Tag Archives: emotional sensitivity

Guilt from Being Unproductive

It has been a while since I last wrote an update about my life. In fact, it has been a while since I last wrote anything on this blog. I have been mostly busy with going out and enjoying my city’s beautiful summer weather (Vancouver’s weather is pretty depressing all other times of the year). I have been spending so much time outside with others that I have found no time to read, research, study, write, work on music, or hit the gym. I don’t feel it as intensely as I did before when I used to be very OCPD, but I still do feel some guilt over not being super productive and not making the very best use of my time.

Gifted individuals and people with OCPD tend to feel extra guilty about not being productive.

Work on Vacation

So where does this guilt come from?

Well, first of all, emotionally sensitive people experience the emotion of guilt much more intensely than normal, average, boring people do (haha just kidding about the “boring” part). A stronger sense of responsibility comes with the territory of being highly emotionally sensitive. Because of their natural ability to see, imagine, envision, strategize, and produce excellence, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel a very strong sense of responsibility to contribute excellence to the world. But excellence takes a lot of time and effort, no matter who you are, no matter how much talent you have. When this time and effort is not being invested, gifted individuals and people with OCPD feel guilty.

Read more about the obsessive-compulsive preoccupation with the efficient use of time here.

This guilt is a big-time joy killer. It removes you from your present moment that might be filled with so many amazing things that you can enjoy and wonderful people that you can laugh with. Many people attempt to eliminate this guilt by keeping themselves very busy. Being busy, however, does not always lead to excellence. Busy-ness that is driven by guilt can actually do a lot of damage to the joy that you derive from participating in your area of excellence. During my workaholic years living in Korea, I lost a lot of my joy in producing music because I had spent so much time dutifully working on musical projects that I had very little interest in. Although being productive controls this pervasive feeling of guilt, it never gets rid of it.

The way I now respond to this kind of guilt is much healthier. I now let myself feel the guilt and let the emotion take its course in and out of my system. I remind myself in my head that it is NOT my responsibility to bring excellence into this world – being born with all the right tools does not automatically sign me up for a life of duty. My faith also helps me deal with this difficult emotion. I trust that this world is in the good hands of an omnipotent God who loves to share His unrivaled excellence with the rest of the world. I think of all the imperfect people in the Bible that God partnered up with to do this. God didn’t need them to be constantly busy. It was the condition of their heart that mattered much more to Him. I then tell myself that everything will be just fine and turn my focus back onto the present moment.

Another step that really helps to lessen the intensity of this kind of guilt is putting an end to judging others negatively. Many people with OCPD fall into judging others for their “laziness.” After judging others in this way, people with OCPD grow to be very unforgiving toward themselves.

So yeah… I am going to continue to enjoy my summer! I hope all of you are enjoying whatever season it is in your part of the world 🙂

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Cooling Off VS Silent Treatment

Feeling wronged by others is an inevitable part of life. When this happens, honest communication that promotes mutual understanding can greatly strengthen relationships. This, however, is not so easy to do under the influence of anger. Anger robs people of their ability to communicate their own feelings in a sensitive manner. It causes people to be explosive, hurtful, and offensive in their communication.

In order to prevent the pains of angry miscommunication, many people temporarily remove themselves from the emotionally overwhelming situation to “cool off” and communicate again later with a clearer mind. When this only takes a few hours or a day at most, many agree that this strategy is acceptable and even healthy. But as soon as this strategy takes longer than this allotted time, all of a sudden it becomes unacceptable. Many highly sensitive people who just happen to take a longer time at cooling off are then wrongly accused of giving the “silent treatment.”

Highly sensitive people just take a longer time to cool off from their overwhelming emotions.

Cooling Off vs Silent Treatment

Even though the two may look the same from the outside, the motives behind cooling off and giving the silent treatment are very different! Cooling off serves to protect relationships while the silent treatment aims to attack, hurt, and punish others through emotional abuse.

So how do you determine which one it is that your highly sensitive partner or friend is doing?

Many people examine the length of time it takes their partner or friend to communicate with them again after a fight. In this approach, any form of withdrawal that takes too long (whatever “too long” means…) can be interpreted as the silent treatment. This approach falls apart, however, because it assumes that all human beings experience emotions at the same level of intensity. This assumption, of course, is not true. Highly sensitive people experience emotions much more intensely. Those intense emotions just happen to need more time to cool down.

