To Feel or Not to Feel - that is the Question

Some of my personal friends and indeed many of my beloved Bi-Polanders in my Facebook Community complain of not being able to feel. Caused my medication this non-feelingness is a source of heartfelt distress to them. I have no problem feeling for them and their situation. In fact I have a problem NOT feeling.

I fully understand why feeling numb would be distressing for my friends.  I 'understand' it with my mind but my own experience is totally different. I often wonder whether I am not lacking in something somewhere and yet the immediate thought that follows is this one: I have too much everywhere!

My capacity for feeling is ...... overdeveloped, or so it feels (pun intended). When I was going through counselling as the obligatory part of my treatment, my counsellor kept telling me that I was like a sponge who soaked up all emotions around me and like an antenna that picked up emotional waves out of the air.  I had a great deal of respect for my counsellor and a lot of affection for her too. She was very good at her job and I enjoyed our sessions because she never failed to challenge me. She never saw me as a 'broken person who needed to be fixed'. From day one she saw me as a powerful human being going through a powerful experience. I loved her for it.

After initially dismissing her comments as irrelevant (!) I took notice of what my counsellor said, and I decided to start keeping a mental record of what I felt, when and where. I soon became both astonished and appalled. I noticed that I felt what people around me felt even when THEY didn't know they were feeling it!!  I tuned in without even realising it.

Now that I am aware of it I pay much more attention to what is going on. After a year or so spent observing myself with as detached an eye as I could muster, I can tell the difference between my own self-generated emotions and those of others. There is a slight difference in what I can only call 'pitch'. To start with it made me feel really weird. I thought 'that's all I need! As if I wasn't weird enough as it is!'. Now I am reconciled to this simple truth: I cannot stop it.  All I can do is learn to manage it in the best way possible.

Some days are so 'bad' that I feel the sorrow of the whole world. It's enough to blow my emotional gasket. I have to practice 'shutting off' for a while just to give me a break, which is why to me feeling numb is synonymous with having a holiday!

Mind you there is an upside to all this. I have always been slightly amused by my capacity to feel other people's joy. I can rejoice on behalf of someone who has done well with the same intensity as if I were rejoicing for myself. Not for me to applaud politely while stifling a yawn: I feel ecstatic and wave my emotional pompons in their general direction. That's the upside and I enjoy it.  

It's other people's distress, pain and fear that are hardest to bear. When I feel on particularly top 'antenna form', I shut myself off from friends and TV/Radio news just so that I can be left with just my own emotions. Sometimes, this doesn't sit well with me and I feel selfish but, if my advanced years have taught me one thing, it is to take care of myself if I want to be of service to others.

I remember my son Greg telling me that he could pick up anger just by walking past a stranger in the street. He knew there was anger coming towards him. At the time I thought may be Greg was projecting his own anger onto others but I don't think that anymore.  I now understand that he too is a sponge and an antenna, which is why he too values his 'necessary breaks' from feeling.

Some kind soul send me a lengthy article on Empaths and I recognised myself immediately.  I am sure Greg would recognise himself too.  Being an Empath sounds very nice but in fact it is a monumental pain in the backside!  Like all human capacities empathy needs to be:

  • Recognised
  • Accepted
  • Mastered

I am working on it but I know I have a long way to go.  I will know  I have achieved mastery when I can be in the presence of all human emotions wherever they come from and no longer need to protect myself.

As in any other field of endeavour, mastery is both openness and release  :D

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