In general, insensitivity doesn’t apply to everything.
That is to say, unless there is a very disabling mental illness, people are not completely insensitive. The degree varies, as does the object and the circumstances. In other words, one can be completely insensitive to the suffering of some. But, at the same time, you can be very sensitive to the pain of others at a certain moment. Yet the situation could reverse.
Causes and manifestations of insensitivity
If you live on a busy street, it’s likely that you constantly hear noise. Unless, of course, you live in a very isolated house.
Also, if you’re not used to it, maybe each one of those noises disturbs you a little bit. However, after a while, the exact opposite thing could happen. You basically stop paying attention. In fact, you might even experience a sense of alarm when there’s complete silence. Basically, you become insensitive to noise.
Something similar but not exactly the same happens in the world of emotions.
People who have experienced great emotional suffering tend to be more empathetic and sensitive to the pain of others. But, the opposite effect can take place. Especially if the pain has exceeded certain limits or if it occurred within the framework of extreme vulnerability. These people become insensitive.
The disturbing part is that the opposite phenomenon can also occur.
This means that people who have not experienced suffering, or only have to a limited extent, also become insensitive. They can’t attribute an emotional meaning or worth to the suffering of others. Their capacity for empathy has not been developed, and they show a kind of affective ignorance. This ignorance prevents them from showing solidarity towards the suffering or joy of others. Because the insensitivity produced doesn’t only affect their reaction towards negative emotions.
An individual who is insensitive to the suffering of others can manifest their insensitivity in various ways. This doesn’t only imply remaining indifferent to another’s state of need or petitions for help. It also includes every behavior in which another human being is approached as an organism, tool, or means without being an end at the same time.
When you are sensitive and insensitive at the same time
The common thing is for an individual to be sensitive and insensitive at the same time.
It is also frequent that phases of insensitivity appear in people who are normally empathetic and sensitive. There are many factors which combine for this to occur. If someone experiences a great sorrow, they will probably not have a lot of emotional energy. They won´t be able to care about others or to empathize with the suffering of their peers.
Some people truly fear suffering. Without even being aware of it, they develop strategies, mechanisms, or ways to desensitize themselves. This happens, for example, in the case of addictions.
The consumption of psychoactive drugs raises a wall of insensitivity towards the suffering of others. It is like a bubble which serves as an insulator. Building and nurturing an excessively
rigid character is also a strategy to become insensitive. In fact, it is a way of taking strict control over one’s emotions so the individual’s energy contains them. To be sentitive to one is to be sensitive to all
Erich Fromm affirmed that love and solidarity, when genuine, are also universal. He said that if you love one human being, you also love all of humanity. Deriving an analogy from this postulate, you could say that one thing is impossible. You cannot be sensitive towards the suffering of one human being without at the same time being sensitive towards the pain of everyone. It usually happens this way, although in different intensities.
Not receiving sensibility can affect us. Yet, the person who will surely be affected is the one who doesn’t have or manifest sensibility. The instinctive inclination towards solidarity is not a whim of nature.
There is information in our genetic code that was installed as a guarantee of survival. Helping and being helped is one of the many strategies used by life – and therefore by us – to perpetuate itself.