Most days I identify as an empath… The other days I don’t because on those days I associate empath-ness with some superpower that I don’t feel connected to and therefor am unworthy of the monniker (oy!), but most days I identify as an empath.
Which makes it difficult for me sometimes.
I can feel people’s feelings.
The other day when I was at the airport waiting for a friend (and feeling very attuned to my superpower) I noticed I could move around the room and stand near people and very clearly feel their feelings. Whatever parts of self are responsible for experiencing emotions were being plugged into the person nearest to me. When I moved away from one and toward another I noticed a distinct shift in the way I was feeling. Some people’s feelings felt bad so I moved away… others felt warm and fuzzy so I lingered. It was super trippy. And super fun!
Beloved and I used to have this pattern where we’d swap crises. Or rather, I’d take on her crisis. She’d have a meltdown about something (I use the word “meltdown” VERY LIGHTLY here) and I’d help her through it… and then the next day I would have a meltdown. And when she was done helping me with my meltdown she’d express concern that her meltdown had led to mine. To which I would defensively respond with a big “No.” Because instead of hearing her express concern that she was pushing something onto me instead I heard only that I was doing something wrong.
Because I don’t have the greatest boundaries all the time. Which I thought was good for a long time, and then bad for a shorter time, and am coming around to both for the time-being.
This past week Beloved (does anyone find it creepy that I’m calling my partner the same name as the dead baby in the Toni Morrison novel? I hope not, but if you are I am open to other suggestions) has been having a hard time the last several days. And I held space for her to feel lousy and loved on her and did all I could do without feeling like there was something I could do (and that’s a big one, in case you don’t know).
And then last night I had a meltdown (it basically just means crying… I like dramatic vocabulary). I was crying in Beloved’s arms about being a bad mother (because that’s my go-to shame space) for going on vacation without my son (fill in any other reason here), and when I was done crying about that I started hearing new things in my head. I was just about to say them out loud when I realized that if I had said them out loud I would have been saying them to the person from whence they came and so instead I said,
And then I explained that I was realizing that I had taken on her sadness. And I had a glimmer of shame which I expressed by trying to apologize, but she reassured me quickly and that passed (as shame usually does when spoken aloud). And then I started to feel better. MUCH better. VERY fast. So fast that I remarked about how much better I felt as soon as I realized the sadness I was feeling wasn’t really mine.
And it lasted–the feeling better–into today. Which isn’t my usual. Often I bounce around a bit here and there before really coming fully out of something. But no, no residual today… I was just good.
I used to think not having boundaries was good because it made all of the wonderful things about me possible. Then I thought it was bad because it made all of the bad things that had ever happened to me possible. And now I know it’s both because of, well, both… and I have a new goal.
Instead of trying to be an empath with boundaries strong enough to keep other people’s feelings out when I need them to be, I’m going to be an empath who can simply tell whose feelings are whose. That way, if I need or want to release them I can! As simply and easily as I did at the airport or in my bedroom last night. Poof! Magic.