Sensitivity in the City
A Four Part Series
Life purpose and choice of profession is often shaped by the need to understand our perceptions and ourselves. I have been embarrassingly plagued by hypersensitivity all my life. People’s reaction to my jumps and starts and low sensory threshold made me feel that it was some sort of disease and certainly something that I ought to be able to control. Being female only complicated the problem.
Generally speaking, sensitivity is a social bother and an inconvenience. Our world is such that it is much smarter and often more elegant to simulate sensitivity. Higher learning goes so far as to avoid it altogether, and focus instead on mental control and projection. Everyone fits in where and how they can.
Many people seem to be perfectly content amidst intense and varied, often discordant stimulation. Rather than bewilderment or curiosity, for them physical sensory life is rather simple and more than satisfactory; they have little interest in exploring other forms of perception or heightened feeling states. Everything is fine as is. But, there are others, like myself, who feel keenly, respond acutely, and are more demanding of their environment.
Can we reasonably explain sympathy and antipathy? What determines level of sensitivity? Is it triggered by gender, or the weather? By habit and belief? Pinpricks, shivers, a change in body temperature, fear, anxiety, or even sexual excitement sometimes arise for no reason at all; so too premonitions, insights and déjà vus. Is it “chemical”? Emotional? Is it some mysterious psychic happening?
Women are especially susceptible to a wide variety of subtle wavelengths because our constitution is wired to respond physically and emotionally to life. Men are more likely to pick up mental suggestions and implications. For all of us, it is a whole body phenomenon that manifests in different degrees.
The human body resonates to innumerable forces in the environment. Certain practices develop and refine this impressionability to a science, confirming the existence of multiple and simultaneous reality. The very fine frequencies to which we respond knowingly or unknowingly are emitted at wavelengths beyond the scope of ordinary measurement. Cats, dogs, dolphins…all of nature transmits messages in this way. The fact remains that people are a lot more sensitive than they know or admit to. We are natural antennas for receptivity and emissions of every kind.
Although only a small range of sensory responses are acknowledged, I discovered that everyone is touched deeply and anyone can be trained in perception. Whether physical, emotional, or mental, sensitivity implies subtlety. It connects us with a deeper truth, the “experience” of knowing and participating in a network of fine threads and resonant membranes that connects all of life.
It is quite unrealistic and actually irritating to hear it said that loving compassion, benevolence and positive thinking will reformulate the deep grooves of rage, selfishness and materialism that run through our daily lives. The most ordinary situations in life demand interaction with an increasingly aggressive world where materialism, egoism and violence are deemed “sexy”. Deeply humane and spontaneous altruism are on the decline.
Normally, sensitive people do not choose what they hear, see, sense and feel. They link to life reciprocally and seem to be missing the kind of nervous valve that their sturdier brothers and sisters possess. Within them occur great mood shifts and heartbreaks that no one sees, feels, or hears. However, sensitivity is not acknowledged as being important, so other than offer psychological analysis or numbing drugs, nobody knows how to live with it, and more importantly how to respond appropriately to the contradictory and multileveled accelerated rhythms of social and professional life.
The mere presence of hypersensitive persons threatens those who cannot respond in kind. Nevertheless, there are people who wish to know more about the subtle world and seek training and understanding, expanding and refining their perception. Meanwhile, for many of us it becomes progressively difficult to hide, simulate, negate and disconnect from the present-day world. Empathy does not mix with commerce, rules and regulations. A great majority of the population already runs on overload. To advocate more sensitivity is insane, and yet to continue with “business as usual” is a death sentence.
Ultra sensitive people intuitively orient their faculties towards self-preservation, if not paranoia. Setting aside personal psychological interests (if possible), we possess a natural ability to see, feel, sense and diagnose what is happening and even what is likely to happen. We learn how invisible laws work by paying attention to signs and sensations within us. Attraction and repulsion, energy overlays, and the subtle controls exerted by higher law often define the life curriculum.
I am a product of urban culture, born in the city that never sleeps, New York. I grew up in urban areas all over the world. Whereas I sensed beauty and tenderness within people, their manner often communicated very different things. Compelled to combine intellect with sensitivity, for many years I applied myself to learning how to open and close alternate doors of perception and sensibilities.
“The real world” was always difficult. As I grew older I sought solutions that would bring peace and balance in everyday life, but all too often I would exit a situation in tears, or stomp off in anger to cover the fact that I hurt. I didn’t know how to be any different. Intrigues were excruciating. My own family mocked me for being afraid of the dark, even if, like every child, what I sensed and saw there were their own thought-forms.
Manhattan, San Juan de Puerto Rico, Chicago, Los Angeles, London, Sao Paulo, Palma de Mallorca and Buenos Aires. Cities provided life training, while times spent in retreat in India, the Pyrenees, and closeted periods in my own home allowed for sorely needed integration and reflection.
Of all, the soil and atmosphere of India provided the most basic ingredients that would sustain me for the rest of my life.
It would take me over two decades to integrate sensitivities in increasingly deafening urbane surroundings. First, I would learn by carrying both the weight and the support of a group consciousness. Then I would need to apply those resources alone, through heightened sensitivity in sometimes-gelid aloneness.
Always on foreign ground.
End of Part One