The Blessing (Curse?) of Empathy
Updated: Feb 28
Most people are familiar with empathy. Not to be confused with sympathy, empathy is actually feeling what someone else feels.
There are seemingly different levels of empathy among humanity. Some seem to have absolutely none while others collected far more than their fair share.
I fall on the latter part of the spectrum. Over the past few years, while working with some coaches and mentors, I have learned to cultivate this ability and look at it more as a gift than as a burden, but it hasn’t always been that way.
When I was in my early teens, a friend of my father’s passed away. He had been the best man in my parents’ wedding, but I had no memory of meeting him. They informed me that I had when I was younger. But as friends do when they get married and start families, my father and this man had drifted apart and lost touch.
They had awesome memories. They had spent much time together growing up. This man was apparently a REALLY good person who had died very suddenly.
I did not know him.
The respectable thing to do was go with my parents to the viewing at the funeral home so they could pay their respects to the family.
I did not know them. Never met them.
I cried so much at this viewing. I actually felt embarrassed for my emotional state, but had no control over it. I was overwhelmed with grief the entire time we were there. I listened to stories about this man, saw pictures, met his family, and seemed to cry more than any of them.
This was NOT the only occasion something like this happened. I was often the MOST emotional at a funeral, regardless of my relationship to the deceased. Sometimes I had to leave and sit outside for some air.
In my later teenage years, I was often told I was “over-reacting,” or getting in trouble because of my temper in arguments with my parents.
Knowing what I know now, I absorbed and reacted to the emotions of the other people in the room. Energy is a powerful thing.
Not only was I angry due to the disagreement at hand, but I was also absorbing the anger from the other party involved. I was arguably “double angry.” Angry for two. Or “over-reacting” because I couldn’t handle my feelings and someone else’s.
Empathy made me do it.
I’m a little better now.
I have learned to differentiate (for the most part) between my feelings and those belonging to others. I can’t always block them out, especially at overwhelming events like funerals where the entire energy of the place is grief, from past and present. Its as though the building itself has absorbed the energy. But I no longer have to step out.
Empathy, or reading energy is also very convenient in my line of work. It helps me know when to push or pull back. I have some perception of reaching a barrier or an edge.
When working with bodies and the emotions stored within the soft tiss
ue, its important to listen to your client, but its also imperative to FEEL…
I have observed and listened to a lot of people who I assume are just unidentified Empaths. I’m so grateful I had mentors who helped me recognize it in myself and gave me tools to help cultivate it into a useful gift.
Does this story resonate with you? Were you an “over-reactor” growing up? How are you handling those situation now? I’d love to hear from you!