Have you ever been told you’re overreacting or do you often find yourself thinking I’m just too sensitive? What if I told you that there is no such thing? That overreacting is just a word in the dictionary. Google defines overreacting as “respond more emotionally or forcibly than is justified”. Well, who is google to tell you whether your reaction is justified or not!!
The word overreacting or label of ‘overly sensitive’ implies a comparison with something or someone, a frame of reference on which the estimation is based. Comparing yourself to another and how they react to a situation is unhelpful at best. There are too many variables, too many individual differences for it to be a reliable comparison. How we respond to situations or manage our emotions is hugely influenced by our personal histories. No two people have identical personal histories and even if you have experienced similar things in your life as someone else, you have your own unique perception of those things.
One way we learn how to manage emotions and react to situations is through observing those close to us, typically a parent or care giver. If you observed ‘big’ reactions to emotions or situations when you were younger you may be more likely to react in a similar way.
Equally if your example of how to manage emotions was to bottle them up and not express them you may do the same. In addition, if we react in a way that our parents disapprove of, we quickly learn to moderate this behaviour but this may be in conflict with our true selves and what feels right for us. This can often lead us to tell ourselves that our reaction is wrong in some way. However, if this reaction is instinctual, the subconscious message is that you can’t trust yourself and your feelings.
When you tell yourself that your reaction isn’t justified, you invalidate your experience and you deny yourself your right to feel all of what you need to. All too often I hear counselling clients say to me “I should be able to cope” or “I shouldn’t feel like this”. I’m always curious about the shoulds and should nots because they’re often the voice of someone else. It may be a critical parent, a partner or societal expectations that have influenced your perception of how you think you ‘should’ or ‘shouldn’t’ be, feel and react. So, if you notice that should or should not creep in to your internal dialogue tell it to do one, you don’t need it!!
Now it’s not to say that if you want to change how you react emotionally, that this wouldn’t be helpful but I’d urge you to consider why you want to make the change. Is it because you’ve been labelled too sensitive or is it because you feel you could personally benefit from managing them differently? For example, you may be quick to anger and feel overwhelmed by these feelings, they may be getting in the way of having healthy relationships or staying in employment. Learning to harness that anger can be productive but it’s telling you something so it’s important to listen to it as well.
It is possible to learn how to manage our emotions differently and to be more accepting of them.
8 tips for managing emotions.
Our emotions tell a story, when we feel they are out of control they become something to fear, when in fact they are a natural part of being human. Learning to accept what is in all its forms can be empowering and liberating and ultimately allow us to lead more content lives.