How many times as a kid did you ever get the “Don’t be so sensitive” line shoved at you if you began to cry about something? I don’t know how it was for women growing up, but as a boy or a young man it was considered suspect to ever get upset about anything.
“Cry Baby”, and “Momma’s Boy”, turn into “Weenie” and ‘Wuss” as you get older if you show any inclination to be anything other than tough when it comes to dealing with life’s circumstances. People wonder why the United States is in Iraq these days; it’s because George Junior has to reclaim the family male pride. His Daddy was called a Wimp because he wouldn’t destroy Iraq, so George Junior is compelled to show that he’s tougher than tough.
How else can you explain someone boasting about how many people he sentenced to death while Governor of Texas? That’s the sign of someone compensating for a perceived lack of toughness in the family line. His presidency is marked with slogans like “Get Tough On…” or “War On…” No ones going to accuse him of being a wimp.
Let’s backtrack here for a bit. This isn’t meant to be a tirade against George Junior; I’ll leave that for tougher people than me. But he’s just an obvious and easy example of people’s fear of the “S” word.
Long ago when someone was referred to as being sensitive it was usually preceded by the word a. A sensitive was a person who was “sensitive” to the spirit world or who was considered aware of things beyond the ken of human understanding.
I’m sure any of you with Irish backgrounds have heard older relatives talk about someone being sensitive in this context. Being able to see the little people etc. Of course this type of behaviour was frowned upon as heretical and devilish, and treated accordingly depending upon the practices of the time.
Although the word no longer has the same connotations, and we don’t literally burn people at the stake for it anymore, sensitive is still a word with negative attachments. From the guy trying to pick up chicks pretending to be “sensitive” to the stop acting like a girl crowd in the schoolyard, every male knows that to be called sensitive is the kiss of death. You might as well just come out of the closet now and get it over with.
Why is it that men expressing emotion are seen as being weak in our society? Where was it carved in stone that men are stoical and women are demonstrative? Why are men trained from a young age to tamp down their emotions until at fifty-five they explode like powder kegs with a stroke or a heart attack from the accumulation of stress?
I’m not talking about the new age self help gobbledygook one has to listen to on Oprah on a daily basis. I’ve no use for that extreme either. I don’t really need to read another biography by anybody about their discovery of their inner whatever. I have no need to “share” my inner most fears and traumas with the world; that’s what a shrink is for.
It’s the ability to learn to see things not in terms of self. You don’t like the word sensitive? That’s fine, how about compassion? That doesn’t mean bursting into tears every time you pass a homeless person, or making it your personal responsibility to solve everybody’s problems. Those aren’t usually healthy reactions either.
It’s a simple matter of awareness. Think back to what I said about the Irish grandmothers talking about people who are sensitives; they have an awareness beyond themselves and the boundaries of this world. You don’t have to go that far to be sensitive or compassionate nowadays, all you have to do is try and stay aware of the world around you.
If somebody asks you to be sensitive to the feelings of somebody else, they’re not telling you to know what that person is felling, but just to know that they feel something. That doesn’t mean if someone mugs you that have to be all warm and fuzzy towards them, because that’s denying the fact that you want to rip their head off. Sometimes your own feelings do take precedence.
Being sensitive is not being weak or being a “girley boy”. Sensitivity got a bad name in the eighties as a reaction to all the stupidity of the psychobabble of the seventies. You couldn’t walk into a bookstore without seeing some book or another preaching about sensitivity training.
The expression “getting in touch with your feelings” caused more damage to the compassionate nature of people and society than any profit-seeking executive did in the eighties. It was that excess of gooeyness that caused the pendulum to swing so far in the other direction. It’s exactly the same thing that happened with so called political correctness.
What’s actually happening when people tell you not to be sensitive is they’re telling you not to be emotional, not to care and not be aware. Just to take everything that’s dished out to you without complaint and go to your grave without ever once uttering a word of protest. Maybe that’s all right for some of you but it doesn’t work well for me.
I’m proud to say that when someone calls me a momma’s boy for caring I can get in touch with my feelings, understand my anger, and crack them over the head with my cane. Remember, I’m sensitive about things like that.