10 Ways to Find Out if You Are Too Sensitive.

Via Katarina Silva
on Feb 16, 2012
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Mercado by Cuauhtemoc

Hot sun rays squeezed juicy scents from the mangos and papayas and sent them swirling into the air, and up my nostrils.

A man played the guitar for change, vendors melodiously announced prices, street dogs nonchalantly brushed up against me as we weaved our way through the bustling crowd, decorated in their Sunday best, sprayed with their expensive perfumes. I felt mother tug me close to her, my sweaty hand in hers, as we passed the dusty beggars, uncomfortably settled on the cobblestone road, their skinny hands outstretched toward me, weighing heavily on my heart.

Later that day my mother found me in my room, sitting alone against the wall, a sheet draped over my head like a veil, my hand outstretched, my head bowed. I had internalized the beggars suffering as my own. I sought to understand it. I sought to find an explanation for pain in their eyes. I ached to find a solution for their hurts.

Beggar by Peter Kojin

I am told I remained that way for long stretches of time, after each visit to the outdoor market. My mother insists that the first time she found me like this, I was only three years old. Just tall enough to be directly at eye level with the pleading eyes of beggars, which I can still remember.

And then there were the live chickens: tied together by their feet and mercilessly dangling in the hot sun until someone picked one out for dinner. I remember staring into a basket full of chicken heads when I was a little girl. Their eyes still open. Their headless bodies running around the market, wings flapping wildly, like feathered zombies.

By the time I entered adolescence, my diet reflected all the times I had listened to animals being slaughtered at the public market. Sometimes their screams squeezed my torso so hard I could hardly breathe. Their agony had automatically become my own. How could the others just walk by the butcher shops as easily as they would a clothing shop? Laughing and talking as if no pain was being inflicted. My childhood mind could not grasp this. Didn’t they feel it?

“Oh! You’re just too sensitive!” people would tell me, or “Toughen up!”

Eventually I realized that my sensitive nature seemed to hold negative stigma, so I learned to keep my perceptions to myself most of the time. Finding another sensitive person who could relate to my views was a rare treat. But who exactly determines what’s “too sensitive” and what isn’t? I questioned why society saw my sensitivities as a negative. It’s almost as if they were telling me that the way I experienced life was somehow wrong. But my way of being was who I was. And, as a little girl, I saw myself doing many things with it!

Layla by Katarina Silva

I wanted to be a magical healer when I grew up, because I automatically tuned into people’s pain. I was eager to be a dancer because music could never contain me, and sent me moving with each note. I was drawn to become a firefighter, because the big, loud fire engines excited me and fueled me with a sense of urgency. I saw myself as a vet because I was convinced I could speak the language of animals. And I definitely imagined myself a mystical sorceress, because as a little girl I was absolutely convinced I could communicate with the deceased. Then there was my love for baking. Life was so yummy and full of arousing options!

Every one of us wants to be deliciously aroused in one way or another.

We want life to awaken us, stir us, stroke us, and stimulate us just enough to delight in our existence, and not so much that we’re overwhelmed by it. We thirst for stimulation from the time we are born. Not too much and not too little, but just the perfectly balanced amount that will twirl us in a dance of experiences and growth. My mother tells me I was an unsually astute toddler with an endless capacity for exploration and inquiry. I felt the world beckoning to me. Life’s an endless playground out there and it’s calling our name!

Playtime is about perception. Those who are aware of more stimulants in their environment will naturally have an expansive state of perception. Two people may be in the same situation, receiving the same stimulation, but they way they experience it, and how aroused their nervous system becomes by it, could be whole galaxies apart!

How much of life are you awakened to?

Tree Soul by Katarina Silva

Recent neurological research has discovered that some of us, (about 15 to 20%, to be exact), are more sensitive to the world around us than the rest. We move through life with a more pronounced state of awareness, and depth of experience. We are easily aroused by the subtleties in our surroundings, such as changing moon phases, ocean tides, shifting weather patterns, magnetic fields, sonic frequencies and the migration of animals, insects and birds, to name a few.

