I am a linguist who loves literature and who is fascinated by science. I quantify randomness. I paint. I travel in a power wheelchair, hoping to capture the ordinary.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Soft, yes. Weak, no."

In her well-known article on the traits of gifted adults, "Can you hear the flowers sing?", Lovecky writes of the trait of sensitivity:

Zhaan from Farscape
Zhaan from Farscape
"A depth of feeling that results in a sense of identification with others characterizes the trait of sensitivity. Gifted people form deep attachments and react to the feeling tone of situations; they think with their feelings. People who are highly sensitive make commitments to other people and to social causes. They can be enthusiastic and intensely single-minded about their dedication. Poets, Investigative reporters, Peace Corps workers, and political and religious leaders are often gifted in sensitivity. Examples of such people include St. Francis of Assisi, Elizabeth Blackwell, Emily Dickinson, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, and Virginia Woolf.

"People gifted with the trait of sensitivity find positive social and emotional benefit in their deep concern for the needs and rights of others, their empathy for the feelings of others, and their desire to help even at significant cost to themselves. These gifted adults may be unusually aware of the feeling tone of situations and of the more sensual aspects of the environment, such as color and shading. They are often aware of their own shortcomings. Some gifted adults feel a sense of unity with the cosmos, an experience of a universal sharing of self. Adults gifted with sensitivity tend to be highly moral people concerned with giving and with doing what is right for others."

rainforestUnfortunately, any sensitivity has the tendency to be viewed as somehow passive, fragile, or weak. Yet let us think in other terms for a moment. Psychologist (and my former teacher) Paula Prober refers to such minds as "rainforest minds": rich, vibrant, and, yes, sensitive. In the density of its riches, apparently small damages can create disproportionate harm. The plants heal, the animals are beyond compare.

So sensitive folks are simply densely rich. Does this come with a certain vulnerability? Yes. Does it mean weakness? No.

To turn to another world now, we may remember Toph from Avatar: The Last Airbender. She is small, female, and blind. Her hyper-sensitive feet "see" for her; they remain exposed to the world, easy to damage, far from impervious to the lash of any flame. Yet it is this that makes her powerful.

We must learn to move in new ways.