Guest Post – Too Intense

Today’s guest post is brought to us by the beautiful April from Tales Of Night Creatures – a wonderful blog of ‘Short stories, poetry, fiction and thinkpieces for the witching hour’. You will see from the first paragraph down below how talented she is and I am truly honoured to have her contribute to my series of ‘Too…’ posts ❤

Image credit: Joshua Newton @ Unsplash

Too… Intense

Having or showing strong feelings or opinions.”

I often feel, while I’m here trying to be authentic and open and compassionate, focusing on my vision and making things better… that people find it too much, too intense. That I’m too much myself, and that’s a bad thing.

Being too intense means it’s wrong to care about things a lot, to be conscientious or want to make things better, to do a job thoroughly and well.

To have feelings about things and want to express them properly. Or to have passions and interests and pursuits that aren’t mainstream, or which focus on issues or big picture stuff, or that mean you talk about true things and it’s not socially acceptable.

To have strong feelings and to express them can be too intense. As a writer, this ability is somewhat necessary. To translate the emotional inner life into language which can express and resonate with another human being, in a performative act of empathic connection- this is powerful on the page.

In real life, people don’t like it very much.

Feeling strongly about something can be empowering. It incites action, momentum, change. I trust the intensity of my instincts and feelings to give me important information about people and situations. I trust the authenticity of my passions to enable me to act accordingly with my values and to sometimes act on behalf of others, who otherwise may not have a voice or advocate.

However, this doesn’t always translate well. A milder response may be amusement at my animated reaction, or befuddlement. Sometimes people can glaze over and look bored or change the subject. And occasionally it can be met with derision or hostility. This is hard if it comes from those whose opinion we value.

It leads to feeling ashamed, of being too much or too intense. It was stupid to care, and it was stupid to talk about it. My self-talk becomes critical and harsh, my mood plummets and I become very upset. This upset, of course, is deemed disproportionate and too intense for the cause.

Being labelled “too intense” is shameful, because it means you have been labelled as unacceptable, you have overstepped your prescribed boundaries of status. As sensitive types, we self-regulate and monitor and keep ourselves in check, dreading this censure. To be too intense is to possess too much feeling in a world priding itself on its logic, control and detachment from nature. It is excessive, coded feminine or weak, not always valued.

When you act from a place of authenticity, sensitivity and passion, you tend to think and feel very much about what you’re doing and saying, and whether this is in alignment with your truth. You question everything, because you notice and feel everything, and you want to make things better, because things being the way they are is not acceptable if that means others are disadvantaged or in pain. Somehow, maintaining a façade, or petty matters of convention, don’t seem to matter as much.

And because you very much want to make things better, or to make others feel better, you propel yourself forward into situations and conversations where you’re pushing the boundaries of what others want to think and feel about.

This isn’t about pushing or enforcing a dogma onto other people, or being controlling; it’s about maybe being really enthusiastic about the environment so that you instigate recycling initiatives at your workplace, litter pick on the way home and gently but consistently talk to others about ways to cut down on plastic waste.

Or feeling so strongly about trans and non-binary rights that you firmly but politely challenge hateful speech and jokey transphobia socially, share petitions and go to march at Pride with a transgender youth group.

It’s about feeling so acutely that something needs to be done to help others or to make things better, you can’t help acting. Even if the cost is misunderstanding or being judged.

Being too intense can be synonymous with being too sensitive. Taking things deeply to heart, considering the weight and import of conversations and interactions, or communicating honestly about those feelings and thoughts can be too much for a fair number of people.

I would like to challenge them by asking why.

With current mental health statistics demonstrating that many of us are negotiating dark and painful territory, often in isolation, talking about our true feelings can be a release.

In relationships, communicating honestly and openly can alleviate many issues. And, from experience, it can save time right from the beginning to be bravely honest and expressive about what you want and need in romantic relationships. This doesn’t necessarily mean a declaration of love, but in terms of values and behaviour and boundaries you have or desire or will accept. And being true to who you are and what matters to you will attract like minded kindred spirits, and repel those who wouldn’t fit well anyway.

