Empaths are a wild ride, not always a theory I was prepared to admit to. Over the last several decades, the more I grow into my own, every day a new leaf curling up around my stalks. I’ve tried to dive deeply into what it means to be an empath, what it means to love as an empath and what it means for others to love an empath. Finding the patterns you take mentally throughout your day, seeing how those mindsets guided you in and out of situations throughout your adolescence, into your adulthood and most importantly how your heart responds to it all. Through my trials and tribulations of the heart, It becomes painstakingly obvious how much of an impact being an empath has made on my daily life. The fatigue and truthful pain it causes, alongside with the dizzying highs.
My heart has always been large. Priding myself on helping others through rough patches and having the strength to juggle many people coming to me all at once to vent, for advice or just to be heard in general. Wondering why as such a go-go-goer, I was so exhausted, full out drop dead exhausted, after a bar shift full of venting; usually being cornered to help calm someone after hours. Housing people for the night, making sure they ate, cleaning them up in times of drunken distress, cleaning wounds, talking until the wee hours of morning. For me, the satisfaction gained was as a caregiver. This is a struggle I will continue to dig into the stem of until old age. Taking care of someone makes me feel extremely good. The feeling I get from doing it isn’t out of expectation, not expecting to be taken care of in return, ultimately feeling unworthy of it. That’s where it can get dicey. Coming from a large family there isn’t enough attention to go around after the first three children, for a fullness that can be gained in smaller families of similar upbringing.
The urge to nurture co dependent behavior or to give love of someone who clearly needs it, is real and one I try to keep at the fore front of my mind. The urge to ensure the happiness of all around me was unrealistic and painful. It became a game of deciding when I was doing it for my love of those around me, knowing they are safe and happy, or when I just wanted to fix someone because I could not handle to see them in pain. Taking a sick sense of strength from holding someone up. There are ways to help and ways to encourage their negative behavior. My sister told a mutual friend out loud over our last chess match “she usually goes for the fixer upper, puts money and work into their home and then they emotionally fuck her over and she leaves”. It wasn’t the bluntness of the statement that surprised me, that’s one of the main reasons she is my best friend, it was the truthful nature behind it. The track record to back it up. The conversation grew from the fact that I ‘d met someone who differed from anyone from my past, anyone that I’d ever met throughout my travels and tribulations. The logical side of this new chance encounter has under toes that can sink ships. To go forward with it would involve a whole lot of hard work, patience and most importantly time.
The urge to understand them fully consumed me, along with the craving to understand my needs and patterns that need breaking. This spring and summer has been packed with major discussions with my friend, gym partner, my spiritual advisor about pattern breaking. Not allowing your past to dictate your future, not allowing old behavior to sabotage new opportunities. I began reading much more frequently about personality types, continuing to read about sun and moon signs, reading about parental relationships effecting adulthood, the functions of our brains in and out of love, the emotional process of empaths, HSP, introverts and plain old energies in general. To be an empath involves feeling the emotions, energies and sometimes even pains of those around us. We can be overwhelmed by rooms of people because their energies flooding into us like acid on our skin. We can process it and sometimes find the strength to guide and assist but for a lot of the time, it’s a non stop energy drain. Personally I believe myself to be a mix of all types. Identifying as an empath, a HSP (highly sensitive person), an introvert (to an extent, though the racing of my overdriven mind stops that until brutally necessary) and an extrovert.
Socially I can be the life of a party, the one hiding on the porch with the owners dog, the one who gets emotional or the beacon of strength while the world is collapsing around me. These traits all combining lead to a very grueling mental day, rarely taking enough time to recharge, but feeding off the energies as well to try and balance an emptiness of my own self doubt. As I’ve written about before, abuse in your past has a large impact of your adult relationships. This also goes for child growing up in households without outward displays of emotional comfort, hugs and being told they are loved. Many cultures have this process with children as a rigid way of building strength, coupled with the idea that actions speak louder than words and as long as they are providing for the child it should be a given that they love their children. Harsh as it may seem, it often has the effect of extremely successful and self sufficient children. Adversely it blocks the adult from being able to properly express emotions towards love and difficulty working through their deepest thoughts and feelings.
There was a test done in the 1930s with monkeys that I found interesting, though it certainly wasn’t the most humane. They created a cage for baby monkeys consisting of two fake mother monkeys in each cage. These mock mothers consisted essentially of two puppets, one of which doctored up with a feeding bottle providing nourishment for the baby monkey, the other had no bottle yet was wrapped in a soft towel. Once they introduced the baby monkey they would administer a flash of a disturbing image or a loud noise, each time determining that the babies more often than not returned to the plush mock mother. Thus providing them with the information that children preferred the comfort of touch and nurture over food. Whether the experiment was relevant or not, it got me thinking how that mindset transcends to humans.
The winding course our adult brains take, beginning as children connecting the dots of what it means to love and be loved, who to love, how to accept love, how to give it our feelings of self worth. Those growing up without love actively bestowed upon them in terms of touch and oral affirmations, have several adverse effects. They can grow up and work on ways to function without it, like second nature. They can be made to feel unworthy of love, or the exact opposite of feeling as though they should receive it constantly. They can become trapped in feeling the need for a void to be filled by a partner or resentful of that same emotion, turning down emotional connections to save face. They have a harder time accessing internal turmoil without extensive alone time. They tend to get into relationships without expectations. Ones without connection therefore void of struggle and are ultimately not as deep or meaningful as they can attain with the proper match and mindset. Their fears can lie in their inability to satisfy a partner emotionally or to simply not be able or willing to share those feelings with another.
There are many good tactical skills that can grow from this as well, as I mentioned before, just as there are upsides and downsides to over showering affection upon a child without set boundaries or rules in place. I find the connection of parent to child and sibling to sibling fascinating, especially personally coming from an immediate family of seven members, the last in the line. The constant noise and physical nature alone of a house full of humans, effects how we love, touch and connect. We were loved, our parents worked hard and often and we grew up with a decent amount of attention. Being last in line of a large family you get less babied and more left places. We grew up without a lot of money which gave us skills I’m thankful for to this day. A DIY mindset towards everything that has given me massive strength and a creative way to problem solve every situation I come across.
As an empath I find that I tend to follow my gut, feel as though I know what someone is thinking, not always correct as to why, but I’m usually pretty spot on with the emotion itself. I am flooded, often, by feelings that overwhelm me. I tend to enjoy the overwhelming ones when they are positives, like being in love or spending time with family, watching people I love enjoy their families, winning an award on my motorcycle or finishing a large project. These are not the only feelings that overwhelm me however. I am overwhelmed watching the love of other people, heart surging at their gentle guestures and kisses. The bubble they create in a space where it appears they are the only two on earth. Yearning for it myself, but similarly to the introvert feeling unworthy of it or hopeless in its existence. This constant wave is hard to surf, but it has been quite the experience of growth and discovery diving into the inner workings of our own minds, placing and understanding those patterns. Learning, as an empath to be patient with how others process, how they love, how they understand themselves and how to be fully supportive without selfish intent or interference to their level of comfort. We are all the same stardust, we just dodge different meteoroids, through different storms.