If there is one thing I see among my age group that really bothers me, it is a trend toward making apathy seem “cool.” It’s becoming the norm to just drop people from your life willy-nilly, to not care about anything, to exude a hard outer shell to avoid getting hurt.
I’ve tried to understand, to let everyday occurrences and interactions just roll off me, but I feel like I soak it all in like a sponge. The only times I can really live without constantly noticing the mood of my environment is when I’m in a deep funk of depression, so basically when I’m already numb to everything.
It’s against human nature to be devoid of emotion. We are meant to experience the entire spectrum of existence, the good and the bad. While we ourselves are not our feelings and are separate from our moods, they are essential to connecting with others and the world around us.
However, there’s another extreme, the counterpart of apathy. I’m not alone in this phenomenon of feeling everything, at times overly feeling everything. Words like “sensitive” come to mind, but there’s another one I just recently learned about: empath.
Who…or what…is an empath?
Want to take a test online to see if you’d be considered an empath? Check out this test and take it as seriously as you’d like. Either way, it’s certainly interesting.
According to Psychology Today, “the trademark of an empath is feeling and absorbing other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. These people filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings.”
I identify as an empath, so I can completely relate with this description, especially the last part. In very tense and emotional situations, I actually become numb and feel almost broken: I cannot think or communicate anything. And I have a very difficult time putting my emotions toward certain situations into words, as I have learned through too many therapy sessions of me often just sitting and thinking of appropriate words to use.
As I’ve learned more about myself and have become more attuned to my mind, I see how often I take on my surroundings and really let it affect me with obvious pros and cons at play. That’s probably why most empaths are introverted to avoid excess stimulation and emotional drainage. Even just physical senses of sight, smell, and touch are amplified. Empaths are also more prone to mental illness like depression, anxiety and addiction, and some may even experience chronic fatigue and digestive issues.
Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually open, and good listeners. We’re big-hearted people and try to relieve the pain of others. We avoid any violence or conflict. We tend to be very creative and, at times, very intense. But we also take criticism too personally. We can get moody and get lost within swinging emotions. In a world that is not always empathetic, we are told to “toughen up,” “get a thicker skin.” As sarcastic and critical as I am, it doesn’t disregard the fact that I still keep others’ feelings in mind.
Embrace your empathy.
Do you see yourself in these qualities? If you do, then you probably see your emotions as a double-edged sword. It’s wonderful to be overwhelmed with positive emotions of joy and excitement, but the other side of things? You can keep them.
To treat yourself well as an empath and stay healthy, despite the ranging emotions of others you may be feeling and latching onto, there are some steps you can take. Most importantly, make sure to ground yourself and be mindful of your own body and self if you’re overwhelmed by others. You’ll likely need to take times to be alone and relax when surrounded by many different people. For all people, but especially empaths, be picky with who you spend your time with: they’re the ones affecting your moods, and if you constantly surround yourself with negative, draining people, you’ll never reach your full potential.
There are many exercises that can help you to shield your energy from outside sources, often relying on metaphors like an aura, or zipping yourself up, or wielding a shield of light. Do whatever works best for you. In the moment, it could be difficult to consciously think of these tools, but simply slow down, ground yourself with your breath, and step aside from the action if need be.
Follow your instincts. You’ll know when you’re feeling stable and content, or when your mind is running a hundred miles a minute and you’re on an emotional roller coaster. Remember, in those times when you may be frustrated as an empath, that this is a gift. You have the ability to touch others’ lives in inconceivable ways. It requires extra care and patience, but at the end of the day, it’s worth it.
Make a new trend.
The biggest area where I see apathy reign is supreme is, inevitably, the internet. Whenever I see people arguing or debating, with a computer screen in between, we forget that we’re talking to real people, with self-rationalized thoughts and feelings. The things people say online, you would never hear them say in person. We live in two different realms of our true selves and the ones we use online, where morals and standards get tossed out the window.
I think now more than ever, we need empathy. We need empaths who teach us how to not only understand others and be open-minded, but take those toward productive action, helping others and reaching out. To remind us how to reconnect to the world and ourselves. To notice the little details we might overlook in a fast-paced day. In a world full of fear, greed, cruelty, egotism, and immense pain, human sensitivity is an immense blessing, a gift this world desperately needs. The ability to care deeply for others is something our world can severely lack. Empaths can not only close the gap between people, but they can also open the door to genuine kindness and intuition.
That isn’t to say everyone else lacks empathy. We all have it; we can just lose sight of it sometimes. Just like there are techniques and practices to stabilize an empath’s mind, those same techniques can help everybody find that inner desire. Through simple mindfulness, meditation, and breathing practices, everyone can find within themselves an abundance of empathy, an inner voice that connects every human to one another as if all woven with the same thread. Those qualities are healing and empowering if we embrace them and not always rush through them.
Let us not beat down those who are gentle and sensitive. Let us praise those qualities. To think, if we lived in a world entirely focused on caring for others and being receptive to our unique, valid emotions, that would certainly be paradise.
Are YOU an empath? What techniques and practices help you to stay grounded and at peace?
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie