Are You Too Sensitive?
Look Who's Talking
Suppose a colleague implies that you're careless to let your 20-year-old
daughter go on a road trip with her friends. Before you take the remark to
heart, consider the source. How much does this person actually know about
raising kids? How well does she know you or your daughter? Is she an
over-parenter? "Then run the comment by someone who really knows what kind
of a mother you are," says Aron. "Maybe your critic has a point, and
you're reacting defensively because you agree with her. Or maybe she just
doesn't have a clue."
Just This Once, Don't Call a Friend
Researchers from the University of Missouri at Columbia tracked children and
adolescents who shared their hurt feelings with friends, and came to a
startling conclusion: The girls who "co-ruminated" the most had more
supportive friendships, but also greater levels of anxiety and depression.
"Excessive focus on problems probably makes them seem even bigger and
harder to resolve," says Amanda Rose, Ph.D., the lead author. "And it
likely gets in the way of finding positive, healthy distractions," such as
reading a good book or going for a walk.
Check Your Ego
Supersensitivity is sometimes the result of "it's all about me"
syndrome. I confess, this is sometimes my issue. When my neighbor doesn't wave
back, I automatically start a mental checklist: Did my dogs get loose
recently? Have my kids been blasting music? My close pals rib me about
this. "Get over yourself, Sarah," they'll say. "Everything can't be
your fault." Maybe my neighbor is simply lost in thought.
Meditate, Don't Ruminate
Researchers from San Diego State University and the University of California
at San Diego found that mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to treat
stress, anxiety, and depression, is especially good at helping brooders stop
replaying a hurtful remark over and over. I tried this strategy the other night
after a heated spat with my 16-year-old. She had yelled, "You're so
sensitive, Mom! It makes it hard to tell you things." Despite just writing
an entire story on the subject, I shouted back, "That's not true at
all!" Feeling hurt, I slunk into the bedroom, dusted off an old meditation
CD, and listened to the soothing music and gentle bells. Sure enough, after 15
minutes, I had regained enough composure to snicker at myself. I went back to
the living room, tossed a pillow at her, and said, smiling, "OK, maybe I am
a little sensitive."
Sing Your Own Praises
Make a list of your strong suits. The more conscious you are of them, the
less likely you'll be to crumble when criticized. "Sensitive people often
make the mistake of taking an insult as a criticism of their entire personality
instead of just one tiny aspect of it," says Aron. When I drove to my next
carpool pickup, I road tested this technique. I thought to myself, I regret
that I mixed up the dates last time — I wish I hadn't wasted that father's
time. On the other hand, I'm pretty competent as a mother, wife, and wage
earner. I compost. I vote. I floss. And I have to say, my Christmas decorations
look pretty darn good this year. I felt better in seconds.