might once have been…Blocked sensitive? Who knows.

  2. Aryeh Laufer Avatar
    Aryeh Laufer

    I couldn’t bring myself to write a grammin (is there an english word for that?) or roast even where its socially accepted (end of camp, wedding celebration) and I thought I was crazy. I guess just crazy sensitive. I’m still coming to terms with my sensitivity though…Does take a while

  3. Mr_Cohen Avatar

    “Jokes can hurt, too.”

    SOURCE: Gossip (chapter 8, page 59) by Lori Palatnik with Bob Burg, year 2002 CE, published by Simcha Press, Deerfield Beach, Florida, ISBN: 0757300553

  4. Mr_Cohen Avatar

    Ancient Rabbis threatened the severest penalties and greatest punishments against people who spread rumors or gossip about their fellow Jews.

    The penalties and punishments will be even greater for those who spread rumors or gossip about sensitive people, because sensitive people suffer more when people talk trash about them.

    Many Baalei Teshuvah are sensitive people, because it was their sensitivity that drew them to Torah.
    People who spread rumors believe that Baalei Teshuvah are good targets for
    their rumors and gossip and slanders, because Baalei Teshuvah have nobody to defend them. The rumor-spreaders do not care that when the reputation of a Baal Teshuvah is destroyed by rumors, he [or she] has no place to go, except back to the secular world from which he [or she] came.

    Punishments of maximum severity will be decreed against people who spread rumors about Baalei Teshuvah.

    1. Yosef Werner Avatar
      Yosef Werner

      …and Gerim…

  5. rebecca.odessa Avatar

    I’m guessing all the ‘normal’ people must live in America…because I never met a soul who isn’t exquisitely sensitive.

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Yep, totally think it’s a cultural thing. And where the hell do you live and can I move there?

      1. rebecca.odessa Avatar

        Hahaha…I’m currently living on a little island in the Irish Sea…but was born and raised in New Zealand.

        I have a theory about sensitivity.

        I think everyone is sensitive – mostly because we are all going to die…we know it…and that’s scary. We manifest our sensitivity in different ways and certainly the way we protect ourselves can be very different. One of the primary ways we protect ourselves is by developing a personality (from the Greek word persona…meaning: mask). Kinda creating a false self to wear in public. A self that is witty and current and able to deflect any problematic incoming data; a self that can manipulate and sell and change thinking and get ahead. Still, everyone is sensitive and raw under the mask.

        My theory is…the ‘sensitive’ people you speak of are really just people who have dispensed with the mask somewhere along the way…they’re out and raw and vulnerable…they’re authentic. Other people (often those who have had it easy) so identify with their mask/personality that they believe it to be the self. They do and say all the right things…are charming and seem impervious to slight or damage – you could call them hyper-normal. I think Western Cultural
        does a good trade in hyper-normals…thanks to the entertainment industry and mass consumption. With their fears and vulnerabilities supressed, such people seem fabulous…until some crisis befalls them…the mask disintegrates and a breakdown ensues. Of course, most people are somewhere in the middle…they dust off the well-worn mask for public events and are a bit of mess behind closed
        doors. Personally, I like my folk straight up, authentic…though a little bit of personality goes a long way and is great for putting people at ease. As for hyper-normals…I just ain’t buying it…scratch the surface and you’ll probably find a blubbering mess like the rest of us…they’re human after all!

        Anyway, that’s my theory.

        1. Lua Jane Avatar
          Lua Jane

          I just loved reading your post and it’s so true. We’re all going to die. We’re all going to eventually be ill and/or old. We all suffer more or less in everyday life, and if that isn’t enough to start treating each other with respect and warmth, understanding, then what is?
          I also don’t buy those hyper normal either. It’s just a better or a more consistent mask, but people with vulnerability, self doubt, questions and ideals are best people to have around.

          1. rebecca.odessa Avatar

            I agree totally…you’d think our collective fate would engender greater kindness – perhaps there will be a shift towards this as we continue to throw off the yolk of patriarchy…which, socially, has been disastrous for men and women.

            And yes, a better and more consistent mask! Have you heard of the Japanese concepts of Honne and Tatemae – that is, the private mind and the public mind respectively? In case you haven’t – Honne signifies one’s true feelings and desires – the side of oneself shown at home or with close friends. Tatemae is what is expected of one in the public sphere. It is thought to have evolved to avoid conflict and spare other people’s feelings in public. There is a clear delineation between the two selves, of which one is aware…which I suppose could be quite helpful – and would prevent people form over identifying with their ‘masks’ and becoming hyper-normal. However, from articles I have read it is actually causing significant social problems for newer generations as they try to cope with increased materialism and westernisation (which, while very interesting in itself, is a whole other story).

            Here is a blog post by a Japanese woman which concepts beautifully.


        2. Marvin Falz Avatar
          Marvin Falz

          I wonder if one aspect of Tikkun Olam is getting rid of the mask and returning to one’s innocence, to the self-place, to HaMakom.

