Sentimentality



“Sentimentality, the ostentatious parading of excessive and spurious emotion, is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; the wet eyes of the sentimentalist betray his aversion to experience, his fear of life, his arid heart; and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.”

James Baldwin

Sentimentality is a hallmark of a manipulator. It is an attempt at mimicking sensitivity, by someone who doesn’t actually feel anything real.

A person who does not feel is not sensitive. In truth, he does not care about others at all. He is careless and remorseless with his words and actions, hurting others regularly without concern. And yet, he likes to imagine that he is a deeply caring person, and he wants others to believe that he is a caring and sensitive person as well. But because he doesn’t know what real feelings feel like, or how they are authentically expressed, he tries to mimic them as best he can. He is merely pretending…

That’s what sentimentality is; it has the distinct flavor of a dramatic enactment. Our manipulator will drum up phony displays in emotionally charged situations in order to mimic sensitivity. He spools himself up on a story in his mind generating all kinds of created emotions. There can be waterworks, and gasping, and sometimes even fainting from the concocted overwhelm, except that it’s all fake.

Sometimes they are so good at it, that it can be hard to distinguish real tears from created ones. (And hard to call them out on it, for fear of being cruel to a person who may be genuinely upset.). However, if you are authentically sensitive, if you can feel and know how to listen to your feelings, then you can tell the difference immediately.