Your Rainforest Mind

Support for the Excessively Curious, Creative, Smart & Sensitive

Sensitivity Is Your Superpower


In times like these, you may wish that you had less sensitivity. Life as an empathetic soul is often overwhelming. It can be easy to fall into despair or anxiety. And because you are capable in multiple ways, relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants and animals may be clamoring for your assistance. 

You may be happy to help. It could be your calling to serve others . But you might feel inadequate because you aren’t the one dragging people out of burning buildings. You aren’t the one rushing into war zones to cover the atrocities.

And the clamoring may make you want to stay in bed. On your good days. On your bad days, it may make you want to pulverize the clamorers, if you know what I mean. ( Just because you’re sensitive doesn’t mean that you never feel drawn to pulverizing. I don’t recommend doing it. I’m just saying… )

You need to understand that your sensitivity is your strength. Being perceptive, empathetic, compassionate and intuitive are skills that the world needs. Desperately.

But because you’re a sensitive soul, there are some things that you need to know.

First: Just because you can sense someone’s pain, doesn’t mean that you’re responsible for fixing it.  Just because you can do something faster, better and more easily than other people, doesn’t mean that you have to do that something. Practice saying no. Think of it like this: There are many helpers out there. You’re giving someone else a chance to step up. You’re helping someone else learn. I’m not saying that you should shirk your responsibilities. I’m just suggesting that it’s healthy to set boundaries and limits. You’re very capable in many areas. It’s impossible and inappropriate for you to do everything you could possibly do. Exhausting yourself? Not recommended. Look for the times when you’re drawn to something because it’s energizing. Head in that direction.

Second: Get toxic people out of your life. They’ll get help elsewhere. You may be enabling them by letting them rely on you; and we all know that enabling is a no-no. And, by the way, the toxic people might include family members. In that case, get them out of your life, too. ( If that sounds harsh, it is. Most certainly, try therapy first and blunt discussions, if you’re so inclined. But for the truly toxic, you may need to say bye-bye.*) You’ll feel guilt. Try to let go of the guilt. Tell yourself that you’re healing the legacy of dysfunction in your family line. That your ancestors are benefitting. Because they are. ( Trust me on that one. ) Everyone benefits when you stand up for yourself.

Third: Self-care is your friend. You are not a wimp if you need to rest.

Finally: Appreciate your sensitivity. It makes you powerful. Your awareness and your capacity for compassion and loving is vast. And surely this planet, your relatives, friends, coworkers, neighbors, strangers, plants, animals and even your politicians, need all of the love and compassion they can get.

Sensitivity is your superpower.


* I know that in some cases you won’t be able to say good-bye to toxic family members. In those cases, do your best to set limits, protect yourself and get support.

To my dear bloggEEs: Tell us about your sensitivities. How do you protect yourself from the clamorers? Describe how you use your superpower. And thank you, as always, for being here.

Author: Paula Prober

I'm a psychotherapist and consultant in private practice in Eugene, Oregon. I specialize in counseling gifted adults and consulting with parents of gifted children. The label "gifted" is often controversial and confusing. I use the metaphor of the rainforest to describe this population. Like the rainforest, these individuals are quite complex, highly sensitive, intense, multi-layered, and misunderstood. They're also curious, idealistic, highly intelligent, creative, perfectionistic, and they love learning. I've been an adjunct instructor at the University of Oregon and a guest presenter at Oregon State University and Pacific University. I've written articles on giftedness for the Eugene Register-Guard, the Psychotherapy Networker, and Advanced Development Journal. My first book, Your Rainforest Mind: A Guide to the Well-Being of Gifted Adults and Youth, was released in June 2016 by GHF Press and is available on Amazon or at your independent bookstore. My second book, Journey Into Your Rainforest Mind: A Field Guide for Gifted Adults and Teens, Book Lovers, Overthinkers, Geeks, Sensitives, Brainiacs, Intuitives, Procrastinators, and Perfectionists, was released in June 2019.

35 thoughts on “Sensitivity Is Your Superpower

  1. Oh… how often I catapult into overdrive and try to fix things…. or else wonder if I should have done so… so shutting out is easier… which apparently also costs tons of energy.. 😥

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very hard not to go into overdrive when you have the skills and when you care. What self-care practices do you do that might help, Waither?


      • I walk.. sometimes for half an hour, sometimes for several hours. I write as often as I can. Poems, short stories or just blogs. I try to read but cannot find the peace in myself to do so at the moment and overall just weed out the people who only drain my energy and never seem to give anything in return. Sometimes easy to do, sometimes heartbreaking. I care and give as much as I can but have learned the hard way that I must also preserve some energy for myself.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. I just spent last weekend being exposed to an extremely toxic family member…and oh wow, did I have a hard time. I just had to leave. It was too hard to witness, with my heart as open as it is. I am so sad and worried for this person’s partner, and at the same time know that it’s not my job to fix either one of them. Oh. It’s that boundary thing again…. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m grateful for another well-timed post, Paula! My activist group that I complained about here last time? Well, one of the things the new angry people have done is Twitter mobbing someone they disagreed with. Complete with doxxing, and the wife of the victim saying they’d been through the worst week they’d ever experienced. I usually apply the intellectual overexcitability to address things in this circle, but lately that isn’t working so well because the emotional OE just makes me want to shout out against this injustice.

