• Claudia Guerra

Being overly empathetic: curse, gift, or both?

I have always questioned whether or not my heightened sense of empathy was my greatest strength or my greatest weakness.


I feel everything so deeply, maybe too deeply. Not just my own emotions and concerns but others personal sentiments as well. My capacity to understand those around me helps me relate and connect with them more than I would otherwise. However, this relatability comes at a cost. I feel crushed by an immense weight, almost as if I could actually feel everyone’s pain as my own.


BEING THERE FOR PEOPLE


I know that when my friends come to me for support, I can always give them reasonable advice, because I can be both rational and emotional. But seeing the people I love suffering hurts. Bad. When those I care for are going through some ordeal, that in some inexplicable wicked way was meant to happen, I wish they weren’t going through it.


When I find myself consoling those who trust me enough to seek my support, I tell them to just “let it all out”, reminding them the importance of crying and to never suppress their emotions. Yikes, hypocrisy is not a good look for me.


I think it’s safe to say that one of the hardest things to go through is seeing your loved ones hurting and knowing there is nothing you can do. How useless you feel in the face of anguish and how unforgiving it can be.


THE EFFECTS OF ART: special within my heart, just in different ways


I am moved to tears by music, films, books, art, anything with an ounce of sentiment. A great deal of what I ingest, in terms of art, is relatable to some degree but not entirely. Even then I can somehow put myself in the headspace of the artist and internalize what they express and feel, as if I am going through their experience myself. Whether or not that has to do with their superb abilities as an artist or my empathy, it certainly feels like both.


As cheesy as it sounds, I believe that by feeling things so intensely, I am forced to shift my perspective when looking at the world. Seeing more than what’s just at the surface and digging deeper lets me take it all in. Because of this, I have the opportunity to work through these overwhelming emotions when I express myself, through any means.


Through self-acceptance, I am learning that vulnerability is a major facet of the process. Because of the societal implication that vulnerability equates to weakness, I turned away from it. As a result of that, I internalized unhealthy behaviors where I suppressed my emotions. I could not (and still struggle to) express them openly. If I start to tear up in public, my natural instinct is to bat my lashes so the tears go away because I just can’t let myself cry. Even around close friends and family it feels nearly impossible. Over time those suppressed and natural reactions need a way out. As I discover how to show as much empathy inwards as I do outwards, I am trying to give in to my emotions and just be present and stop thinking about how I will be perceived if I do.


I’m not sure if the need to suppress comes from the lack of desire to explain why I am crying.


I admire those who so valiantly express their emotions and wear their heart on their sleeve. Nothing is as raw as someone letting an outpour of emotions exist and run its course.


EMPATHY = COMPASSION


Before I ever became plant based, I was aware that what I was consuming was not harmless. The food I was eating had a face, and I did not take that lightly. For quite some time I suppressed what I knew, and I felt bad, but the guilt was not insurmountable…yet. As the time passed, I became so unhappy that I was miserable. There was no escaping what I knew and I was done playing ignorant. I could no longer justify that a 15-minute meal took priority over the life of what once was a living creature. Being aware of these ordeals, I couldn’t act as if my actions didn’t matter. And although as humans, we lack an understanding of coexistence, thinking we are the only creatures worthy of importance — we aren’t.


I’ve come to realize that being empathetic forces me to take action because of its nagging presence. If I am not proactive eventually my emotions will get me to be, for they are restless.


CONCLUSION:

When it comes to empathy, my overtness can be a great deal to handle. But that is okay, because feeling overwhelmed, overcoming, and sympathizing is part of being human. I am grateful that I feel so much rapport with others, because the world is so much bigger than just me.