The unsettling truth is that you can never really be too sure which one it is unless your highly sensitive partner or friend communicates openly with you about the reasoning behind his or her withdrawal. Communication as simple as “Sorry, I am still trying to cool off” can go a long way in saving loved ones and friends from feeling abandoned. It also saves everyone from the trouble of wrongly guessing what is going on.

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OCPD Depression

All people are guilty of thinking negatively at some point in their life. It is only human. But when this seemingly harmless act is repeated over and over again, negative thinking can become a dangerous addiction that leaves its victims feeling hopeless. This addiction is called depression.

Depression is one of the more common addictions that people with OCPD are likely to struggle with.


First things first – I must address the chemical imbalance theory of depression. The chemical imbalance hypothesis is an unproven, convenient theory that oversimplifies the cause of depression to the depleted serotonin levels of the brain. In his book, “The Emperor’s New Drugs: Exploding the Anti-Depressant Myth,” Dr. Irving Kirsch goes into detail about how “the idea of depression as a chemical imbalance of the brain is a myth.” People with OCPD do not fall into depression because of any chemical imbalance in their brain. They fall into depression because of compulsive negative thinking.

So what causes OCPD negative thinking?

One of the main ingredients of OCPD negative thinking is “all-or-nothing thinking.” This type of thinking splits life events as being either “completely disastrous” or “absolutely wonderful.” But why does the pessimistic view repeatedly win over the optimistic one when people with OCPD judge their experiences? The pessimistic view wins because the majority of life’s experiences fall below the high standards of people with OCPD.

So we have established that people with OCPD tend to think negatively when they do think. But how frequently do they think? Do people with OCPD think frequently enough to develop an addiction for it?

Yes, people with OCPD are thinkaholics. The intellectual overexcitability of these highly sensitive people causes them to spend much more time thinking than most other people do. Anxiety turns this natural inclination into more of an obsession. People with OCPD think so much that they may be heavily burdened with issues of existence and loneliness. This can lead to existential depression when it is combined with “all-or-nothing” negative thinking. A lot of people with OCPD who are fearful of their overwhelming emotions are also used to thinking their way out of their feelings. This “flight into reason” not only reinforces the brain pathway associated with excessive thinking, but it also creates a whole new problem associated with depression.

In her book, “The Drama of the Gifted Child,” Dr. Alice Miller wrote,

“The true opposite of depression is neither gaiety nor absence of pain, but vitality – the freedom to experience spontaneous feelings. It is part of the kaleidoscope of life that these feelings are not only happy, beautiful, or good but can reflect the entire range of human experience, including envy, jealousy, rage, disgust, greed, despair, and grief.”

It is exactly this vitality which is missing in the lives of so many people with OCPD (read more about OCPD “Composure and Emotional Non-expression“).


See your depression for what it is. It is an addiction. You do have the choice to put an end to it. But like all other addictions, you need to go “all-in” in your effort to stop doing the things that feed into your addiction. There is no easy way out of it, no “quick fix” pill you can take to end this addiction. You must force yourself to develop a habit of thinking positively.

Stop thinking in “black and white.” When difficult feelings come, do not think your way out of it. Feel your emotions without judging whether they are good or bad. Be calm as you say to yourself, “Ah, so this is what betrayal feels like.” Throughout your day, force yourself to smile even if it feels unnatural – your brain will follow and supply you with the emotions that have been linked with that behaviour. During the day, force yourself to go out and spend time with people even if all you feel like doing is lying down in bed.

If you are currently on antidepressants, do not suddenly stop taking them. Talk to your physician about gradually discontinuing your use of antidepressants.

If you relapse on your depression, just try again. Relapse does not mean you must go back on antidepressants. It just means you might need clearer boundaries. Some recovered alcoholics do not even have a sip of beer. Like them, you may need to keep yourself from having even a “sip” of negativity.

It is not so out of the ordinary for people with OCPD to experience sudden drops in their mood even after they have made all the right changes to their pattern of thinking and the way in which they experience their emotions. Do not be discouraged. Your emotional sensitivity may be causing you to unconsciously empathize with the pain and suffering of others.

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Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

People with OCPD have a natural gift for empathy.


People with OCPD have the capacity to experience great emotional depth because of their hypersensitivity. They are able to feel emotions that most of the world will never be able to feel or understand. People with emotional sensitivity also have a heightened sense of the emotions of others. Even if others say, “I’m doing fine,” people with OCPD have the ability to see right through surface level communication. In an instant, people with OCPD can assess the body language and tone of voice of others and figure out the true emotions behind all the masks that people put on. Some people with extreme emotional sensitivity, such as myself, possess a near-psychic ability to sense even the history of emotions, hurts, and pains of others. One of the things I learned about myself in all my travels was that I can even sense the pain and suffering collectively experienced by the people of an entire nation. People with OCPD have all the right tools to enrich the lives of others through empathy.

