How an Empath Feels
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Tilt.
One of Tom Petty’s songs that I’ve always liked is “You Don’t Know How It Feels” (to be me). Most people do feel alone or lonely or angry or depressed, and they think they’re all alone in their feelings. Some people wonder how other people feel.
Let’s go deeper than that. Not how does someone feel about you personally, but how do they feel. What’s it like to experience life in their skin, with their funky brain chemicals and their dire circumstances and their baggage. You can imagine how they feel or how you would handle an emotional catalyst in their situation, but it’s still not them and it’s insulting to them when you think you could do oh-so-much-better. Right down to the way they’re wired, they feel things differently from how you feel them or how I feel them. It’s the nature of being human…this sense of coming, leaving, and being in this world all alone, no matter how many people are around us.
As humans, we tend to be trapped in our own bodies, our own feelings, our own isolation surrounded by walls of our own flesh. That’s another reason I’m so fascinated with this gift of empathy—it allows me to connect with other people (intended or not) in a way that crosses these physical barriers. Sometimes it gives me a rather frighteningly clear understanding of other people, to a point where I can just let them be who they are because I do understand, really understand, what they never show any- one else. Empathy goes a long way toward unconditional acceptance of another human being who’s simply being human.
I’ve only recently, since being introduced to energy healings and Bio-Genesis, come to understand what being an empath is. I realize now that I’ve probably always been empathic, and that probably attributed to my codependence. Most of the time, my sympathy and compassion made it way too easy to see someone else’s view- point or realize how much they’d be hurt if I did what _I_ wanted to do versus what they wanted me to do, and so I spent a lot of years surrendering to their needs.
That’s why I could not really focus on my own healing process and divorce grief until my ex physically left the house, because his own energy was so dark at the time and it was too easy to worry about his feelings and his healing instead of my own.
Fortunately for me, this gift is shifting from indirect to direct. With that shift, I’ve left behind more codependent tendencies than I ever dreamed I could. Now instead of taking on the outer waves of their feelings and getting sucked in, I can plunge directly into the source and feel…literally…what someone else feels.
Ever wondered if other people see colors the same way you do? It’s like that.
I don’t do it often. I rarely do it intentionally and then only if they’ve given me permission to share those feelings. I have to “shield” to keep most people from dragging me into their undertow.
But what is it like to feel another person’s emotions? Very different from feeling my own. With some, they’re very even in their feelings. No peaks or valleys and, to me, a little dull and way too detached. Other people have the same level of intensity that I do, yes, but it feels different.
I’m an emotional person. I’m openly emotional. I let it spill out everywhere. I live in my emotions and need to express them openly and not apologize for feeling either love or anger. It’s detrimental to my health when I hold it in.
I’ve felt different levels of emotional empathy. It’s one thing to feel a huge weight on my shoulders when some- one’s too stressed emotionally or to feel a heaviness in the chest when they have heart problems. That’s like…petting a small animal and soothing it. But experiencing the emotion from the inside of the animal, from how that person experiences it, is both disturbing and fascinating to me. And always enlightening.
So how does it feel? Usually I relate it back to some- thing in my own emotional frame of reference. Yes, I know the physical feeling of pain after open-heart surgery. I felt it with my dad and it stunned me. Just one pang was quite enough. And when he was near death, my extremities and then my arms and legs started to throb from the cold as his body started to shut down and serve only his vital organs. But even as frightening as that was—and no one to talk to about it—those were his physical aches and not his emotional aches.
The emotional is far worse.
Before I realized I was an empath, I connected with someone during a healing service—and it literally drove me to my knees to feel his emotions. I recognized them from my own broken-heartedness of two years before. But it was the intensity that forced me to sit down and clutch my chest because I could barely breathe.
I’ve felt other things, too, from people—things that I could relate to…anxiety, dread, total fear. Those emotions made me understand them so well. They’d seemed aloof, distant, arrogant.
That was how they wore their fear. And I’ve felt waves of love that just can’t be put into words but to my knowledge that emotion has never been shown. And I’ve been able to accept and let go of disappointments be- cause of what I knew to be true even though it wasn’t physically evident. From the inside out, I discovered the depth of their feelings.
I recently connected with someone whose emotions were so discordant, I have yet to name the emotion. I don’t recognize it, but it’s intriguing. A mix of strong yearning, frustration, a little anger, a little depression, a glimmer of love, determination. A nervous jangle of everything at once. And noisy. So noisy and jarring. I’d never experienced anything quite like it and I had to wonder how this man could function with all this discordance underneath.
And it was a complete surprise!
It’s a backward analogy, but something about the experience reminded me of submerging myself in a swimming pool and looking up through the water, the barrier muffling the shouts of children and splashing around and noise above the water, seeing him smile and his lips move, but I don’t hear what’s really said. This is how it is whenever I talk to him and it seems peaceful. Submerging into his emotions is like bursting upward through the water and suddenly hearing all the noise—and it’s no longer muffled and it’s very clear and sharp.
Sometimes too jagged.
And it’s the real him.
The real person—complete with all the pain—that only he can feel…or only an empath could know.