Polyamory.com Forum  

Go Back   Polyamory.com Forum > Polyamory > Spirituality & Polyamory

Notices

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 12-15-2015, 03:20 PM
Bunnielight Bunnielight is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 176
Default Empaths and Being Poly

Empathic abilities weren't really something I took very seriously for a long time. When it was described to me, those struggles sounded normal.

After recent struggles, however, I began to understand that not everyone feels this way and not in the degree that it affects their life to the extreme as what I've felt and seen in only a handful of other people.

Pixie and I talked a long while about these feelings and affects. And the way it's been controlling our lives as of late. Once I've begun to understand this, I realize how extremely these things have affected my life in so many ways. Almost every struggle I've had has been a result of my lack of control or understanding that I was feeling emotions outside of my own.

Does anyone else have any thoughts or experience on empaths? In yourself or a love? What is your view on it? How have you dealt with it? Do you have any stories?
Reply With Quote
  #2  
Old 12-15-2015, 05:20 PM
opalescent opalescent is offline
Spaminator
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: US
Posts: 2,235
Default

I'm not empathetic myself but know quite a few people who are. My most serious relationships (romantic, sexual and/or friendship) tend to be with empathetic people.

Almost all of them have struggled with knowing where 'their' feelings end and where they are receiving and reflecting the feelings of others. It's not so easy at all. Some have used grounding and centering techniques to sort out what they are feeling. Some have used shielding techniques, once they figure out what's them and what they are receiving, to prevent being overwhelmed. (These techniques often originated in different spiritual systems but they can be used by anyone.) They try to eat healthy and exercise as being run-down physically can contribute to being unable to 'turn down the noise' they receive every day. They remind themselves they are not crazy regularly. They spend time alone and/or in nature which seems to help. But the first step is really to be start drawing a line in the (emotional) sand between your feelings from those of others. Sounds simple but it is really not for the empathetic. However you are now aware that this is happening and that is really the most critical step right there.

I personally think that developing a strong sense of self is also especially necessary for empathetic people as they can get so lost in others that it becomes difficult to find the 'me'. But that's more my own outside take on things and may not resonate for you at all.

Some personal examples might be useful for you. Beaker (my ex-wife) is powerfully empathetic and it did occasionally throw a monkey wrench into things. She would just 'know' that I was angry or frustrated about something but she would not know the cause. Because she could feel it, before I talked about it, she would almost always assume I was angry at her, or that she had done something to cause it. (She also tends to make things her fault but that's another issue.) Almost all the time, this wasn't the case - I had done the emotional equivalent of stubbing my toe and was momentarily pissed off at the world. I learned I had to tell her why I was angry faster than I normally would because she could tell and it would make her anxious until she knew it wasn't about her. I normally need to sit on my feelings to figure them out - which is painful for an unshielded empath because they go through it with me. And not acknowledging that I was angry or upset, because that is also something I tend to do (I'm better about that now but still work to do), that was really bad for her, because, again she could feel it and denying felt like a lie. It wasn't, consciously - I was sometimes actually unaware I was angry - but that didn't change how it felt to her.

She often knows things about myself long before I did. I would figure something out about my emotional state - I *was* upset with my parents! - and tell her, all proud of myself, and she would say something like 'Yep, I knew that.' This is somewhat annoying. On the other hand, she knew that to tell me things I had not figured out on my own was pretty pointless. I'm stubborn - not one of my better traits - and don't always react well to outside input on very personal things.

Last edited by opalescent; 12-15-2015 at 05:37 PM.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 12-15-2015, 09:43 PM
kdt26417's Avatar
kdt26417 kdt26417 is offline
Official Greeter
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Yelm, Washington
Posts: 16,276
Default

So, is being an empath mostly a boon or a burden?
__________________
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 12-16-2015, 03:51 AM
nycindie's Avatar
nycindie nycindie is offline
Moderator
 
Join Date: Nov 2010
Location: The Big Apple
Posts: 10,083
Default

The brain is pretty much a big radio receiver and transmitter, and we all know far more than we think we know. Why is it always more enjoyable to see a movie or play in a packed theater? Because we can ride the waves of emotions everyone else is having. Sitting in a theater alone isn't quite the same. Why do we worry about money closer to the deadline for paying our taxes, even if we know we're doing okay? Because so many other people are worrying about their taxes. Why is it easier to finish a crossword puzzle later in the day rather than in the morning? Because more people have finished theirs and the answers come to us easier. There is a thing called the collective unconscious.

There is also intuition (literally, "inner teacher"). We see a person walking down the sidewalk and get a sense that we should cross the street before they get closer. If we're smart, we listen to that intuition. How do we know when a panhandler in the street really needs the money to survive and isn't just hustling? We listen to our intuition. How do we know what someone is going to say just before they say it? Why do we suddenly hear from a person we haven't spoken to in a long time, just when we were thinking about them?

