BECOMING A FULLY FUNCTIONAL EMPATH
Finding Your Own Way In This Crazy, Insensitive World
It’s not easy being an Empath. Even if you know what that means, and are aware of the fact that you may be one (which also implies you’re a HSP or Highly Sensitive Person), chances are you have a hard time with life in general. You hide. You’ve found ways to work or study from home, at least on a part-time basis; and even if you have no choice but to join the ranks as a student in a public school or hold a full time job at a large company, you most definitely hide. You don’t feel comfortable showing all of yourself and revealing who you truly are to most people; you hold plenty back. Social situations can be agony to you. You suffer. You see and hear and feel too much; all the injustices in the world, especially to children and animals, make you suffer deeply. If you take a chance, show yourself and get rejected, it will often scar you for life. You numb yourself. Sometimes everything is so hard to bear that you feel the need to go numb, either through soft addictions such as TV and food, or habits that include alcohol and drugs (prescription and otherwise). Too often, you have to struggle to get out of your bed, your bedroom, your house, and will yourself to continue functioning.
You’re far from alone. Many articles written about Highly Sensitive People/Empaths mention that they comprise 18% to 20% of the population. I wonder if that percentage is actually much higher than these reports show. Were all the “closeted” HSP’s/Empaths taken into consideration? How about those who have always felt there’s something different about them, but have no idea what it is? I personally know a lot of people (among family members, friends, acquaintances, clients, etc) who seem to have all the tell-tale signs of highly sensitive/empathic people, but who aren’t aware that they might be part of that group. Some haven’t even heard these terms before; or if they have, they’re not quite sure what that means. Not to mention that many highly sensitives have learned to hide their true nature, as they quickly understood that most people around them can’t handle who they are, or the intensity of the emotions they feel.
Something else that gives me the impression that there may be a lot more highly sensitive empaths out there is the amount of the available literature on the subject (by the way, if you’re not very familiar with these terms but feel that you might be an empath, I recommend checking some of available resources and taking a quiz). Although the purpose of this article isn’t to define these terms, I actually had a hard time finding a title for my blog article that hadn’t been used before. My research showed a plethora of books and articles with Empaths and HSP’s as their main theme. To name a few: The Path of the Empath; The Way of the Peaceful Empath; Becoming a High Functioning Empath; Becoming a Skilled Empath; The Alpha Empath; The Happy Sensitive; The Empath’s Survival Guide; How To Handle Being An Empath; Becoming An Empowered Empath; The Highly Sensitive Person: How to Thrive When the World Overwhelms You; etc; in addition to tons of related articles and resources available. Actually, I almost gave up writing this blog article, thinking that these themes are quite overdone… Well, redundant or not, I thought of a few people with whom I’d like to share my views on this subject. So here we go.
Who Would A Fully Functional Empath Be? Ideally, perhaps, someone who:
- Found their voice and the courage to express it.
- Takes on leadership roles, in spite of how jarring that can be for them.
- Serves others in a meaningful and self-sustaining way.
- Establishes healthy boundaries and maintains good relationships.
- Developed effective coping mechanisms to be out in the world, dealing with life, but without the need to constantly numb themselves. They have learned that numbing themselves works only temporarily, and it comes with too high of a price: feeling like an emotional zombie at first; then having depression, anxiety, repressed anger, etc; and finally, dealing with the agony of knowing that they’re holding themselves back...
- Created and maintains some balance in life.
- Finds contentment and even joy in the process.
- Inspires others to find their own way.
If you have been able to achieve all or most of the above, kudos! But if you’ve only managed to become partially functional and are out there, feeling that there should be more to life that this (whatever “this” is); or are still struggling to find your way, take heart. Keep searching for your own truth, little by little, step by step. Information is useful and role models help, but in the end you have to feel your own way through.
Just think about this: Maybe a big part of what you’re meant to do here is simply to bear. To help bear the weight of the world through your compassion; to bear witness to what is wrong, what needs to change; and to bear life as you hold space for the new generations of Empaths to come and do their thing. Just the fact that you’re here, dealing with and surviving in this crazy, insensitive world, may be nothing short of a miracle…
No, it’s not easy being an Empath… But it does come with the opportunity to live life on deep and intense levels… for better or for worse. At this point in your life, what do you want to make of it?