Having intense feelings and empathy for others fuels us to acts of compassion and kindness. The art we create is rooted in this capacity to feel as others do, the caring professions we work in are motivated by the desire to alleviate pain and ease discomfort, the social causes and charities we support soar when we act from a place of love and respect for others.

 Our ethics and values which respect the lives and well-being and wholeness of other beings arise from both our emotional empathy and our earnest belief in those feelings as possessing worth and substance.

Maybe, for some, I will always be too intense. Or too serious, or sensitive. That’s okay, because to reclaim these as positive characteristics is to repurpose their place in making our world and our lives a better place.

Check out Aprils other writings here: Tales of Night Creatures
And you can also follow her on Instagram and see some of here beautiful artwork here: Aprilydaze

Too… Quiet


Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

Do you know the one thing that quiet people love to hear? ‘Gosh, you’re quiet, aren’t you?’

 *Raises eyebrow*

 No, ok I’m joking, of course we don’t.  

I have been ‘the quiet girl’ my entire life. I will chat away with my husband, or my friends, or my family… but any more than three people at once, my words become fewer and the spaces between them wider. I’m the quiet one in the friendship groups, the one that waits until everyone else has finished talking before piping up. I blush if too many people’s eyes are upon me when I’m talking, I sometimes feel like I talk too much and like I want to catch the words as they spill forth out of my mouth and cram them back in to a place of silence and safety.

 It’s not that I’m quiet all of the time, but I find other people much more interesting than myself. I would much rather listen than talk – because when you listen, you learn. You learn all sorts, you learn not only from what people say, but you learn by observing; you learn by the little mannerisms they have just before they talk, by the way their voice rises around certain people as if to elevate their importance. You learn what they are passionate about as you watch their eyes smile and twinkle and you learn when they are masking the truth as they tell you they are fine, but their eyes give them away. You learn by observing who else they talk to, by how they treat others and by what stories you hear a million times, and why. You can learn a lot by being quiet and by letting other people talk.

 It sounds like I’m trying to catch people out – I’m not! My observing of people comes from a place of seeking understanding and acceptance of the fact that we are all different and we all have our strengths, we all have our anxieties and we all have our own battles that we face, every day.

 When I was younger, I longed to be louder. I longed to be someone who could spark up a conversation with anyone, who could lead conversations and who could be interesting all of the time. I made up conversations in my head to have with people the next time I saw them, I rehearsed them and in my bedroom, I was confident and brave… in reality not so much. I watched the confident girls, I watched the adults – I saw how they interacted with each other and how easily it all seemed to flow. One day, one day I would find that confidence from somewhere and I would be just like that…

 Somewhere along the line though, I realised that people who were loud, were not necessarily confident, and to quote Joel Barrish ‘constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating’. Don’t get me wrong, I still admire people who carry conversations and who are the life and soul of any room they walk into – but I’m learning that it is ok to not be that person, and sometimes even the people who we think are ‘that person’, aren’t.

 I think I also realise how much power words have. As someone who was bullied verbally for most of my secondary school years, I learnt of the damage they can cause and has someone who writes I can also appreciate the beauty of them. Words to me aren’t just things to carelessly throw around whilst hoping for the best; they are tools, they are weapons and they are magic. I choose my words carefully and I think about them often – sometimes before I have a conversation (I haven’t neglected that trait) and sometimes after when I replay the conversation within my mind.

Yesterday, in therapy, we were talking about how as a quiet person I can sometimes feel like I talk too much. Its part of this whole negative thought cycle I need to try and break because it is something I do very often. Yesterday I gave my therapist an example, something that only happened a few days ago; my mother and step-father in law were over for dinner, we all get on well, we were all talking. My step father in law and I got into a conversation about my blog, about mental health, about his work and how he deals with people on a day-to-day basis who have mental health issues, sometimes very severely.  When I talk about mental health, I can become quite passionate (I know, you are shocked, right?) and it was really lovely to have this conversation with someone after a few days of really doubting myself…

However, as soon as they went home, the negative self- talk started. I had talked too much, I had said too much, I had become too big, too confident and what must he think of me? Had I sounded self-absorbed? Is this whole writing thing self-absorbed? Had I neglected my husband, or my mother in law by talking about myself? What if they had wanted to talk about something and I had steamrollered all over it with my bloody voice?! Oh god, my voice – who likes the sound of their own voice, right? Especially if its talking about something really boring, or something that I’ve got completely wrong… I should probably just go and find a hole to burrow into and not come out for a few days, right?