The intuitive ability of human beings is mostly located in a nerve ganglion at the solar plexus, which is where the terms "gut feeling" or "gut instinct" come from. We're just big bio-computers taking in information and processing it. The ability to receive information extends far, far beyond our physical bodies. Whether we listen to what our intuition tells us, or recognize our own thought patterns out of the myriad numbers of thoughts that the people around us are having, is up to us.

We think tens of thousands of thoughts per day, and most of the time our thoughts generate feelings. Yet, only a very small percentage of the thoughts that go through our brains are unique. We all have patterns of thinking. So, we think a thought and believe it's our own, and might have an emotional response to that thought, but much of the time what's happening is that we're picking up what other people are thinking and feeling.

The trick is to know your own patterns of thinking, your own style of processing information, and discerning when it's your thoughts and when it's not. That's what skilled and practiced psychics do. Everybody has this ability, whether we know it or not -- but nowadays they pathologize everything, so people are going around talking about being "empaths" as if that makes them different from everyone else -- but it's the commonest, most natural aspect of being human with a brain and nervous system, and a mind that interprets electrical impulses. Some people associate this ability with superstitions and "spirituality" but it's really just scientific.
__________________
The world opens up... when you do.

"Oh, oh, can't you see? Love is the drug for me." ~Bryan Ferry
"Love and the self are one . . ." ~Leo Buscaglia

Click here for a Solo Poly view on hierarchical relationships
Click here to find out why the Polyamorous Misanthrope is feeling disgusted.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 12-16-2015, 07:25 AM
JaneQSmythe JaneQSmythe is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2012
Location: Pennsyl-tucky
Posts: 1,976
Default

I have been told by others that I am very empathetic - but I think that I am just a.) a good listener and b.) very good at reading body language and meta-information. But if you take away the body language (say, over the telephone) then I can barely even understand what people are saying (unless I know them very well and can "construct" a visual of them talking as I am listening).

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
...we all know far more than we think we know.
I would agree with this, but not for the same reasons - I think our brains are really very good at pattern recognition and our subconscious is putting together "clues" that we have learned from a lifetime of interacting with other humans even if our conscious minds can't describe it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
...Why is it always more enjoyable to see a movie or play in a packed theater? Because we can ride the waves of emotions everyone else is having. Sitting in a theater alone isn't quite the same.
I think we are reacting to their reactions - we here their quick intakes of breath, their sighs, their chuckles - I don't think that any "mind to mind" communication is necessary to explain "mob mentality" when our reactions are mirroring theirs.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
Why do we worry about money closer to the deadline for paying our taxes, even if we know we're doing okay? Because so many other people are worrying about their taxes. Why is it easier to finish a crossword puzzle later in the day rather than in the morning? Because more people have finished theirs and the answers come to us easier.
These are not things that I have ever noticed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
There is also intuition (literally, "inner teacher"). We see a person walking down the sidewalk and get a sense that we should cross the street before they get closer. If we're smart, we listen to that intuition. How do we know when a panhandler in the street really needs the money to survive and isn't just hustling? We listen to our intuition.
Again, I think this is largely a matter of reading body language and "tells" (human kinetics).

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
How do we know what someone is going to say just before they say it? Why do we suddenly hear from a person we haven't spoken to in a long time, just when we were thinking about them?
I think these are examples of our bias to notice coincidences when they DO happen and disregard all the multiple occasions when they do NOT.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
...Some people associate this ability with superstitions and "spirituality" but it's really just scientific.
I would be interested in seeing any "scientific" studies backing up this idea of "empaths" and "collective unconsciousness" - the electrical impulses generated by our thoughts and even physical activity have to be greatly amplified to even register on sensitive equipment, I can't really conceive of any mechanism that would allow the human nervous system to detect them even feet away - let alone further distances with all of the other random interference generated by every other object in our environment. (Kind of like the out-dated signs in hospitals that you have to turn off your cell-phones to avoid interfering with telemetry and medical equipment - the electrical field is measurable in millimeters, NOT feet.)
__________________
JaneQ(Me): poly bi female, in an "open-but-not-looking" V-plus with -
MrS: hetero polyflexible male, live-in husband (25+ yrs)
Dude: hetero poly male, live-in boyfriend (7+ yrs) and MrS's BFF
SLeW: platonic hetero girlfriend and BFF
MrClean: hetero mono male, almost ex-lover-friend, ex-FWBs to SLeW, friends with MrS; live-in with Katniss
+ "others" = FBs, FWBs, lover-friends, platonic G/BFs, boytoys, etc.


