Over the years, I’ve managed to adjust. I’ve taught myself to laugh or shrug when my body and mind would be inclined to offer tears as the automatic response to a stimulus. The replacement of laughs or shrugs for tears has never been “natural,” though. I’ve had to work at it. “Fighting back tears” describes the battle very well; the war with my emotions has taken me prisoner more times than I can count. Books I’ve read—or skimmed, until I found them soft, offering only hugs and no concrete data—fail to explain why I dissolve in tears when others don’t. Until recently, when I read only a few pages of a book I picked up at a Little Rock library. The Empath’s Survival Guide isn’t a magical bullet, but a few of its pages explains things about me that I’ve never been able to understand, much less explain, on my own. Frankly, I found the book—at least the few pages I read—an absurdly “mystical” collection of nonsense. I don’t buy its “woo-woo” assertions involving synesthesia and electromagnetic fields and emotional contagion, etc. the least bit compelling. But the book’s description of people whose responses to the world around them typically involve tears struck a chord with me.

In reading the first few pages of the book, I came to the conclusion that I’m not an “empath” as defined by the author. However, I might fit the definition of a “highly sensitive person.” Reading a few pages of The Empath’s Survival Guide sent me to other published works that described “highly sensitive people.” The traits that describe them, according to an article by Amanda L. Chan, and my personal “score” as to the degree to which I “fit” the description are as follows:

  1. They feel more deeply that the average person. (8)
  2. They’re more emotionally reactive. (9)
  3. They’re probably used to hearing, “Don’t take things so personally” and “Why are you so sensitive?” (6)
  4. They prefer to exercise solo. (9)
  5. It takes longer for them to make decisions. (6)
  6. They are more upset if they make a “bad” or “wrong” decision. (10)
  7. They’re extremely detail-oriented. (4)
  8. More often than not, they’re introverts (about 70% of them are). (10)
  9. They work well in team environments. (3)
  10. They’re more prone to anxiety or depression. (9)
  11. Annoying sounds tend to be significantly more annoying to them than to others. (5)
  12. They find violent movies extremely disturbing. (4)
  13. They cry easily. (10)
  14. They have above-average manners. (6)
  15. Criticism affects them deeply; they feel it in an amplified way. (6)
  16. They prefer solo work environments; that is, they like their privacy. (10)

Perhaps my personality traits contribute the fact that I much prefer the company of women to the company of men. Not all men fit the male stereotype, but I find that too many (for my taste) are either afraid to or uninterested in discussing matters involving “feeling.” I don’t know if that’s because they are worried that emotions reveal weakness or because they’ve just never been taught how to discuss matters of a personal nature. Women, on the other hand, seem to be open to conversations about things that most men find uncomfortable. Women are, by and large, more “approachable” than men. They are more readily willing to reveal themselves and to accept the revelations of others. Actually, now that I think about it, I think I might be uncomfortable having the same revelatory conversations with men as with women. Those conversations with men might send the wrong “signal,” i.e., they might suggest I’m looking for a male “connection.” I wonder why that is? I’m not looking for a female “connection” when I have such conversations with women, but I’m especially conscious that I don’t want to send the wrong message to men. I suppose it’s all about socialization. Heterosexual men are just “supposed” to demonstrate their masculinity in ways that preclude being too “sensitive.” What bullshit. If I could change the world, I would. But I’m too old to do that, so I’ll sit and stew about it.

This post marks number two thousand, five hundred since I started this blog. Congratulations to me on achieving a milestone that has no meaning, but calls for celebration nonetheless. I’ve written far more posts than this blog suggests (plus almost two hundred “drafts” are waiting in the wings to be either finished or deleted). Numbers are meaningless, except in pure mathematics, in which case they represent beauty in its purest form.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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