We all consider ourselves and those around us more or less sensitive and according to our culture, our experiences, the principles of our family, etc. We consider this feature of personality good, desirable or instead a sample of weakness, naivety, etc. But what is the opinion of an expert? What are the features of a sensitive man, a sentimental and what of an insensitive? On the other hand, is very interesting to learn whether we are born or become all of the above, whether or not we can cultivate our sensitivity and of course how we measure how sensitive we are.

The term sensitive person isn’t valid

If the above phrase seems inconceivable and awkward, perhaps we should better explain that the term sensitivity  doesn’t exist in psychology, at least not like most of us understand it. Instead, scientists when talking about a sensitive person describe a very specific and relatively common variant of normal affecting approximately one in five people. The characteristics of this sensitive person who is born with more sensitive nervous system, are obvious since childhood. They are children that stand out, as they are shy, introverted, easily scared, irritated by strong stimuli, ones who observe carefully the reactions of others and show sensitivity to their feelings, even when others do not talk about them, only by the look on their face. Often they have a high IQ, good sense of humor, a good relationship with art. In addition, they  frequently need time for themselves and seek some hours of isolation. They don’t like conflicts, loud voices, tensions and quarrels and avoid violent movements. However, is it good or bad for someone to be sensitive? This has to do with the culture, our principles, our family’s beliefs. In some cultures the sensitivity is a positive asset, while in others is considered weakness.

However, there is the sentimental person

The profile of a sensitive person

Experts explain that probably when talking about sensitivity, they actually refer to what experts characterize as sentimentality. A sentimental man is the one who does’t bear criticism (it certainly has to do with self-esteem and self-confidence and how well and sure feels for himself), conflicts and emotional outbursts of others. Some people are sentimental in everything, while others feel emotion only regarding specific topics-defined by traumatic experiences or past experiences. Women are more emotional and society gives them the ‘right’ to express themselves more. In addition, emotional people are more likely to experience depression, sometime in their life.

Drama queen

Let’s not forget of course that in some cases sentimental people, mostly women, tend to dramatise their feelings, without necessary having so strong emotions. These people are often immature and dependent on others. Moreover, the dramatisation of emotions is a method of using people. As in many other cases, things can, in rare cases, reach a pathologic stage for some and then the dramatisation is called dramatic or histrionic personality disorder (Histrionic Personality Disorder). These patients are characterised by blatant, dramatic, irritable and hyperactive behaviour with the purpose of attracting attention. They are also often unable to maintain deep, long-term commitments in a relationship. In these cases, the assistance of a specialist can be very helpful.

In search of empathy

In some cases, it is not unlikely when talking about a sensitive man, to refer to someone who’s  having the ability to understand what the other feels not because he had a similar experience, but because he has the ability to put himself in the other person’s shoes and understand his feelings. This term is known as empathy, while on the other hand there is the term sympathy. Even if these two terms look similar, however there is a big difference between them. The sensitive man, sympathises, makes the problem one of it’s own like he is living it, while the one that has high empathy realises/understands what the other feels through his own eyes, but without making it his own. For example, let’s say a friend of ours loses his partner. When we have empathy, we understand his loss and what that means for him, but not feeling sad thinking what loss would mean for us. The most common is to feel compassion and not empathy, mainly because of our culture, or probably because the first one is easier than the second. You must know that empathy is a difficult case. A person who feels empathy is not being overwhelmed by emotions, does not give advice, criticism, and understands the emotions of others without making them his own. Instead, the one who sympathises, is overwhelmed by emotions, but for different reasons from those who the man who is experiencing the problem has. Usually we empathize with problems we recognize, we can understand, that we have experienced and have to do with our fears and insecurities.

Can a person be insensitive?

Apparently this term is not accepted by specialists, who stress that feelings are a complex issue. It is very important how we have learnt to regulate our emotions. So a person, as a defence, may has been forced to repress or put aside his emotions and later as an adult can no longer recognises or express them,  so he might seem insensitive to others. On the other hand, someone who is self-possessed or finds it difficult to express himself, can be considered as insensitive. Of course, there are some people who have an extreme lack of emotions, who cannot understand feelings and so they look like aliens. Sometimes these people somatize feelings that are unable to express.

What is the famous EQ?

This is a well-referenced term with various definitions, described very successful through Aristotle’s dictum that says: “Anyone can become angry – that is easy, but to be angry with the right person at the right time, and for the right purpose and in the right way – that is not within everyone’s power and that is not easy”. So, people with high EQ are the ones who correctly perceive and express feelings and manage to make it work for them. They have the following key features:
Have better ability of perception of emotion, both of their own and of others (empathy).
Indeed, can understand feelings and body language.
Have the ability to use emotions with objectivity and to distinguish what is useful information and what not.
Understand emotions and where they come from. They can also control and manage, regulate and express their feelings appropriately.
Be calm and have a positive attitude towards life.
Typically, we can describe some types of people in relation to their EQ:
  • The man who has high EQ is socially balanced, not afraid to express his feelings, he is joyful, free from stress, fears and thoughts. He has the ability to devote himself to people or purposes, takes up responsibilities and he is loving in his relationships.
  • The man with a high IQ and low EQ is stubborn, distant and doesn’t express himself, .
  • The woman with high EQ directly expresses feelings, feels and perceives the feelings of both its own and the other, is social and cheerful, reacts well to stress, is spontaneous and open to new experiences.
  • The woman with a high IQ and low EQ easily expresses thoughts, cares more about spiritual matters, has high spiritual confidence (confidence in her intelligence), but is prone to anxiety, guilt and is unable to openly expresses her anger.

Are we born a certain way or do we learn to be?

The profile of a sensitive person

As in many other related queries, there is not a single answer. One explanation is that we are born with a certain sensitivity traits and the other version has to do with how we process information based on what we have learned, our experiences, our culture, even our gender (women are considered to be more sensitive), etc. So, some scientists believe that sensitivity, empathy and EQ are cultivated and others that it’s innate. Most, however, believe rather the interaction of genes and environment.
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