Quote of the day

Identify and label your feelings while remembering to be kind and compassionate to yourself…

DMK

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Am I growing cold?

For a long time, I could empathize with others to the point of stopping my daily routine or activities until they are okay. When someone was in such agony, I felt it in my heart as well. I would absorb people’s emotions to an alarming degree—whatever they felt, I felt as well, regardless of whether it was a crowd of strangers. Occasionally, I’d break down and sob over the well-being of someone else. And what’s even more interesting is that the person wasn’t shedding a tear. I was unable to discern my emotions from those of others.

I had the sensations of their pain and emotions as my own. I’d question myself, “Why am I like that?” especially that the emotions/feelings don’t belong to me. It was so awful that I was constantly exhausted and drained myself to the point of self-abnegation. But why did I feel responsible for their issues or distress if there was nothing I could do? Although I am an empath, I had to learn to discern my own sensations from those of others. Why was my empathic capacity unhealthy to a certain degree? – It had reached the point of continual burnout and I simply couldn’t handle it any longer. I was constantly emotionally depleted. I needed to find a way to balance the external influences, or else I risked dealing with my own mental health.

What is Empathy?

According to Merriam Webster, Empathy is “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.”

Affective empathy and cognitive empathy are two distinct types of empathy that are studied by researchers. Affective empathy refers to the feelings we experience when we are able to relate to the emotions of others. There is a possibility that other people’s emotions could be transmitted: If they appear to be happy, you are happy; if they appear to be unhappy, you are unhappy; if they appear to be in pain, you are in pain. You may also become more sensitive about the welfare of others because of your ability to detect their emotional states. Affective empathy, on the other hand, can sometimes heighten your own distress when you face suffering, preventing you from effectively providing support.

Cognitive empathy is the ability to comprehend the thoughts and feelings of another on a mental level. For those who don’t like the idea of constantly absorbing other people’s negative feelings, some argue that cognitive empathy may be more advantageous. Somatic empathy, according to some, is the third type of empathy. In this case, a person can feel the bodily sensations that another person is feeling.

Who is an Empathy?

An empath is someone who is extremely sensitive to the feelings as well as emotions of others. Their capacity to discern what someone else is feeling extends beyond empathy, which is defined simply as the capacity to understand another’s feelings, to actually taking on those feelings; experiencing what the other person is experiencing on a deep emotional level.

As described by Dr. Judith Orloff, an empath is someone who soaks up the joys and stresses of the world around them like “emotional sponges.”  Emotional and energetic stimuli, good or bad, can’t escape from empaths, according to her book “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People,” which she published in 2012. This is explained further by Kim Egel, a San Diego-based therapist—Empaths are more sensitive to external stimuli such as sounds, large personalities, and hectic environments.  They bring a great deal of heart and concern to the world, and they are extremely sensitive to what is going on around them.

Empaths who neglect their own well-being can have a negative impact on themselves and those around them. I had to learn how to regulate my emotions and, more importantly, how to take care of myself as a result of the constant emotional drain and distress. Accepting that there is nothing I can do and learning how to let go without feeling guilty or distressed was a major part of my process of self-awareness and self-acceptance. I needed to establish boundaries to protect myself– Establishing boundaries around emotionally taxing situations helped me reduce the risk of reaching my breaking point.

Empaths have a hard time turning off their high level of emotional sensitivity. People’s emotional energy around you can cause stress or depression in some people. You can’t help but feel this way about your loved ones. However, recognizing and letting go of them can have a significant impact. You do not have to “lessen” your capacity for caring — you can increase your resilience while also cultivating concern for others.

Now that I’ve mastered the art of distancing and regulating my emotions from those of another– I’m able to experience what they feel while still shielding myself. It feels incredibly good–I have practiced and mastered emotional regulation, and I will never stop practicing because there is always something new to learn and improve upon. However, there are instances when I feel as though I’m growing cold, particularly in situations where I can’t do anything other than feel what is but also avoid dwelling too much on the situation. At moments like this, I have to keep reminding myself to practice mindful acceptance. It’s okay to be incapable of assisting– it’s okay to preserve oneself.

References

Creative Consultant | Licensed Therapist | North County San Diego, CA. (2022, January 5). Kim Egel. https://www.kimegel.com/.

The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People. (2021, August 9). Judith Orloff MD. https://drjudithorloff.com/empath-survival-guide-description/.

Are You Highly Attuned To Other People’s Emotions? You Might Be an Empath. (2021, June 17). Verywell Mind. https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-an-empath-and-how-do-you-know-if-you-are-one-5119883.

Fisher, R. (n.d.). The Surprising Downsides Of Empathy. The surprising downsides of empathy – BBC Future. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200930-can-empathy-be-bad-for-you#:~:text=Yet%20in%20recent%20years%2C%20researchers,them%20into%20aggression%20and%20cruelty..

Empathy. (n.d.). Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/empathy.

What Is An Empath? 15 Signs And Traits. (n.d.). What Is An Empath? 15 Signs and Traits. https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-an-empath#major-empathy.

Fisher, R. (n.d.). The Surprising Downsides Of Empathy. The surprising downsides of empathy – BBC Future. https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20200930-can-empathy-be-bad-for-you#:~:text=Yet%20in%20recent%20years%2C%20researchers,them%20into%20aggression%20and%20cruelty..