We are also more attuned to the activities in our own bodies such as imbalances, breath patterns, heart rate, digestion, muscle tension and sexual arousal. As well as being more active in our dreams, our fantasy life, memories, imaginations and especially, our intuition. Possibly, the most common way to detect us is that we are extremely empathetic to the feelings of others, including animals, almost as if they were our own. Sometimes it can all be very overwhelming and exhausting!

Being born with heightened sensitivity can become our greatest asset or our worst liability, depending on how we relate to it.

Although most most of contemporary society is structured in such a way that being extra sensitive can sometimes feel like a curse, ancient cultures recognized it as a special gift, and they admired  and valued those who possessed it as special guides. 

Take the test:

If you can relate to six or more of the case scenarios below, (or parallel ones you imagine in your mind), you are probably among the 20% of the population that has been gifted with this heightened level of sensitivity:

1. While others usually interact socially with many people at surface levels, you prefer to connect with just a handful of people but at very deep and meaningful levels.

2. While some merely watch movies, you participate in them on an emotional level nearly akin to the characters themselves, and use the ending credits after movies to transition from the world on the screen, back into the world around you. Oh! And did I mention we always bring tissues? 

3. While others seem to move through public education with no problem, you feel oddly out of your element restricted by the ringing bells, the buzzing florescent lights, the deadlines on assignments, the superimposed pace, the lack of creativity.

4. While some may only notice the “lovely” sounds of birds, you can’t help but to decipher the tone of the bird calls and realize that they are not lovely at all, but distress calls, in which a larger bird is targeting the fledgelings of another for its next meal!

5. While others can enter a room without having its details faze them, you notice everything from the stain on the left curtain panel, to the cooking smells from the previous meal, the texture of the couch upholstery, its temperature, lighting, how close the traffic sounds are, and any residue tension lingering in the air from the argument that transpired in the room before you even entered it.

6. While others can run with the monotonous rat race at urban speed, through multiple tasks, rush hour traffic, complaining bosses and many co-workers, day after day, year after year, your constitution is more suited to working at your own pace, in peaceful surroundings, or you may become rattled.

7. While most will just walk by a crying child being ignored by its mother in a supermarket cart without incident, you feel your heart beating faster as you’re compelled to relieve it of its discomfort.

8. While most people can go from work, to shopping, to socializing in a single day without even blinking an eye, you find yourself needing to pace yourself and take time to recharge in between stimulating activities or events.

9. While most people can rush through an art museum ingesting one work after another in a short amount of time, you prefer to take time to absorb the essence of each piece at a more gradual, thorough pace, usually involving connecting with the emotional make up and mind-set of each artist.

10. While most people can go through lovers like fashion styles, your erotic encounters are whole person experiences with someone you love, leaving you feeling as if the whole room is spinning, and in need of recovery time from your intense lovemaking before you can participate fully in the next activity.

If you are gifted with a heightened sensitivity, remember that most of the world is designed for those who do not have this personality trait. But please don’t let that silence you! 

If you ever felt as if you did not fit in, remember that there is nothing wrong with the way you are. We are the privileged minority! And although we may not always be welcomed or facilitated by most of the modern world’s structures, we compose most of the creative quotient on the planet, for we are always inventing new ways to go against the grain. And all life thrives on creativity!

People with heightened levels of sensitivity are often found designing our own alternative lifestyles, or innovating new approaches to living.

Shaman by Katarina Silva

We aim to surround ourselves with others who will respect our sensitive nature, and not try to change it. Tribal cultures view us as their spiritual guides, and humanity’s doorway to the mysteries of the universe. As Marie-Louise Von Franz, who worked closely with Jung once mentioned:

“On a primitive level the highly sensitive is the shaman, who knows what the gods and ghosts and ancestral spirits are planning, and who conveys their messages to the tribes….these sensitive ones know about the slow process that goes on in the collective unconscious.”

In Elaine. N Aron’s book The Highly Sensitive Person, she writes about how today, rather than becoming our tribe’s prophets and seers, we are the the world’s poets, inventors, artists, musicians, and dancers!

The highly sensitive are the wild and the wise. We are the rebels and radicals and revolutionaries. We are the visionaries who can glimpse the future. We are so many things to so many people, probing generally unnoticed areas and returning with our findings. And as Von Franz says, though we may be misunderstood by our peers, we will most likely be recognized by  “later generations, as a representation of what was going on in the collective unconscious at that time.” Life honors us!

