On Being an Empath
I’ve often wondered, what does it mean, what does it actually mean to be an empath ? Is the empath designed in such a way that the world becomes that much harder to cope with? I remember growing up feeling like I was wearing my skin inside out, a kind of hyper sensitivity that made everything feel just that much more INTENSE - every thought, every feeling - making the desire for escape that much greater.
But how does one escape from oneself, from ones own skin ? There were many temporary solutions, and along the way, I tried them all - hyper vigilant control, alcohol, drugs, isolation (or hyper vigilant boundary setting), intellectualizing and spiritualism, constant busyness, moving from place to place to place, and retreating deeply into my mind, which quickly became my default modus operandi. Finally I retreated not just in my own mind, but physically, getting as far away from people as I could - and the solitude became my salvation. Until it didn’t. As an empath, what I’m coming to understand is that - there is no person, place or thing that will cause me to feel any less.
As an empath, I am DESIGNED to feel and to perceive deeply - and any attempt to squash this, to dim it, dumb it down, run or cut myself off from it - is to only turn up its volume. Indeed, it has been a great challenge to be an empath in a culture where we are programmed to be deeply afraid and ashamed of our feelings and our vulnerability. What I came to learn early on was - the less you feel & the less of a fuss you make, the more acceptable you are, and this was a standard that I tried very, very hard to fit into. And so, it took a great deal of breaking down to finally begin to own, and dare I even say, feel gratitude and the presence of Grace surrounding this gift of sensitivity.
As I am learning how to embrace this gift, I am discovering that there is indeed a power in it, a power that lies in feeling safe, feeling held by the vulnerability itself; a feeling of openness, aliveness in the midst of this energy that comes rushing in like a powerful wave crashing against the rocks. There is a power in witnessing, in feeling without the safety of a mental construct or boundaries - to run to for protection. I begin to realize that this gift operates somewhat like water, ever so gently, yet powerfully shaping a rock. It’s fluidity and its perseverance are it’s strength. I am beginning to understand that for an empath to flourish, she needs to learn how to see with her eyes closed, she needs to learn how to be comfortable in the darkness and to have patience with herself, she needs to go inward, time and time again, moment by moment, and trust her feelings, trust her senses and the life energy that surrounds her, in order to learn how to flow with it, to swim through it, and to trust that the depth and the darkness of these waters will never hurt or drown her, but only give her more courage, more strength, to swim, to surf the waves of Life