Empaths and Being Poly

Bunnielight

New member
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?
 

opalescent

Active member
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.
 
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kdt26417

Official Greeter
So, is being an empath mostly a boon or a burden?
 

nycindie

New member
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.
 

JaneQSmythe

Active member
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).

...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.

...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.

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.

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).

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.

...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.)
 
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Bunnielight

New member
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.
 

Bunnielight

New member
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.
 

FallenAngelina

Active member
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.
 

opalescent

Active member
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.
 

FallenAngelina

Active member
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.

I don't at all deny that there is a huge variation in sensitivities (my son has autism) but nobody is stuck with being overwhelmed and unable to process his/her own experiences. There are a lot of ways that a someone with sensory issues can gain education, experience, confidence and yes, boundaries that will profoundly mitigate the pain caused by sensory sensitivity of any kind. That's all I meant to say - not that sensory issues are not real. Calling oneself an "empath" pathologizes and exacerbates the problem - isolates someone instead of helps her to work with the problem, integrate emotionally into human kind and turn it more into a capability.
 
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Bunnielight

New member
I don't at all deny that there is a huge variation in sensitivities (my son has autism) but nobody is stuck with being overwhelmed and unable to process his/her own experiences. There are a lot of ways that a someone with sensory issues can gain education, experience, confidence and yes, boundaries that will profoundly mitigate the pain caused by sensory sensitivity of any kind. That's all I meant to say - not that sensory issues are not real. Calling oneself an "empath" pathologizes and exacerbates the problem - isolates someone instead of helps her to work with the problem, integrate emotionally into human kind and turn it more into a capability.

While I understand the stance against that sort of label, I think the way someone perceives said label will differ.

There's major differences in the person saying "I'm bipolar" as an excuse to not resolve your issues and the person saying "okay, so I'm bipolar." In an attempt to understand yourself.

In no way do I want to use that as a shield. I simply need a point of reference for understanding.
 

FallenAngelina

Active member
In no way do I want to use that as a shield. I simply need a point of reference for understanding.

That's a great place to jump off from, Bunnie. As I mentioned, my youngest son has autism and it's long been apparent to me that people with autism, far from being "in their own world" are actually very sensitive to much that so-called typical people do not sense - so much so that they often present as being shut down and unaware. My experience is that autism is actually being extraordinarily aware to the point that overload (and what we observe as "melt downs") are common. We typical people diagnose them with sensory processing disorder and we often give autistic kids "therapy" to help them (what we call) normalize the way that they use their senses, but in my view we would do better to focus on working with autistic kids (and their parents!) to respect their experience and make the most of this ability.

You can likewise become much more adept at the way you take in the emotion that you're sensitive to. I don't know if this is a poly issue (just looking at your thread title) so much as it is a matter of information gathering, experience and confidence building for you. I do stand by what I said earlier, that "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." No matter anyone's proclivities and sensitivities, maturity is a major factor in feeling more and more at peace about who one is in the world. I imagine that knowing mentors, more mature people who are successfully navigating this arena, will help you tremendously.
 

River

New member
... 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.

Well, yeah, kinda sorta. Some parts of it are commonly recognized by the folks who read scientific journals and such. Others -- not so much. Mostly the science folks will want to reference body language and other such visible clues and cues picked up by the supposedly five senses. Fewer scientists will claim that there is scientific evidence for complex informational exchanges through invisible bodily energies and such.

....

In my middle twenties I became -- for a while -- extremely sensitive to the bodily proximity of others and could gather and garner all kinds of information about their feeling / emotional life (and what they were feeling in their bodies at the moment) -- all of which I FELT in my OWN body in proximity with them. I was a young man then, and didn't know myself well enough to have healthy boundaries, so it was boon and curse for me. If I had lived in another culture (a "primitive" or "tribal" one, perhaps) I'd probably have been trained by a shaman to practice those mysterious arts. Alas, I was the possessor (or was I possessed by it?) of a very modern/rationalstic/scientific world view -- which was subsequently torn to shreds by some very weird mystical/shamanic experiences.

I now seem to dwell in "both" of these worlds, but I'm not half as empathically sensitive as I was then. I think I turned away from it due to a kind of overwhelm..., an inability at the time to know who I am in relation to the flood of feelings I received in proximity to others.

One of the most common things that occurred back in those now long ago days is that I was really very good at giving massages, as I could quite literally feel the inside of others I was working with in massage. I felt it in my own body! Clear as driven snow or bright sunlight I did.
 

River

New member
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.

I find this post profoundly insightful, kind, compassionate intelligent, informed and wise. I'm deeply impressed by it, and so quote it again in full.
 

River

New member
Calling oneself an "empath" pathologizes and exacerbates the problem - isolates someone instead of helps her to work with the problem, integrate emotionally into human kind and turn it more into a capability.

