If there is one thing I see among my age group that really bothers me, it is a trend toward making apathy seem “cool.” That it’s the norm to just drop people from your life willy-nilly, to not care about anything, to exude a hard outer shell to avoid getting hurt. I’ve tried to understand, to let everyday occurrences and interactions just roll off me, but I feel like I soak it all in like a sponge. The only times I can really live without constantly noticing the mood of my environment is when I’m very depressed, but luckily that doesn’t happen too often.
And another stroke of luck, I’m not alone in this phenomenon of feeling everything, at times overly feeling everything. Words like “sensitive” come to mind, but there’s another one I just recently learned about: empath. Yes, coming from “empathy,” which is always my go-to, a deep desire to understand and reciprocate others’ thoughts and emotions, the complete opposite of what is “trendy.”
According to Psychology Today, “the trademark of an empath is feeling and absorbing other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities. These people filter the world through their intuition and have a difficult time intellectualizing their feelings.” Which I can completely relate with, especially the last part. In very tense and emotional situations, I actually become numb and feel almost broken: I cannot think or communicate anything. And I have a very difficult time putting my emotions toward certain situations into words, as I have learned through too many therapy sessions of me often just sitting and thinking of appropriate words to use.
It’s as if emotions do not necessarily have descriptor words. Those descriptor words are man-made. We’re always on a spectrum, leaning toward certain moods. What we assume is “happy” we call happy, “sad” we call sad, and so on. Rather than the Inside Out characters in our heads turning on and off switches, we constantly encompass a color or aura that is a mixture of so many factors. Too deep here? Probably.
Back to empaths. As I’ve learned more about myself and have become more attuned to my mind, I see how often I take on my surroundings and really let it affect me with obvious pros and cons at play. That’s probably why most empaths are introverted to avoid excess stimulation and emotional drainage. Even just physical senses of sight, smell, and touch are amplified. Empaths are also more prone to mental illness like depression, anxiety and addiction, and some may even experience chronic fatigue and digestive issues.
Empaths are naturally giving, spiritually open, and good listeners. We’re big-hearted people and try to relieve the pain of others. We avoid any violence or conflict. We tend to be very creative and, at times, very intense. But we also take criticism too personally. We can get moody and get lost within swinging emotions. In a world that is not always empathetic, we are told to “toughen up,” “get a thicker skin.” As sarcastic and critical as I am, it doesn’t disregard the fact that I still keep others’ feelings in mind.
The biggest area where I see apathy reign is supreme is, inevitably, the internet. Whenever I see people arguing or debating, with a computer screen in between, we forget that we’re talking to real people, with self-rationalized thoughts and feelings. The things people say online, you would never hear them say in person. We live in two different realms of our true selves and the ones we use online, where morals and standards get tossed out the window.
I think now more than ever, we need empathy. We need empaths who teach us how to not only understand others and be open-minded, but take those toward productive action, helping others and reaching out. To remind us how to reconnect to the world and ourselves. To notice the little details we might overlook in a fast-paced day. In a world full of fear, greed, cruelty, egotism, and immense pain, human sensitivity is an immense blessing, a gift this world desperately needs. The ability to care deeply for others is something our world can severely lack. Empaths can not only close the gap between people, but they can also open the door to genuine kindness and intuition.
That isn’t to say everyone else lacks empathy. We all have it; we can just lose sight of it sometimes. Just like there are techniques and practices to stabilize an empath’s mind, those same techniques can help everybody find that inner desire. Through simple mindfulness, meditation, and breathing practices, everyone can find within themselves an abundance of empathy, an inner voice that connects every human to one another as if all woven with the same thread. Those qualities are healing and empowering if we embrace them and not always rush through them.
Let us not beat down those who are gentle and sensitive. Let us praise those qualities. To think, if we lived in a world entirely focused on caring for others and being receptive to our unique, valid emotions, that would certainly be paradise.
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie