Tuesday, December 8, 2015

IS IT TOUCHING?


I just finished reading Little Women to G and Z. That book is way longer than I remembered - and – seriously?! - emotionally grueling. As had happened throughout Little Women, but on an even more snot-filled, ugly-crying level, I began to lose it as I tried to read those last pages aloud. The closing bit, where Marmee says, even after all the poverty and hardship, and even though her daughter Beth died (sorry if I am giving anything away here), “Oh, my girls, however long you may live, I can never wish you a greater happiness than this!” And she says this simply because they are all together...I can’t even type it without sobbing.

As I read to her, as she often does, Z observed my emotional reaction and asked, “Mom, is it touching?”

Honey, to me, just about EVERYTHING is touching.

You can just look at my red, blotchy, slimy face – or your brother’s: Yes. It’s touching. When a bird lets another bird go ahead of it at the birdfeeder? Touching. Something on the radio about helping people? We will probably at a minimum get misty-eyed. When there’s a video of a baby seal? Touching. Human interest piece in People magazine at the dentist? All those interspecies friendship books? Elderly people holding hands? Yes. Anything to do with animals, life, death, romance, family, and so forth is fair game for being touching.

At the same time, on my own, I’ve been dipping into The Highly Sensitive Person, in which I was *stunned* to read that 42% of people describe themselves as “not sensitive at all.” And here I’d always thought everybody was just better at managing their feelings and reactions than I was – because there was something wrong with me. Something weak, or ignorant, or lame; a lack in me which rendered me less adept than the majority of people...People who didn’t seem to cry or laugh quite as readily, people for whom interacting with others, for example, seemed to be much more clear cut, less laden with strong, overwhelming feelings, and MUCH less daunting...

I’d assumed everybody was “like me” and that it was my “fault” for being unable to “master” my feelings and reactions. Now I see another healing, liberating spectrum! I wouldn’t quite put my Z in the “not sensitive at all” category, but on a sensitivity spectrum we clearly occupy different spaces. And this holds true for her sensory processing as well: she’s impervious to hunger, noise, lack of sleep, etc. in a way that’s inconceivable to the SPD-ers* in the family.

In Figure I, I’ve charted approximations of our family sensitivity levels relative to one another (P=Pardner, Z=my daughter, G=my son, F=me). This is obviously simplifying and generalizing, but it also clearly indicates a Full Spectrum of sensitivities just within one family.


Figure I – Touching Chart: From Squishing-Touching to Not Touching

Knowing that others have different sorts and levels of sensitivity, doesn’t mean we ourselves necessarily should attempt to change our own feelings and reactions – even if we are able (?). But that knowledge opens our eyes to possibilities of different perspectives - and perspective, as I tell my philosophy students, is the key to a lot. It’s marvelous to see how we all shine in different ways. It’s intriguing for me to imagine the experience of not sobbing at the drop of a hat; for Z, learning about things that are “touching” is inspiring her to find her own tender spots.

Guess the Full Spectrums will keep learning from each other.

We just started By the Shores of Silver Lake. You know, the Laura Ingalls Wilder where Mary goes blind and Jack, their loyal, loving dog dies? It’s going to be you-know-what.

Love,
Full Spectrum Mama

* SPD-ers: people with sensory processing differences





Welcome to the Sensory Blog Hop — a monthly gathering of posts from sensory bloggers hosted by The Sensory Spectrum and The Jenny Evolution. Click on the links below to read stories from other bloggers about what it’s like to have Sensory Processing Disorder and to raise a sensory kiddo!


21 comments:

  1. I cried at every single chapter of all 8 books, and my lovely little son creature looked at my with wonder at every chapter of all eight books and patted my back and encouraged me to keep reading.

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    1. That is beyond darling! Maybe we can bawl together someday?
      Thanks for reading!
      Love,
      FSM

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  2. Ah! You're reading the stories of my childhood to your kiddos.

    You bring up such great points about perspective. We assume so often, don't we, that everyone experiences (x) the same way that we do but, as you so eloquently point out, this is just simply not the case.

    I'm the type of person who feels things deeply but has a difficult time expressing those feelings outwardly. I wish I could laugh and cry as easily and readily as you do. However, my personality keeps me even keel and calm in nearly every situation. It takes a lot to ruffle me and rile me up. Not sure where I'd fall the chart, but probably somewhere close to your daughter.

