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Highly Sensitive or Highly Sentimental?

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According to the dictionary, “sentimentality” means being overly sensitive. Aren’t HSPs rather highly sentimental in the first place? Elaine Aron’s test also mainly reflects exaggerated sensitivities of external stimuli.

If an HSP experiences problems from these external stimuli, we can say that the person is not highly sensitive at the time of request for help, but highly sentimental. The burden is the sentiment, the opportunity is sensitivity. If the burdens experienced by a highly sensitive person are removed, there can only be room for the gifted observation that is present.

In this context, we do not mean that ‘sentiment’ means a general attitude of ‘wailing’ (‘don’t be so sentimental!’). Sentiments can also be compared to connecting threads from within the person, which are linked to stimuli from the outside world.

It does not matter whether this connection is positive or negative. So we can have a sentiment with friends, but also with our enemies. In all cases you could say that there is a kind of ‘attachment’ from the outside world.

The HSP vibrates to the movement of sentiments. When we become more sensitive, we are more detached. Or if you are detached, you become more and more sensitive. Only a conscious person can be sensitive. If you have no awareness, you are not sensitive. When you are unconscious, you are totally insensitive.

The more awareness, the more sensitivity. This course emphasizes this awareness, the perceiving. If we are actually sensitive and aware, we are not attached and thus detached from the sentiments.

For the whole of awareness breaks the connection, it destroys the bridge, the connecting threads between you and persons, between you and the world. Unconsciousness, not awareness is the cause of attachment. The world is there, you are there, but the bridge between the two becomes less and less as your awareness increases. The attachment thus forms a barrier and is also the sentiment.

The origin of attachment is found in the feeling of being incomplete. We need some kind of complement to feel complete. This, often unconscious, search for completeness creates bonds. And so from this automatic behavior unconscious bonds with external unwanted stimuli arise that the person experiences as a burden.

If we detach more, it does not mean that we are separate from the world. Rather the opposite is true. There is the experience of being more complete, of being one whole. We miss less and we need less from the outside world. You seem like a loner, but you feel a total independence in an experience of wholeness and oneness with existence.

Buddha stayed in a village; a woman came up to him, she wept and cried and screamed. Her child, her only child, had died suddenly. Because Buddha was in the village, the people said, ‘Don’t cry. Go to this man. People say he is infinite compassion. If he wants to, the child can revive. So don’t cry, go to this Buddha.’

The woman came with the dead child, she wept, she wept, and the whole village came after her. The whole village was affected. Buddha’s disciples were also affected. They began to pray in their minds that Buddha would be compassionate after all. He must bless the child so that it may come back to life, to resurrection.

Many of the Buddha’s disciples began to weep. The scene was so touching, it cuts you to the bone. Everyone was quiet. Buddha kept silent. He looked at the dead child, said nothing, and looked at the weeping, weeping mother. After some time he said to the mother: ‘Don’t cry, do one single thing and your child will live again.

Leave this dead child here, go back to the village, go to every house and ask all those families if anyone in their family has ever died, in their house. And if you can find a house where no one has ever died, ask them to eat something, some bread, some rice, or whatever. And that bread or that rice will immediately bring the child back to life. Just go. No time to waste.’

And the woman was happy. She now had the idea that the miracle was going to happen. She touched Buddha’s feet and ran to the village which was not very big. There were a few houses, just a few families. She went from one family to another with her question. But every family said, ‘No, impossible. There is not a single house, not only in this village, but everywhere on earth, where no one has ever died, where people have not suffered through death and the misery and pain and sorrow that comes from it.’

Slowly but surely it dawned on the woman that Buddha had used a trick. This was impossible. Yet there was still hope. She continued to ask until she had gone around the village. Her tears dried up, her hopes ebbed, but suddenly she felt a new sense of calm come over her, a serenity. Now it dawned on her that whoever is born must die. It’s only a matter of years. One dies sooner, the other later, but death is unavoidable.

She went back, touched Buddha’s feet again and said to him: “Just as the people say, you truly have a deep compassion for the people.” No one could understand what had happened. His disciple Ananda asked Buddha, ‘You could have revived the boy. He was such a beautiful child and the mother was so sad in and out.’ But Buddha said, ‘Even if the child had been resurrected, he would still have had to die. Death is inevitable.’

Ananda said: ‘But you don’t seem to be very sensitive to the people, to their misery and sadness.’ Buddha replied, ‘I am sensitive, you are sentimental. Just because you’re going to cry, do you think you’re sensitive? You don’t understand life. You are not aware of the phenomenon.’

In the silence that was present in Buddha, sensitivity was used as a gift of observation. The sensitivity brought the other to insight. The true compassion was there because he helped this woman to grow, to mature.

Sentimentality is ordinary, sensitivity is extraordinary. It is obtained through effort and an opportunity in life when the sentiments no longer exert a heavy pressure on you. Then comes the space. Sensitivity means attentiveness that senses everything that is happening around you.

And you can only sense when you are not attached, when there is no sentimentality. When you are attached you are no longer there to feel, you have gone out of yourself. Important to stay present. So, as it were, in your ‘own inner world’ while the film of ‘the outer world’ is taking its course.

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