you & me

Open Letter to All Who Wield the Words ‘Too Sensitive’.


Dear wielders of the words Too Sensitive,

I address this open letter to every Tom, Dick, Harry, Trish, Dee, and Mary who hurl the words too sensitive or overly emotional at another human. If you resort to any variant of ‘too/so/overly’ combined with ‘sensitive/emotional’, no need to feel excluded. This applies to you as well.

As one frequently on the receiving end of these words, I have spent a lifetime wondering: Where do you find your research? In which scientific journals is it published? Why have I not yet come across it in my prolific academic readings covering taxonomy and interdisciplinary demographics? I am impressed with the assuredness of your assessments. I seek to understand your premise.

Inherent in your labels are implicit assertions:

1) that there is a specific and definable level of appropriate sensitivity deemed universally acceptable, and

2) that all others with sensitivity values above that amount are ‘too/so/overly’.

After decades devoted to comprehending the constructs of such measurements, my reconnaissance has led me to… well… absolutely nothing. I write in hopes that those who use, and therefore understand, this demarcation technique might provide assistance.

Specifically, I’m searching for the following information: Precisely what is this mutually agreed-upon amount of desirable, allowable, somehow quantifiable sensitivity? What unit(s) is/are used? Are readings based on heat? Vibration? Volume? Density? Parts-per? Or are determinations more subjective, requiring trained and licensed technicians?

Is scent considered? I hypothesize that sensitivity is marked by citrus/adrenaline/floral front notes atop earthy undertones kissed by cumulus cloud, but I am stymied as to how to translate this supposition into evidence. Is coloration a consideration? Do hunches factor in? Is labeling reflective of the word-wielder, thus determined on a case-by-case basis?

Is the threshold of tolerable sensitivity any level falling below that of the assessor?

However results are attained, I presume they are replicable. Certainly at least one tool is involved. Does a sensitivitometer exist? If so, why do internet searches, field research and interviews lead nowhere? Are tools hoarded? Secret? Classified? Good gracious, I hope this is not some cult situation! Are pertinent instruments available only to the less sensitive among us?

Do qualified diagnosticians always consult a gauge before definitively declaring?

To my knowledge to date, not one word-wielder questioned has been able to cite resources or cogently explain any of the above.

Note: for the sake of clarity, until I am able to grasp this issue with more finesse, I will use the term ‘sensitivity-shamers’ rather than the clunky ‘those who wield the words ‘too sensitive”.

Required punctuation and desired readability necessitate this linguistic shift. Due to my ignorance of the mechanics and nuances of demarcation, I am currently unable to grok more accurate phraseology. I understand that anyone methodical enough to calculate such diagnoses wouldn’t haphazardly shame another. As is often suggested, perhaps it is my sensitivity itself that precludes logic.

Terminology will be updated as comprehension allows.

Deductive reasoning dictates that incentives for shaming must outweigh the myriad reasons to not insult sensitive souls, otherwise these brow-beatings wouldn’t be as prevalent. Given the serious nature and potentially damaging impact, surely such laden labels wouldn’t be applied willy-nilly. Research has not yet revealed viable reasons for sensitivity takedown humiliations. Risks are obvious.

Any thoughtful individual who has considered how they wish to denigrate another has weighed the factors of being unkind, rude, judgmental, hurtful, mean, and altogether unhelpful (as asking someone to change their sensitivity level is as effective as my asking you to breathe something other than air). The aforementioned are best-case scenarios.

Since sensitivity-smearing involves attacking another’s very nature, the interpersonal violence dynamic must be considered. There is a reason that sensitivity-shaming is standard technique of gaslighters. Despite the fact that gaslighting is all the rage currently in U.S. culture, we can concur that it’s not a good look. Ever.

Beyond these detrimental (to my woefully untrained eye) aspects of such besmirchings, there are also the broader implications of sensitivity’s sociological benefits. You must have considered that the more sensitive among us are proverbial canaries in the coal mine. Individuals exhibiting ability to detect trouble early are built-in barometers of safety and sanity. We’re living, breathing, present moment PSAs.

Therefore, I struggle to comprehend our being silenced through repeated degradation. Since this is obvious, I trust it has been well-considered, committeed, and codified.

Also beyond comprehension is the absence of the following seemingly logical, though curiously absent, behaviors: Why would wisdom not have you cupping hands to ears so as to hear canaries’ songs sooner, with more clarity? Given that society’s writers, painters, poets, and artists are our canaries, why not heed — even encourage and amplify — sensitive souls’ messages?

Why not rely on their gifts and shower the sensitives with gifts of gratitude? Why not form more organizations devoted to celebrating them (with champagne!)?

Why, oh why, aren’t you fearful of killing your canaries by quashing their much-needed insights?

To be fair, it is imperative to consider the makeup of canary-quashers as well as that of the canaries. Scientific method asks if the corollary of sensitivity-shaming holds true: Is it just as likely that the bird bashers are insensitive? Does evidence of this exist in the wild?

Data would be expressed through fitting, logical and equivalent responses, e.g. physical gestures of proverbial canaries flipping the bird and verbal rebuttals, such as “Perhaps the issue is that you are insensitive, you smug [bleep]ing selfishly [bleep]ed satchel of [bleep]feathers!” Observations reveal that such retorts are rare.

The question arises: beyond not wishing to exacerbate the shame game, why do sensitive souls typically avoid retaliation? The answer: our sensitivity. On behalf of all of us who don’t call canary-naysaying, sensitivitometer-hoarding bullies ‘insensitive’, you’re welcome.

From behavioral field study to cultural implication, the scope of this endeavor is vast. Much obviously remains to be understood. Utilization of a sensitivity categorization system takes on urgency in today’s world. Thank you in advance for any assistance you can provide.


Your Canary


Tracy Rose Stamper dances with words. Her middle name is the most significant word she has written lately during these days asking us to rise. She lives in a home on a hill in St. Louis with two beloved humans, two rescue beagle boys, and two whimsical wind sculptures. You can find wildflower seeds in her floral purse and rose quartz in her pocket because she believes in beauty — finding it, creating it, recognizing it, relishing it, being it, breathing it. She prefers lunar to linear and kindness over niceness. The page is where she feels, heals, explores, expresses, dares, loves, cajoles, creates, craves, hides, seeks, plays, dreams, and becomes. Tracy is a contributing author of Anna Linder’s The Book of Emotions, and has had work appear in Rebelle Society, Drunk Monkeys, Dime Show Review, Feels, and borrowed solace, among others. You can find her dancing with words on Facebook.


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