Empaths. Not so out of this world.
The definition of an empath according to the law of Google:
(Chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual.
Well unless I am living in a very long episode of Star Trek where the crew have a lot of washing and forget to put the bins out, empaths are not just found in the world of Sci-Fi.
In fact, I am pretty sure I am an empath, although I certainly can't read your mind. Not highly strung, not over-sensitive, not too emotional or any of the other things I have been labelled or called throughout my 38 years, but an empath.
According to Psychotherapist Judith Orlaff, empaths do very much exist as a personality type. Highly sensitive individuals who both feel and absorb others emotions.
It would appear this may well be the reason the begging homeless man sits on my shoulder all day, the reason I physically feel his loneliness. The unthinkable news story that will steal my sleep for days, as another mother's grief pulls at my chest and leaves me sobbing into my pillow.
I had for years believed all of the negative descriptions of myself; 'You give too much, you do too much, you feel too much, you care too much' so the list went on. It didn't seem to matter what I did, according to many others I was always feeling, experiencing or caring about it 'too much'. The legacy of being labelled all these things was that I lived feeling as though I was somehow flawed. An emotional time-bomb who could be set off by the news, a charity appeal, even a children's story.
However, I don't actually know how to do or more truthfully, be anything else. I don't know how to switch off feeling so acutely.
I am however learning how to decompress. How to slowly unpack the jumble of emotions from inside my head. Unpick which are my own and which I appear to be carrying from others.
Spending time in nature is a huge help. The quiet and solitude a healing balm. I have also become stronger at setting boundaries. Turning down invites to large parties or events where I can become overwhelmed. All those conversations, all those emotions,,,they follow me home. The hardest lesson but unequivocally the most helpful has been putting distance between myself and the draining friendships that left me feeling exhausted and anxious.
With these strategies, I no longer feel that being an empath is a negative attribute. It isn't another stick with which to beat myself with. No longer a perceived flaw in my emotional make-up. It is simply, who I am.
Perhaps, just perhaps, in a world so full of anger and hardness, those who feel too much, the empaths. Perhaps they are the universe's way of readdressing the balance.
Not such an out of this world thought after all.