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"The smell was bad, but Kronski acted like he was dying. But what Holly did not grasp was the power of the doctor's awakened sense of smell. Imagine the joy of seeing for the first time, or the euphoria of a first step. Then square that feeling and make it negative. Take a ball of poison, dip it in thorns and manure, wrap it in a poultice of festering bandages, boil the whole lot in a cauldron of unspeakably vile excretions, and shove it up your nose. This is what Kronski could smell, and it was driving him out of his mind."

In real life, people will sometimes lose, or are born without, a certain sense. Fiction will take this a step further, giving characters little to no emotions whatsoever. Regardless of what exactly they cannot feel, if such a character suddenly gains whatever sense or emotion they were missing, they are often overwhelmed by it. Depending on the feeling, the character can experience incredible pain, confusion, an In-Universe Catharsis, or even Go Mad From the Revelation.

There is some Truth in Television, as recent studies have shown that formerly blind people who have their sight restored are often unable to process what they see for a long time, and will prefer to continue relying on their senses they used while blind.

Contrast with I Feel Angry, where a character experiences a certain emotion that they usually don't and Not So Stoic, where a seemingly serious person was actually just bottling their emotions up. Can overlap with What Is This Feeling? and What Is This Thing You Call Love?.

See also Sense Freak and Sensory Overload.

Examples of First Time Feeling include:

Anime and Manga

  • In Bleach, this actually gets Tousen killed. He's blind, so his new Hollow Resurrecion form grants him sight, he's so overwhelmed by it that he doesn't notice his opponent attacking from behind until it's too late.
  • In The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya, Kyon discovers that Emotionless Girl Yuki Nagato set the whole plot in motion by developing emotions and, unable to deal with them, stole Haruhi's powers and remade the world. Kyon even reflects that the fact that she was designed without emotions made her reaction to developing them that much greater.


  • Spider-Man: While he didn't gain new new senses, Peter Parker has to deal with Sensory Overload when he gets his current ones expanded and nearly goes insane before figuring out how to reign in his supersenses.
  • In Supreme Power, a Marvel takeoff of the DC Universe, Hyperion, (the Superman analogue) feels pain for the first time while fighting Doc Spectrum (their version of Green Lantern). Hyperion immediately asks him to do it again.


  • After John Preston goes off his meds in Equilibrium and starts experiencing emotions for the first time, he has a very difficult time keeping a stoic expression, and breaks down into tears the first time he hears music while not having his emotions suppressed.
  • Meet Joe Black: "Joe" has no experience with love whatsoever and so falling for Susan completely overwhelms him.
  • Star Trek Generations. When Data's emotion chip is first installed, he experiences emotions more strongly than the humans around him. Eventually the chip overloads and his emotions become so intense that he collapses.
    • Somewhat justified in that he was experiencing not only emotions from his life at that moment, but his perfect memory caused him to remember thousands of moments, experiences, jokes, etc. from his life, and re-experiencing all that at once through his new emotions would definitely be overwhelming.
      • Also I thought that the chip was set too high.
  • While it's not their first time feeling, the crew of the Black Pearl in the first Pirates of the Caribbean regain their tactile senses when the curse is lifted. Brought home by Barbossa's "I feel...cold."


  • In Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, villain Damon Kronski was born unable smell anything. So when Holly restores his sense in a particularly fowl smelling Souk, he is left writhing on the floor, clawing at his nose. (See page quote)
  • In the Animorphs series, this happens to everyone the first time they morph into something with unfamiliar senses.
    • Aximili is an Andalite, an alien species with very little sense of smell or taste. When he first morphs into a human, his reaction to eating human food is excessively enthusiastic. He remains something of a food junkie through the series, and cigarette butts become one of his favorite snacks.
    • Even worse, it's what happens when an ant gets morphing powers by an accident and morphs Cassie. It freaks out so badly that just watching it freaks out the real Cassie. In the ant's case, however, it also had to cope with suddenly being cut off from the Hive Mind.
  • In Thief of Time, a number of Auditors take human form, and find themselves momentarily overwhelmed by the sensory overload of simple existence. They pass out from the taste of dry toast, and chocolate kills them. Of course, this is before they discover the danger of strong emotions...
  • In Orson Scott Card's The Tales of Alvin Maker series, a large violent man named Mike Fink was tattooed shortly after his birth with a hex that made him invincible. After the hex is broken, he is completely incapacitated by the pain from a single blow, as he has never felt pain before.
    • Note that 1) Mike Fink is a real American legend, the riverman's Paul Bunyan; 2) He had previously appeared in the series as hired murderer; and 3) Fink is eventually converted to ally by Jesus Alvin, who both ruined the hex and is delivering the pain.
  • This effect is a major plot point in The Giver.
  • It's not that the Kantri of Tales of Kolmar don't have a sense of touch, but their impressively thick hides and clumsy clawed hands do insulate them quite a bit from the world, to the point that when one becomes human he's shocked and astounded by how much he can feel on his new skin, right down to slight puffs of air moving across his hands. Three months later he still stops "a hundred times a day" to marvel in the sensation.

Live Action TV

  • In an episode of Star Trek: Voyager The Doctor's program is hidden in Seven, and he's overwhelmed by the taste of cheesecake.
  • In the third season of Regenesis, a treatment undergone by high functioning autistic Bob Melnikov to save his eyesight has the unexpected side effect of increasing his empathic abilities well past neurotypical levels to the point where he's almost The Empath. The emotions are so overwhelming that at one point he freaks out and has a breakdown while walking down the street.

Web Original

 Captain Hammer: I'm in pain... I think this is what pain feels like! Oh mama! Someone maternal!

Western Animation

  • Another "pain" example in Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot, when Rusty is upgraded with alien technology that allows him to actually feel things instead of just detecting them. But the next time he enters battle and takes damage, he starts to say "No pain receptor--" then cries out in agony. He becomes terrified of getting hurt until he finds a way to rid himself of the alien tech.
  • Shows up in My Life as a Teenage Robot when XJ9, annoyed at her inability to physically feel, reinstalls some old nerve receptors, the pain setting of which which makes her unable to fight the Villain of the Week. The problem gets solved when she changes the setting from "pain" to "tickle," and she laughs at him until his strength drains.
  • On one of the "Tales of Interest" episodes of Futurama, Bender is turned human, and is so overwhelmed by taste that he starts overeating and soon becomes morbidly obese.
    • Another episode lampshades this (and gender stereotypes) when an alien accidentally sex-changes the entire crew, plus some passengers and Hermes's wife. At one point the female Hermes turns to her now-husband and mentions "Did you know there's more than two emotions!?"

Real Life

  • As stated above, reports have shown that that formerly blind people who have their sight restored are often unable to process what they see and are constantly confused by it.
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