Sense and Sensitivity.

Yesterday, I went to the dentist. I’ve been putting it off. After two bouts of orthodontic treatment in my life (one as an adult) and countless dental visits in between, rather than developing a high threshold of pain with respect to my teeth, it seems to be getting lower. And so I had a sneaking, or not so sneaking, suspicion that my time in the dentist’s chair would be uncomfortable.

I’d reluctantly made the appointment because I have a small crack in one tooth and although I could have probably continued chewing on one side for another month, I felt compelled to go. A decision I questioned as I lay back in the chair, one side of my face numb, with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Let’s face it, it’s the end of the year and I’m kind of running on empty. I’m pre-menstrual. There was a full lunar eclipse yesterday and the equinox. Factors which may have resulted in my inability to sit in the dentist’s chair and reign in my sensitivity.

But what made it even more difficult for me to control what I was feeling, was the look of confusion and unease on the face of my dentist. Here I was trying to explain that it wasn’t about her but that I was premenstrual, tired and had a low threshold of dental pain due to years of treatment (fortunately I restrained myself from mentioning the planetary alignment) and she looked totally mystified. So much so, that as I left the practice, I found myself apologising to her for being so pathetic.

It was only as I drove back in town afterwards, that I thought ‘Geez, what’s with that?!’ Just because I’ve been given a shot of anaesthetic, doesn’t mean I’m not going to feel anything at all. Maybe it will numb the nerves immediately surrounding the affected tooth, but it doesn’t desensitize my whole person to the sheer discomfort of the procedure or the memory of years of dental pain.

The irony is that I chose this dentist because she has a reputation for a more holistic approach. There is no doubt that she is a very good dentist. I didn’t feel a thing in the tooth she was focussing on. But the point is that I did feel and then felt silly for feeling and being honest about it and then felt faintly outraged with myself for feeling silly.

There have been a number of times in my life where I’ve been criticised for being sensitive. I don’t want my behavior to make people feel uneasy or for it to impact negatively on my ability to do the job, but here’s the thing… I am sensitive. I have a fairly high level of empathy and self-awareness. If my mind and body send signals of discomfort, I’m going to pay attention. And quite simply, sensitivity is part of who I am. I think it’s an important tool in my kit as a mentor, communicator and connector.

So after years of feeling like I need to somehow switch off my sensitivity  in order to be effective and if that didn’t work, apologise profusely, I’m beginning to embrace it. I’ll let you know how that works out.

2 thoughts on “Sense and Sensitivity.

  1. Lovely Marianne, thank you. I hope that, as intended, you are taking care of your sensitivity.

    With respect to your concert analogy, I understand entirely. As I’m learning to embrace this sensitivity fully, I am learning how important it is to have space and be gentle on myself. That culture of stoicism we were talking about the other day lends itself to having very high expectations and feeling like you’ve left yourself and others down when you have have to say no.

    And as I sit here typing this, the image which drifts into my mind’s eye is of a pair of golden scales and piled high on one side are all of those wonderful qualities that make up you in all your glorious element. However without self-compassion and self-care, balance and space in equal measure on the other side, the load is simply too heavy.

    So, be kind to yourself. As you began your comment above, let me know and I will let you know too.

    Much love,
    T xx

  2. You will let me know, and I’ll let you know too. Such a gift to have met you just as we are both embracing our sensitivity.

    This morning I spent an hour with a wise friend making plans for how I’m going to prepare in advance to take care of my sensitivity over the coming week of flights and long drives, big crowds, loud music and everything that comes with the kind of Christmas and New Years I have planned. I’m actually honouring my sensitivity and rather than trying to ‘push through’ or handle those situations like the rest of my family does, I’m planning in advance how I will get the space and time I need to process all that I see, hear and feel.

    As I said to my friend this morning – it’s like being at a concert where everyone else is wearing earplugs and you are not. When you say ‘wow, this music is really loud, I don’t think I can take any more’, they all look at you perplexed because they can’t hear what you are hearing.

    I’m learning not to feel that my ability to hear it all – and my consequently lower threshold for it all – is a weakness, but instead to embrace it fully as my strength and then take the steps I need to take to take better care of myself in that knowledge.

    Much love to you!

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