I have a challenge, that I have learned recently is not unique. I have heard it called it empathy, but I think it is also called many other things depending on the circle you are in. The new age community likes to label people, and I have heard the concept called an empath. Effectively an empath takes on the emotions of others. Of course that is a lot more to it than that, and next time you are in a social gathering and you see a long haired brunette woman with a nose ring, flower in her hair and a meditative trance like look on her face as her if she is an empath. Chances are she is and will love to fill you in on all the implications. That was a bit of a joke, if you did not catch that.
Anyway, the joke is important because empath’s come in all shapes and sizes, and are not always that hippie girl you have a chat with at some party. I have come to recognize this trait in myself and it explains a lot why I find myself feeling drained after being around a lot of people. I tend to absorb emotion. I do not like conflict, not because I am not able to resolve, mediate, or handle conflict, it is because I tend to take on the concerns and complaints of both parties and agonize about it for weeks. This trait can be overwhelming and at times I will be unable to function well because I feel really burdened by the prospect of more interaction with others. Taking on one more problem, is a constant concern. It is not that I am actually taking on the problem, it is that I worry about it.
The good news is that I have this sort of innate ability to understand where people are coming from. To understand a bit how they think and feel. I also find people asking me for advice from time to time, which is good. I also find enjoyment from helping others, lifting people up and I really enjoy providing people with a better outlook on their own lives. I also have a tendency to know when someone is lying to me. I have become very good at disguising the fact that I know when someone is lying, as well.
Why do I bring this up? Here is the reason. An empath is nothing more than an emotional reaction. How one relates to others and other stimulus through their emotions. A lot of it probably has to do with the way we were raised, and perhaps some of it is just naturally who we are. Your are most likely to fall into the habitual emotional pattern when you are under the most stress. I am a natural empath, when I get stressed and overwhelmed I start sucking in all the pain, anguish and problems around me. People do not know this about me, because I have hid it very well. It is just not cool to be a man and be this emotional wreck all the time. I do react to pain around me emotionally. I feel what others are going through and it causes me anguish. I get tired being around too many people, and have to shut down and be alone to heal.
Here is the point I am trying to get to. If I do not keep this emotional reaction in check, then all the good things that I am doing, or trying to do come crumbling down. I absolutely have to realize and understand that this is the way I react to my environment emotionally, and I have to stay acutely aware of it and make adjustments accordingly. I can be doing great in my physical exercises, yet one week of going doing the emotional rabbit hole and I come out again a complete wreck and it takes time to recover. This means that I need to do the correct things to help myself stay on top of this. Because, I can ignore it and then it will build up and then WAM, I will spend an extended period of time in almost a catatonic state climbing within myself to heal and gain strength once again.
Here are some things that I have learned that help. If you are not an empath, then I cannot help you. Sorry! My suggestion would be to find out how you emotionally react to external stimuli and figure out similar strategies. Do you absorb things, do you over analyze everything, do you struggle with emotional expression all together, or do you just constantly pour emotion out on everyone all the time? These are the four basic reactions. Absorb, Spew Out, Internalize and Think, or Put up Walls and Defend. I absorb. So I have to have ways to work on that, or all my efforts will go down the drain in a month of wallowing.
Taking breaks are hard for me to do, but necessary. Taking small breaks by taking walks, runs, or even just shutting off everything and sitting quietly in meditation for 5 minutes is important. One person taught me to consciously think as I am breathing out, to breathe out all the emotion that I absorbed from those around me. Sure enough, I realized that I was actually holding my breathe during tense exchanges. I was absorbing, so much so, that I was not even breathing. Another thing for me to watch is the really bad triggers. There are certain situations that really cause me stress. More so than others. Certain conflicts between people really cause me to panic, because I am not ready for them. If I am ready for the conflict, then usually I am ok. However, when I am not ready, I go into panic mode and I start absorbing everything around and me and start sinking into depression.
It has taken me a long time to realize all this about myself. Being this way, was not something that I really wanted to admit. I portray a different image of myself I am sure. That is not intentional really, it is just the way it is. However, getting to know how you deal with emotion is really important because you can and should come up with ways to counter the negative effects of stress induced emotions. My final point that I have learned is this. I have learned to push emotions out and not suck them in. I can usually provide a very positive, uplifting emotional surge for others to benefit from. I need to remember that. I am a great source of emotional energy, usually very positive and I am in a much better state when I am actively pushing that out to others. When I am in the mode of absorbing, I usually take in to much and start to struggle. So I need to learn to put more out than in.