My poly blogs here:
The Journey of JaneQSmythe
The Notebook of JaneQSmythe

Last edited by JaneQSmythe; 12-16-2015 at 07:37 AM.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 12-16-2015, 03:56 PM
Bunnielight Bunnielight is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 176
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by opalescent View Post
I'm not empathetic myself but know quite a few people who are. My most serious relationships (romantic, sexual and/or friendship) tend to be with empathetic people.

Almost all of them have struggled with knowing where 'their' feelings end and where they are receiving and reflecting the feelings of others. It's not so easy at all. Some have used grounding and centering techniques to sort out what they are feeling. Some have used shielding techniques, once they figure out what's them and what they are receiving, to prevent being overwhelmed. (These techniques often originated in different spiritual systems but they can be used by anyone.) They try to eat healthy and exercise as being run-down physically can contribute to being unable to 'turn down the noise' they receive every day. They remind themselves they are not crazy regularly. They spend time alone and/or in nature which seems to help. But the first step is really to be start drawing a line in the (emotional) sand between your feelings from those of others. Sounds simple but it is really not for the empathetic. However you are now aware that this is happening and that is really the most critical step right there.

I personally think that developing a strong sense of self is also especially necessary for empathetic people as they can get so lost in others that it becomes difficult to find the 'me'. But that's more my own outside take on things and may not resonate for you at all.

Some personal examples might be useful for you. Beaker (my ex-wife) is powerfully empathetic and it did occasionally throw a monkey wrench into things. She would just 'know' that I was angry or frustrated about something but she would not know the cause. Because she could feel it, before I talked about it, she would almost always assume I was angry at her, or that she had done something to cause it. (She also tends to make things her fault but that's another issue.) Almost all the time, this wasn't the case - I had done the emotional equivalent of stubbing my toe and was momentarily pissed off at the world. I learned I had to tell her why I was angry faster than I normally would because she could tell and it would make her anxious until she knew it wasn't about her. I normally need to sit on my feelings to figure them out - which is painful for an unshielded empath because they go through it with me. And not acknowledging that I was angry or upset, because that is also something I tend to do (I'm better about that now but still work to do), that was really bad for her, because, again she could feel it and denying felt like a lie. It wasn't, consciously - I was sometimes actually unaware I was angry - but that didn't change how it felt to her.

She often knows things about myself long before I did. I would figure something out about my emotional state - I *was* upset with my parents! - and tell her, all proud of myself, and she would say something like 'Yep, I knew that.' This is somewhat annoying. On the other hand, she knew that to tell me things I had not figured out on my own was pretty pointless. I'm stubborn - not one of my better traits - and don't always react well to outside input on very personal things.
That sounds like a good 80% of mine and Zeds arguments.
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 12-16-2015, 05:08 PM
Bunnielight Bunnielight is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 176
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by nycindie View Post
The brain is pretty much a big radio receiver and transmitter, and we all know far more than we think we know. Why is it always more enjoyable to see a movie or play in a packed theater? Because we can ride the waves of emotions everyone else is having. Sitting in a theater alone isn't quite the same. Why do we worry about money closer to the deadline for paying our taxes, even if we know we're doing okay? Because so many other people are worrying about their taxes. Why is it easier to finish a crossword puzzle later in the day rather than in the morning? Because more people have finished theirs and the answers come to us easier. There is a thing called the collective unconscious.

There is also intuition (literally, "inner teacher"). We see a person walking down the sidewalk and get a sense that we should cross the street before they get closer. If we're smart, we listen to that intuition. How do we know when a panhandler in the street really needs the money to survive and isn't just hustling? We listen to our intuition. How do we know what someone is going to say just before they say it? Why do we suddenly hear from a person we haven't spoken to in a long time, just when we were thinking about them?

The intuitive ability of human beings is mostly located in a nerve ganglion at the solar plexus, which is where the terms "gut feeling" or "gut instinct" come from. We're just big bio-computers taking in information and processing it. The ability to receive information extends far, far beyond our physical bodies. Whether we listen to what our intuition tells us, or recognize our own thought patterns out of the myriad numbers of thoughts that the people around us are having, is up to us.

We think tens of thousands of thoughts per day, and most of the time our thoughts generate feelings. Yet, only a very small percentage of the thoughts that go through our brains are unique. We all have patterns of thinking. So, we think a thought and believe it's our own, and might have an emotional response to that thought, but much of the time what's happening is that we're picking up what other people are thinking and feeling.

The trick is to know your own patterns of thinking, your own style of processing information, and discerning when it's your thoughts and when it's not. That's what skilled and practiced psychics do. Everybody has this ability, whether we know it or not -- but nowadays they pathologize everything, so people are going around talking about being "empaths" as if that makes them different from everyone else -- but it's the commonest, most natural aspect of being human with a brain and nervous system, and a mind that interprets electrical impulses. Some people associate this ability with superstitions and "spirituality" but it's really just scientific.
Regardless of the label one way or the other, my goal is NOT to use it as a crutch or something that makes me different.

