Gamgwangdo-A Lesson in Sensitivity


Gamgwangdo- What is that you ask?  That’s sensitivity in Korean.

(I recently discussed how highly sensitive children do not particularly enjoy the competitiveness that seems to go along with education in any form.  I used my daughter’s experience with Tae Kwon Do as an example.  Going through old files the other day, I came across something that I had written at the time.  It’s a couple of years old, but I wanted to share.  I didn’t know much about being an HSP at the time I wrote this, but it makes me smile even more reading it back now knowing what I know about Dr. Elaine Aron’s research.)

My daughter has been in Tae Kwon Do (a Korean form of martial arts) since the age of four, and she has always loved it.  She’s part of the studio’s Black Belt Club, and she’s currently working towards her brown belt.  From day one, it’s never been an issue getting her to attend 2-3 times a week to practice form and participate in sparring.  Lately, however, there’s been a bit of reluctance.  It really just started this winter. At first, she would say her asthma was bothering her, and then she would complain that she was just too tired to go.  Each time, I’d explain to her that a big part of martial arts is being disciplined.  Even when the running is a challenge, or learning a new form proves to be a source of frustration, we carry on.  

Tonight it was especially difficult to motivate her for her class.  She started “faking” sickness during dinner.  I could tell, because the symptoms kept changing from one moment to the next.  I knew something was up, so I asked her if she was really sick or if she just didn’t want to go to Tae Kwon Do?  She held firm to her mysterious ailments the first couple of times I asked this question.  Then I asked her if she still liked going to Tae Kwon Do?  She replied with a quiet little, “kind of.”  I prompted her to tell me more.  It started off with the exercises were hard, and she sweats when she runs.  All of which, I knew didn’t really bother her, because she’s a very active child.  I could still tell that there was something more that she wasn’t saying, so I put my arm around her, held her close, and I asked one more time.

In a wavering little voice, and with a couple of tears in her eyes, she said, “I don’t always like winning.”  This surprised me, so I asked her to explain what she meant by this.  She went on to say that sometimes she doesn’t like the competitions, because she feels really bad for the other kids that don’t win.  She elaborated on how in sparring, for example, older kids fight against younger kids, and bigger kids fight against smaller kids, and she just doesn’t think that’s very fair.  She also doesn’t like when the Master makes a big deal out of the person who wins, because it probably hurts the feelings of the kids that didn’t win.  She continued to say that she gets a strange feeling in her throat, and kind of wants to cry, when the Master teases some of the kids for not being strong, or makes fun of them and tells them not to act like babies.  He never talks to her this way, but she told me she still feels sad when other kids in her class are treated this way.

Pulling her closer to me and softly kissing her forehead, I couldn’t help but feel a little guilty for passing the highly sensitive gene on to this precious six-year old little girl.  I can clearly recall throwing a three-legged race in the first grade field day Olympics, because the team right beside me hadn’t won any awards yet.  I didn’t want them to be upset or end the school year without an award to take home as a memento.  Now, I know what some of you are thinking already, because I’ve heard it all before.  Toughen up!  Not everyone wins all the time in the REAL world!  That is true.  It is also true that in the real world every time one of these moments occurs, highly sensitive people still feel a little pang in their heart or get a little choked up for others not in the “winning” position.  These are the same people that cry at beautiful songs, burst into tears reading a good book, and exhibit empathy towards others.  This is a quality to foster not snuff out.

So what did I do?  I talked to her about good sportsmanship.  We brainstormed ways we could make other people feel better if they lose in a friendly competition, and the importance of being a gracious winner.  We discussed how it’s important to know that winning isn’t everything, but winning is also important when you’ve worked hard for something.  You should never sacrifice your hard work, dedication, or talent just to make someone else feel better.  I told her that mommy used to feel that way too when I was her age, and that I still do feel that way a lot of the time as an adult.  She looked surprised and slightly comforted by that fact.  I gave her a big hug and told her I’d look up how you say sensitivity in Korean, and that’s exactly what I did.  It is gamgwangdo according to Google translate, and gamgwangdo is truly a gift!

Link to HSP S.O.S. #17 The Highly Sensitive & School

Weekly podcasts for Highly Sensitive Persons at HSP S.O.S. on The Captain’s Pod!

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