I started private yoga lessons last week. Aside from being overweight and needing exercise, I found out recently I have a slipped disk and need to work with my body to decrease the amount of pain I am usually in. My general fear of taking classes with people along with my general fear of doing something wrong that will cause more pain and injury led me to go with private lessons. I’ve known my instructor, J, for many years in another capacity, so I wasn’t as terrified as I would have been with a complete stranger. J is very gentle and intuitive, much more forgiving of my imperfections than I would ever be of myself.
I’m not sure what I expected, other than moving my body in ways that I don’t normally move it. J teaches more than just how bodies should move. First of all, there’s a helluva lot of breathing! All different kinds of breathing (who knew??)! And there are chakras and energy and gratitude and more breathing…
J says I’m an empath. I said that was cool because Counselor Troi was my favorite Star Trek TNG character (and she got that, because she’s just as geeky as I am, which makes her even more awesome). Apparently empaths often go into the helping profession because they can sense/feel what someone is going through. They are also often very creative. So my first degree is in art and my second is in art therapy so this all fits. The problem comes when an empath can’t create an emotional protective barrier and just feels everything around her (yeah, it’s gender specific – I’m talking about myself so it’s okay). She had a much better way of explaining it, but at this point I really don’t remember all the fancy words she used. J asked if I have a hard time in malls and places crowded with lots of people (I do!). She also said, “I bet you were always told you were too sensitive growing up” (I was!). Hubby used to always tell me that I need to be less like velcro and more like teflon; everything sticks to me. But it’s not just that everything sticks to me, everything is absorbed by me.
Okay, here is someone who did a MUCH better job at describing this than I am:
“Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. You either are an empath or you aren’t. It’s not a trait that is learned. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all. Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.” http://themindunleashed.org/2013/10/30-traits-of-empath.html
Now I want to go re-watch every episode of Star Trek TNG with this new insight and compare myself to Counselor Troi.
So I am a crier, and I feel everything very deeply, which is blessing and curse, depending on what moment I happen to be visiting in my life. My greatest challenge, in my opinion, has been being an empath and a parent. I have always felt what my kids are feeling; this is great when they are infants, not so great when they get older. I will write more about LARP Boy in later posts, but right now I am thinking of (from now on to be referred to as) Drama Girl.
Drama Girl is 17. For her entire 17 years on this earth I have referred to her as my “over-saturated child.” There is nothing muted or pastel about her; everything she does, everything she says, and everything she feels is as intense as one can be. When she hit high school this continued to be who she was, but along with it came the simultaneous pushing away and clinging that comes with adolescence. Others will say to me, “Why do you let her get to you?” I never really knew how to answer that succinctly until now. Now I can say, “Because I am an empath!” and everyone except my yoga teacher will look at me like I am crazy.
Armed with this new information, I tried an experiment the other morning. Most mornings and afternoons I drive Drama Girl to or from school. Between the two of us, that is a lot of energy to be confined to a car (side note – my whole life I have had trouble driving in cars with high energy people, and now I know why). When things go well, they go really well, and we laugh and sing and listen to soundtracks or Welcome To Nightvale or just talk about stuff. When things don’t go well, it’s so painful I have to work to concentrate on driving without crying. So, back to my experiment… we were in the car, and Drama Girl seemed upset, and she told me about something painful that was going on between her and her best friend. She told me about it, then told me not to say anything, then said she didn’t want to discuss it anymore.
As I was driving, I wondered if I could focus my attention on her energy, and there it was! It was as if waves of intensity were coming off of her like radiation from the sun, and they were all coming my way. Maybe it was my imagination, maybe I was trying to make sense of what I was feeling, maybe I am overly influenced by this new knowledge given to me by J, but it sure seemed real.
In many ways Drama Girl is a typical teenager, but this “over-saturation” on her part, along with her instinct and ability to be an emotional support for her friends, makes me wonder if she is an empath, too.
Or, maybe she’s just a teenage girl.
Either way, J’s suggestion that I work on creating a protective bubble of sorts around me so that I don’t absorb all the emotions of everyone around me, sounds like a really good idea, even if it simply makes my ability to survive Drama Girl’s teenage years increase in probability. My time spent with her is like walking through an emotional minefield without a hazmat suit (that may be totally the wrong kind of suit for walking through a minefield, really, I have no idea). I know the minefield metaphor has been used, as has “walking on eggshells,” so I’ve come up with my own.
Things are fine one minute, then tragic the next. I’m the best-mom-ever, then I can’t say anything right. I am generous, and then I am not even a provider for her basic needs. It’s a good day, and then it’s ruined. And there I am, apparently not even wearing the right kind of seat belt, because I am injured every single time. I cannot deflect the emotional impact coming my way, those waves of intensity come at me and I absorb them all, feeling them break me down and leaving me, well, exhausted.
So this is my goal, build the bubble (not a wall!), and protect myself, I guess? Still figuring it out.
Going to go watch Star Trek now.