Are you an emotionally sensitive person? Do you frequently feel strong feelings? Does strong emotion in others seem to bother you? Do you shy away from sharing something with someone else that could possibly bring about their negative emotions? The truth is, you might just be an emotionally sensitive person; someone who feels their emotions strongly and for whom such negative emotions might just be uncomfortable. Many of us are already uncomfortable with what we deem negative emotions (sadness, anger, guilt), this is only magnified for emotionally sensitive people.
If we don’t know this about ourselves, we may move through life attempting to avoid situations or people who bring on our strong emotions. We might withhold important information from them for this very reason or not deal with something properly by being open because we simply don’t want to feel. We worry if we let these strong emotions in, they won’t go away. We must remember that no emotion has ever stuck around forever. Feelings always pass, and they do so more quickly when we give them a voice. They run their course and then we move on.
The other day I was listening to a child who was explaining to me that he hid a test grade from his parents. He didn’t do very well on it, but instead of sharing it and trying to make sense of what went wrong, he withheld the information because he just “knew they would be upset.” His parents didn’t understand this, they said, we don’t get upset about his grades and “he is such a good kid, always does the right thing, it doesn’t make sense that he would lie to us.”
What happened? This child didn’t understand that he himself was the one who was uncomfortable with his own negative emotions. Uncomfortable with what he was assuming his parents would feel, but more importantly uncomfortable with his own feelings of shame and frustration for not having done as well as he would have liked.
I asked him what his feelings were about the grade, he said, “I guess I am frustrated because I could have done better. I made tons of careless mistakes and I am mad at myself.” There it was, the feelings he was trying to avoid. That was the feeling he needed to get in touch with and share with his parents. Those were normal feelings that his parents would be able to connect to, rather than be upset with him about.
Parents encourage your children to share what they feel in the situations they are in, especially when they are afraid to share something with you. Chances are they are already feeling what they think you are going to feel! They may be emotionally sensitive and fearful of feeling their own emotions. Let them feel the comfort of sharing those out loud and seeing that it’s okay. We all have emotions, some good, some bad. But after the initial realization of upset, we push forward with a solution and all feelings eventually pass. Feelings are a part of life.
“Jesus wept.” (John 11:35)