Most of us have likely encountered some one who we would classify as being ‘overly sensitive’ or maybe ’emotionally needy’. These people can be very draining and some time require a lot of support. I should know, I am one. I have known for a few years that I am considered an empath, but I really had a light go on while reading a parenting magazine. The article talked about sensitive children and how they need help to deal with all the stimulus they experience in a day and how overwhelming dealing with other people’s emotional energy can be. As I read it, I thought, this is me. It explains why I find certain people overwhelming, like my son, but was never quite able to pin point what the reason was. I felt like a horrible parent because I do need breaks from him, with his constant talking and moving. It helped me understand why I found my job so draining and seemed to need more down time then other people.
I have always felt things very deeply and can seemingly “feel” another person’s pain. To many people, that may sound weird but when I meet another empath, they know exactly what I mean. I found this quote that described an empath “empaths are highly sensitive, finely tuned instruments when it comes to emotions. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme, and are less apt to intellectualize feelings. Intuition is the filter through which they experience the world” by Judith Orloff M.D. Or this description ” you either are an empath or you aren’t. It isn’t a trait that is learned. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others”. I think empath’s were created to be intimately in tune to our bodies, our environment and fellow human beings.
Both of these descriptions capture fairly accurately, how it feels to feel, so intensely and to “feel” another’s emotional energy. This usually manifests itself by me crying for someone or being able to discern subtle changes in another’s emotional energy. I am that person who cries at every church service or in any touching commercial. I uses to hate it but now I just let myself cry. I have avoided giving my testimony at church though because I would cry too much.I also believe it is part of the reason why I go through periods of being very flat and feeling somewhat numb. It’s almost like my mind/body is giving me a break from ‘feeling’ so intensely, that I go through periods of being numb.
I often don’t stand up for myself, out of concern for the other person and how my actions/words might make them feel or look to others. This is something I struggle with because it leaves me feeling powerless. I have had to learn to have better boundaries because I want to help people but at the detriment to myself.
So how do you care or support someone who is sensitive?
1. Be there to listen and support, sometimes a lot. Since we have moved, I have had ups and downs. Nate listens and encourages me. He let’s me have little melt downs because sometimes it just gets to be too much for me to contain. Some days, I think I must be draining for him to constantly encourage and I ask myself why am I not emotionally tougher. But I believe that by possessing the gifts of being an empath, I must also live with the negative side of feeling so intensely. That being said, it doesn’t mean I can’t learn to control my emotions better or that I am not trying to. It is always a work in progress to be more conscious of my thoughts, feelings and my power to change them.
2. Give them space and don’t take it personally. I find I need alone time to regroup, especially if I have just worked a lot or spent a lot of time with people. Also, some times when I walk into a room or the gym, I feel overwhelmed and need a moment to organize myself before I go visit with people. I can see how this might be perceived as being snobby or bitchy but that’s not the reason.
3. Encourage healthy coping mechanisms. It is a lot of work to deal with your own emotions, then add on trying to deal with the emotional energy of other people as well. As a teenager, I would use food to cope with the overwhelmingly, intense feelings I was experiencing which I didn’t know how to cope with. It gradually developed into an binge eating disorder, which took me years to overcome and move past from. A few years ago, I did a 12 step program called Freedom Sessions. It is for any one finding they are having trouble with life. It taught me healthy ways to cope, forgive and live in general. I highly recommend it to everyone, as it has something for everyone.