Or— Coping with Life as an Empath...
I really have not been myself lately. I would apologize, or make excuses— I could certainly come up with some, considering the pace and content of my life's experience recently — but since I really have not been, in large part, much myself just lately, or at most times for the past fifteen years or more, I wont bother. I am an Empath. I am not talking about being a person with an empathic nature or making some New Age effort at bonding with our (my?) fellow man. It is a genetic trait as I understand it at this point, very rare, of varying degree from one individual to another and quite difficult to analyze or quantify. It is not something that I have often spoken of with others. And when I have, most folks have either misunderstood what I was talking about, or just thought that I was crazy. That is okay. For a great deal of my life, that was exactly what I thought about myself. From a certain viewpoint, that can not help but be the case. It is very hard to be in your right mind when as often as not you are feeling or experiencing what is going on inside of someone else.
Recently, I have either noticed, or been made aware, that there are quite a few articles about Empathy showing up on the internet. I have read a few of them. Some are good, and some are full of Bull... or Bologni, or something. Like so many aspects of subjects that are lumped under the umbrella of spirituality or metaphysics, there is some massive sugar-coating going on out there, and huge amounts of misinformation in general. Being an Empath is not a spiritual trait. As I said, it is inherited, a genetic predisposition which seems on the increase along with a number of other changes in the function of the human mind, all of which are outside the subject of this post. I know a small handful of other Empaths. They are all related to me. I may have encountered some others in my life, but if so I was not consciously aware of it. Even among those I am familiar with in this family, the degree of empathic sensitivity varies greatly.
It is true that a goodly percentage of Empaths end up following very spiritual paths, that they are attracted to pursuits which help to balance and secure a bit of peace for the practitioner. While I think that a big part of that is the attraction to a belief system or discipline that can help to explain or at least to somewhat ameliorate the oftentimes overwhelming weight of the Empath's experience. A good many of these people also end up in the mental health system as patients or in extreme cases, institutionalized. Drug and alcohol abuse are also common among these gifted beings. Years ago, I encountered a quote of Scottish psychiatrist R.D. Laing (from the book The Politics of Experience and The Bird of Paradise) that summed up so much of my own experience, and that I resonated with so strongly that I have never forgot it.
Mystics and schizophrenics find themselves in the same ocean, but the mystics swim whereas the schizophrenics drown.
From my earliest memories, I was bombarded with emotional content that I was not, especially as a child, equipped to understand or process. I did not feel myself to be a child, and often resented that I was treated so. While I was fairly outgoing and social, though given to extremes of behavior (tantrums, sulking, etc.), at home, I became extremely introverted in more public venues. An Empathic child, I believe, either learns very early to start building defenses and barricades around themselves emotionally, or soon become lost in the chaos of conflicting feelings and emotions they encounter every day.
As I said, I can only relay my own experiences. Perhaps some people have a native talent for controlling what and how much of other people's emotions they are exposed to, and can separate what is their own from that of others. For myself, I gradually learned to limit the assault to my senses that life was, to guard myself, but crowds still made me cower and inevitably the defenses slipped from time to time. When that happened, I would lose most emotional control, and the immensity of what I would "feel" would leave me utterly unable to function for hours afterward. Sleeping and dreaming were also times when my control would slip. I experienced nightmares so profoundly disturbing and outside of my own realm of experiences that I was certain that it could only be an indication of madness.
This particular brand of healing involves actually establishing an energetic bond with the subject of the Healing. In effect, you become a Mirror of this person. You feel what they feel, and very often this contact becomes so intimate that it is impossible to tell where you end and this other individual begins within your own psyche. This kind of healing entails sifting through the emotional deitrus of another soul, finding the key to the blockage that needs released and working through it. Working through it means fully expressing whatever deep emotional wound has caused this person to require healing. I have been taught to literally express and requalify whatever energy body blockage I find and return it to its source. Now, this may sound very altruistic and noble, but in reality it is excruciating. People are full of emotional garbage that you do not want to Feel or See. And yet, that is exactly how it works.
I will also note here that I do not choose, at least consciously, who is to be healed in this manner. I have been allowed to intercede for ones I already know and love at times, but this is a special dispensation, not the norm. At this point, I can live with this ability. I do not spare it a lot of thought at most times. But I have often wondered during these past years if anything I Feel is genuine, or if I even generate my own emotional content. If you feel for so many others, is there room left to feel for yourself? It is a question that has yet to be answered for me, though I can get answers to so many others.