One of the things I’ve learned about my sensitivity and have seen with people having difficulty with it too, is a lack of “till here and no further” attitude. Sensitivity and sympathy often go hand in hand and as long as there is an inability to discriminate the difference between empathy and sympathy, many of us end up doing stuff we don’t really want and/or like. For no particular reason (ahum – read on and see for yourself) I remember one of my first lectures on sensitivity for a group of very kind people. Somehow I got the idea of putting the attending people to the test and opened the lecture with something like this:
Good evening everybody, my name is Edwin and tonight I would like to talk about sensitivity.
I know.. nothing special so far, just a nice very common introduction.
We will have a break around 9PM tonight for approx. 15 minutes in which you have time to drink a cup of tea of coffee. Then we continue with the second part of the evening. It is not allowed to take any drinks in the conference room, please be aware of this!
I want to tell you not to ask any questions during the lecture, this is often quite disturbing to me and chances are I will answer them further up the lecture anyway.
Warming up here, it’s getting even better!!!!
In case you need to visit the toilet while the lecture is at full speed, if you really must go and cannot wait till the break; raise your hand gently and wait until I acknowledge your request by gently nodding my head, looking you straight into the eyes.
By this time I was expecting those attending the lecture to comment or complain about these rather far fetched rules. But nothing at all! In the corner sat a friend smiling knowing that I was probably up to something. And I was! And I changed gear and went even crazier… and again, nobody even blinked at my absurd proposals and commands. Only when I asked them if they were really ok with all my dictatorial commands did they shuffle a bit and hesitatingly replied they were a bit unsettled and thought I was just very, very definite with my requirements. There was only one question left to ask them to try to understand their behavior:
Why did they accept it? Why were they ok with those ridiculous demands? How far could I have taken it to really reach a point for them to start complaining or just stand up and leave? I knew I already crossed the line waaaayyy too far of what is normal and could be expected of a group of people attending a lecture. My rules might have been appropriate for a child acting up and not listening, but we were dealing with adults here.
So that evening we continued talking about setting parameters and how they are so very important for people with a heightened sensitivity. If you are all over the place and set no boundaries to how people may treat you, you will one day end up meeting people that trespass your sacred space and (ab)use you for their own benefit. And you would just be standing there, watching it and afterwards be left alone in an agony of pain, asking yourself; how did this happen?
It’s really bizar behavior and the most important question is: where do you set your parameters?
The reason to recall this lecture is rather unfortunate because I have the strong impression it’s happening again, on a much larger scale impacting the whole world. I can’t help but watch the news and ask myself; why? How can one man be able to seemingly push a whole country back, not ten years, but a hundred years back in time in terms of technological break-throughs, scientific research and human rights? I didn’t get it back then and I don’t get it right now. Or.. well, to be honest, I do a little bit.
How many times do you ask yourself: do I really like this or do I want to do or be this? Or even, do I want to support this? Yes, you can have an impact. Perhaps not on the whole world, but on your life! When you know what you want, you will come to see and learn what it takes to get to that place, where your life is in line with the parameters you set. And you too, like everybody else on this planet, have the right to stand up and say: this far and no further!