Aug 1, 2008

Learning new things

Well it's been a bit of a long week, not bad; just long! After posting the last blog about being stared at I got some really cool emails and thoughts on the subject. Funny enough when I went to my monthly counseling session Wed night the counselor came up with the same conclusion without knowing what others had stated to me. It was actually a bit eerie. What I'm about to talk about I've debated all week as to whether or not I wanted to share it. I felt it was better to share and be honest than not and not have it as part of the story.

After it was pointed out to me in email I decided to research and read a bit, low and behold I fit the description perfectly and it made so much sense. One of my dear sisters pointed out that I might be an "empath" Sure enough this was exactly what my counselor pointed out as well. The only difference was that my counselor felt that it became for a part of my life because of my upbringing. I'll explain more later.

For those who are unaware of what an empath is, he is the wiki link on it

Now I'd be the first to admit that paranormal stuff never played much of a role in my thoughts, I've never really formed an opinion. After talking to my friends and counselor I was able to relate it to a book that I'd read called "the gift of fear"

The premise of fear is that it is designed to keep us safe. In the animal world it is used everyday as a tool for survival. Just pay attention to how any animal reacts to changes in its environment. Every small vibration and sound is analyzed for potential threats and the animal reacts to protect itself. Sometimes it makes mistakes and pays the hefty price for it.

The idea that this exists in humans isn't so far fetched, we are just evolved animals. The idea in the book was that at any given time we have the ability to sense danger in our environment or space. All too often we hear a victim of violent crime say that something just didn't feel right but I went in anyway or I ignored it. This is the same reflex that animals have with the exception that animals haven't acclimated themselves to ignoring their senses, humans have. All to often we get that feeling in our gut and we suppress it and ignore it only to realize that it was a bad decision. It's simply an intuition that we have but we do not nurture.

Having empathy and being able to easily sense emotion in other people isn't much different. A change of voice, body posture, facial expression or any other change forces us to evaluate the emotion of the other person. For an empath" this ability is amplified and they sense it much easier than most. Like the "gift of fear" it is nature's gift of emotional intuition.

I've always from a very young age been a very sensitive person. Sensitive to changes in other people and my own. I can easily sense changes in an instance and at times that sense can be very emotionally exhausting for me. But it was something I'd never fully paid attention too, it was just the way I was, until someone pointed out why.

After sitting with my therapist she explained that the reason I had probably learned to tune into this sense is out of survival. As a child my mom was a very bitter emotional woman that at the drop of a hat could go from being happy to being explosively angered. A lot of times this anger would end in emotional or physical abuse of yours truly. In this negative issue I learned to pay close attention to the changes within my environment. When I was a child we would liken the change in my mom to "walking on eggshells". All to often I would try to get a vibe of what she was like before I would ever approach her to talk to her. Out of this need for self-protection I learned how to read people.

As a teenager I learned to shutdown and not deal with things when it came to my mom. She never understood quite why I'd done that and to this day it's always been on my shoulders and not of her issues.

When I met my wife I would often tell her that the gateway to the soul was through the eyes. That is to say that you could tell a lot about a persons character simply by their eyes and I was quite good at this. Over the years I've had very few true friends but a lot of acquaintances from this very issue. I just didn't trust easily and used my intuition to guide me.

As a child my mom would often tell others that she felt I was a very good judge of character but didn't understand how or why I was. I would easily make up my mind in an instant as to whether I liked or disliked a person or even trusted them. In the cases where I would tell her I didn't like someone I usually ended up being correct.

As people have read here that I have had some troubles getting out full time this was finally related as to why this is happening to me. Anne felt that being so sensitive to others feelings and the environment around me that it was emotionally stalling me. It wasn't because of how I would see or fear people reacting but because I could feel the changes around me and it scared me.

While I don't know if I can use this info to go full time it explains a lot about why I feel the way I do in a lot of situations throughout my life. If anything it is really cool to be able to put a piece of the puzzle together and just understand what makes me who I am.

Last up, it's Friday and I'm off next week. I'm looking forward to the time off to regenerate, as I've been not feeling like myself lately. I've found myself to be very irritable over the last week or so, hopefully the time off will do me good. If anything I tend to think this is coming from this last path I need to walk towards full time and letting go of the old. I've noticed that over time I've felt like I am stalled or stagnant then I see a huge emotional change in myself. Generally this change is preceded by a sudden "I've had enough time to move to the next level". I guess you could say this has been the only down side to the baby steps approach. If anything hopefully this is the start of the end …



Anonymous said...

I agree about empathy, Karyn. It's not paranormal. It's quite normal! And it's good that you have it, even if sometimes it feels like a bit much. I do as well, or so I've been told, which is certainly helpful to me as I work toward becoming a counsellor.

So sorry to hear what you went through as a child. That sort of thing requires a lot of healing, and hopefully you are getting that.

Hope you have a great week off!

Sara said...

I don't believe in the paranormal, but I do believe that some people have a very much greater than normal amount of empathy and sympathy, to the point of having to be careful to protect themselves.

Thank you for deciding to post this, Karyn. You have probably saved me untold guesswork and insecurity in the near future. My wife and I worked out that our oldest son is a "highly sensitive child" and in the process we discovered that we were as well, and continue to be as adults. This is really just another way of describing the attribute (and sell books!), but it is a useful one in that it helps to categorize and figure out exactly to what things you are most sensitive. You might want to check out, there's a self-test on the first page. The good news is, once recognized you just adjust to it and even learn to use your powers for good and not evil. This means (for our family) avoiding crowds and other overwhelming stimulus, and even includes other people's strong emotional displays. The flip side is finding that you can emotionally connect with the people you care about (especially other HSP's) at a very deep and meaningful level.

In my last year of getting a Psych degree I decided not to pursue a career as a therapist in part because I found I could not maintain emotional separation; I tend to feel other people's emotions as if they were my own and that can hurt, a lot. Growing up, it was so easy to read people and use their emotions and subtle reactions to adjust my behavior in order to just "disappear" and be the perfect "generic guy". Great survival skill for a repressed trans person.

Funny, my mom was (is) unstable too, flying from loving to rage to suicidal without warning and I developed a very similar set of survival skills for the same reasons. Never in a million years would I have thought to consider at how it might affect this whole aspect of becoming me if it weren't for your post. Thank you, once again.