    Perspective is everything. I once had a friend who said we all view the world through our own filter. Understanding someone else's perspective is more important, in my opinion, than the reality of the matter itself. Everything gets filtered through our personal lenses and this is how we form our world view.

    Thanks for the touching post...and the trip down memory lane reminiscing about some great literature!

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    1. Now you just brought up a REALLY good point, which perhaps is fodder for a post for one or both of us: how you FEEL deeply (so, high on sensitivity scale), yet don't express in an obvious way. So sensitivity and expression thereof are two very different things. Trust me, I try SO HARD not to express (just this morning I desperately tried not to cry in the car to a holiday song but I was just so dang HAPPY), yet my personality/body (??) don't have that capacity (I wish they did!). OTOH, there are times when i feel deeply (physically or emotionally) but am overwhelmed and so unsure what my feelings are related to (it's usually things like fluorescent lights or crowds) and so i don't express or even effectively process them and then I have a meltdown. My meltdowns ARE internal, not expressed or inflicted on others, but they are very hard...
      I wonder if that's what keeping your feelings inside means for you, or if you process in a more healthy way?
      Anyway, thanks for reading!
      Love,
      FSM

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  3. Oh, I get this. Being totally overwhelmed by raw raw feelings that are way too big to fit in a body. Oh, yeah. Sobfest away!

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    1. Sobfesters, UNITED!!!!!
      Thanks and love,
      FSM

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  4. Reading your blog on the spectrum of emotions was helpful. The difference between my emotional range and that of my former partners was staggering. My wife and I are almost mirror images. Is emotional sensitivity more significant than race or class?

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    1. Another fantastic point! I would venture to say that on an individual, inter-personal level (Vs. societal, or larger group) it has got to be up there!
      Thanks and love,
      FSM

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  5. Thank you. This is such a thought-provoking post. I realize, as I read it, how much I judge myself for being "over sensitive," but also others for being callous by comparison. It's really useful to recognize that it's just a continuum, another spectrum, and that the judgments aren't fair or useful. I love your insights.
    -mf

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    1. Thank you, dearest mf.
      Judging EITHER WAY (a la me judging me, too) is...silly, to use a technical term.
      Thanks and love,
      FSM

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  6. I love those stories... and you're right -- we do each approach things from a different perspective. Thank you for this post.

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  7. I hadn't thought of sensitivity having a spectrum. As usual, you've changed my outlook on EVERYTHING.

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    1. Awww...shucks! >blush!!<
      This was a game-changing bit of info for me too, so very glad to share it!
      Thanks and love,
      FSM

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  8. Yup. BIG feelings in this house, too. I have always been an emotional sponge for what others are feeling, and honestly it's exhausting. Hav ethat book somewhere, need to revisit it.
    Interesting that there is such a variety in your house. Always love your graphics. And I agree, we need to respect where others fall on the sensitivity scale, and accept that we all feel things in our own way. No right or wrong way :)

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    1. Thanks so much for reading!
      You know, the phenomenon of absorbing others' feelings is yet another axis here, right?
      I think a lot of people on the spectrum or with spd or who are simply highly sensitive don't automatically/naturally have the kind of boundaries that protect us from feeling others' feelings in a very visceral, real, personal way! "Emotional sponge" captures that perfectly! ...Another post?
      Thanks and love and acceptance!
      FSM

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  9. Here is ANOTHER comment from someone who was unable to use the comment form:
    Hi, loved your blog and as usual couldn't figure out how to commentj. need to read it again and read the comments, but,
    I thought, as to laughing more readily and quickly than other people (very obvious at the movies and public gatherings), that I was just smarter than other people, or had a quicker mind.
    As to the empathy, I always knew other people weren't as sensitive, but that some were, from my family of orientation.
    my father cries very easily, especially at happy things and the others you listed, also, but I knew other people were not as empathetic, and truly, I thought and think those of us are are empathetic are actually better than other people, not that we are less able to mask our feelings.
    Please feel free to add my comments to your blog.
    can';t wait to read again and the comments as well as the complaints.

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  10. I love Little Women and its sequels. As far as sensitivity, I find that it varies widely with me. I am sensitive to criticism and compliments directed at me, but nearly impervious to the emotions of others unless I have had a common experience.

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    1. Thank you so much for reading!
      Fascinating comment: yet another part of the matrix of sensitivity and expression!
      Thanks and love,
      FSM

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  11. Ypu just made me realize about spectrum sensitivity. Your article is changing me and my perspective about the topic.

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    1. THANK YOU! Just looking for those truths that open our hearts and minds....

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