1. They prefer the known to the unknown. They are inspired by routine and habit.
2. Appreciating the comfort of home, they stick closely to family and a few close friends.
3. They care very much what other people think of them.
4. They don’t make hasty judgments nor jump in before they know what’s appropriate. They behave with deliberate discretion when around other people.
5. They maintain a courteous, self-restrained demeanor.
DOMAINS OF SENSITIVE FUNCTIONING
1. Emotions–Safe At Home
They find their emotional security by building a small world they can call their own, so they are territorial and family centered. Within their own territory, they are warm, giving, open, creative. However, around strangers they feel threatened, guarded, anxious, yet they mask their discomfort beneath a polite, cool facade. Since they take their time getting to know people, ‘snow queen’ is usually how they are described.
They like to know every detail about everything in their environment. The more they know something, the more they’re inspired to continue researching on the same topic. They like to travel within their own country, but hesitant to travel abroad unless someone they know goes with them. They worry about things quite a bit, so they always leave the house prepared for any emergency that may arise.
Just because they’re most comfortable at home doesn’t mean they aren’t curious about the world around them. They love to read and often use creative energy to focus on imagination, fantasy, etc. Most Sensitive people are creative artists.
2. Relationships–A Few Familiar Faces
They like other people and want them in their lives, but only to a degree. In a warm solid relationship between one person or a small group of friends, their self-confidence peaks. If they are at a large gathering, they’ll find an excuse to leave. Sensitive people doubt themselves. As the crowd begins to increase, they start to feel self-conscious, thinking they’ll say something stupid. At social functions, they will be most comfortable bringing someone close with them; if they came alone, then they’ll look for someone they recognize right away.
Until they begin to trust a new acquaintance’s feelings for them, they’ll hide their emotions behind a polite, well-mannered, emotionally distant facade. When they finally let their guard down, the coolness will never return. Instead their personalities will shine through.
They are loyal, devoted, and caring. They often marry for life. If they never marry, they usually prefer long-term relationships. They’re good parents by being attentive of their kids and watchful of their safety. They usually give their children a strong sense of home and family, letting them know they always have a place to turn.
Stress for Sensitive people comes from having to face the unfamiliar. It also comes from criticism because they care a great deal what other people think of them, so disapproval and criticism hurts. It’ll be masked by their reserved demeanor though. Break-ups are hard for them. They’ll be reluctant to go out and meet new people, and they often attempt to return to former lovers.
They are best off with people who are also family centered but who can take the lead socially and help them enjoy an easier social life. Therefore, Solitary isn’t a good match. People with a balanced style of Conscientious, Self-Confident, and Dramatic would have a lot to offer. Too much Conscientious may cause their partner to feel uncomfortable in social settings. Too much Self-Confident won’t tolerate their partner’s limitations imposing on his/her universe. Too much Dramatic would expect their partner to socialize all the time, which would be too stressful for their partner.
Devoted will be very accepting but may lack the decisiveness to step out and take the lead when their partner needs someone to rely on. Since they each form strong family bonds, Leisurely and Self-Sacrificing may be good matches. With Sensitive or Vigilant, they will be content to live in their partner’s small world, but they will reinforce their partner’s discomfort instead of making their life easier.
Adventurous is the worst match since they love taking risks and exploring the world. Idiosyncratic would probably embarrass their partners. who wouldn’t want to bring attention to themselves.
3. Work–Home Away From Home
They bring good qualities to the workplace if they can build a comfortable work nest. If so, they’re reliable, steady, effective. They work best with just a few co-workers who they can become familiar with. They love defined roles so that they know what’s expected of them and don’t have to readjust every day. They always try to do good work, and they act uneasy around management unless its a small office.
They often are more ambitious on their own behalf for work than on their own behalf politically. They may wish to be promoted, but they aren’t eager to expose themselves to upper management. If they ever become managers, they encourage a family environment for their staff. However, they will appear aloof and cold to new employees until they are sure of his/her performance and his/her personality. They work best with a staff that hardly has any turnover.
They should seek a career in which they have a defined role–accountant, computer programmer, doctor, etc–and where their exposure to the public is limited. They are often uneasy around strangers they must consult or influence, so stay away from contracting, public relations, sales, public speaking.
TIPS ON DEALING WITH THE SENSITIVE PERSON IN YOUR LIFE
1. Treasure the closeness and loyalty that this person offers you. Recognize that you are among a favored few in this person’s life.
2. Accept this person completely, even their shortcomings.
3. Avoid emotional torture. Don’t insist that they do things that make them uncomfortable just to please you. They want you to be happy with them, but there are some things they just can’t do. The reluctance has nothing to do with you, so don’t hold it against them.
4. They want to please the important people in their lives; if you compromise, it may encourage them to take a few steps farther than what they were willing to go.
