Highly Sensitive People Can Change The World — If We Let Them

Highly Sensitive People Can Change The World — If We Let Them

Why it's dangerous to devalue empathy and compassion
160
views

Starting in the 1970s, psychologists began assigning the trait of “codependent” to patients whom they believed possessed a self-destructive desire to please others. This construct is very reminiscent of experiencing abuse in relationships, as it pinpoints the susceptibility of one’s emotional state to external influence as the sole reason for distress in one’s life. An issue I find with the idea of codependency as a diagnosable personality disorder is that it casts a negative light on victims of emotional abuse. Rather than celebrating a person’s willingness to exude love and kindness, the notion that codependent individuals “care too much” demeans them while excusing perpetrators of emotional abuse. Emotionally abusive people already have the upper hand in terms of the relationship’s power play. Therefore, placing the burden of the relationship’s failure on the victim by declaring their “codependency” reinforces societal tolerance of emotional abuse. This leads us, as a culture, to devalue traits such as empathy and compassion, while rewarding those who possess cold, manipulative attitudes.

Typically, women embody the more benevolent characteristics of the ones listed above. This could be an indirect result of many western social structures: pigeonholing women into caretaker roles, the feminization of emotional literacy, equating fierce individualism with professional success (which is inexplicably linked to masculinity), etc. Visible links exist between how we regard empathy and the careers which involve its application. For example, teachers, though integral to curating the young minds of our nation, are often underpaid and under-appreciated. Why? Well, the field just happens to be dominated by women. The same phenomenon pervades in the sphere of social activism or humanitarianism. From caretakers in nursing homes to the vast network of volunteers propping up schools, churches, community centers, and nonprofit organizations, women are on the frontline. As my mother has told me, “The world runs on the unpaid work of women.”

Naturally, those who respond emotionally to human suffering make perfect activists. They understand the importance of putting their own needs aside for the greater good. Combined with a dose of pragmatism, organization, charisma, and vision, these people are able to lead movements and create progress. This hypothetical personality is pretty admirable, if you ask me. Yet, too often are these people referred to as naive, impractical, or overly emotional. I would know. I’ve always been an idealist; I’ve always been an activist. My worst nightmare, (or “personal hell” for the Meyer’s Brigg’s INFJ personality type) is a world in which all people are subjected to the rule of an unjust, oppressive force without anyone to advocate on their behalf. I identify as female, and fit 100% into this profile that I’ve introduced. I’m told that I’m wrong for letting my passion for change guide me. But why is it right to promote selfishness above improving life for everyone?

I discovered one of my favorite quotes from a Chipotle bag: “We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naive to work toward a better one.” -Steven Pinker

Apathy helps one achieve a momentary feeling of superiority. Passion and relentless caring, on the other hand, can help you accomplish something so much bigger than yourself.

Our manmade gender hierarchy has pitted everyone, even women, against the idea of embracing feminine qualities. Since we’ve shoved genuine concern for others into that corner along with an affinity for pink, it’s been difficult to convince people that it’s okay to let your guard down and show your soft side. However, it’s crucial to strike the correct balance between selflessness and self-preservation. Women have been conditioned to feel responsible for the needs of others. Mothers forego sleep to tend to their children, wives sacrifice pleasure to inflate their husbands’ sexual egos, and so on. Along with our ability to feel vividly, we are blessed - and cursed - with the ability to detect and, subsequently, serve the emotional needs of those around us. Maybe that’s where the idea of codependency came from, the thought that some only know they are loved or valued when they feel they are needed. I reject the idea that codependency is the root cause of women’s interpersonal issues. Rather, I believe that the trouble lies in the inability of others to accommodate highly sensitive people.

The “highly sensitive” person is one so in tune with the emotions and needs of others that they neglect their own self-care. They are sweet, generous souls who want nothing more than to leave the world better off than when they entered it. We could all do well to assist in their efforts, first by acknowledging their emotional nature as something beautiful and unique. We must try to shift our cultural values away from materialism, personal wealth, and individual progress, to a holistic understanding of what progress really looks like. In order to do this, we cannot afford to belittle our instruments of change for having larger hearts.

Secondly, we need to remind them that they must take care of themselves in order to help anyone else. Activists, like myself, often fear that we’re not doing enough for our causes. This is especially relevant to highly sensitive college students, who sometimes care more about meeting external expectations (like getting good grades, volunteering, and attending social obligations) than self-nurturing. This leads to a dismal lack of sleep, mental health concerns, physical illness, and spiritual dearth. Everyone should make sure that the highly sensitive person in their life is eating well, resting when need be, and addressing all their personal needs --whether psychological or tangible.

Lastly, we need to build up women. We can make sure female spaces are positive and inclusive, that women are serving as role models for each other, and that the female figures in our lives all communicate feminist values. But we also need to have men expressing their support for highly sensitive women. The next time some guy says a woman is “crazy,” when she may just be emotional for a perfectly valid reason, call him out on it. And the next time anyone compares someone of a different gender to a woman as a means of insulting them, shut it down. This person could be highly sensitive, which is something worth celebrating. Highly sensitive people have the potential to positively change the world. Let’s make sure we do whatever we can to enable them.

Popular Right Now

No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
99675
views

In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Donald Trump's Sanctions Toward The Iranian Government Are Giving Us Painful Flashbacks To North Korea

Whether the sanction is effective is uncertain. But just like the North Korean nuclear problem, there will also be an answer soon.

53
views

The recent news is that Iran president Hassan Rouhani is willing to talk with Donald Trump and the American government about newly established sanction towards Iran. Three months ago, Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would exit the Iran Nuclear Agreement and threatened to impose sanctions on Iran nuclear in 180 days. Recently, Trump tweeted what could be seen as a threat to the Iranian government.

Donald Trump wanted to force the Iranian government to change their economic policy. There are a lot of domestic problems in Iran. The Iranian government is busy expanding their power in the Middle East. The government used to support the Syrian government. The Saudi Arabian government and the West, which supported the Syrian Rebels, attempted to stop Iran from interfering with Syria. The Iranian government worried that the Syrian governmental crisis would affect their political stability. The overuse of the financial budget has influenced economics, causing Iranian people to appeal the government to revolutionize.

Compare the North Korean Nuclear Crisis and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis and we can see Donald Trump's similar strategies. Firstly, Donald Trump has put in a lot of pressure of either country to force them to give up the nuclear plan and improve economics instead. In the North Korean Crisis, last year, Donald Trump called Kim Jong Un "rocket man" and Kim Jong Un condemned him "crazy."

After temporary language confrontation, Kim Jong Un gave and was willing to negotiate with Trump beginning in early 2018. As for Iran, Rouhani also laughed at Trump's policy and criticized Donald Trump's sanction to Iran which was not supported by the European Union. But the latest is that Iran officials are still willing to talk to the U.S. In the trade war with China, Donald Trump also exerted the pressure on China in order to negotiate.

Many people dislike Donald Trump. It is undoubted that Donald Trump's sanction has effectively forced the country to open their economy to a larger degree of freedom. In the Kim-Trump Summit, the U.S. government reportedly played a video that assumed the future of North Korea.

In Iran currently, the inflation is so high that the public wants the economics to be promoted and anti-America sentiment is expected to end. As Donald Trump mentioned, the aim of the sanction is not to overturn the Iranian government, but to let them rethink how to focus on economics rather than on political stability.

Whether the sanction is effective is uncertain. But just like the North Korean nuclear problem, there will also be an answer soon.

Related Content

Facebook Comments