 So, you who ingests life at a whole other level of awareness, who we find in well-stocked libraries, and rescuing dogs from shelters, and in meditation rooms or tending to organic gardens as the sun peeks over the horizon. You who volunteers for human rights organizations, and who forgets to eat you are so consumed by your latest art project, and notices the spider web that appeared in your favorite tree from one day to another. You modern day shaman, who navigates through life to your own tune, gently, conscientiously, and as gracefully as possible (as long as our adrenals kick in when we need them most!). You beautiful, sensitive soul: Just feel free to be yourself, without apologizing.

Life needs you. So much!

Relephant reads:

Yoga & the Highly Sensitive Person.

A Passionate Note to My Sensitive Heart.

A Love Note to the “Hypersensitive,” “Too Nice,” & “Takers-of-It-Too-Personally.”

Why Sensitive Souls Need Rituals.

Love elephant and want to go steady?

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About Katarina Silva

Katarina Silva is an artistic self-expressionist who thrives on the spontaneous thrill of creating photographic images in ten seconds, and inevitably employs witchcraft to do so. Her autobiographical art reflects her emotions and dreams, and is characterized by the mysterious absence of her complete face. She lives unafraid of darkness, wrapped in nature, in an obscure corner of the planet with her magical kitty. You may view her work at The Art of Katarina Silva. Or connect with her on Facebook or Twitter


121 Responses to “10 Ways to Find Out if You Are Too Sensitive.”

  1. Lee Branford says:

    I was 8 out of 10

  2. Thais says:

    Great article, but I would like to comment on the notion of the “us vs. them”. The idea that most people are a certain way and the sensitive few are different I think is a little too over-simplified. I definitely fall in the sensitive category to some extent, but have also developed certain defense mechanisms to operate in the world (for better of for worse). The problem of the notion of sensitive people vs. “most people” is that it claims that sensitive people are special, which they are, but everyone is special in their own way. A person who is very “tough skinned” is able to perform jobs that sensitive people may be completely overwhelmed by. Could a sensitive person handle being a doctor, for instance? I sure couldn’t. So while I agree that it is important for sensitive people to protect their gifts, albeit in a way that doesn’t make navigating in this world impossible, let’s not forget that we all fit somewhere in the spectrum. The world needs the sensitive people every bit as much as the tough ones and most of us fall somewhere in the middle.

    Also, I think it is important not to learn some ways to protect yourself so the sensitivity does not destroy you (my mother would be in bed sick for 3 days after being in a room with a negative energy). How does one find a balance? Is it possible to be so deeply in touch with all things and yet shield yourself somehow from the heaviness? How can one be empathetic and maintain just enough distance so one may still be an effective healer (else one falls apart along with the person seeking one’s help)?

    Just some food for thought…

  3. Patty says:

    Well. I'm the exact opposite I guess. We'll never know because I couldn't get past the astounding amount of adjectives. Sometimes the picture in your head gets lost when the sentences go on and on and on and on………….. But good luck.

  4. Robin says:

    Beautifully put and I very much agree!!

  5. Great article! It always amazes me how often people are told they are being "too sensitive"as if sensitivity is somehow a bad thing. I know I have been labeled this my whole life.

    Here's a blog I wrote on this a few weeks back http://cgrace4wellbeing.blogspot.co.nz/2013/10/to

  6. tessatito says:

    Thank you thank you. I just loved this to pieces and related to so much of it.

  7. Nina Jackson says:

    Awesome article that helped me remember I am in the minority and why it makes sense that my close friends are also artists, shamans and earthkeepers. I won't waste another day thinking that I'm "lesser than" the others who seem barrel through corporate life unscathed. Instead, I will celebrate my gift. Thank you.