5. Help. Act as a guide to the unfamiliar activities. Reassure, encourage, and praise; don’t allow them to become dependent on you.
6. Recognize the signs. For instance, you’re both about to leave for dinner with your new boss and his wife. This person starts complaining about feeling ill, becomes cranky, or is taking their time getting ready. Instead of starting an argument, say “I’ll bet your nervous about tonight.” Reassure them that everyone will like them.
7. Don’t attack them for having these social difficulties. Instead express the problem openly, directly.
MAKING THE MOST OF YOUR SENSITIVE STYLE
1. Every once in a while, change one or more of your routines just for the sake of change.
2. Every time you find yourself tempted to avoid something because of your anxiety, do the opposite. Take small steps and give yourself credit for any progress made.
3. Be who you are. It’s your efforts to hide your human imperfections that make you stiff, uncomfortable, and unapproachable. If you accept your flaws, other people will find it easier to accept you with them.
4. You tend to look at yourself through other people’s eyes. So, you try to change your behavior in order to please them. Instead only focus on what you think.
5. When you have the feeling that people are looking at you in an uncomplimentary way, ask yourself whether that feeling might be coming from you.
6. Every time someone criticizes you, stand back and observe how you overreact. Do you equate criticism with hate or rejection?
7. Ask yourself what you can do in every situation that you feel limited or stuck in.
8. Anxiety is a dangerous inner state, not an outer reality. Have faith that things will get better.
9. Consider dealing with your own anxiety instead of always relying on your loved ones to protect you from it.
AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER
A pervasive pattern of social discomfort, fear of negative evaluation, and timidity, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by at least 4 of the following:
1. is easily hurt by criticism or disapproval
2. has no close friends or confidants (or only one) other than first-degree relatives
3. is unwilling to get involved with people unless certain of being liked
4. avoids social or occupational activities that involve significant interpersonal contact, e.g., refuses a promotion that will increase social demands
5. is reticent in social situations because of a fear of saying something inappropriate or foolish, or of being unable to answer a question
6. fears of being embarrassed by blushing, crying, or showing signs of anxiety in front of other people
7. exaggerates the potential difficulties, physical dangers, or risks involved in doing something ordinary but outside their routine
DAMNED IF YOU DO, DAMNED IF YOU DON’T
When they can’t avoid others, they stand aloof and look down to avoid eye contact. Although the avoidance of close relationships relieves them of feeling anxiety of waiting for rejection to happen, it removes them from what they unconsciously desire–acceptance, approval, love of other people. They are lonely loners, who ache to be a part of things but don’t know how.
Being sure that others will treat them badly, their awkward self-consciousness becomes off-putting. Other people think that Avoidant people are cold and don’t want to be included. They feel isolated, unwanted, incompetent, different no matter what they do. Usually they are anxious and depressed.
LOVE ME UNCONDITIONALLY
Since they are so oversensitive to negative or constructive evaluation, anything that isn’t open acceptance is perceived as rejection. Their expectations of relationships are immature and unrealistic. They believe that acceptance means unconditional love–never become angry with each other, never point out flaws, never hurt each other, always accept without reservation.
They believe to be accepted and loved, one can have no imperfections; they have a great deal of difficulty experiencing real love (for others or for themselves). They feel contempt for themselves and anger towards others.
CREATURES OF HABIT
By sticking to their routines, they prevent having to deal with surprises. If they get asked to step outside their comfort zone, they will focus on risks and dangers, blowing them out of proportion. They can usually work with others, but their co-workers think they’re standoffish, cold, or very shy. They often find freedom by allowing their creative imagination to take them far away from their anxieties.
RISKS, PREDISPOSTIONS, AND INCIDENCE
Their lack of satisfactory ties to other people make them prone to mood disorders, anxiety disorders, phobias. They may develop amnesia or depersonalization (dissociative disorders). Inborn temperament may predispose them to this personality disorder. Other than biological or constitutional factors, a disfiguring illness may contribute. Faced with anxiety, they become extremely tense and overalert.
They can be helped by desensitizing their anxiety, learning social skills, and changing some of their self-destructive thinking patterns. Some medications can be effective for phobias and anxiety. Psychotherapy is highly beneficial for Avoidant who has the courage to face their problems, instead of run away from them. It’s usually revealed that they were humiliated, shamed, or made to feel guilty or inadequate by their parents. Or that they couldn’t always count on their parents for comfort or protection. So, they grew up feeling insecure and negative about themselves. They couldn’t move confidently out into the world or get closer to people.
COPING WITH AVOIDANT PEOPLE
Be very kind and reassuring to these people. Be completely accepting. Encourage them to seek professional help. See how many people you meet who fit the Avoidant personality disorder. Instead of dismissing them as cold or unfriendly, take a second look. Reach out to see if they’d like to become friends (or at least acquaintances).
For all the writers out there, have you ever had any of your characters exhibit these personality styles?