Am I an empath? What my community has taught me…

Am I an empath? What my community has taught me…

I’m heartbroken (nauseous actually) about all the lives lost in Gaza again this week and our role in it. Thank you to my Jewish American and Palestinian friends for keeping this sorrow and pain in my line of site. Thanks to you, I’m doubling down on reminding/re-teaching myself and my¬†culture about the deep power of empaths. I’ve been relying on my new book this spring to do that for me. Over-relying on it, actually. I forgot for a moment that I have a non-book voice too. ūüôā So here are a brief (for Lori) few words about empaths…

There are human beings and groups all over the world who are sensitive enough to feel and help release the trapped pain within ourselves and others long before that pain becomes physical violence. I’ve seen it, lived it, done it. Some of us call ourselves empaths.
The power of tapping into our collective imagination. What if our cultures actually really believed in empaths? What would it be like if we deeply believed in the power of life, of voice (the voice of a whole place, not just human voices), connection, and the fully human ability to feel each other’s feelings and ease each other’s pain–over our belief in machines and weapons, numbness, silencing, looking the other way, or feeling powerless or helpless? I noticed recently that the friends I draw to me now have several things in common despite their vast differences in ages, regions/countries, cultures, skin tones, income levels, religions, gender identities, or species, for example. Members of my community have experienced the world-changing powers of leaning on the voice of a whole place and changing our own beliefs. They have lived–so they tend to believe in–as my friend Mary Ellen calls it, the “sacred imagination.” When you believe in the power of our collective imagination, because you live that power most days, then most days you can step toward painful feelings, not away from them. And most days you can help ease the pain of others/yourself (often with simple silence and presence, which is damn hard to do online and remarkably simple to do in person). And most members of my community now are empaths. Some know it. Others suspect it or at least don’t dismiss it outright. It’s so cool. When I was young, my culture didn’t think to teach me what an empath is–or even that they exist–let alone that I was one. And somehow I found my people anyway. I find us every day now. Actually, usually now, you find me. Huh. Wow.
My culture at large appears to think that we empaths are just imaginary characters found in science fiction books and movies. Appears to believe that humans are only powerful when augmented by weapons, walls, and superior tech, data, or numbers. What have those beliefs gotten us? It’s not progress. Not when we yet again sent numb, vacant-eyed, automaton-type humans to smile and clap and celebrate while nearby neighbors were mourning and children and young adults (8 months old to 22 years old, as near as I can tell) were dying in the streets. Science fiction writers were seeing and describing this same BS a century ago.
What is progress? How about human beings who can feel the presence of dis-ease and feel the presence of health across a community? People who can take action to increase the presence of health outside, within, and around failing healthcare systems? People who silently or quietly encounter and greet the violence within themselves and others and who¬†can temper it without raising their voices most days? I want my leaders, my humans actually, healthy, which to me means people who are inclined to weep, not smile and clap, when nearby humans are dying. Healthy humans are deeply connected to other humans and to all of life. They don’t have vacant, distant eyes that refuse to even acknowledge other’s pain. I’m not saying that Gaza–or any violent human situation, long term or not–is easy. But we humans are so much better than what most of us witnessed on our screens this week, so it feels like it’s time again to more fully and visibly name HOW we are better. So we can remember together and not lose hope.
Question. How are you better than what you witnessed in your leaders and on your screens this week? Something to think about–no need to answer out loud unless you want to. I’ll start…
I’m an empath. I cry other people’s tears, get other people’s goosebumps, and regularly receive other people’s joy. I have been doubled over in pain by the bubbling-over caged pain within a stranger’s chest–without them noticing or speaking a word to me about it. I can help hold, understand, and vent/ease/lessen the pain of those close to me (physically close or emotionally close). And with the help of just one close-to-me other (just someone to listen), I can even help vent/ease/lessen the caged pain of total strangers. Also, as an empath I deeply need my community, because I’m sensitive enough that I can become quickly overwhelmed on my own. With my whole community’s help, I no longer have to hide to recover to the same extent. I can recover as I move in the world now, most days. Be healed by the world and be healing. Spreading empathy has become a breeze here, at least for me, because I can see my ever-widening community spreading empathy like a field of dandelions spreads her seeds.
As an empath, I am unable to celebrate while nearby others are awash in grief and I am unable to continue on with my own well-laid plans when others are calling/crying/lashing out in overwhelming frustration, loss, or sorrow. I may be a pain in the ass sometimes (ok, often), but I am better than a gun, better than a bomb, better than a tank, and better than a wall between us at dissipating violence, because I can do so without increasing violence somewhere else in the world. They can’t.¬†And as an empath I am a better representative of the true power of humanity than those center stage who claimed to represent the U.S. this week in Jerusalem. My eyes may often be full of tears, but they are never vacant or cold. I don’t overlook entire swaths of neighbors–I can’t. Not¬†anymore. And thanks to my community, I’m now wholly unable to look away during moments I could actually make a difference. Thanks to my community, I know I’m not alone in my pain and that none of us are. I know where I and my loved ones are most needed, I more often know how I’m needed, I can usually feel whose voice in a space needs to be heard next (and when mine doesn’t need to be), and within my own community, my strengths are often recognized and celebrated. With empaths in all directions around us, this isn’t science fiction. This is reality. This is my reality.
So, nice try fears, but I’m not an optimist, a wearer of rose colored glasses,¬†or a snowflake. I’m a sensitive, powerful being who feels remarkably grateful¬†and lucky every day of her life now, even during horrible, heart-shattering¬†days. I can see more because of who I really am, not less (as I’ve been told). I’m always aware now of our deep connections, shared emotions, caged pain, and hidden powers. I can even feel the pain and joy of ancestors some days now, including younger versions of myself. My community and I can find and expand tiny grains of health into entire gardens where others see only or mostly dis-ease.¬†That’s what it is to be an empath within a global community of awakening empaths. It is a strange experience to feel fully at home and needed on earth—and almost never powerless anymore—by simply paying closer attention and tapping into the voice of a whole place.