A common trait I find when I talk with people with toxic shame is that they’re sensitive souls.
When these folks have feelings, the feelings seem to go deeper and stronger. So when it comes to feeling shame, being sensitive seems an obvious liability. The other interesting finding I see with sensitive people is they often live in their in heads. The unpleasant feelings have forced them to retreat into their heads to avoid having to feel their feelings. They overanalyze and ruminate, having a notion that if they can understand why, or what exactly went wrong, they can avoid the unpleasant feelings next time. But the things is with feelings, you can’t avoid them. Feelings are hard-wired in.
With feelings hard-wired in, and sensitivity leading to experiencing feelings strong and deep, it would seem that being sensitive is definitely a liability. Plus, a history of experiencing feelings as unpleasant, and perhaps being teased or shamed for being sensitive. How can sensitive be anything but a liability?
The reality is that being sensitive is more about the ability and capacity to feel.
When feelings are unpleasant, being sensitive seems like a liability. When feelings are pleasant, then it’s an asset. But imagine if you could change the experience of unpleasant feelings. Instead of just feelings being just painful, they could shift from “hurts” to “hurts so good”. The amount of hurt you feel becomes an indicator of how meaningful something is for you. The more it hurts the more meaningful. This is the transformation that makes the difference.
Take for example walking around the block versus running a marathon. Walking around the block might not pose a very big challenge to overcome. But running a marathon is a huge challenge. Only one percent of the world’s population ever completes a marathon. Running a marathon is more meaningful than walking around the block. All the hours, effort and training you have put in have contributed to your success. The same holds true for transforming your feelings. All your experience living through those unpleasant feelings becomes meaningful instead of hurtful history.
Learning to transform your feelings from unpleasant to meaningful is how you shift being sensitive from liability to a valuable, life affirming asset.
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