I am an Empath. My daughter, Heather, is also an Empath.
To put it simply, what this means is that, while most people can walk through a crowd of people and emerge unscathed, we can’t. Instead, we feel all of the emotions which are running through that crowd of people, and until we learn the fine art of shielding, we emerge, at best, unexplainably cranky and irritable, or, at worst, an emotional basket case. Typically, it’s somewhere in between the two extremes. For this reason, we tend to avoid places which draw crowds of people unless it’s something we really want to do. (for us, this would include concerts and Disneyland).
Before I learned what was going on, I was considered antisocial, or just, plain weird. Those who don’t understand still may see me that way. But now, as I’ve both learned to accept this sometimes questionable gift, and can block out most unwanted emotions from others, I don’t allow opinions formed without understanding the facts to bother me.
My first extremely terrifying experience with my “condition” involved a man I’d recently ended a 3 year relationship with. As he exuded some incredibly negative energy, I found myself feeling emotionally bruised and battered. Unable to cope with the barrage of negativity, I imagined myself surrounded by outward facing mirrors which reflected back anything which was aimed at me.
The technique, though extremely elementary, was quite effective. However, I eventually learned that it was an all or nothing kind of solution. In this case, I blocked out all energy and emotion, both good and bad. There were many iterations, but eventually, I learned to shield with my primary and secondary elements, fire and water. I used them to weave a virtual shell around myself to allow selected energies and emotions in. In the long run, it was more effective, but was still a work in progress.
I’ve since learned to draw some Earth energy into my shield, and to soften the edges, allowing myself to open up to people better. But old habits die hard and I still opt out of most situations which involve a crowd of people. I’m just more comfortable dealing with a few people directly.
Fortunately for my daughter, I’d had my baptism by fire, and when it became clear that she shared my “gift”, I was able to help her learn to protect herself from a young age, and when we knew we were going into a situation which would be challenging, I’d augment her shield for her until she grew strong enough to manage whatever was required herself. In fact, she taught me a few things along the way too!
As most people are blissfully unfazed by the emotional sewage which is always around, the best way to describe it would be that it’s the emotional equivalent of trying to navigate Grand Central Station during rush hour. Try to imagine that physical pushing, pulling, shoving and squashing being applied on an emotional level.
The guy whose elbow is digging into your side just had a huge fight with his boss…and you feel every ounce of his anger, but don’t know why you’re suddenly angry. The lady seated beside you, clutching her large handbag on her lap just found out that her husband of 50 years has cancer, and it’s too far gone to treat. You feel her fear, her helplessness and maybe her anger that it wasn’t detected sooner, but are clueless as to why you suddenly feel like bursting into tears.
But it’s not all negative. The young woman hanging on to a strap across from you just got engaged. You feel her joy, her excitement, a bit of panic and her love for her fiance.
But when all of these emotions are mashed together into a stew of disjointed ingredients, I assure you that it is nothing short of painful!
I share this with you because I hope that the next time you encounter a friend or family member who either avoids large gatherings or hugs the outside edges of the group, instead of labeling them “weird” or anti-social”, you might consider the fact that the reason for their behavior has a lot more to do with self-preservation. Because, trust me, a physical battering is much easier to deal with than an emotional one, and is far easier to explain because the scars are visible.
Being an empath isn’t all bad, though. In fact, it really is an amazing gift! While I was taking a class in healing, I found that by opening myself up, I was able to receive a lot of useful information (of course, there were times when I opened myself up and received an emotional body slam, but in truth, there’s a lot of valuable information to gained from that as well!). We are great givers and receivers of hugs, as we both give and receive on a deeper level than most people realize.
Small kindnesses, or seeing someone else’s pleasure from a small gesture will fuel us for days! I, for one, can think about a person and something they said or did, and feel, again, every ounce of the joy I felt initially. I find that when I’m on the dance floor, I’m especially susceptible to these little joy bursts. I’ll suddenly have a huge smile on my face and as I turn to face someone sitting along the edge of the dance floor, they’ll smile too!
Like anything else, it’s all about knowing your limitations.
My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for my friends who make me feel special in so many ways.
2. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned which make me able to love and accept myself just the way I am.
3. I am grateful that I am able to put difficult concepts into words, that others may learn a little about what is under the surface of people around them.
4. I am grateful for an amazing night of dancing with a lot of warmth, joy and love.
5. I am grateful for the cats who were awaiting my return tonight. Their love also raises me up and sustains me.
Love and light