“Empathy doesn’t make you a sentimental softy without discernment. It allows you to keep your heart open to foster tolerance and understanding.” — Dalai Lama
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 05/28/2019
Photo Credit: Image by ejaugsburg from Pixabay
“This Is Too Much!!!” About Highly Sensitive People
The Science Behind Empathy and Empaths
HOW TO DEAL WITH OVERWHELM
For all the healers, change-makers and those seeking to help and serve others out there
Yes, I know… This is too much!!! It’s certainly more than what you bargained for. While your intention was to learn how to help others undergo deep and meaningful transformation, you probably never imagined that you’d have to go through it first (or yet again)… And that it might turn your life upside down in the process!
At the same time, you know you are here for an important reason: you’ve been called to action and this is your life path, so you need to keep going. Of course, maintaining balance in all areas of life while you’re at it would be ideal. But sometimes things will get messy, and balance might be hard to maintain… So what now? Here are some suggestions to keep in mind when trying to create balance and deal with overwhelm, as you continue to pursue your goals and dreams:
1) Remember that we often thrive and achieve the most when we are extremely busy and feel overwhelmed, as that forces us to take stock and focus on what really matters. Not to mention that we have the opportunity to push our limits and discover what we’re capable of!
2) Remind yourself of why you are here. What’s your purpose or calling in life? What’s your biggest dream of service? Why did you choose to become part of this amazing tribe of healers and change-makers? Get back in touch with what motivates your soul!
3) Get support. That can come from friends, family members, classmates, teachers, mentors, etc, as well as spiritual sources. For instance, how about creating an in-person or online meditation or study group with like-minded friends and fellow healers?
4) Remember to use the tools you’ve learned! We all use them to help friends, family, clients… But we often forget to get our tool box out and use it to help ourselves, and just when we need it the most! For instance, you can trade sessions with fellow healers to work on achieving balance, as well as releasing, resolving and removing blocks, barriers, limiting core beliefs and fears.
5) Focus on what really matters and moves you closer to achieving your goals (please see the video below for some great advice).
How To Deal With Overwhelm, by Marie Forleo
6) Never give up! Just keep moving forward, through and around your fears. Invite your dragons and demons for tea (or margaritas, as a student of mine suggested once; she thought that would be more fun!) and have a straight talk with them. Bring them to light and question them all!
FINAL THOUGHT: Put that fear energy to work for you! After all, fear is your friend; it reveals the road map to opportunity!
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 07/09/2018
Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash
Is This A Thing?
Yes, Highly Sensitive People, or HSP, is a thing. There’s solid research that supports this concept. According to expert Dr. Elaine Aron, author of The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You:
“The brains of highly sensitive people have more activity and blood flow in the right hemisphere, indicating an internal rather than an external focus.
What is moderately arousing to most people is overwhelming to HSPs.
HSPs often have decreased serotonin levels resulting from the repeated stress of over arousal.
Likewise, they have more reactive immune systems (allergies) and more sensitive nervous systems.
The sensitivity trait is just as likely among men as among women; both represent about 20 percent of the population.”
Taking into consideration that 20% of the population currently corresponds to approximately 1.48 billion people worldwide, that’s too high a number for it to be just the latest fad, anyway. But hey, I get it. Many well-meaning parents, teachers and others responsible for rearing children want to understand what’s going on and do right by their kids, but don’t want to be taken for a ride in the process. With all the behavioral health trends that keep coming up, it’s hard to tell the difference between a legitimate thing and yet another label which legitimizes bad behavior. Or the difference between highly sensitive kids and over indulged brats, or between highly sensitive adults and dysfunctional drama addicts. The thing is, although being highly sensitive can lead to disorders and disorderly behavior, it’s not a disorder. Although it can lead to mental health problems, it’s not a mental health problem. It’s simply a different, more intense (sometimes much more intense) way of perceiving, relating to and connecting with the world. Of course, highly sensitive kids can become over indulged brats, and highly sensitive adults can be socially inept people or dysfunctional drama addicts. Why? Maybe part of the problem is simply the lack of awareness and information about how to raise a highly sensitive kid into becoming a functional highly sensitive adult. It can be hard to understand, relate to and deal with a highly sensitive child. The key is to remember that it’s also very hard to be one. Highly sensitive children are also referred to as “orchid children.” According to the article Genetic Roots of “Orchid” Children by Bruce Bower, “a Swedish expression that translates as ‘orchid child’ refers to a youngster who blossoms spectacularly if carefully nurtured but withers badly if neglected.” An orchid in a field of dandelions, the highly sensitive child has a much more delicate personality than his peers and needs a protective environment to properly flourish.
