Is Being an Empath Real?
One of my favorite Star Trek characters is Deanna Troi, the ship’s counselor. You’ll see her in quite a few episodes, in a position of leadership on the bridge. Reaching out with her mind and her heart to assess whether the alien species they just encountered has positive intentions.
I wasn’t sure at the time why she resonated so strongly with me, but I could definitely relate whenever she was overcome by the strength of someone else’s emotions or their evil intentions. I remember being in awe of a whole race of people with this gift who were respected and highly sought after across the galaxy.
Little did I know then, someday I would learn that I am also an empath.
Whenever a label arises to help people better understand who they are, it’s inevitable to see different reactions:
There are the skeptics who question whether we should even be talking about this or maybe it’s just made up? Perhaps people just want to feel special or they just misread what is happening to them. There is no scientific evidence as of yet, so how can we prove it?
The staunch supporters take a different tone. Of course this is a real thing because I experience it! You simply don’t understand because you are not an empath.
And, some who think: maybe that explains why I have certain experiences…
I always wondered why it made me so uncomfortable to hug strangers or even people I know very well.
When they open their arms to embrace me, I feel myself holding back. Trying to decide whether I want the contact. It’s really hard to turn someone down for a hug; pretty hurtful actually.
No offense intended, it’s simply because I’m an empath.
When I already pick up so much about you from across the room, touching seems like information overload. Even a quick handshake tells me so much.
We empaths are challenged by the difference between what’s mine and what’s yours.
That boundary can seem so blurred, sometimes even nonexistent.
I’ve learned through the school of hard knocks about healthy boundaries.
It’s confusing because as a spiritual seeker, many teachings suggest we shouldn’t live in separation but instead move into a state of Oneness with all living beings.
I can do that in a heartbeat.
Being connected as write this blog post on a bench in a forested park: the symphony of the breeze through the leaves, the percussion of acorns falling to the earth, a golden leaf drifting down. It’s job done for this year, moving into a cycle of death and rebirth; decomposition becomes rich nutrients to support the tree’s root system.
Oneness with nature — no problem.
Human energy is a different experience.
Maybe because we’re self aware, because we have the freedom to choose our energy. A tree is simply being a tree, doing what trees were created to do.
You know, in an uncomplicated and predictable way?
On the other hand, I read people as a complex, multi-layered, interwoven web. Some are more complex, others less.
I try to reconcile why what’s shown on the surface is often so different than what I sense inside.
We wear masks, we hide secrets, we carry wounds and deep emotional scars. We flex and bend ourselves to ‘fit in’ with others.
No judgement, I’ve done all of those things.
It’s my life’s work to align my inner and outer worlds.
Most importantly, I can always sense another’s inner essence, your soul, your Divine spark. No matter how challenged I am by what you present on the exterior.
Getting back to the topic of boundaries.
It’s wonderful to sense every person’s highest nature; it’s one of my strengths.
It’s why I am a catalyst for positive change, it’s why I became a life coach. To help others align their inner and outer worlds.
If not careful, however this gift can lead an empath to put up with bad behavior choices from those around them.
(Note I wrote the phrase ‘bad behavior choices’, not ‘bad people’).
We see the inner good in you, so we make excuses for your behavior. Conflict affects us so strongly so we avoid standing up for our needs. Or, we begin to take on your baggage, somehow feeling responsible for your pain and struggle.
I took on everyone else’s stuff for a long time. It had a huge impact on me emotionally, physically, mentally, spiritually.
The need for healthy boundaries was clear.
When I first explored boundary setting, I swung way over to the other side of the pendulum. Here’s a boundary for you, one for you, and you and you. My viewpoint at the time was shut it all down.
No more energy from others!
I built walls, even constructed my own version of the Great Wall of China. Sometimes warranted, many times overkill.
I am working on a different method now.
Speaking for my needs in a way that communicates firmly but also shows respect for where another person is coming from. Acknowledging we’re all exploring a different part of this journey. We all have different lessons to learn and we’re here to teach each other.
Learning to sense energy as simply energy.
Not positive or negative, just is.
What if empathy is a language, like body language or verbal language? What if I can sense it then let it go?
What if like trees, people are also just doing what we’re created to do?
Deep breath in, exhale out.
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To your highest good,