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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: It's OK to have a sensitive personality

Rika Kayama

When people feel sad or get hurt, their reasons differ from person to person. This is acutely felt by someone like me who has long examined patients as a psychiatrist.

    A long while ago, a patient who visited my consultation room said, "I broke my cherished bowl, and I've been depressed since." When I asked if the item was expensive, the patient said, "Not really." The person said the bowl wasn't particularly easier to use than other utensils, but that they were attached to it after using the item for so many years.

    When the person inadvertently dropped the bowl while washing it, and it broke, the person said they thought as if their heart got shattered too, with tears welling up in their eyes.

    To add to their emotional wounds, no one around the patient made a big deal of the incident even when the person told their families and friends about it. "You can buy a new one," they would say. One of them kindly suggested going out to buy another one together, saying, "There should be a bowl of a similar size and pattern." These comments, however, did nothing to lift the person up, but rather dragged them down. "I want that bowl back. No one would understand this feeling of mine," the person thought.

    I told the patient, "Well, so you can't forget about the bowl you have broken. I can relate to what you are saying, but it's not that I can understand your sorrow from the bottom of my heart." Sensing that the patient became disappointed, I hastily added, "But because you are saying you are sad, I know you really are. There must have been a special bond between you and your cherished bowl. You must be an affectionate person, perhaps more than anyone else."

    The breaking point in one's sorrow and emotional damage varies from one person to another. Those with a lower breaking point would tend to be deeply saddened by what others around them might find trivial. However, even such sensitive people might not be touched by films that would move most others.

    Once, I couldn't eat the sugar houses and trees adorning cakes and would save them in my desk drawers. Later on, I opened the drawer, only to find the sweets had all melted away. I cried over it for the next few days. Looking back, I'm embarrassed at what a big fuss I was making about something so small. Even then, I occasionally talk to the old me, saying, "Sadness depends on one person to another. It was really a pain for you back then, wasn't it? That's fine."

    If you feel sad or get hurt over minor stuff, you should be proud of being who you are, someone gifted with special sensitivities and gentleness. Why not start thinking that way from tomorrow? (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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