A Sensitive Boy

Part I:  A Vicious Cycle

Once upon a time there was a sensitive boy.  He cried at the drop of a hat.  This annoyed the boy’s father who tried to toughen him up.  “Don’t be a sissy!” Dad said, which made the boy want to cry even more.  But he knew it wasn’t safe.  Instead, the boy choked back his feelings and hid them deep down in his belly where only he could feel the crying.

The crying worried mother, too.  “You’re too sensitive.” She said.  “You’ll get bullied.”  The boy believed her.  With practice, the boy became better at hiding his feelings.  But he didn’t stop feeling them.  Mother noticed that sometimes the boy’s face would turn red.  His lip would curl and tremble and his body would tense.  But he never cried again.

Over time, the boy would learn all sorts of tricks to hide his feelings.  He hid them so well, that even he couldn’t find them after a while.  One day, when the boy became a man, his wife would complain that he was devoid of emotion and unable to truly connect.  This confused the boy.

When the boy had a son of his own, he began to feel something stirring inside himself – something peculiar but familiar.  One day, the son got his feelings hurt and began to cry.  The boy, now a dad, wanted to cry too.  It hurt him to see his son hurting.  He remembered feeling that way when he was young.  But crying was wrong – dangerous even.  So the dad did what he thought was right and told the son to stop crying.  And the son did.


Part II – “My Son Is Too Sensitive”  – Is It True?

There is a story we tell ourselves about who we are and how it is.  We are too this.  Too that. Not enough of anything.  Every story is a variation of this shouldn’t be happening. Who would we be without that story?

Welcome to ‘The Work’ a la Byron Katie.  A process of inquiry.

I worry about my son because he’s too sensitive.  I want him to stop crying when his feelings are hurt.  And especially in public.  If he was tougher I wouldn’t worry about him being bullied.  I don’t want to see him hurting.  I don’t want him to get hurt because of the crying.

Belief:  My son will get hurt if he cries

  1. Is it true?   Yes
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true, that your son will get hurt if he cries?  No
  3.  How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought? I get scared and angry and worried.  I try to toughen him up.  I try to help him not to feel.  I feel like it’s my job to change him.
  4.  Who would you be without the thought ‘my son will get hurt if he cries.’  I’d relax about him.  I’d comfort him instead of yell at him to stop crying when he’s hurting.  I’d be a parent who loves her sensitive son because I do love him so much.  I’d see how caring he is.  How he can sense what other people are feeling – which is a gift. I’d be able to love him and not worry about how sensitive he is. I’d support him.

Turn the thought around (to statements that are as true or truer): ‘My son will get hurt if he cries’

  1.  To the self:  I get hurt when he cries.’  (True.  I suffer with worry when I think of what his crying means.)
  2. To the opposite:  ‘My son won’t get hurt if he cries.’  (Might be true.  I don’t know how people will react.  Maybe he’ll meet with sympathy and understanding.)
  3.  To the other:  ‘I hurt my son when he cries.’  (True!  I disrespect his feelings.  I dishonor him when I tell him he shouldn’t feel the way he feels. I do what I’m afraid others will do to him – I hurt him when he cries!)


I realize I have two sons in my mind – the son I have and the son I think I want him to be.  The real one and the one I imagine to be better and safer.  I try to change him because there’s fear inside that I don’t know what to do with.  When I question my thoughts and meet my fear, I see that in my desire to protect him, I am actually hurting him.  Where is the love in that?

I don’t have to change what I believe. But I can, and should, question it.   Because if I don’t challenge my thoughts, they plague me.  So I ask myself again, who would I be, who would he be, without these thoughts? Can I find one stress-free reason to keep my thoughts?  In the questioning, I begin to see that none of my thoughts are true.  On the other side of the questions is freedom – for both of us.

It turns out, the world is perfect.  It’s what I think about the world that needs work.


Moving Mountains

The curtain rises on a gorgeous, warm, blue-sky summer day.  Mother Nature is playing her role with expertise and generosity.  And so am I.  This day, I play the role of victim.

The list of grievances is long –  going to work, a general lack of vitality, the chore list……There seems no end to the tiresome slights against my happiness.  Employing my fail-safe tool, gratitude, I expect to feel better any minute now.  But the negative thoughts hold me hostage.

When friend calls late in the day, I am all but depleted of energy from dragging my sorry butt through my sorry day.  Friend asks me for help.   A situation has arisen with her parents and I am ‘exactly the person who can help.’  I am honored to try, glad to be needed, and apparently effective in lending perspective.  Instantly, I feel lighter.  Helping others does that to people.

It’s said that you can’t give without receiving.  Intrigued and eager to play with this theory a little more, I set off on a mission.  Like Superman changing into his leotard (yes, it’s a leotard) I transform myself from Deb Dunham to Super Giver.  I hand out compliments, silent blessings, hugs, courtesies – anything I can to everyone I encounter.  It quickly becomes a fun game.

And the give/get theory turns out to be true!  In exchange for my gifts, I receive countless smiles, thank yous, and not surprisingly, a pervasive rise in energy.  I am smitten with the ability to change someone’s day for the better while simultaneously elevating my own.

It occurs to me how infrequently we utilize the tools at our disposal – like service, gratitude, positive thinking, faith, love….We are well equipped to change ourselves, and therefore, the world, for the better.  I’m convinced that a concentrated focus on any or all of these can move mountains.  Like the mountains of hatred and competitiveness and resentment for example.

Mother Teresa said, “We can’t do big things.  We can only do little things with big love.”  Ironically, she was a little person who accomplished big things by giving big love in little ways.  The best part is that we don’t have to set out to move mountains.  In fact, we don’t have to try to change anything.  We just have to give little bits over and over and eventually, a mountain will move.  And we will move with it.

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