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.

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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.

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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.