Are you constantly told you overreact? Do your emotions ruin relationships and opportunities? Leaving you wondering ‘how can I be less sensitive?”
[Does your sensitivity have you at crisis point? Our booking platform harleytherapy.com provides fast and affordable Skype therapy wherever you live.]
Is oversensitivity something you can change?
Some of us are born more inclined to be sensitive than others. And our life experiences then trigger this sensitivity. (Read our article, “Why Am I So Oversensitive?”).
Trauma in particular causes emotional sensitivity. It’s as if our brains want to protect us from further trauma, so overreact as a way to protect us. We can even end up with borderline personality disorder, or a diagnosis of emotional dysregulation.
Although you can’t just stop your sensitivity, you can gain more control over your sensitivity and reactions. There are even types of therapy designed to help you with exactly this.
These include dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT), schema therapy, and mentalisation based therapy.
If your sensitivity is connected to one exact trauma, eye movement desensitisation and reprogramming (EMDR) is also a useful therapy to try.
Techniques that don’t work at all
Often sensitive people come up with their own methods to be less sensitive. These include things like:
These techniques might work short-term, but at a high cost. You will find yourself lonely, unhappy, misunderstood, or unable to remember who you really are. Depression is usually the long-term result.
7 ways to be less sensitive
So what sorts of techniques might you learn in therapy to control your emotions? That mean you can be less sensitive?
Daily mindfulness is one of the best tools to pull you away from your reactive thoughts and into the present moment. It leaves your mind calmer and clearer and raises your self-esteem, and it’s now a cornerstone of several types of therapy.
You can learn mindfulness now by reading our free ‘Guide to Mindfulness‘.
Note that mindfulness takes time, often several months or more, to really ‘get’, so stick it out. If you are struggling, consider using a mindfulness app.
2. Brain training.
Our brain is a bit like a computer. It likes to repeat the same program unless told otherwise.
If you are sensitive, the pattern will tend to be, ‘feel threatened, overreact or withdraw’. You need to teach your brain new ways of responding.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) achieves this through ‘thought charts’. By spending several weeks recording stressful thoughts and working them through a specific process, your brain eventually starts to recognise where you are mistaking assumptions for facts.
Learning how to spot assumptions is alone very powerful. When we stop thinking we know everything, and begin to realise we might be seeing things wrong, we start to be less sensitive.
You can learn about using thought charts in our article on Balanced Thinking. Better yet, book a session with a CBT therapist.
3. Displacement techniques.
The idea here is to notice when you are being emotionally triggered and use a predetermined tool of distraction to pull you away from your thoughts. Tactics that get you out of your head and into your body are best. Dialectical behavioural therapy suggests things like holding ice, belly breathing, or physically taking a few steps backwards. Read more about this in our article “Techniques to Stop Distress“.
4. Perspective jumping.
When we see things from a narrow view of ‘me against the world’ we tend to always be on alert and sensitive. A useful life coaching technique is to learn how to switch perspective. Think of a situation you recently experienced where you felt very sensitive. What would an alien watching from above think? Your eighty-year old future self? What would the Dalai Lama suggest you do in such a situation?
The more we judge ourselves for being oversensitive, and fight against the situations we find ourselves in, the more we seem to overreact. But when we start to accept situations and ourselves, a strange thing happens – we relax a little. Suddenly we feel a bit less sensitive.
Try the ‘worst case scenario’ trick. When things seem overwhelming ask, “What is the very worst thing that can happen here? Can I accept and handle that?” If yes, you’ll relax a little. If no, you can decide who to ask for help.
A good tool to help with self acceptance is self-compassion. When you find yourself judging or berating yourself, imagine you were instead talking to a good friend. How would you speak to and treat them? Offer yourself the same.
6. Daily journalling.
We aren’t talking about recording what happens to you. We are talking about taking time every day to explode your feelings onto a page. It’s a good idea to then rip up what you write, so that your unconscious mind feels safe to unload. The idea here is that your emotions release onto the page instead of onto others around you.
The key word here is ‘daily’. Think of it like a pot of water on the stove. You need to keep lowering the heat or it will boil over.
7. Self care.
Emotionally sensitive people seem to often also be physically sensitive. Things like poor sleep and too much sugar can mean you are even less in control of how you feel. Yes, perhaps your friends can go out drinking all night and be fine. But if you are left an emotional wreck the next day, is it worth trying to keep up?
When it’s time to seek support
Working with a counsellor or psychotherapist creates a safe space to learn and try out new ways of relating that are less reactive.
Therapy also offers the experience of a trusting relationship. Often our sensitivity comes from a hidden core belief that the world is a dangerous place and we can’t trust anyone. When we learn what trust feels like through the ‘therapeutic alliance’, we can then start to trust others and the world that little bit more, meaning we have less of a need to be sensitive.
Harley Therapy connects you with top London therapists in central locations. Not in London or the UK? Our new booking platform means you can be talking to a therapist over Skype as soon as tomorrow.
Still have a question about how to be less sensitive? Ask in the comment section below.
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