          1. rebecca.odessa Avatar

            That’s an interesting idea Marvin…and though I’m no expert, it sounds right to me…especially, if by mask, we mean the hyper-normal state discussed above. I think the tricky is…while the personality should not be mistaken for the self, it does seem to be welded to the self in some sort of inseparable way…so dispensing with it all together is probably impossible. But definitely, returning to a more authentic self – free from guise, shallow charm and manipulation (the hallmarks of over-extended personality) – would be better for all.
            May I ask: can you explain the term Ha-Makom? I am familiar with it as a name of Gd – but not as a state of being…which you seem to suggest – I’m intrigued.

          2. rebecca.odessa Avatar

            I was just coming back to reply to your second comment – about The meaning of HaMakom – but it seems to have disappeared…maybe it’s just my phone…or perhaps you deleted it – which would be a shame…because I thought what you said was beautiful.
            I love the idea of Gd being called The Place…something about that moves me…while, simultaneously, being slightly beyond my comprehension…as though there is only a faint glimmer of understanding…but a powerful glimmer none the less.
            I read this about HaMakom:
            “He is the place of the world but the world is not his place.” I think that’s beautiful.

          3. Marvin Falz Avatar
            Marvin Falz

            Thank you, Rebecca!

            According to disqus, my second comment is pending, maybe because I’ve edited it. I only changed a typo. I wait for some time and if the comment doesn’t appear, I’ll repost it. Maybe Elad can help?

            What you write about your feelings about G-d being called The Place is exactly what I feel. I feel like simultaneously understanding something about the nature of my existence in the world and standing in front of a new mystery. Everytime I seem to understand, new questions arise. Also I feel that The Place and other mysteries bear so many possibilities, while at the same time I don’t know what possibilities. There seems to be a constant contradiction of what is possible and what really is. But time is a reality in this world and everything I see in my mind is time-delayed, I mean, I see it but it is not instantly realised. Which is good, since my mind isn’t always clean and pure. I get angry from time to time and I really have to be cautious and conscious to not let anger rule me.

            “He is the place of the world but the world is not his place.” – That’s so powerful. G-d must have given humans the ability to keep the world – at least the human world – in a condition where not only all of us are able to survive in relative wealth, but where all of us LOVE to exist.

          4. rebecca.odessa Avatar

            I wonder if it is because you attached a link…some blogs pend comments if they contain links or images.
            I had a thought this morning…
            I once saw a documentary on quantum physics…and it said that the stuff in atoms pop in and out of existence…and resemble thoughts, rather than matter. My thought was: what if it’s more a case that they pop in and out of ‘perceivable existence’ – and the place that they exist, when not being perceived, is HaMakom.
            I have to say, I’d really like that to be the case…I can’t explain why…or what it really means…but it makes me feel good.
            I guess because it may mean that we, on a soul level, simultaneously exist in this world and in HaMakom (at least it seems simultaneous because the popping in and out is so quick it’s imperceptible). And, therefore, when we die…we stop existing in the perceivable world – that apprehended by the senses – and continue existing in HaMakom…where we have always existed. That way…we’ll be where we already are.

          5. Marvin Falz Avatar
            Marvin Falz

            Wow, that’s actually really beautiful too. So now, I imagine that G-d loves me and everybody else, and I’m in a good mood. Thank you.

          6. rebecca.odessa Avatar

            Thank you too…for the inspiring conversation.

          7. Marvin Falz Avatar
            Marvin Falz

            Hello. Here’s the second comment without the link:

            “I think you’re right, the personality is somehow welded inseparably to the self and it is impossible and also impractical to get rid of it. A personality is something which grows and it has a function like protecting oneself or adapting to the people around you. But a personality can grow too strong and become unhealthy, when the self
            becomes overgrown and one loses sight of it.

            About Ha-Makom: so I’ve read that G-d is everywhere all the time, even in the darkest of places you can find G-d’s light. And just yesterday I’ve read about Jewish psychology and it said that “there remains deep within us an untouched and unaffected point of wholeness and goodness” and I thought maybe this point could be identified as G-d’s infinite light to be found in every person. Or maybe it’s a single ray of G-d’s light. Then I remembered that Ha-Makom means The Place and that the human soul is connected to G-d or is a part of G-d. So I thought that maybe the self is connected with The Place. The self and The Place are not identical, but they maybe touch each other. If I’d say that the self and The Place are identical, I’d say that the self is G-d and infallible, but I guess not, since the self is human and humans tend to do all sorts of forbidden or just plain wrong things even when they’re done with best intentions. But if you visit your self and visit The Place you get the inspiration what you ought to do. I don’t know if what I suggest is right or at least goes into the right direction. :)”

  6. Malka Hellinger Forshner Avatar
    Malka Hellinger Forshner

    Elad, you got this all just right. I do think that non-HSP (highly sensitive person) types, might read this and not really get what you’re saying. It’s just part of this foggy package of galus that we live in. But some might sort of get it….and that would be a good thing. (please read this as having a soft tone of voice, and an understanding, tearful smile)

    1. Elad Nehorai Avatar

      Love it, thank you 🙂

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