Journal Piece

Through An Empath's Eyes

           As someone who grew up constantly being labeled “extremely emotional,” I’ve often been told that being emotional is a weakness. We hear the term, emotional, and dramatic or overreacting come to mind. Crying too much, easily angered, or constant absorption into the void of guilt. It has a negative reputation as a word and is misunderstood. What we fail to realize, however, is that there is more to emotional than negativity. It’s an expression of feelings, it’s being in tune with our moods, and how we feel at different points in our lives.

          Empathy can be defined in many ways, and not everyone defines it the same, we all have our own idea. It’s one thing to feel or not feel, it’s another to feel for others and situations around you. Those who aren’t used to feeling in general could easily be overwhelmed by the emotions of those around them. When you see someone crying in public, there are various reactions one could experience. Embarrassment, as in they are embarrassing themselves or others. Curiosity, as in I wonder why they’re upset. Empathy, as in I feel for your sadness and wish I could help. No matter the situation, there is always a different emotional response.

          While empathy is a somewhat common term, there is another derived from it which isn’t as common and sometimes taboo. When I first heard the word, empath, it was on a television show from the late 90’s to early 00’s. I never realized how big a part of my life the term would become. It seems like a fantasy but the evidence of empaths actually existing has only grown over time. More people have come forward confessing to being empaths and sensitive. Sadly, the term still has a negative reputation. It, too, is misunderstood.

         In everyday life, empathy can have an impact on how we function. Not every single human expresses empathy and might argue this. Being highly aware of emotions and energies can affect how we feel individually, our daily choices, and the people closest to us. It’s about survival and understanding what’s happening around us, it can even be a response to trauma. Daily living for an empath can be defined by small things such as preferring decluttered spaces, being close with animals and nature, having conversations about the universe, enjoying a cup of tea, or the comfort of a bath. Empaths are drawn to water because it’s cleansing and relaxing. Anything positive and uplifting that can make their life calmer – the things they love – can help them survive the powerful emotions and energies around them.

          It’s difficult enough juggling one’s own emotions, let alone absorbing others’. Everyone needs time to recharge, to regain their energy and reset themselves. We’re like our electronics, if the battery drains then you need to refill or the device won’t function. If we drain, we don’t function. When considering what it’s truly like to absorb and feel the emotions of others, one should imagine our own individual emotions emanating from others. What does it feel like when we’re sad or grieving? Painful both physically and emotionally, unbearable even. What does it feel like when we’re angry or hateful? So stressful we may wish to cause harm to others or embrace the evil growing inside us.

         General emotions such as sadness, anger, happiness, excitement, etc. are all easier to comprehend, it’s the everyday experiences that are harder for an empath to bear. Seeing a homeless person begging for money on the street, watching a news report about a major disaster or tragedy where many people have died, witnessing the birth of your child for the first time, or seeing someone struggle with addiction or alcohol problems. While not all of these everyday occurrences are negative, they’re intense. Some make us ache, some make us cry with such happiness that we can’t see. Even watching certain movies can make us feel so uplifted, inspired, sad, or leave us with unanswered emotional questions.

          From personal experience, absorbing and feeling what others do has helped me detect whether someone is being genuine or not. This has been especially helpful in friendships. Every connection we make in life teaches us a lesson. Whether we hold onto that connection throughout the entire duration of our lives or not doesn’t matter, something can be taken from it. Upon meeting someone for the first time, an impression can always be made within the first seven seconds. Are they excitable? Do they exaggerate or tell tall tales? Do they come off negative or cynical? Are they positive and content? Nobody wants to make friends with someone who will talk behind their back or act fake, humans crave genuine connections. If we have a gut feeling that someone isn’t genuine or that a friendship doesn’t seem true, it likely isn’t.

         Sensing who is genuine in this world and who isn’t is part of how an empath interprets the world. It also gives us the ability to see the universe with different eyes, partly because we’re so keenly aware of people and emotions. Nature for example affects an empath differently because of how it makes us feel. Calm, rejuvenating, a place to recharge like that of water. We see the beauty and wonder unlike anyone else and are highly sensitive to it. While one person might look at a forest and see nothing but a forest, an empath might look and see varying aspects of beauty and serenity. We can pick out what’s dying and still find a way to give it life.

          Giving life to something is also how many of us might analyze creativity, which as we all know is full of emotion. People and artists of all kinds pour their hearts and souls into their art in varying ways. Whether it’s a method of coping with personal trauma, family dilemmas, issues with self, or paying homage to the world. Emotion can inspire and affect our creativity. Not always for the better. We give life, breathe life, into creativity. Intellectually, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and empathically.

          When analyzing how empathy affects our creativity, it’s simple. We create and while not all critics may agree, they don’t realize it could be for a bigger purpose than hearing what critics think. A painter, for example, may want to paint a controversial piece about homelessness because they witness it all the time and no action has been taken. It bothers and affects them enough to include it in their art, a personal space for artists and authors. Anything, especially in today’s world, can affect our creativity both positively and negatively.

           As an author, I’ve come to understand how much emotion, emotional intelligence, and empathy can affect writing and connection to characters. For some, a story is a story and characters are exactly that, characters. For others, a story is their home and the characters are their family. Authors have brilliant minds but when you add empathy into the mix, it changes and affects the entire craft. Maybe not for everyone. Some may understand empathy and not feel it at all.

           Writing characters and stories when you’re emotionally sound to the point of crying during a sad scene you’ve created is just one of the many struggles. I had a hard time completing the final book in my trilogy simply because of the closeness between myself and the characters. It’s hard enough to cope with troubling emotions in real life, let alone dealing with them in a created world on a daily basis. From personal experience, empathy can either stop your writing or move it forward. It can be a tool or a weapon. Either way, emotion and empathy will always have an impact on writing, provided we’re emotionally in tune.

          This brings me to the common question of why people disbelieve in the idea of empaths. One of the first thoughts that comes to mind is whether or not it’s considered a real term. It doesn’t matter, an empath is a sensitive being who feels and senses everything around them. Anyone can experience it more intensely than others. The question of whether the term is real or not isn’t even relevant. If people choose to disbelieve in empathy, they may as well choose to disbelieve in emotion.

          If more people learn to embrace and understand empathy, the world might be a better place. With empathy comes compassion, understanding, care, and so much more. The ability to feel so much can be draining and dangerous. It can also be gratifying, enlightening, and overwhelming in the most wonderful way. Understanding emotion is difficult, but once we understand, it only becomes easier to understand empathy and how it feels to feel everything around us.

- Author, Quill C. Elska

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