Tuesday, July 26, 2016

     A friend posted this yesterday, and I reacted to it in more than one way. First, I thought to myself, "Yes, I consider myself an empath." To me, this is an admirable trait--one which I learned growing up, but I also took an Empathy Training course years ago where we had to practice empathic listening with random partners. When I took this course, I was in my 30s. I had no idea at that time how this skill would serve and torment me years later. 

     Secondly, I thought to myself, "This is a blessing and a curse." It's a blessing because empaths really "get you." We hear you, we feel you, we sense you. As a result, we take on your pain, your frustrations, your despair. Sometimes, we internalize your message, and it is hard to shed the residue. 

     A couple of people who responded to this post said they frequently felt sad or cheated because they didn't feel that people really "got" them. That's probably true, but we can't be empathic expecting something in return. I have learned that the hard way. We listen and give our understanding in words or in silence knowing that we probably won't get that back, especially from the person we gave it to. What I have found, however, is that so often I "get it back" from total strangers or from an off-handed comment when I least expect it.

     Mr. Wonderful and I have had numerous discussions about how people listen. He often complains that in social situations, whoever is speaking will often look directly at me, not at him. It annoys him, making him feel invisible. I certainly understand that, as I have had that happen too. I learned somewhere that when you are speaking to more than one person, you should give eye contact to everyone, not just one person, even if that's the person asking the question. I believe that the reason people look at me is because they sense that I am drinking them in, sensing, feeling, understanding them because it shows in my face, my posture and my body language. I don't have to say a word for them to feel this. 

     When I shared this post with Mr. Wonderful yesterday, he listened attentively (he was driving), and he said simply, "You need to stop doing that."