Some HSP ( Highly Sensitive Person kids quickly learn to suppress their feelings when they hear, “you are so sensitive, you are too emotional or don’t exaggerate”, because they feel like they are too much and don’t fit in.
On the other hand, some of them go the other direction, the other extreme. In desperate attempts to have their feelings validated or understood, they do exaggerate their feelings. Hoping that when they magnify their feelings their family will finally understand them.
The habit of suppressing their feelings persists because it creates a false sense of belonging, by being like everyone else. The problem is that deep down they may feel like an emotional chameleon, always adjusting to the feelings of the person they are with. This could lead to a feeling of not knowing who they are. Another downside of constantly ignoring and repressing their strong emotions is that when the emotions can’t be held down any longer, they come out too strongly and HSP’s feel like they are too much. Thus the cycle continues.
By amplifying their feelings kids get negative attention. However any kind of attention or sense of belonging seems better than feeling like an outsider. Inflating their feelings at least gets them noticed and makes them feel seen.
As you are reading this you may have noticed that these habits sound familiar and that your tendency is either to suppress your feelings or exaggerate them. Many people swing from one to the other. As you observe yourself and become aware of when you use each tactic you may want to take action right away. Suppress your feelings when you want to exaggerate them or exaggerate them when you want to suppress them.
Can you instead simply start to be aware when and why you are doing either? When we understand behaviours we can find ways of improving, and fine tuning them in a more gentle and sustainable way.