Loneliness and emotional sensitivity
Wasn’t sure what to call this post. What I’m trying to get at is this: I’ll see a headline in the NY Times about something like US combat dogs being abandoned in Iraq, and I won’t be able to read it. I mean I am viscerally unable to open the link. The same goes for stories about shark hunting (shark populations are collapsing), drowning polar bears (thank global warming), and leopards being kept in tiny enclosures as pets.
Is this just me? I think not. I think that loneliness, especially if it’s experienced on a long-term basis, really does sensitize you to suffering. And it involves this terrible vulnerability — you feel too much alone, too unguarded. And I think that sense of vulnerability leaves you uniquely attuned to people and creatures who’s vulnerability is being exploited & who can’t fend for themselves. This could mean street kids, or women involved in the sex trade, or whole families starving in Africa.
Do other people find this to be true? Do stories of pain feel like they’re aimed right at you? And is it one “domain” or many? In my case, I find I can’t read or watch animals-in-distress stories. The thought of watching a documentary like “The Cove” (about the dolphin slaughter) makes me hyperventilate. But I have read long stories about the sex trade and I find that, while they are disturbing, I can tolerate them.
What interests me about this “can’t look” phenomenon is that I think it provides me with a clue about how to start responding to my feelings of disconnection. Put simply, I have to start looking. I ripped a story out of a magazine last week about shark drownings, and it’s been sitting on my kitchen table ever since. I’ve now piled other things on top of it, but can see the photo (a man casting a net) peeking out from under a book. I intend to *read* this story. This may seem like a silly goal. Like, just read the story already! For others this may be a simple thing to do. For me, it isn’t.
I plan to study my reactions as I force myself to read things I normally avoid. (And it is mostly reading, since I no longer have a TV.) Perhaps the act of reading and learning won’t be as bruising as I expect it to be. Or maybe it will be. Either way, I’m going to start turning to the things I’m now studiously avoiding, all in the hopes that this act of what is essentially caring might make me feel more connected.
23 Responses to “Loneliness and emotional sensitivity”
ADD A COMMENT
Your name will be published with your comments. If you do not want your name used, simply type in Anonymous or the alias of your choosing. I'm fine with people using made up names. Feel free to be creative!