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  • Writer's picturePatty McDuffey

Has anyone ever told you you're an Empath?

If you are reading this, the answer is probably yes.

I was recently asked the question, Why do I do what I do? Seems like a simple enough answer. And yet, I wrote many variations of an answer to this question over the last few days, none of which really felt quite right. They were mostly heady, logical responses. But it did finally come to me.

I do what I do in large part because I'm an empath.

As an empath, I feel the pain of others as if it's my own. Of course, that's not to say that I claim to know exactly what it's like to walk in another's shoes and experience all of the things they've experienced. It means I can often feel their emotions, be it fear, anger, anxiety, etc., in my body, as if they were my own. When I was younger, one thing I remember vividly was watching someone speak or perform on stage. I could sense if they were nervous and would subsequently brace myself, feeling their anxiety. At times, it would be so uncomfortable, I couldn't wait for them to be done. It was hard for me to enjoy and focus on how the performance was actually going, because I couldn't separate the anxiety I felt from what was actually happening. Talk about distracting!

As I've gotten older, I've learned how to utilize this ability in a positive way. If I were to watch someone anxiously speak or perform now, I may still feel the discomfort, but I'm better able to sit back, and hold the space for them to work through it, while recognizing that the anxiety I feel doesn't belong to me, and this is their journey. I can appreciate their humanity and bravery, and usually walk away feeling an awesome sense of connection to and appreciation for the speaker, no matter how the performance went.

Does any of this sound familiar?!

For most of my life, being this way felt like a burden. Like I was overly sensitive and emotional. What was the point of the torment, I would wonder?! I would try to suppress these emotions or thoughts in an attempt to make myself less sensitive, possibly more relatable. But usually what happened is I would end up selling myself short and it would all come out in a burst of desperation to get it all out of me!

Understanding how to interpret and appreciate this ability as well as use it to the benefit of others has allowed me to step, whole-heartedly, into the work that I do. My work is an extension of who I am. Once I started to discover how to hold space for someone else's experience, while trying to provide relief and healing through the modalities that I practice, it opened up a whole new perspective of reality and how best to allow it to guide me. And believe me! This is still a work in progress. But the process continues to unfold.

Do you struggle with being considered overly sensitive to experiences, large groups of people, stimulating conversations, loud sounds, or strong odors, etc.?

What if there's no such thing as being overly sensitive because that would be assuming that something was wrong. And in a world that is working hard to reframe formerly polarizing thoughts, the idea of right and wrong feelings, and problems in need of solutions, we are learning to accept ourselves as we are, with there being nothing wrong and nothing to fix. Can we start to feel the space that opens up around us, as a feeling of acceptance and peace settles in? Are we able to sit back and observe, relax and allow the waves of life to carry us forward? This isn't the same as passivity or ignoring indicators from your body that something isn't good for you, but rather harmonizing with what is right in front of us. From this space of openness, we can heal our bodies, hearts, and minds, build resilience and tolerance.

I feel now, perhaps more than ever, that these waves are meant to be ridden and embraced. We are all empaths to various degrees, with purposeful, unique, and legitimate reasons for why we do what do in the world. Perhaps our sensitivities are alerting us to an inherent need, a deeper connection or a different perspective that wants to be considered. As I start to explore life less-and-less from within the linear, traditional world we have all been told is reality, I find the "answers" to these questions are seldom a concrete physical action that can be taken. The "answers" are more abstract, experiential, felt, observed. They are quiet and still. They grow stronger the more curious we become. They open doors to new experiences. They lead us in the direction of deeper connections and more love. And from this place, I believe we are all capable of whatever we can conceive of, unless what we can't conceive of yet may be even better, in which case...sign me up!

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