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johnny0313x's avatar

Do you ever purposely try to desensitize yourself?

Asked by johnny0313x (1855points) May 31st, 2010

Do you ever wish you were more accepting of certain things in life or situations but can’t seem to deal with them the way you wish you would. So you expose yourself to it more in hopes of desensitizing your self? Do you think this is a sick approach or way of look at something.

I don’t mean things like violent crimes or anything that is obviously wrong. Smaller things, perhaps things that some people find acceptable compared to things others don’t find acceptable but both are still okay.

Are you taking away your individuality by doing something like this?

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10 Answers

SmashTheState's avatar

Absolutely, yes, I have done this, and no, I don’t believe it necessarily has to be negative. I will give you an example. I have a strong dislike of physical contact with others, particularly of the sort which is not initiated by me. I suffer from severe clinical depression, and one day I had to attend a meeting while depressed. I apologized for being a little out of it, explaining that I was depressed. After the meeting, one of the members of our organization came over and asked if I’d like a hug, opening her arms and stepping forward. I reacted instantly, and without thinking, jerking back and saying “NO!” loudly enough to create an uncomfortable silence.

She was understandably hurt, and I decided at that point that I would overcome my aversion to physical contact, if only so that I didn’t hurt anyone else that way. Over the next couple of years, I made a point of hugging everyone I met when I said good-bye. At first I had to close my eyes and literally grit my teeth, waiting for it to be over, but as time passed I found that by exposing myself to it over and over again, I had successfully desensitized myself to physical contact.

I should add that my hard work paid off in spades when I ended up spending some time in the clink for my activist work, and had to endure repeated strip-searches. I shudder to think how I’d have reacted if I hadn’t spent the time and effort to desensitize myself to intimate contact.

nebule's avatar

Yes, I do do that and I wish I could stop and just be ok with being afraid of doing things that I am not comfortable with. Maybe then I will sit with it and get safe and comfy enough to move forward without being afraid.

augustlan's avatar

I have done this as well. If something is interfering with my ability to function in (or even just enjoy) my life, it’s worth overcoming. For instance, I have a fear of heights. For the most part, I’m fine with that and make no effort to overcome it. I don’t need to ride roller coasters or get to the top of the Washington Monument. However, this fear is also present when flying in a plane and riding an elevator to a high floor. Avoiding planes and elevators would make for a crappy way to live, so I make myself do it. I wouldn’t say I like flying, but I can do it… because I’ve made myself do it so many times.

In a totally different vein, in order to keep and enjoy my relationships with others, I had to learn to get off my high moral horse. I find certain things very objectionable (such as cheating on a spouse, or even cheating on your taxes). Things like that are so commonplace that it’d be hard to have any friends at all if I held everyone to my standard. I’ve learned to accept others, and not judge too harshly. I had to really force myself to understand that people can still be good people, even if they do something I don’t agree with.

CaptainHarley's avatar

This was a survival skill in Vietnam, and I’m sure it is in Iraq and Afganistan as well.

Primobabe's avatar

Yes. The best advice I’ve ever been given:

1. Pick your battles
2. Not every fight is worth fighting
3. If you’re pursuing something for “the principle of it,” think twice

These 3 truisms help me determine when I’m doing the right thing, and when I’m really just being a jerk. They’re also good tools for letting go of and shrugging off life’s stupid little annoyances.

Coloma's avatar


Well said you two!


Oops…you 3! lol

MissA's avatar

By the sheer element of aging, one is desensitized to various degrees. In many cases, I think it qualifies as ‘wisdom’.

Anger is the most destructive emotion in the human race.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, I have a very strong irrational fear of spiders. I used to put out the whole drama of screaming and running when I saw them. I have managed to control myself to the point where I can actually stand still when I see one, or walk slowly out of the room. My heart still beats wildly, and I have all the other physical symptoms of fear, but I don’t act on it.

Coloma's avatar


True and concise. :-)

stardust's avatar

Absolutely – life is too grey not to. I’ve endured many an uncomfortable situation, but ultimately overcoming those things has helped me to learn and grow.
@Primobabe excellent advice.

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