31 March 2012

The Sensitive Child – Gifted? To Overcome or Not, By Carrie Fancett Pagels

The Sensitive Child – Gifted?

Linore shared in her interview earlier in the week that she was a sensitive child. She grew up in a large family.  More opportunities for sibling rivalry and teasing, too, I imagine! Sensitivity can stem from many different sources.  A common cause is from a dysfunctional home life where criticism, or worse, takes place.  There are also conditions, such as Asperger's (next week is Autism Awareness Week, by the way) which cause the child to be more sensitive yet at the same time the child may appear unaware or at times even nonreactive to social slights. But one source is from being highly gifted.

Among those who work with gifted children, it is commonly noticed that there is heightened sensitivity within this group. It is so common that among educators of the gifted, it is “expected” rather than seen as something unusual.  For someone like Linore, a gifted writer, who graduated with honors from the City University of New York, wouldn’t it be nice to have a time travel machine and go back and make those hurts from sensitivity go away?  That would be the temptation if there was such a device.  But God knows best.  The sensitive nature of a gifted writer would make them pay attention both to the internal thoughts and feelings of people, which translates into their characters being more fully developed.  And that heightened awareness of the things around oneself can’t help but bring vibrant details to a novelist’s writing.

Overcoming sensitivity – I’m not sure that would be such a good thing for the gifted writer!  What do you think? Supporting the Emotional Needs of the Gifted http://www.sengifted.org/ SENG might see this as one characteristic of an extremely gifted child.

Linore writes: Carrie has posed an interesting question. If I could go back and temper my sensitivity with a bit of mature wisdom, it would certainly relieve a great deal of pain that I endured, much of which, I'm sure, stemmed from misunderstanding the cues of others. The sensitive child takes everything personally. In my case, I needed verbal reassurance, a lot of it, and this was utterly lacking in my busy, stressed-out family. My mother did tell me I was sensitive, but the message was that this was burdensome to her and at that time it told me nothing other than that. (I was burdensome.) NEVER imagined sensitivity was a gift.  My mom wasn't trying to be mean, but telling me I was sensitive and leaving it at that never translated to me into "Maybe I'm magnifying things." Or, "Maybe this person's anger has nothing to do with me." And so on.

As for overcoming sensitivity and writing: I never want to forget what it's like to be highly sensitive. I think, now, it is a gift. But I HAVE overcome the general "it's all about ME" baggage that comeswith that sensitivity (maybe not for everyone, but often this is the case). It's difficult for a super-sensitive person to see that sometimes their sensitivity is a form of selfishness! They have trouble letting go of their cherished illusions of intentional grievances, when in fact, people are much more often thoughtless and INsensitive without any real malice whatsoever.

I'm all for the healing of the hurting hearts that sensitivity can result in. But being empathetic is also sensitivity, and that's never a bad thing, be we writers, teachers, parents or friends. I do think it has strengthened my writing immeasurably. 

GIVEAWAY:  Our contest ends today.  Leave a comment with your email address for a chance to win a copy of one of Linore's books, your choice of format.


  1. Thanks for sharing this article Carrie and Linore. Interesting to read, because my husband is sensitive too.

  2. This was a very interesting post! Thanks Carrie for posting this. I'm so glad I've read it.

    Thanks for sharing Linore that being labelled "sensitive" didn't help explain things for you as a child. My daughter appears to be emerging as sensitive, so I will be keeping this in mind!

    I'm still working on letting go of those "illusions of intentional grievances" myself (never heard it put like that before, but it works!). With God's help, I'm getting there :)

  3. In some ways, my abusive childhood made me sensitive b/c of criticism from peers, but helped me develop a thick hide as well, when I need one. It certainly helped me to be more sensitive to other's needs and develop compassion, so being sensitive CAN be a very good thing! Thank you Carrie, for this very thought provoking post.

  4. HELEN - CONGRATS on getting to the halfway mark on your manuscript!!! Yes, I like what Linore said about that. I have swung too far in the opposite direction, I think, from my sensitive child days - I want to give ppl the benefit of the doubt who have no right to it, lol!

  5. MARIAN, Linore makes a point that being too inner-oriented can contribute to sensitivity. I am thinking sensitive vs. insensitive can be a good thing.

  6. DIANA, I have seen some CRAZY stuff done by "Christian" writers. I hope that by being sensitive to the needs of others I will do fewer of these things when my day comes. Am seriously thinking of making up a little list of "Don't do" and "Do", lol!

  7. CARRIE and LINORE thank you so much for this article. Both of my sons are very sensitive, and when they were in public school they were labeled "gifted". I just wish I had known more about this before now. I love them both dearly and I've just chalked it up to them loving
    "drama". My youngest son seems to have a harder time dealing with it. Now that I've read your article I'm going to do some research into it. THANK YOU BOTH!!!

  8. TERESA, There are a couple of excellent books out there about kids who are gifted and their emotional characteristics. Check out that web site link above and let me know what you think about it, okay?

  9. CONGRATS PAT JEANE DAVIS - our WINNER this week! Random.org picked you from all those who responded.

  10. Marian, Helen, Diana, Carrie and Teresa,

    Isn't it amazing that we all have sensitive people in our lives (and sometimes it's US)? I am seeing traits in some of my kids that mirror the form of sensitivity I had--and so down-the-drain goes one of my "cherished illusions"--which was that more love and assurances would have "fixed" me. I've had to accept it wasn't anyone's fault that I took life so hard. However, I applaud you ladies who are seeking to better understand the sensitive ones in your life. Maybe we can't erase the pain that comes with heightened senses, but we can at least counter it with love, grace, and truth.

    Loved this conversation--Thanks again for having me here, Carrie, Diana and Teresa!

  11. We loved having you, Linore! Thank you for being such a gracious guest this week on OTT.

  12. Congrats to PAT JEANE DAVIS! Enjoy!

  13. Linore this week has been great! THANK YOU!

    Congrats PAT!


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