Monday, February 23, 2009
Various sources describe an "Empath" as someone who has the ability to discern and actually feel the emotions of others. I have long thought that this describes me.
I've heard it said that this over-developed sense of empathy is a double-edged sword and I can certainly attest to that. If someone I know is happy and joyful, I seem to absorb those feelings as well. If someone near me is experiencing grief or sadness, it manifests as a dark cloud of depression over me. While it can be very helpful in life to be able to intuit the truth of a situation and to accurately guess people's true motivations, it's also exhausting to experience other people's pain as well as your own.
In the past, as strange as it may seem, I have many times walked around for months suffering over situations that have little or nothing to do with me. It is particularly difficult detaching emotionally from my immediate family members, as I am in close proximity to them daily. That makes it a lot harder. Their sorrows, joys, grief and anger feel like they are mine too.
It's as if someone else's flame is consuming my candle.
For the longest time, I didn't realize that there was something of a choice involved, but I see now that I can take steps to protect myself. I am just now, at this advanced stage of life, learning to sort out which problems and emotions are truly mine, and which belong to others. I can still care about them, and I can still try to help them, but I don't have to suffer for them. Letting go of other people's pain and problems is something I have to practice daily to keep my sanity.