It’s a blessing and a curse the be an empath.

To feel others’ emotions has allowed me to be a better wife, friend, teacher, and all around human being. I can’t get through a single day without reading the wavelengths others are emitting, wearing my invisible feelers, a secret alien. The ability to step into another’s perspective forges deep bonds because humans desire to be understood, and I can understand you – why you feel that way, behave that way, function in such a way. It’s the antithesis of  judgement. Not I can’t believe you would do, say, think (etc) that but rather – Oh, that’s why you do, say, think (etc) that; I get it. I get you. 

When dealing with the majority, this skill is helpful in building symbiotic relationships. But – occasionally, this intuitive transparency opens empaths up to be preyed upon by emotional vampires.

It doesn’t take long for an empath to sniff out when someone has manipulative and narcissistic tendencies, the only unfathomable traits to reconcile. But- the truth is sometimes there is no rationalization to be found for why a person behaves in such a way. The hardest question for an empath to wrap our mind around is how can someone have such disregard for others? For someone who lack of consideration is not an option, who is a living, breathing part of the human ecosystem, constantly plugged into the collective consciousness, the knowledge that people can be so indifferent to the experience of others is a frightening concept.

Conversely, those with sociopathic tendencies seem to intuit that an empath can see through facades that usually fool those around them, making the empath a prime target for schemes that spread mistrust, such as triangulation, and, well, bullying. That said, it’s not uncommon for someone with empathic abilities to find themselves at odds with those with vampiric abilities.

Clearly, it has happened to me, and, ever since, I’ve struggled with a form of PTSD. While typically associated with physical trauma, PTSD can also be caused by emotional trauma, manifesting itself in the same symptoms: flashbacks, anxiety, mistrust, insomnia, loneliness, etc. Although all experienced at times, perhaps the most prevalent for an abused empath is mistrust and, therefore, loneliness.

Realizing that what has always been your strength also opens you up to such heartache is debilitating. It has made me hesitant to use the gift that typically  fulfills me by connecting me to others in fear of being targeted yet again. At times, I’ve become reclusive, afraid to put myself out there and expose my heart to coldness.

But – like everything else, the world is composed of contradictions and duality. There is light, and there is darkness. There is hot, and there is cold. There is joy, and there is grief.  There are those who help, and there are those who hurt. Ultimately, those who help cannot remain sequestered by those who hurt; we must maintain the necessary equilibrium.

People attribute the following quote to Kurt Vonnegut (although, I digress, I’m not convinced he’s the source. It just doesn’t sound Vonneguty). Regardless who uttered it, the sentiment is apt:

Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let the pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness. Take pride that even though the rest of the world may disagree, you still believe it to be a beautiful place.

The world needs us, the empaths – those who make room in their souls for the emotions of others – share in their experience,  at times sacrificing peace of mind to ease the load for someone else. Although it is disheartening, it’s important to also remember that an empath’s strength lies not only in seeing the good in humanity, but also in recognizing the wrong while still remaining altruistic, kind-hearted, and soft. 

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