The gift and the curse of feeling everything so deeply.

There is some subject matter from which I have to protect myself. I’ve learned this as I’ve grown in self-awareness and understanding. That is why I could not watch the Trayvon Martin docuseries, why I can barely stomach the news, and cannot read too many stories about the violation and abuse of children. I absorb enough knowledge to be informed on important events and issues, but can’t go much further than that.

It’s just too heavy at times, the weight of it all. Most of us are incensed, offended and even saddened by the terrible things that happen in our world, and the awful things done to and by other human beings. But for some of us, it goes a step further, becoming overwhelming and incredibly draining because you feel the pain of others just as deeply and often even more so than your own. In addition to general outrage and sorrow, there can sometimes come a feeling of not even wanting to be here — in this world, with people who do commit these atrocities. That’s not to say that you want to remove yourself from existence, it just becomes increasingly difficult to identify the point of it all.

If this is you, you are likely an empath. Welcome.

Not exclusively in the paranormal sense, but an empath is defined as: one who experiences the emotions of others : a person who has empathy for others. You want to turn it off — your thoughts and unrelenting internal responses that prevent you from just “getting over it,” but you can’t. When everyone else has discussed, expressed frustration and moved on with their days, you seem to remain stuck in that place a little while longer.

The sensation is magnified when someone whom you actually have a relationship with is involved. You literally cannot stand to see a person that you love mistreated or hurting. You can feel their sadness, even if they have yet to verbalize it, and see past what may be visible on the surface, such as fake smiles. While others may be able to simply mind their own business and avoid emotional attachment to the situation, your heightened sense of awareness and intuition won’t allow you. It keeps you awake at night, worrying and lamenting scenarios both true and a figment of your empathetic imagination. I’ve done it. And it makes you sick.

As a result, sometimes there are actual people that you must protect yourself from. Those who are self-destructive, who are unwilling to take the necessary steps to better the quality of their lives and live in a constant state of turmoil. They will absolutely bleed your spirit dry.

I remember crying every single day for months as a child, for what I thought at the time was no particular reason at all. I learned later of tumultuous circumstances playing out in my family behind the scenes, hidden away from the kids to ensure that we were alright. I felt that energy. I just didn’t know what it was. When questioned about my crying, I’d just say that I “felt sad.” It was as confusing to me as everyone else.

Being an empath can be mentally and emotionally trying. However, it also brings with it many positives. Empaths are hypersensitive people who because they feel things so profoundly, experience high levels of compassion, consideration, and understanding towards others. We don’t want anyone to feel pain, and certainly don’t want to be the cause of it. Common traits of empaths include being great listeners, peacemakers, and naturally expressive.

I’m sure that my empathetic tendencies have made me a better person. If I’m going to feel what you feel, then let it be empowering. Let it be love, patience, loyalty, and acceptance. Let it be freedom. I think carefully about the way that I treat others. Often, I overanalyze it. To think or have it expressed that I have inflicted unwarranted hurt onto another, tears me up inside. So, I do my best to treat others the way that I wish to be treated.

The challenge of the empath is in finding balance. Our natural reaction is to evade negative stimuli and withdraw from emotionally challenging situations. Such as my aforementioned inability to engage in things that display the worst of humankind. You must protect your energy but you can’t avoid life. The world needs you. It needs people who care without reason. Plus, interaction with others is imperative to your evolution.

I’ve learned to embrace my sensitivity. The key is to constantly take personal inventory and ensure that my self-protection is not, in fact, avoidance. Face life — the good, the bad, the ugly and in between. Don’t confuse bad people with a bad world, or allow them to hijack your ability to still see the good.

With every unfortunate pitfall that you may experience in being an empath, use it to fuel the more constructive and uplifting aspects. Use your superpowers for good.

Author of the critically acclaimed book on women and relationship status, “Single That.”

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store