About a month or two ago, I began self-identifying as an empath.
I always knew that I had strong empathy and compassion for the world around me, but I never realized quite how much the energies of the people around me affected my daily interactions and relationships with others. Now that I have come to identify as an empath, I am much more self-aware of my innate ability to make deep emotional connections with others.
As an empath, I absorb the emotions of the people around me without even consciously realizing that I am doing so. For example, if I spend a significant amount of time with someone who is angry and upset, I will begin to subconsciously adopt those feelings, even though I myself am neither angry nor upset. I become so immersed in the heated sentiments of the others that I can literally feel the emotions that they are experiencing as if they were my own.
In some situations, I view my empathetic ability as a helpful strength because I can truly understand where other people are coming from on an emotional level. Empaths generally lean more towards being the peacemakers in situations of conflict. Spaces that are full of tension and disharmony will give most empaths an uncomfortable feeling that will spur them to try to settle the disagreement as soon as possible. When I am in the middle of a confrontation between friends, my gut reaction is to mediate and to alleviate the situation right then and there. I hate walking around with feelings of dread or resentment hanging over my head, so I would rather address the situation in the moment rather than sit around and overthink it. In most circumstances, because I can comfortably understand the feelings of both parties involved in the conflict, I am able to find peace.
In other circumstances, I feel like my empathy almost becomes a weakness, because I am often overwhelmed by the emotions of others to the point of bottling up my own feelings and setting them aside, rather that working through them.
When I was younger, I was always able to anticipate when an embarrassing moment was about to happen to one of my favorite characters on TV shows. My heart would start racing as I fidgeted in my seat, wishing that I could call out to the characters to warn them of the inevitable humiliation that they would soon be experiencing. I can distinctly remember hiding my face behind pillows from my couch whenever I knew that someone was about to enter an incredibly uncomfortable situation or make an awkward comment that would be off-putting to the other characters in the scenario.
I understood that the scenes I was witnessing unfold on TV were staged, scripted and completely fabricated. I knew that the actors were simply embodying and portraying the personalities and feelings of the characters that had been written for them. Yet, I couldn’t help but feel what I like to call “second-hand embarrassment” for these fictional characters.
Empaths as a group are known for being incredibly sensitive to TV, videos, movies, and news stories. I can’t even begin to count the amount of times that I have been physically brought to tears after watching any scene that depicts pain being inflicted on another person or on an animal. It’s very hard for me to understand how other people find joy in watching graphic torture scenes or emotional dramas. It deeply pains me to witness any instance of suffering, even if it is a contrived scenario from a movie. When I see an expression of cruelty towards others of any sort, be it physical or emotional, my stomach drops, my eyes water and I am hit with a wave of overwhelming sadness and sympathy pain. My empathy can become even more emotionally crippling when I am witnessing another person’s suffering firsthand. I become unable to separate myself and my emotions from the situation and I instantly am consumed with feelings of stress and anxiety.
I am still learning how to best utilize my empathetic nature to benefit myself and others. As I walk around and accumulate the karma, the emotions, and the energy from others, I can only hope that I am channeling my empathy in the most positive way possible.