Is It Possible To Be Too Sensitive?

Apr 07, 2022

"I wish their comments wouldn't hurt or affect me so much."

I believe these phrases arise from 1 of 2 situations.

1. You aren’t able to effectively manage the expression of your emotions

2. The other person isn't able to effectively respond to your emotions

Or a third scenario is a combination of both happening.

But, what does all this mean?

That neither of you is correct and neither of you is wrong. It’s a perspective about what being ‘effective’ is.

Emotional intelligence and basic human skills aren’t taught in the schooling curriculum.

We are left to 1 day realise (or be told) that something isn’t right with our behaviours.

Then (if we're switched on) we decide to go and learn about inter-human communications.

My opinion is that we can't be too sensitive, only too emotionally expressive when it's not done in a conscious manner. Likewise, somebody isn’t necessarily flawed if they can’t handle your emotional expression – as well as you would like.


Paul Ekman has a scale of emotional compassion

• Emotional Recognition

• Emotional Resonance

• Familial Compassion

• Global Compassion

• Sentient Compassion

• Heroic Compassion

Nearly everybody has the ability of emotional recognition (unless you're Dr. Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory TV show). Most of us can tell when there has been an argument when we walk into a room, even if we didn't hear it.

There are 2 types of Emotional Resonance.

The first is Identical Resonance which is when you physically experience the same anguish or pain as another. I experience this on a daily basis in my healing work, but know how to manage it.

Until a few years ago, I used to think I suffered from anxiety until I realised I was picking up the anxiety of those around me!

The second is Reactive Resonance which is more of sympathetic response to their pain. A nurse or caregiver requires aspects of reactive resonance but needs to be mindful of the emotional ties to the individual.

The blood bond and close family or remote community, experience Familial Compassion. Their needs are connected to those around them, such as a pseudo-Aunty responding to a crying baby.

Natural disasters bring many of the society together. Not necessarily physical acts of donations but sympathising and relating to their situation. Often there isn't anything direct we do personally other than ‘put ourselves in their shoes’.

The compassion we express and the concern we feel for strangers beyond our local borders are acts of Global Compassion.

I wonder, can you have compassion for a dying cockroach or other creepy-crawlies?

Sentient Compassion is extended feelings toward other living things, plants, or creatures. The Dalai Lama suggests that sentient and global compassion are intertwined.

Finally, the demonstration of putting another's needs ahead of your own welfare is Heroic Compassion.

Although many of our society are trained to do this, such as police and fire workers with and without thought, most everyday folks are capable of impulsive heroic compassion when the emotion of love is involved.


Understanding these different types of Compassion can help us to recognise our sensitivity on a personal level. I am a very sensitive person, most stories of suffering* or acts of kindness pull at my heartstrings.

However, sobbing and sad energetic responses for hours afterward, would indeed justify a 'you're too sensitive' jib.

I’m also an empath in multiple facets so need to be particularly careful to manage my empathy.

The difference is, that I know when it's an unresolved pain that is 'triggering' me, or if I am allowing myself to feel profound compassion at that moment.

It's important to allow ourselves to feel the full range of emotions. 

Sadness is not a bad thing! In fact, being empathic is crucial to the rewards of human connection. On the other hand, it’s critical to learn the skills that keep us balanced and more importantly charged up to serve, otherwise, we are of no use for our own goals or to others.


Many in our community (and workplace) aren't great at emotional resonance or simply lack empathy. This may be for any number of reasons.

  • Cultural: some cultures don't encourage emotional expression and cultivate the suppression of feelings
  • Lifetime experience 1: too much could have polarised us to shut down to protect our emotional energy tanks
  • Lifetime experience 2: not enough observation of emotional expression as a child leaves us uneducated
  • Personality Disorders: autism spectrum and narcissistic disorders have a hard time empathising through their brain functioning.


Your skills need to expand beyond self-maintenance, to how you are showing up.

There can be at least one reason why somebody may feel you are overly sensitive, which has nothing to do with your ability to self-manage your emotions.

Unfortunately saying that you’re an empath and expecting everybody to ‘get you’ isn’t fair to them. It’s our job to deliver our emotions - high or low - in a manner that supports the circumstances and serves us the best. At times that might be to discretely exit an unhelpful draining environment.

On a parting note, having empathy doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll want to help someone in need, we all have free will to choose.

Although, a world where we are ALL tapping into our compassion, would be a wondrous place to live, don’t you think?...

*Note: When working with a client I am not compassionate, I am empathetic. Meaning I can see and compartmentalise their pain.

Training is required to detach emotionally when working with clients. But it's a fine line for empathic coaches and healers, one that must go beyond training into practical application and practice.

Some healers have had to stop supporting others entirely because they haven’t learned how to protect themselves – which is a tragedy.