I was a sensitive child. I still remember a recurrent comment in my school report card that said: “Jung is very sensitive.” Even as a child, I sensed the negative undertone in this comment: it implied that being sensitive was somehow an undesirable quality — in the same category as being “moody, emotional, thin-skinned.” I also recall being teased by my boy cousins (all three of them) who are from 3 days to 3 years older than I. When I brought my grievance to their mother (who was my mother’s older sister), she blamed me for being sensitive. Adding insult to injury, she also chided me for being easily bothered by her sons’ rambunctious words. Instead of telling her sons to leave me alone, she admonished me to toughen up.
It is no wonder to me that both my daughters are “labeled” as sensitive by their classmates and teachers at school, and that they are more often “blamed” than they are “praised” for being sensitive. The common allegation is that they are too sensitive and that they over-react to teasing, gossiping and bullying. Their school experiences have shown them that being sensitive is a handicap because they are seen as weak — an easy target for fly-by verbal pot-shots. I understand the danger in believing the illusion that sensitive means weak because my life experience has taught me otherwise.
I tell my daughters that being sensitive is neither good nor bad in and of itself. As with many other qualities in life, it is what we do with our sensitivity that matters in the end. Are we channeling our sensitivity in useful and constructive ways to shine our lights in the world?
By virtue of being sensitive, we may feel more frequently and deeply: both negative emotions such as pain, disappointment and sorrow, and positive emotions such as joy, pleasure, and hope. Moreover, our sensitivity is essential to strengthen and fine-tune our intuition so that we can access our internal wisdom as we navigate the various terrains in our lives. Finally, our sensitivity has the power to channel our emotional energy toward creative expression.
As few months ago (in early November 2011), when S was being teased by some boys in her class, Charles and I advised her to channel her frustration and pain toward defending and reclaiming her honor by using her verbal ninja creativity. She demonstrated beautifully how her sensitivity could shape-shift into her sword to reach the outcome that she desired:
“A transformed S who brought her passion, her mad verbal ninja skills and yes, her giant heart to block, parry, and return fire against all the taunts [the boys] tried.” And they were outmatched by S.
I do not want to see my daughters toughen up and give their power away. Their sensitivity is a priceless gift that they ought to cherish, protect and fine-tune as a powerful instrument in their life-skills treasure chest. As with any instrument, they need to practice, practice, practice, to master the skills necessary to use their instrument with grace, pose, and ease. I know It will serve them well.