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Are We Too Sensitive Today?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. was in private practice for more than thirty years. He is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in the states ...Read More

An article appeared in the August 2007 issue of the popular magazine, Psychology Today, which reports the fact that many people are becoming hypersensitive to rejection. According to the article, a growing number of people are quick to interpret the behavior of other’s as a rejection of their self no matter how minor or slight that behavior might have been. The article also reports that this sensitivity exists among all age groups. In addition, the sensitivity is so acute that statement of acceptance is doubted because of the expectation of rejection.

This increase in sensitivity also reflects an increase in anxiety and depression throughout society today. In the article, experts are quoted about the reasons for this increase in sensitivity and depression. Among these reasons are:

1. Social bonds are weakened today as a result of increased mobility and fragmentation caused by families and friends living far apart.

2. People do not feel part of a clan with all of the support, protection and security that it provides. Hundreds of years ago people lived in communities for multiple generations and, therefore, had powerful ties that included both family and members of the community.

3. Families are less intact and society is more fragmented than anytime in the past with the result that everyone feels less secure and more vulnerable to rejection.

4. Years of research on attachment show that early infantile experience with secure attachment to the mother and to the father builds a greater sense of confidence in the adult. If those attachment bonds were weak the result is often self doubt, lack of confidence and the expectation of rejection.

5. The role of genetics can never be ignored as temperament and other emotional factors are heavily influenced by genetics as well as by child rearing and societal factors.

As an example of much of this, I have heard many people say to me in exasperation that they said “hello” to someone at work and were ignored. That “someone at work” is not a familiar person with whom there are bonds and ties going back decades through family relationships. That makes it more difficult to ignore the failure of the other person to return the greeting. Instead of being able to ignore the slight or bring it to the attention of the other person, it becomes responded to as an act of personal rejection. It is common for people to find themselves living in new communities, in a different part of the nation or world and living and working with strangers. It takes time to build new roots and many people find themselves feeling lonely or craving friendship and acceptance in their new environment.

What are your experiences with this issue and what are your reactions? Your comments are always welcome.

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