From early on in life, highly sensitive children have to live with the perception that they are different; that they don’t quite fit in; that there’s “something wrong” with them, according to others. Because they are so sensitive, they experience tremendous hurt, which may result in self-hatred and self-destructive behavior. In addition, highly sensitive people often have the capacity to understand or perceive what’s going on with others better than many do themselves. So they can become a bothersome and inconvenient presence to a lot of people, and frequently receive (and/or deeply feel) negative feedback from their input, such as anger, rage, fear, sadness, withdrawal, defensiveness, etc. In family dynamics, the highly sensitive child usually plays the role of the "scapegoat" or "screw up" or "problem child" (the "scapegoat" is the truth teller of the family; this role is played by the most sensitive and emotionally honest child, who often verbalizes or acts out the "problem" or dysfunction that the family is attempting to cover up or deny). It doesn’t get any better as the highly sensitive children grow up. I’ve heard many of my clients say that they are constantly told such things as: “stop being so annoying”; “why do you always have to see more into it or make a bigger deal than it is?”; “stop being so sensitive”; “calm down, you’re being irrational”; “you’re overreacting”; “you’re overthinking it”; “why do you care so much?”; “anyone else can handle this, so why can’t you?”; “you don’t know everything!”; etc. Of course, highly sensitive people are not always right about how they understand, feel or perceive things; but they are often on the right track, which annoys a lot of people.
A client once told me that it took her years to be able to see a dead animal on the road without crying, which used to cause her to be regarded by friends and family members (not to mention herself) as weird. Other clients say that they didn’t feel like they ever fit in; that they didn’t have a place. Some mention that they see (and intensely feel) too many things that are wrong with the way we live, the way we treat other humans and other living beings, the way we are destroying the planet, etc; and they simply can’t live with all that and go on pretending nothing is happening, ignoring what’s happening, or profiting from what’s happening, as so many do. They see the unfairness and injustice of the rigged system, along with all its rigged subsystems, that our modern society has become. And they want it to stop. Many of them do manage to thrive and become the dreamers, the doers, the game changers, the rebels with plenty of cause; but they often give so much of themselves and get so deeply involved that their cause sucks the living energy out of them. In addition, many highly sensitive adults often get discouraged easily, at the first sight of a challenge or disappointment; or simply change they cannot handle or suffering they cannot bear to witness. Others are lost and confused; they go into hiding for self preservation, often numbing themselves with mind altering substances (legal and illegal) and/or suffering from severe health issues which cause intense physical, emotional and mental pain. In short, many are hiding because they can’t find their place and their way; and they can’t function in this rigged system without it chipping away at their very souls.
Under References and Related Articles there are many suggestions that can be incorporated as part of the highly sensitive person’s survival kit, as well as sources of information for the non-highly sensitive people who have HSPs in their lives. As a highly sensitive person myself, I share some of what I have learned and offer a few suggestions below.
For the non-highly sensitive people out there:
For the highly sensitive people out there:
© Gisele Marasca-Vargas; 03/31/2016
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay
References and Related Articles:
1) The Highly Sensitive Person: How To Thrive When The World Overwhelms You, book by Dr. Elaine N. Aron
2) Are You Highly Sensitive? test from Dr. Elaine Aron’s website
3) The Plight of the Empath or Highly Sensitive Person
4) 16 Habits of Highly Sensitive People
5) What Makes A Highly Sensitive Person?
6) Genetic Roots Of “Orchid Children”
7) On The Trail Of The Orchid Child
8) Are You A Highly Sensitive Person? What You Need To Know About The Science Of This Personality Type
9) Orchids and Dandelions Abloom - Best of Neuron Culture