    Fortunately, things have been calming down a bit. I’ve been trying to figure out how to use this superpower, taking the pain I felt watching the new people terrorize the veteran member, and try to come up with a good workshop on organizing…one that conveys to people who DON’T have this particular superpower how to build a strong organization where people actually want to associate with each other and aren’t afraid to speak up. Fingers crossed!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. One of the causes of social anxiety that was never mentioned by any of the therapists I have seen, nor was rarely mentioned in any of the literature I have read on the topic is sensitivity, especially being sensitive of others’ feelings.

    One of my biggest anxiety triggers is being around people who I sense are intimidated or otherwise nervous around me. I feel their nerves which feeds my own nerves which then becomes a feedback loop and….AAAGGHHH!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. One of the most useful thoughts I’ve run into came from druid author Kris Hughes – look after your own square mile. How you identify that – where exactly you draw your lines and why is a decision to make, but in essence, figure out a square mile, conceptually, that you can look after, and look after it, and trust that most of the time other people are covering other territory. It’s a defense against being overwhelmed by all the things we can’t do, keeps you focused on what you can do, and stops a person from trying to make themselves responsible for everything.

    Liked by 3 people

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  7. Beautiful Paula! I’ve just been introduced to you writings and can’t wait to purchase your book. Thank you for every word x

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, it seems like it is hard to do my best work when there’s a publicly disseminated message of what that should look like. Also, thank you for the bit about pursuing energizing work! It is beautiful how often our gifts happen to coincide with our favorite, most mindful, most impactful quests.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I just did six weeks of caregiving and being helpful – 3000 or so miles away. Since I have arrived home, I have become ill with a cold and all I want to do is sleep. I often just don’t know when to – or am able to – stop. But what I did was so rewarding and so needed. Sometimes I find myself tempted to shut down. No email, no FB, nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. My husband commented to me the other day when we were arguing about how to handle his intrusive family that “everyone” gets on my nerves. I was hurt, because that’s not true. After some reflection, I went back to him. I pointed out the family members we have (on BOTH sides) who are toxic. He had to agree. Then I reminded him that I suffer from extreme empathy sometimes. He had to agree with that too. So we were able to come to an agreement. We both come from families that are loaded with toxic, hurtful, negative people. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we found each other. 🙂 We agreed to work together to not only deal with toxicity but to consciously avoid modeling the behavior we learned to our own children. It’s a big step to be able to have this conversation with him. I think it’s been easier for him to blame me for being to sensitive than to face the fact that his parents are intensely negative and controlling. I feel like we’re moving forward. Thanks again for a timely post! I’m still not sure if you’re a mind reader. You’re definitely tuned in to the zeitgeist.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This is such a powerful message. I have been getting friends to check my emotions before reacting to situations but boundaries are definitely the most important thing and it is so difficult to not be sensitive. It is best to channel sensitivity to positive things instead of lingering over the negative, and feel that even though I have been hurt in the past I will not be bittered by it.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I have not been officially tested for giftedness, but I do had a very high IQ score result and I recognize myself so much in the descriptions and problems of gifted adults. What you write resonates so much to me (and I feel so scared to acknowledge I might be gifted, like I’m arrogant or haughty for thinking that).

    What you wrote about knowing about other people’s pain and what is causing it and feeling over-responsible resonates to me too. I am learning to let go more, to ask myself if it’s beneficial/harmful to me or not. If it’s harmful, I really need to steer clear. Feeling responsible for others while it harms me, a path too often walked unfortunately. But now it’s time for change! Slow and painful changes, yes!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If you’re resonating with what you’re reading here, it’s likely that you have a rainforest mind. (are gifted!) And yes, it makes sense to be aware when you’re being “over-responsible” and “steer clear” if you’re being harmed!!


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  14. I hope to learn to control my empathy now that I’m more aware of how excessive it is (the sort of, walk past a beggar on the street sends you into an emotional tailspin for the rest of the day). It seems to help to think of it as just a brain function that’s overactive, not some real urgent call to action. It’s also kind of alarming to think that the average person seems to be almost psychopathic compared to me. But I don’t want to put it so negatively, I think they are lucky. Self awareness is key, then one can extract the good out of this. Ultimately, all of this is a blessing (to use a religious term) of epic proportions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It would be great if all humans had that much empathy. It’s my hope that we’re evolving in that direction. In the meantime, it makes sense for you to practice boundary setting and self-soothing. Do you have a spiritual practice that can help? Do you feel comforted when you’re in nature? Thank you for sharing, Teemu.


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  16. Thanks for this post. Lately, I have been giving myself a lot of time to write and draw and paint and walk in nature. It helps a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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