“That’s really horrible…”

My therapist looked at me after I had spurted all of these thoughts out… I think instead of burrowing into a hole I had said ‘get back into my box’, but, semantics…

He asked me if my very lovely, very encouraging, very gentle step father in law had showed any signs of being bored by the conversation; if he had yawned, if he had sighed, if he had tried to change topic, if he had not replied to me, if he had got up and left the room…? No, he had done none of those things. He asked me who had told me that I talk to much… well, no-one, I’m a quiet person, I don’t talk much so that has never been an issue. He asked me what is wrong with being passionate about something and having a conversation – a two-sided, adult conversation – about it? Nothing…

I need to change these thoughts. I need to stop with the self-doubt, with the negative voice that constantly natters away within my own mind. I encourage others to talk, to explore their passions, to get the words out and I assure them I will always, always listen – because I will, I am pretty good at that bit. But I need to listen to that advice myself, and I need to start believing in it too.

He said to me very gently before our session ended yesterday…

“Don’t try and shrink yourself anymore Naomi…”

But that is smallness, and safety, and hiding away…

…and that is one for another day.


Click here to check out my previous post in this series: Too… Sensitive

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Too… Sensitive.

Image by Bibarys Ibatolla @ Unsplash

Something that I feel has come up a lot over the last week or so, is this notion of being ‘too’ something. It was something that was mentioned in my writing on Tuesday and, unsurprisingly, something we discussed in therapy on Wednesday. Last weekend I found myself mentally compiling a list of everything I felt I was too

  • Too sensitive
  • Too emotional
  • Too caring
  • Too tired
  • Too disorganised
  • Too big
  • Too quiet
  • Too open minded

I also felt that I do things too much, things like…

  • Thinking
  • Procrastinating
  • Spending time mindlessly scrolling through Twitter or Instagram…

When you look at them in a list, when your logical brain kicks in, it all seems rather ridiculous. How can any of us be too anything? We are who we are – I am a sensitive, caring, disorganised and open-minded person who spends a lot of time lost in my own thoughts. Is that bad? Not…really…

And yet, we tell ourselves these things, repeatedly. Something may have been said, at some point in our lives, a throwaway comment or something that was said a number of times on a number of different days. Sometimes by one person, sometimes by a few and it has stuck. I am going to try to make this into a bit of a series, questioning these beliefs that I have about myself and trying to look at them in a more positive light.

So, as it’s at the very start of the list, let’s kick off with… ‘Too sensitive’

Whenever I feel hurt, or pain. Anytime I cry at a movie or an advert or a book (yep). Anytime I feel any emotion bubbling up inside me and it comes out as tears instead of anger, or joy, anxiety, love or confusion. Anytime I spend too much time trying to help someone else, anytime I take something in a different way than it was intended or I feel overwhelmed… I hear ‘it’s because you are too sensitive’. It’s a criticism, a flaw, something to be fixed and solved and sorted and got rid of.

Unless…

Unless we take away the ‘too’.

Then I am just sensitive.

I’m not going to sit here and say that there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with being sensitive. I have spent the majority of my life believing in it as something to work on and something to eradicate, so it would be a little hypocritical of me to say that being sensitive is great and wonderful and something to actually aspire to! But, I am learning that it isn’t all bad.

For those of us that are sensitive, everything is more intense. This can be sadness and pain, but it can also be joy. It can be that certain noises are unbearable (it’s no surprise to discover that people who identify as ‘highly sensitive people’ also usually identify as suffering from misophonia – an aversion to certain noise) but it can also be that certain sensations – touch, sight, smell and even other, different sounds can bring intense pleasure (ASMR anyone?).

