Sense and Sensitivity

The other day, I happened to discover a bunch of questions asking how a person could become less sensitive. It puzzled me because I would have rather known the opposite- how  a person could become more sensitive. Then I thought that the word ‘sensitivity’ works both ways and in extreme. ‘So-and- so is very sensitive’ could be a compliment or a criticism. Sometimes, sensitivity is looked upon as a quality of being self-obsessed. Sometimes, it’s seen as evolution of humanity. I guess, it all depends how you use it. In a positive sense, sensitivity can turn into compassion and empathy. And in its opposite, can even make you a narcissist.

A person who is sensitive to other people’s words for instance, may or may not have the same sensitivity to other people’s worth. I know for a fact that in today’s world,being sensitive is considered to be a handicap on the road to success. That’s a pity, because we have already become desensitized to the larger effects of humanity- atrocities and crimes. And now we are unknowingly encouraging arrogance and inconsideration-an attitude of ‘if it hurts, suck it up’ finally leads to relieving one’s own pain by hurting someone else. It makes people rather unnatural. Here’s the thing- we have to be sensible about our sensitivity!

Iknow someone who went through a bad marriage and became so unhappy that he decided he would not let anyone have a right over his happiness again. So he decided to be happy at any cost. In the process, he began to think and behave more and more selfishly. He began to speak rudely and behave recklessly with others because the outcome did not really affect him. So he was thinking he was happy by becoming insensitive to others. Ironically, what could be a more obvious sign of unhappiness?

All said and done, feeling for others is what keeps us connected as a race. If we don’t make sensitivity about our egos, it can be a beautiful quality. It is what makes us appreciate art. It is what makes us think about the planet instead of ourselves. I believe everyone is born sensitive because it comes with the package. Then life happens, does crazy things to our psychology and we turn on our security system. That’s when we reject the whole package- we throw the baby out with the bath water.

However, if there is one quality worth preserving, it is that of being sensitive. Everyone goes through pain and wants to become immune to it by becoming less and less sensitive.We often think we do so much for others and when it doesn’t ‘pay’, we prefer focusing on ourselves because it sounds like a safe bet. But when we are focusing on ourselves, what we are really doing is teaching ourselves to become selfish people. And that’s just fear. No one can be truly happy in fear. So it’s best to get rid of that fear once and for all. And the only way to do that is by facing it. That’s how we begin to understand others.

In my personal experience, I discovered a very simple way of keeping the better side of my sensitive nature and doing away with the one that caused me pain and made me ill. And that very simple way was to love more. The more you generate love towards everything around you, the more you become sensitive to life as a whole. You don’t suppress your innate sensitivity and neither do you make it about yourself. So much has been said about loving yourself but it is often a misunderstood and misinterpreted suggestion. Loving yourself in the truest sense is about bringing your A-game to life. Your A -game is to rid your mind of all negative thoughts towards other people. Just love them all, the whole lot, no matter how they are. You don’t have to act on it if they don’t respect you, but just feel the love inside. If you help others, you love yourself. If you give to others, you love yourself. If you love others and do nothing else, you love yourself. I know this can sound very idealist but it is not. Here’s why.

This happened to me last weekend. I went to visit the doctor for a consultation and was on time. When I arrived, I saw there were a dozen people waiting for their turn! I realized the secretary had over-booked the appointments, a common practice in India. So I asked her if it would take long. The secretary was a young college girl whose head was sunk in a game inside her mobile phone. Without making the slightest eye-contact, she said “I don’t know”. So then I told the top of her head that if it was going to take time, I would finish another job and return. She didn’t look up and said “Ok, try after 30 minutes”.

After 30 minutes, I called her from where I was, and asked her if I could come. She said I could, but added that I would have to wait for an hour because of the crowd. I told her in a simple tone that I didn’t have the kind of time that she expected from me. So she gave me a fresh appointment. The appointment, which was on the following Monday, went smoothly. When I stepped out of the doctor’s room, I smiled at the young secretary and handed her my credit card. She smiled back and said “No fees for you, doctor said”. I asked her to tell me why. She looked at me rather coyly and said “I told sir that you had to go back the last time because of my mistake…… and you didn’t even get upset with me”.

I wrote a note to myself to remember this always. Not because life is a fairy tale with happy endings, but because, we can always write our approach to it.