I grew up as an Empath, not knowing what that was. At the time the signs were hidden as normal child growing pains, so no one noticed. Not that they would have known what to do. I want to share this with you today in hopes that if you or your child are an Empath, you’ll recognize the signs and be inspired to do something about it.
Being an Empath means that you can feel the emotions of others. The scope of this skill varies greatly among us. I can sense the emotions of anyone within a 50 miles radius constantly. I can also sense the emotions of anyone I know by paying attention to them, no matter how far they are.
Now, I know how to lower the volume or turn this off completely. But it was not always the case.
When I was growing up, my parents thought I was an unusually quiet child. But I was constantly trying to sort out what I was feeling/thinking (as opposed to every body else’s stuff) that it left me very little energy to talk. It just seemed like even more noise. I was also paralyzed by what I was picking up from other people. If they were depressed, angry or confused, that’s all I could focus on. So it was hard to say anything socially acceptable.
I also had some extremely weird habits, such as falling into a trance-like state while putting on my socks. I would just drift away, as if I was day dreaming. My mom would have to prompt me several times with “Elise, finish getting dressed” before I would snap out of it.
I also went deaf around 5 or 6. But I was so quiet that it took a while for anyone to notice. Even my teachers figured I just wasn’t paying attention when in fact I couldn’t hear them speak. My mom realized what was going on when I did not turn to her even though she was calling me from a few feet away. I had surgery and my hearing reluctantly returned.
Then there was the nightmares that always happened in the room I was sleeping in, where people were constantly trying to talk to me but they spoke so softly that I could never quite hear them properly.
And, of course, the migraines. You don’t hear anything when you’re in excruciating pain. So it’s a quick fix when all else fails.
I never told anyone that I could feel what they felt simply because I had no idea this was unusual. I thought everyone felt like this. But the confusion it generated in me was quite overwhelming. I became socially withdrawn. Not interested in parties or any kind of group activities since it was impossible for me to focus on my own thoughts. It came across as shyness (and still does to this day).
Then came the teenage years where I started to attempt to “do something” with all this emotional information. I can’t describe to you the powerlessness that it generated. Being an Empath doesn’t mean you know what to do with what you feel. It just means you feel it. So I kept trying to use what I felt in very ineffective ways. I was mildly suicidal from my late teens to my mid-twenties.
Then I finally found a way to start using my skills: psychology. I started studying in this field in college and was unusually good at it, even though I did not know why. But I felt more empowered, having learned how to inspire and support change through the counseling process.
It’s only in my 30s that I struck gold and discovered Intuition. Intuition uses the emotional information I perceive to build a productive plan of action. So instead of constantly receiving information that left me overwhelmed and powerless, I was now able to talk about the emotions and link them to specific ways to make changes and improve the situation. Phew!
Along the way, I developed all kinds of techniques to manage the emotional information I receive as an Empath. And I use this every day. I can now turn it off completely or lower the volume, so that my own feeling and thoughts are always the loudest. It’s made a world of difference for me. I can walk through a mall without feeling like I just ran a marathon!
There are situations that still get the better of me. I sometimes get overwhelmed in big family parties. Or when my son is so ecstatically happy that his joy runs me over like a bus! But that’s becoming the exception, as opposed to the rule. And as soon as it starts to happen, I know what’s going on and I have a plan to manage it! No more migraines ;)
I also noticed that my son has a very different reaction to his sensitivity as an Empath. He becomes totally wired, as if he’d just had a bowl of sugar (which he rarely eats). He’s a very mellow child at home, but he’ll burst out with energy when he starts to feel emotionally charged by those around him. Either way, through silence or verbo-motor activity, Empath children easily suffer from not knowing how to stay grounded when exposed to external emotional activity. So they try to quiet the noise by being quiet or beating the noise by screaming at it.
I have put together a page of resources for Empaths on my web site at http://www.eliselebeau.com