"You're Professor X," My husband marveled, "You feel people's emotions and you help them fulfill their destiny."
Sometimes I do feel superhuman. Except for the days that I'm legitimately concerned I might have a problem.
Growing up, I was deemed "overly-sensitive" and "emotional." A couple of years ago, I was chatting with another life coach, Kadena Tate, and she used the term "Empath" to describe her daughter.
"She interprets events by the emotions she feels. She experiences other's emotions as if they were her own."
Whatever that meant, I had it.
I have this visceral memory of my first sober New Years. We stayed up all night at an old church. We sang songs until the ball dropped and then the kids tried to see if they could stay up long enough to greet the sun. My boyfriend, the keyboardist, had just finished playing and began talking to the bassist and the drummer. I was sitting in a pew minding my own business and suddenly, out of nowhere, I was sobbing. I had no idea why. I tried to collect myself but I could not pull it together.
It happens a lot at churches. One Sunday, I started blubbering in the middle of the morning announcements. I tried to make eye contact with the speaker and somehow silently explain that my tears didn't have anything to do with the upcoming Christmas play he was announcing.
There are people who I feel connected to on an almost physical level even if we're thousands of miles apart. When something is wrong with them, I feel it immediately.
"The greatest gift we have is to bear their pain without breaking and it comes from your most human part, hope." +Charles Xavier
Being an empath makes sense of many parts of my life. It explains my struggles with addiction. I am inclined to numb my pain when things become too overwhelming. It explains how, time and time again, I know things there's no rational way of knowing.
It's this part of my personality that has made me such an effective life coach. I can intuitively and immediately cut right to the place my clients need to go and approach it in a way that resonates.
It looks different for everyone. Some empaths can't go to thrift shops because they feel the energy of the past too strongly. Others could never live for long in the city. Most of the time, I feel like I have a high tolerance for the strong emotions of others, even if I react strongly myself.
As a military spouse, the required trips to the navy hospital where my kids get their annual check-ups are especially hard on me. Witnessing the soldiers who've had limbs cut off and even deeper wounds that aren't visible is excruciating. Every time I have to go, I make a beeline to their little convince shop and buy more oatmeal cream pies than I should. In the words of Jim Carrey, "Sometimes it's okay to eat your feelings."
People use different language. If you resonate with what I'm saying, but "empath" seems too out there, call it what fits you best. And if you've never had an empathic experience, I hope this post helps you to understand those of us who might have baffled you with all our many, raw feelings.
If you are worn down emotionally right now, I get it. May you receive the nourishment you need to handle the gifts you've been given. I am grateful for you. The world needs your superpowers. And they are superpowers.