Why then are there so many people with OCPD who do not practice their natural gift for empathy? The answer is anxiety.

At a very early age, people with OCPD were once overwhelmed by their strong negative emotions. They needed their immediate caretaker (usually their mother) to comfort them by saying, “Don’t worry, child. You’re going to be just fine. Bad feelings are a normal part of life and they will come and go. Don’t try to avoid them. Just feel them out and let them pass.” Unfortunately, most of the world (mothers included) does not understand how emotionally sensitive we are and fails to provide this kind of security. Without this security, people with OCPD grow up to fear their emotions and try everything in their power to avoid them. Recently, in a post titled “Intellectualization,” I wrote about one of the primary psychological strategies people with OCPD use to prevent themselves from experiencing negative emotions. As long as people with OCPD continue to dodge negative emotions, they will never be able to give others the sense that their feelings are being understood and shared.

In order to redeem their natural gift for empathy, people with OCPD must face their fear of negative emotions. This fear cannot be faced, however, if people with OCPD continue to make use of the very things that prevent them from experiencing their emotions. Therefore, people with OCPD must resist the urge to use their defense mechanisms as well. Every step of the way, people with OCPD must re-parent themselves with the words of comfort that I wrote in the above paragraph. When negative emotions are no longer things that need to be feared and avoided, people with OCPD can then begin to feel the negative emotions of others. When this happens, people will discover that no one can empathize with them as well as their OCPD friend.

Feeling depressed? It might not be you.

The emotional sensitivity of people with OCPD is so strong that, despite all their efforts to avoid negative feelings, people with OCPD will still pick up the emotions of others unconsciously. People with OCPD might find themselves feeling sad all of a sudden. When this happens, most people with OCPD who have not yet familiarized themselves with the power of their emotional sensitivity will likely think that they are the cause of this emotional pain. What really might be happening is that they are unconsciously empathizing with others. It is a shame that people with OCPD do not get credit for this kind of behind-the-scenes empathy. Unfortunately, the burden that people with OCPD feel for others can become so heavy that going into isolation feels like the most liberating thing to do. It is very important that people with OCPD who often feel the pain and suffering of others have outlets, like hobbies, with which they can release the burden that they pick up. I love babies and I find it so therapeutic to hang out with them (my emotional sensitivity hardly picks up any pain and suffering when I am around babies).


When your loved one is experiencing difficult emotions, do not start talking about your psychological strategies. More than anything, your loved one wants to feel that he or she is not so alone in this. Just keep your mouth shut and hold your loved one in your arms. Even if this becomes overwhelming, do not let go. If you cannot do this because you are too scared, explain that your inability has nothing to do with you not caring enough for your loved one. Explain that you are fearful of difficult emotions. Ask them to have extra patience with you as you try to overcome your fears. If you suddenly become sad because you are unconsciously empathizing with others, explain to your loved one that this happens to you because of your emotional sensitivity.

Understand that your OCPD friend’s inability to empathize with you comes from his or her fear of experiencing difficult emotions. Do not take it so personally when your OCPD friend appears so emotionally removed from your suffering and pain. Deep inside, he or she really cares about you. He or she just happens to be too scared. When neither of you are experiencing overwhelming emotions, explain to your OCPD friend that when you are going through difficult emotions, what you would appreciate most, more than any well thought-out psychological strategies, would be for him or her to just share your feelings of suffering and pain. He or she may then go on to explain how psychological strategies are more practical than empathy in that they actually resolve the problem. Then respond, “As crazy as it may sound, I don’t care so much to resolve the problem right away. Maybe later. But the first thing I want is to not feel so lonely in my suffering and pain. I understand that it is uncomfortable for you to feel negative emotions, but for my sake, so that I don’t feel so lonely, please try to experience my pain with me.” You will then need patience as your OCPD friend faces his or her fears. This may take some time. Encourage him or her along the way. When your OCPD friend becomes sad or depressed for no reason, do not be so quick to blame yourself or your OCPD friend as he or she may be empathizing with others pain and suffering unconsciously. When this happens, remind your OCPD friend that the feelings may not be his or her own and not his or her burden to carry. Encourage him or her not to drain him or herself out too much if this is the case.

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