  8. Priti says:

    So, I scored 7.5/10 which I guess does put me to more sensitive side of the spectrum. However I am not sure if being labelled as TOO sensitive is something I want or can digest about myself. 🙁 :-O
    Generally speaking , being 'Too sensitive' is often considered as weak and definitely 'dated' 🙂
    Not that I care much about being labelled but I am kind of concerned rather confused as to why being little more sensitive is so special OR why is it bein typecasted as Special Minority OR Dated OR Weak Or whatsoever ?!
    Who cares about what people label you as ? If you are happy being who you are then just BE – Isn't that what it is all bout at the end of the day ? We are Human Beings and our job is to BE :- )


  9. zyvy says:

    I can definitely relate to this on many levels – though I definitely don't recognise birds' distress calls! How unsettling.
    I thought that the tone of this article did make it seem as if sensitive individuals hold a special place above other not-so-sensitive ones. It comes across as a bit self-important (I'm assuming this is what may have spurred some of the negative comments), although it probably wasn't intended to be that way. Loved the writing, will be saving this and re-reading in the future! It's the first time I've come across the existence of someone "like" me in this sense. I thought I was abnormal for being so empathetic of everything! I cry about pigeons even, and I've been told that's "weird"
    Nice to see there are many =)

  10. Julieannette says:

    Is it my imagination or does it seem like there are more of us sensitive types around lately?

  11. Megha says:

    I’m a doctor and I’m sensitive . I am only now learning to harness my creativity and respect my sensitivity . It’s taken a long time but now I totally respect myself and validate myself for being able to literally feel in my body the pain and distress of other people . It helps that I work with babies and that I am a mom to an exceptionally sensitive daughter . . Thank you for this article . It reflects my conflict with my traits and also the fact that I may not be mainstream – but that my sensitivity rocks just the same !

  12. Ryan says:

    A little exaggerated? I am often put into the 'overly sensitive' category of people. And my moods change often without me not even really noticing why they have… but can I really attribute that to the migration of insects? I also tend to fall in what people would call the 'introverted' category. And maybe I feel things more deeply than others and am observant of lots of things, but I also have my major blindspots and am unaware of lots of things like other people. Just like I've noticed that other 'sensitive' people can have major blindspots in their awareness, often I forget to see the larger picture.
    There is sooo much writing out there trying to separate and categorize our individual experiences. think it is because we are having trouble connecting to this world that we don't understand…. and because we are suffering we are obsessed with trying to figure what makes us 'different.' Can we we relax the analyzing a bit? We can practice making friends with ourselves and then opening to large world outside of us.

  13. Laura says:

    Sounds like autism…..

  14. I cannot tell you how much I loved this article. I've been acutely aware for a little while that I'm an incredibly sensitive person, but no-one has vocalised this as a gift in the way you do.

    Thank you so much- xx

  15. Reneé Marie Fox says:

    Me! This is me through and through! ♡

    Thank you for writing this piece. It perfectly describes the very essence of who and what I am in a way like no one else ever has. I am both astounded and touched to my very core. I may send this to every one of my most favorite folks as a primer on "me."


  16. STOUT59 says:

    Katrina, I never stood a chance. Both my grandmothers were in that 20%, as is my mother, myself, my daughter, and my granddaughter. I think being part of the lineage has helped me see my qualities in a positive light. I do keep many observations to myself. Hear "How could you possibly know that??" enough times and one learns it isn't always a welcome gift. What touched me most was your response to homelessness. I will never forget the first time my daughter saw a homeless person; she burst into tears on the spot.
    Thank you.

  17. Funny…I scored a 15 on this… ;O

  18. Karen says:

    This made me cry 🙂
    Beautiful 🙂 I always feel like I am subjected to holding in my feelings and I am constantly criticized but I do not care. I cry if I have to and everyone should do the same! Don’t hold back feelings!

  19. Evie says:

    I got 10/10. This actually makes me feel better. I’m only 18 and find it really hard to be me. I usually get left out of things and I don’t have a lot of friends either. This has helped me understand a lot about myself. Thank you.

  20. susan says:

    I remember coming over to my folks’ house on Christmas morning one year. I must’ve been in my thirties. My younger sister had a violent movie on television, and the sound of people dying was all I could hear. Before I was even aware, tears started rolling down my face. I had come over so filled with love, with my heart wide open, and that sound was horrible. I quietly asked to have it turned off. She just laughed and put out her cigarette. I had to go outside in the back for awhile to feel calm. This is when I knew without a doubt…

  21. Anuriti Saxena says:

    Oh no!!!!! I got all 10 points matched with my personality. Am I doing something wrong that all points matched???I m sorry for that.