Your human, its’ okay to feel it all

That’s true, you’re only human, and it’s perfectly fine to experience whatever feelings you want. Feelings and moods are frequently mistaken with emotions, but the three concepts are not interchangeable. What exactly are emotions? Emotion is defined as “a complex reaction pattern integrating experiential, behavioral, and physiological factors,” according to the American Psychological Association (APA). Emotions are how people react to issues or circumstances that are important to them. They are a type of conscious mental reaction (such as rage or fear) that is subjectively felt as a strong emotion focused on a single object and is usually accompanied by physiological and behavioral changes in the body. A subjective experience, a physiological response, and a behavioral or expressive response are the three components of emotional experiences. Emotional experiences give rise to feelings. This is considered in the same category as hunger or pain because a person is aware of the sensation. An emotion produces a feeling, which can be impacted by memories, beliefs, and other variables. Mood on the other hand is described by the APA as “any short-lived emotional state, usually of low intensity.”[1]

Emotions are, on one level, like energy waves that vary in shape and intensity, much like ocean waves. Their nature, like all-natural events, is for them to appear and vanish swiftly. Several things can happen if you try to stop this process by acting out or suppressing it. When it comes to dealing with uncomfortable emotions, most individuals respond in one of two ways: they act out or suppress. The dangers of suppressing those powerful emotions are considerably worse.

Unfortunately (and ironically), attempting to “talk yourself out of your emotions” frequently leads to “greater rumination and perseveration.” In other words, you will continue to think about and hang on to the emotions you are attempting to avoid. Anyone who has had a deep-tissue massage can attest to how the body stores suppressed emotions. Suppression is stored in the body and causes a slew of negative consequences, such as anxiety, depression, stress-related illness, substance misuse, and suicide.[2]

What about Repressing emotions?

Repression is the other most prevalent method. The tendency to ignore unpleasant feelings is referred to as repression. Repressed emotions are unconsciously avoided emotions. This is when painful feelings, thoughts, or memories are pushed out of your consciousness involuntarily. This allows you to forget about them. You might do this to protect your positive self-image. These are feelings that haven’t been processed. They can, however, influence your actions. Over time, repressed emotions might lead to health issues. If you were raised in a dysfunctional family, you may have learned to suppress your feelings. These feelings may include fear, anger, pain, or shame.[3] Pennebaker and his colleagues (1997) found that people who conceal their emotions also reduce their body’s immune function, rendering them more susceptible to illnesses ranging from common colds to cancer.[4]

Repression VS Suppression

Sigmund Freud proposed suppression as a voluntary kind of repression in 1892. It’s the deliberate act of pushing undesired, anxiety-inducing ideas, memories, feelings, fantasies, and desires out of one’s conscious awareness. Suppression, the unconscious process of removing painful memories, ideas, and impulses from consciousness, is more amenable to controlled tests than repression. If you’re grieving the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, you may make the conscious decision to stop thinking about it in order to go on with your life. In another instance, you may feel compelled to tell your employer how you truly feel about him and his heinous behavior, but you conceal your feelings because you need the job. The desire is aware in both circumstances, but it is prevented by willpower arising from a rational decision to avoid the behavior. In general, “forgotten” thoughts, memories, and desires can have an impact on actions, conscious thoughts, and feelings, and might manifest as symptoms or even as mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and so on.[5]

However, there is another technique to control our emotions: feeling and processing them. Allow it to burn at the moment, and if necessary, take a break to regulate your emotions. Although not everyone processes information in the same manner, you should be able to recognize the indicators. Identify and label your feelings while remembering to be kind and compassionate to yourself, and then decide how you’ll deal with them — either by deciding how you’ll fix the problem if you have control over it, or how you’ll cope with them better in the future if you don’t. You can try several ways of processing feelings to see what works best for you. Journaling, painting, venting to a friend, spending time in nature, meditation, and so on are all alternatives. Everyone needs an outlet for their emotions, whether it’s crying or yelling at a wall—it’ll feel a lot better than keeping them bottled up inside. Emotional regulation is vital because it enables you to live a healthy lifestyle, both mentally and physically. Take care of yourself, you know—the majority of the work is done on the inside, and the outside world can only add to that.

References

[1]Posted June 27, 2019 by UWA | Psychology and Counseling News. “The Science of Emotion: Exploring the Basics of Emotional Psychology.” UWA Online, 22 June 2020, https://online.uwa.edu/news/emotional-psychology/.

[2]About the Author Margaret Cullen Margaret Cullen, and Margaret Cullen Margaret Cullen. “How to Regulate Your Emotions without Suppressing Them.” Greater Good, https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_regulate_your_emotions_without_suppressing_them.

[3]“Repressed Emotions: How to Spot and Release Them.” WebMD, WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-to-know-repressed-emotions.

[4]Pub, Open Access. “Consequences of Repression of Emotion: Physical Health, Mental Health and General Well Being.” Pen Access Pub, openaccesspub.org/ijpr/article/999.

[5]Berlin, Heather A. “Defense Mechanisms: Neuroscience Meets Psychoanalysis.” Scientific American, Scientific American, 1 Apr. 2009, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/neuroscience-meets-psychoanalysis/.