Imagine if an empath tried to stay married to a narcissist for 29 years.
Sounds like the start of a hilarious joke.
Here's the set-up. After a particularly tough week, I made the following post to Facebook:
"When you work in manufacturing, there are two days you never want to face: a fatality and a facility closure. I have had to do one. Yesterday was way too close to the second.
"It's taken me 56 years to realize that I am in fact just too empathetic for this world. It astounds me that people can hear bad news, say "oh, that sucks" and then go on with their lives. I carry the weight of others' misfortunes and it is starting to get very heavy right now.
"My broken heart is with all those who struggle. I feel broken. I feel so powerless."
And I had some of my friends comment about similarly feeling the same way when it comes to the hardships of others. So I googled empathy, in hopes to learn more, to better understand, and it led me down an Empath rabbit hole. You can't imagine what I learned.
What is an Empath?
An empath is an individual who feels more empathy than an average human. Empaths are exceptionally sensitive to the emotions and frame of mind of nearby individuals.
Yep. I literally did not know about this and that it's not just normal human feelings. Turns out most people don't experience this at all.
Common Traits of Empaths:
Excellent Storytellers: 10/10
Good Listeners: 9/10
Very Astute: 9/10
Root for the Underdog: 10/10
Need Constant Stimulation: 6/10
Profound sense of compassion toward all living beings (It me)
Powerful and memorable life experiences
An ability to intuitively know when people around you lie
Considered a good listener
Inability to set clear boundaries (errmm...)
Tendency to seclude yourself (Oh.)
Frequently feel exhausted after interacting with other people (OMG SO MUCH)
Research has identified a group of cells called “mirror neurons,” which may help individuals mirror others’ emotions. Research indicates that some people may have a larger number of mirror neurons than others, potentially explaining empaths' abilities.
On the other hand, individuals clinically classified as narcissists (or malignant narcissists) are considered low on the empathy scale, thus making them less compassionate or sensitive to others’ feelings.
Several months after our divorce, I was talking to my ex-husband (we remain friends and talk periodically). He told me that he'd had some psychological tests done and they had returned that he is a narcissist. Not narcissistic behavior. Full-blown narcissist. To which I replied, "I hope you didn't pay a lot for those tests, because I could've told you that for free."
Naturally, he could not say the same about my empathy. It's literally the definition of us both.
So here's some strategies for empaths from Web M.D. I mean, these people convince me every ingrown hair is terminal cancer but this seems legit:
Tune in to your inner voice. When becoming too engrossed in everything that's happening around you, quiet and center your mind with mindfulness meditation
Spend time in nature. Nature is healing. And now I understand my incessant and inexhaustible need to pull weeds.
Forgive yourself. Practice the same compassion with yourself that you so generously give to others.
Learn when to say no. Don't let yourself get burnt out. Limit what you give to others.