Empathic Checklist: 13 Questions to Ask Yourself when You Feel Upset for No Reason
Photo by Northeast Photography; creative commons license
There’s an edginess that’s been in the air for the past couple of hours. It’s the kind of feeling you get after a fight with a lover or when a dream just got deferred. I can’t pin it down but it’s been intense. Weighty. It’s nothing new…but I wasn’t expecting to have it interrupt my pleasant evening. Someone else’s feelings, that is.
This makes me wonder how many people suffer from depression because they’re so highly sensitive to the emotions of others. This isn’t like that horrid feeling when Shannon, Brian, and I walked past the meat market, er, I mean bar, in the restaurant a week ago and Brian and I both went, “Ewwwww, what’s that feeling?” at the same time. It’s always gratifying to be in the company of other empaths who pick up emotions at the same instant I do. It’s a blessing to have others like that around, really. They totally get it when you say, “Hey, who just had an emo moment?”
Tonight’s wash of emotions happened fairly suddenly, and I don’t feel thye’re “mine.” I’m going through my usual checklist, and hey, good health habits make it easier to isolate! It’s even better when the feeling goes away, often rather suddenly and inexplicably. Except for not knowing WTF just happened.
Here’s my empath’s checklist, applied to this particular instance:
1. Why am I feeling this way? Did this wave of emotion come on out of the blue, almost like turning on a lightswitch?
I have no clue why I’m feeling such sadness and upset. It came on suddenly in the middle of a pleasant evening. I didn’t just have a fight with anyone or receive bad news, yet I certainly feel the effects as if I had.
2. Did something happen to trigger this wave of upsetting emotion?
No. I’ve been on an even keel all day at work, even with people having meltdowns all around me. I’d had plans to do some decorating projects tonight, and I was looking forward to that after watching a movie. I’ve also had time to watch a movie I’d been dying to see and liked a lot. There were no incidents that happened right before the emotional wave.
3. Am I well-rested?
Yes. Sometimes lack of sleep will have an emotional impact, but I slept well last night and spent half an hour in meditation tonight. The latter might be a clue, though, because during my meditation, I felt very connected to a friend of mine who’s having family problems.
4. Is my blood sugar out of whack?
No. Sometimes, fluctuations in my blood sugar will make me either antsy or down but I can usually associate that with particular eating habits and know what to expect. So far this year, my diet has been very healthy and I’m giving my body what it needs. Also, the timing isn’t right for any type of “sugar crash,” even if I’d been less mindful of my diet.
5. Are my hormones out of whack?
Hmmm, well, I am feeling the need for some male company, but no, no raging hormones. I’m on a new prescription after an abominable time with the last two consecutive prescriptions but I’ve been on it enough days that I’m rather sure I’m not suffering a sudden new side effect. (Being a human antennae for emotions isn’t on the packaging!)
6. Is there something in my environment that I’m hearing, smelling, seeing that has triggered these feelings?
No. That includes any annoying noises or flickering lights.
7. Is there something going on in my immediate environment that’s emotional turmoil for someone else?
No. In fact, this started before my daughter came home from work cheerful and continued afterward. I was home alone in a pleasant atmosphere. There was no tension in the house and no upset with my daughter.
8. What was my day like overall–before the wave of emotions?
Overall, good. Pleasant interactions with everyone around me. Good news on many fronts. Some financial relief in one area. A great workout. Some interesting new things I learned. A very solid, though busy, day.
9. Are my stars out of whack?
Whether you believe in astrology or not, I sometimes find that personal astrology chart is facing some harsher transits. In this case, I’m actually supposed to be under some very, very pleasant influences this week with lots of good and positive emotions.
10. Is this the usual pattern for my mood changes?
No. I can get into a mood and stay there for two or three days, whether it’s blissful, sad, anxious, or whatever. My moods don’t swing every 15 minutes–if they do, I know for certain that I’m being influenced by someone else’s emotions, usually someone who’s ADHD, bless ’em. In this case, the emotional wave lasted about two hours and crested, then faded as if someone had fallen asleep or escaped into some mindless pastime.
11. Do I have loved ones who are having obvious–or not obvious–difficulties that might be related to this wave of emotions?
Yes. I do. At this point, I’m usually either calling them or checking in on them when I can. Some aren’t always available. And some will lie to me that everything’s just hunky-dory so they don’t worry me, but I’ll find out later how upset they were.
12. Are there certain words or phrases that come to mind with these feelings but seem unusual for me?
When I first realized I was empathic, I had been talking for hours to a suicidal acquaintance. When my emotions crashed that night and over the next couple of days, I found myself thinking thoughts that were phrased in a particular way that wasn’t anything like me, at all. When I figured out where I’d heard those phrases before, I figured out that I’d taken my work home with me, in the worst way possible. IN this case tonight, I am getting certain words, glimpses almost, that give me clues to the identity of my troubled loved one.
13. Am I overreacting?
This is where it helps to have a good friend who understands I’m an empath. She knows that if I don’t seem like myself that she should call my attention to it. I’ve been through a lot of loss in my life, including relationships I didn’t want to see go, but back in October, she saw me fall to my knees sobbing at a professional conference of 200 of my esteemed colleagues and got me out of there. To me, I couldn’t separate my sense of loss from breathing and lost all perspective. She got me out of there and started quizzing me, then it became obvious to me that I was going through not only my own mourning for a loss but feeling the raw emotions of the other people involved in the situation. Though I’d been through much worse in my life, the double and triple wallop of emotions was more than I could take.
After running quickly through my checklist, I can usually figure out that these emotions aren’t mine but ones I’ve picked up from someone I care deeply about. Often, I’ll be on the phone, running through my list of loved ones and calling them just to see if they’re all right. Almost always, if I can reach everyone I think it might be, I find the culprit. Once I realize not only that the empathic wave isn’t mine and especially if I know whose emotions I’m picking up, then I can usually release it and get back to my pleasant life already in progress.