I have always wondered why I feel so many emotions in a given day. I can end up a mess with uncontrollable tears streaming down my face because I could feel the pain of a friend. Actually feel it, like it was mine. I can be joyous and happy about someone else’s success. But the problem is not about sharing someone else’s emotions and feelings. The operative word is feeling. I have noticed time and again, and much to my chagrin, that I feel too much. Sometimes it can be terribly overwhelming because sometimes, I do not want to feel. Sometimes, I wish I could just go about life not feeling or caring about other people. I may be sounding like a megalomania, but the truth is that I have come to realise that there is such a thing as feeling too much. It happens to highly sensitive individuals and is the mark of an empath.
The thing about being an empath is that putting myself in someone else’s shoes comes relatively easily to me. You couldn’t be farther from the truth if you think that I am being a braggart. It is quite the contrary. I feel humbled and honoured to have received the gift of empathy. It is not easy and especially so, for my family who have to sometimes endure or participate in the emotional rollercoaster that I experience on a regular, if not on a daily basis. There are days when I don’t want to feel so much – pain or grief. There are days when I am way up in the clouds because I am happy for a loved one. Suffice to say, living inside my head is not easy and I have been wondering lately, why it is that I feel so many of these emotions?
I have never been afraid of feeling my emotions or someone else’s, for that matter. I have never shied from heartbreak because I always believe that the day I stop feeling is the day my consciousness becomes numb, or worse, dead.
I wonder sometimes in dismay and sometimes in rage, how people cannot feel other people’s emotions. What I find even more bizarre is how people go on with living without putting themselves in other people’s shoes. As for me, there are days when I cannot seem to extricate myself from a situation – whether that person is geographically near or far away. Perhaps, that is my assignment (or my cross to bear) for life. I am a receiver of emotions. Till this lasts, it is best to embrace it. Easier said than done, though. I am reluctant about accepting this power.
Life of an Empath
If you’re wondering how feeling other people’s emotions is a bad thing, then you should probably talk to my family. Being a highly sensitive individual means that you are hitting all the emotional notes every single day. That hinders my daily life in ways that is quite unimaginable to non-empaths.
Death of a celebrity or a family member may have the power to incapacitate me for days. A friend being diagnosed with an illness or a friend struggling with news of illness of a family member (whom I might or might not have met) can make me wistful and tearful. Needless to say, I encounter the question – ‘How can you be upset about someone you don’t even know?’ almost on a daily basis. I have sometimes replied, ‘How can you not?’
Pause and Reflect
I am learning to pause these days. Yes, to be still is not about being in one place. It is about pausing the mind from running havoc and creating a wreck. Whenever I feel someone else’s emotions, I pause and reflect. I consider whether that feeling is mine or am I simply projecting someone else’s fear, regret, stress, helplessness, to name a few, like a mirror, onto myself. If the answer is in the affirmative, I try to separate myself from the emotion. Most days I fail.
Perhaps what is most disconcerting about feeling emotions of other people, near and far, is how much it impacts life of people around me. I cannot possibly train myself to not feel but perhaps, I can do it in moderation. I am still learning to protect myself. Learning to focus on my self is something new to me. The other day my online playlist suddenly played Wonderwall by Oasis. In a moment I was taken back in time and a smile creased my lips. I realised in that moment how much I am losing by becoming an adult. I made a vow to myself to return to the music in my heart.
Why does being an empath not feel empowering? Perhaps because it makes one experience a lot of emotional turmoil. When we embrace the light of happiness we should also be ready to accept the dark of sadness. Being happy for another may be easy for most people but being sad for someone else takes a toll on your soul. The question I ask myself these days, instead of ‘Why do I feel so many emotions?’ is “Am I ready to share someone else’s pain as well as their joy?” The answer is a no-brainer.