I suppose some people can be, or have been, "pathologized" for their extraordinary empathic sensitivity. But many others have been seen as remarkably gifted. Healers and bodyworkers perhaps especially, and as one who lives with such a person I can say that such sensitivities are prized among many in the bodyworker "community".

On many occasions I've experienced or witnessed utterly astounding human capacities for perception into the experience of others, and while these capacities may ultimately be everyone's birth right (I believe they are), only a small or even tiny minority of us have learned to live with them and deepen and refine them into an art form which benefits both self and other. This is, as I see it, a very rare talent indeed.
 

KC43

New member
Saying "I'm an empath" doesn't preclude also saying "I've learned how to shield myself from picking up too much of the emotions of those around me so that I don't become overwhelmed." I can truthfully say both. I've always been extremely attuned to the emotions of the people around me; how much is inborn and how much of it was developed as a survival mechanism as a child (if I knew how my mother was feeling, for example, I could avoid a lot of abuse by staying away from her when she was in a bad mood) is up for debate.

I learned energy healing shortly before leaving Alt and Country's father, and the empathic traits served me well in that, as others have noted about bodywork/healing and empathy. Through that learning process, I also learned energy techniques for "shielding" myself, because otherwise I sometimes got bombarded by other people's emotions to the point of being uncertain of my own. Those shielding techniques are pretty basic; either visualizing myself surrounded by a shield of energy (usually white), or, if there's a lot going on, visualizing myself in an impermeable concrete bunker.

I've been trying to teach those techniques to Alt, who has the same level of empathy, but they don't work very well for her because visualization is one of her weaknesses, while it's my top strength.

Woody is also extremely empathic, to the point that one morning when we were lying in bed together, my mind wandered to being afraid that I would never fully get over S2 and would therefore not be able to let Woody in and would end up hurting him...and without me saying a word, and without even being able to see my face, Woody said, "That's odd, a wave of emotion just rolled off you. I would call it anticipated regret."
 

Hannahfluke

New member
I, at one point in my life, thought I would like to go on to graduate school and get a degree in either psychology or social work and become a therapist. The reason was two-fold: I appreciated the help that I got from a really good therapist while recognizing how much a few therapists that weren't a good match for me hurt my recovery and I thought it would be good to build on and use my bachelor's degree in human development and family studies. However, as I got older and began to really understand who I am and how I relate to the world, I realized that it would be a huge mistake for me to become a therapist. I am fairly empathetic and I have a tendency to internalize other people's emotions. Being around struggling people constantly would have a great possibility of making me miserable from internalizing their problems and feelings. Most people who know me well figured out that this career path would be bad for me long before I did, but thankfully didn't press the issue, since they know I can be stubborn and do things just because I have been told I can't. It would have been a costly mistake for me to go down this road, both in terms of money and in terms of my own emotional health.

Thankfully, I'm not as empathetic as some of the people on this thread, because it sounds painful to be that in tune with the emotions around you. Like KC, I think part of my ability to read the emotions around me developed as a defense mechanism in early childhood. I had a speech problem that I was constantly bullied over, both at home and at school. Knowing the moods of those around me helped me know when it was safer to keep my mouth shut to avoid a really mean scene. As I grew older and my parents divorced, it also helped me to know when my mom's depression would be more likely to explode outward as anger and result in excessive punishment. I'm sure part of it is a natural tendency towards strong empathy that was triggered by life experiences to be stronger than it might otherwise be.
 

Ravenscroft

Banned
Good topic. This has raised up lots of stuff for the curious to look up.

I was in highschool when I read Real Magic (around 1973-4). Bonewits describes how people with natural psychic abilities really need to learn control, else they might wind up in a strait-jacket.

Being a typically psychotic teenager, I took this to heart, & took every passing chance to pick up yoga practices, meditation, & martial arts in order to rein in my prickly sensitivity -- set aside whether psychic stuff is "real." I didn't turn off the rubbed-raw sensitivity, but the loudness was greatly reduced.

Years later, in one of his articles, Robert Anton Wilson mentioned Korzybski's general semantics, & a light went on in my head. This gave me some basis to organize the data flood I get from vocal inflection, word choice, phrasing, tonal shifts, posture, movement, etc. -- my vision has never been particularly great, so facial expression was never a major channel for me.

(Actually, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that my eyesight is suboptimal in part because I "see too much" & am trying to grey it down.)

When the TV series Lie To Me appeared, I was delighted to find that much of that stuff has actually been codified, in the facial action coding system, or FACS. The show was based heavily upon the work of Paul Ekman, who might not be so much the "best human lie detector in the world" (as he's painted in the media), but his books are certainly worth considering, in a poly context particularly Telling Lies: Clues to Deceit in the Marketplace, Politics, and Marriage.

(IMNSHO, "deceit" is too harsh a word for what can be revealed by microexpressions. Often, a person acting in a manner that'd be generally described as aggressive is actually begging desperately for understanding. This is especially true with intimate relationships.)
 
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