Human beings are incredible creatures with the ability to do far more than we give ourselves credit for. I don't believe this is a "supernatural" thing, nor something really that unusual or special in comparison to most people in the world.

I do, however, believe that some people are more receptive to outside emotions than others. I also believe in our innate ability to perceive each other's energy fields, just in ways we do not fully understand. It's easy to get mixed up in the unexplained when you're trying to understand something we haven't reached the full capacity to understand as a race.

All I know is what I experience. I know Zed and I have had the same discussion countless times. "What are you feeling? I need to know what you want."
And the harder I try to focus on my mind, the more my head spins. I can't sort through these emotions long enough to figure out what's mine and what's foreign.

Probably one of my biggest red flags for this is my dealings in places of great suffering. Hospitals are very hard for me. As are animal shelters. But it's nursing homes that cause the most trouble for me. My anxiety hits an 11 with every negative emotion but fear. Fear seems inconsequential. I feel an overload of loneliness, sadness, abandonment, sickness, and an unshakable rotting sensation deep in my bones.
Every single time.


Really in the end, all I need is to know how sensitive I really am to this. I can't let it control my life in the way it has. I've been going from completely numb and unresponsive to forcing myself to process and breaking down to the point that I can't breathe or think at all.
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 12-16-2015, 09:07 PM
kdt26417's Avatar
kdt26417 kdt26417 is offline
Official Greeter
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: Yelm, Washington
Posts: 16,276
Default

I pretty much agree with JaneQSmythe here.
__________________
Love means never having to say, "Put down that meat cleaver!"
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 12-17-2015, 01:13 PM
FallenAngelina's Avatar
FallenAngelina FallenAngelina is offline
Senior Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2014
Location: Long Island, NY
Posts: 2,276
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bunnielight View Post
I can't sort through these emotions long enough to figure out what's mine and what's foreign.
There's no such thing as being an "empath" or "not an empath." Every human is capable of developing awareness of the energy around us. Some people are more open and conscious of this than others, but the ability is certainly there in everyone. Sensitivity is something that can be encouraged, discouraged, developed or squelched and this can change over time. It is never set in stone that a person is "insensitive" or "too sensitive."

The more experience you gain, the more confidence and sense of self that you develop, the more comfortable you will be with being sensitive to energy while maintaining your own stability. What you're describing is simply someone who is very open and aware of all sorts of energy but who also has a less experienced and therefor unstable awareness of her own preferences, boundaries, truths and confidence in what she is all about. A big part of maturing and finding happiness in life is learning how to balance being truly open to others with maintaining one's own emotional stability.
__________________
~ Karen
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 12-17-2015, 03:00 PM
opalescent opalescent is offline
Spaminator
 
Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: US
Posts: 2,235
Default

Look, telling Bunnielight that she is just like everyone else is not helpful at all. Telling her that we are all empaths, in how she experiences it, is wrong.

It is true that just about every human has the capability of empathy. So in that sense, people suggesting that we all have this ability are absolutely correct.

However people who are strongly empathetic experience this sense very differently than the rest of us who are 'normally' sensitive. Their experience is qualitatively different. Imagine never being able to screen out a wide range of sounds. You always, always hear and react to them and cannot 'tune' them out. You have felt those sound in your body and mind so much so you think you've always heard those sounds all your life, and they are just part of you. There is no separation between the sounds and you. Now make those sounds into feelings. That is the best analogy I know of on how strongly empathetic people experience the feelings of other people.

I am empathetic but I am not an empath. I do not feel other people's emotions as my own. Empaths do, both in their mind and in their bodies. I know empaths who get terrible stomach pain if they are around people who have some strong 'negative' emotion that they are not acknowledging openly. (I put negative in quotes as I do not believe any emotion is truly negative, as in bad.) Empaths don't often realize they experience emotions differently than most people because, as with a lot of things, if that is your daily experience, it's natural to assume that other people live similarly. And people who are 'normal' sensitivity also assume that their way of experiencing emotions is what 'everyone' is like, which gets reinforced as most of us do not experience this degree of empathy.

It is also true that empathy can be developed and sensitivities strengthened over time. I know I have become more empathetic over the years. However, the people I know who are strong empaths have always had this sensitivity level from very early childhood on. While having a strong sense of self and the ability to set boundaries is a necessary step, that will not be sufficient for a empath. They have to learn how to 'tune', (and especially 'tune out') and do so in ways that most of us simply don't need. If you have always felt other people's emotions in your body and mind as your own, it is much, much harder to tell the difference between the emotions of others and your emotions.

I can't explain this degree of empathy. But I've seen it in action among several people. It exists. I believe it is a normal human variation. Denying that reality because one does not personally experience it or know anyone who does, while a very human thing to do, is not ok.
Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT. The time now is 05:46 AM.