On Being an Empath (and what that means)

Growing up, I was always described as an emotional, sensitive person. I was the child that cried when the bad guys got hurt in Home Alone. I hurt when those around me hurt.

Matt says that I take on other peoples pain and problems as my own, and he can’t understand why I do it…why I take on the pain and problems as mine. It’s not that I’m trying to make their experience my own, it’s that I just feel their pain. Literally.

I used to wonder why…but now I know. I’m an empath. I am deeply affected by the emotions of those around me. If someone is miserable, angry, or defeated…it affects my mood. I feel just as miserable, angry, or defeated as that person. It’s why I don’t handle confrontation well…because I’m trying to contend with my feelings of aggravation and the other person’s feelings of aggravation. Imagine feeling doubly mad about something? Or doubly betrayed? It’s also why news reports of tragic things depress me far more than the average person.

I can feel other peoples’ experiences. Their heartache and pain, their joy and their pride, their anger and despair.

It drives Matt crazy that other people and environments affect me so much. He doesn’t understand why I cry over the news, why other people’s suffering causes me great sadness.

But why is being an empath a bad thing? Why do others scoff at the ones who feel too much, the ones who hurt and smile with their friends? Why do we immediately assume those people are “seeking attention in a tragedy”?

Those same people will sadly shake their heads when they hear of a terriorst attack, murder, or suicide of a bullied child and say “if only there was more empathy in this world! Where have the good people gone?”

It’s maddening because the good people have been here all along, suffering and feeling and being told “you feel too much. You need to change!”

Most of us empaths keep our overwhelming feelings to ourselves, for fear of being made to feel bad about it. We avoid watching the news or reading “sad” stories because we know, that those sad stories will break us and we can’t afford to be seen as having a breakdown over someone else’s personal tragedy.

I used to try and hide it, but then I realized that I was contributing to the problem. By trying to hide my empathy, I was reinforcing the belief that “feeling too much” is a bad thing, when it is most certainly not a bad thing at all. It’s a good thing.

The world could use more empaths.

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About J.C. Hannigan

25. Mother. Wife. Lover of words. Weaver of stories. My first book, Collide, is available in e-book for Amazon Kindle and Kobo.
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