However, I do understand why I was led to believe that being ‘too’ sensitive was not the greatest trait to bear. Because being sensitive is tiring and its hard, its sometimes feeling like you have no skin and therefore everything gets in. I have never told anyone that they are too sensitive – but I can understand where it comes from and that need to protect – to try and stamp out the one thing that may cause someone you love and care about immense emotional pain further down the line. Toughen up, sticks and stones, be brave, don’t let it get to you… these are all wonderful words of advice, but unfortunately they are as effective as throwing a pebble into the ocean. A sensitive person is a sensitive person, just like a person with blue eyes is a blue eyed person – it’s not something that you can change, but what you can do, is bolster.

You can validate emotions; you can recognise and empathise – even if you don’t share the intensity. You can talk about emotions with people – I shall let you into a little secret, deep conversations are like crack to a sensitive person! We want to get to know you, not the you that posts all the highlights on social media, but the real you. We want to tell you about the things we are passionate about and hear your stories and about your interests. If you have a sensitive child, then encourage them to talk, to write, to get all of these emotions out in a safe manner that they feel comfortable with and that will help them, so much, further down the line. Let them know that it’s ok to cry (and it’s really normal to not even understand why sometimes), help them to understand the more extreme emotions – love, fear, hate and anger, because they will feel them more than you know and sometimes they will even feel them all at once. Show them how to express themselves, teach them about boundaries and how to say no without the guilt that will come along and knock them off of their feet. Let them know that it is ok to feel everything so very deeply, that it is a gift, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

The thing about sensitive people is that they are fully aware of the fact that they have this trait, I know for example that sometimes my reactions to things can be a little off – I don’t want to say that I am ‘overreacting’, because that goes against my beliefs regarding the importance of validation and how we need to feel our emotions – any emotion that anyone feels is real and is important –  but I can understand that perhaps my husband didn’t mean what he said in the way that I took it, he could have just been making an idle comment. We know that not everyone thinks the way we do; we have spent our entire lives coming to that realisation.

But sensitive people are not weak; they are not fragile or like little precious snowflakes. Life would be very, very hard indeed if as a sensitive person I expected everyone around me to tread on eggshells and never say anything at all that may upset me – that wouldn’t be right, it wouldn’t be fair and it wouldn’t be practical. I know other people who identify as sensitive, or ‘HSP’s’ and they are some of the bravest, most intuitive and compassionate people I know – they aren’t afraid of the tough stuff, at all. In fact, if anything they kind of go towards it at full pelt because they can fully understand the implications of things that are left unsaid or un-acted upon. They are empaths, dreamers and creators. People with wonderful imaginations and an innate understanding of things that aren’t always black and white and there in front of you.

The word needs logic; we need the practical and the people that see things in black and white. These people have their own gifts and their own strengths – they can be natural leaders and extroverts, they could be the life and the soul of the party or the ones that get in and get the job done without letting emotion or feeling get in the way. They help ground people who fall into the personality types at the other end of the spectrum.

My husband and I are completely different in many ways; we both took the Myers-Briggs personality test yesterday; I am an INFP-T – a dreamy idealist, a mediator and he, well, he is an ISTJ-A, a logistician. We are both Introverts, but that is our only similarity. We have been together for sixteen years this July – so, we are living and breathing proof that opposites do attract and can actually get along together very well indeed. There is no ‘wrong’ way to be, if he was as sensitive as I am then we wouldn’t have made it through the first six months and if I was as practical and grounded as he is, then we would live in a minimalist cube and eat food for sustenance, not for enjoyment. It is not that he isn’t sensitive to things, it is not that he is cold or withdrawn and it is not that I am a simmering ball of emotion at all times or am either laughing or weeping or nothing in-between – because neither of us are those things; we just have different things that drive us, that stir reactions within us and that make us individuals.

Because it would be rather dull if we were all the same, wouldn’t it?

Further reading: The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron

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