I can remember sitting on my bed one day and contemplating the word Empath. I was 16 then. Mind you, this was before the advent of a computer in every household, much less having internet access to social websites like facebook and/or twitter. Finding information about Empaths and empathy was hard to come by. And the information I found called it nothing more than a lesser, primitive form, of telepathy, and ranked it the lowest of the low on the psychic scale of gifts/abilities.
There were no lists of traits for Empaths. There were no comparative experiences to view my own experiences through. There wasn't much of anything at all, except that one single entity on television named Deanna Troi, from Star Trek.
And yet, even without all of those things, the simple nature of the truth rang out to me in resounding clarity. I might not be able to do what Deanna Troi did, but I had the ability to step into another person's shoes and see through their eyes and feel what they feel. I was.....I am an Empath.
This idea lay dormant for many years, because there was no one around me to commiserate with about this idea. And still, there was little to no information on the subject. And I had very little true understanding of what it meant to be an Empath, beyond the ability to feel what others feel.
Time progressed, as it so often does, and I stepped into relationship after relationship, blindly falling into men's arms. And in my case, it was always the wrong kind of man. I longed for someone who was strong, almost like a prince, if you will, who could rescue me from all the the pain I was going through. And always I came away disillusioned by my partners, because they were so focused on being angry and/or abusive toward me.
I felt like the consummate victim. I wondered if I was being targeted by people who were abusive, as though they were drawn to me like a moth to a flame. Did I wear a sign on my forehead that was easy for only those types of aggressive personalities to see, that said 'Willing Abuse Victim Here'?
I went through phases of blaming those men for my suffering. And other phases where I blamed myself for all that I'd been through. And when I blamed myself, I was disgusted by who I was, because I never imagined I would be one of 'those women'.
I felt impotent, unable to change the pattern of my life....or who I was. And I was ashamed of showing anyone the real me, because she was such a sad and desolate creature, usually bent on ending her own life.
After my subsequent marriage, which ended in an EPIC FAIL, I moved to a place where no one really knew me and I had no friends. I was left totally alone with my pain and shame, for the first time in my life. Up till then, I'd always had things to distract me from the endless depression which, in my weaker moments, left me gasping for air as I drowned in sorrow and shame.
And upon being alone, there came my greatest obstacle and my greatest salvation. You see, I had no where to cling as I began to fall into depression. I had no one to support me or sustain me, any longer. And when I fell, I fell hard....endlessly it seemed.
In the past, I had watched friends, who feel into only half of this type of pain, attempt to end their lives. And I was no stranger to the idea. I hid razor blades on the off chance I gathered enough courage to do it. And I overdosed, any number of times, on pills in order to stave off the encroaching pain.
But for me, it wasn't just about abusive relationships. It was also dealing, for the first time head on, with the fact that I had been violated as a child. Add to that the fact that I had little to no self esteem, and you can see what kind of mixing pot this was....one bound to end in tragedy.
All through this, I felt like a victim....a target of the most horrible people on the planet. People who used me, beat me, starved me, violated me (raped me), and left me as close to dead as I could come without actually ending my life. You see....I was completely and utterly broken internally. And in my mind, there was only one end to the tract I was on. There was only one possible outcome....death.
Coming back to the idea of being an Empath, was the fact that I could see from my partner's perspectives. And to some extent, when they thought of me as nothing, I agreed with them. So I willingly adopted that mentality, believing I deserved nothing better than what they offered me. I believed no one would ever want me who wasn't that way....abusive.
And the sad part is, no matter how much I saw them denigrate me, I never stopped believing they did it for my own good. No matter how much I suffered, I believe it was in the name of love. And that somehow...someday...they would change.
It took me years to find some resolution to these issues. And it only happened after I stopped looking for romance, with my poor taste in men. It only began in earnest when my perspective changed from one of being a people pleaser to one of self understanding and expression. It only changed when I started thinking of myself as a person deserving empathy instead of one of no worth other than what my partners needed in me.
It's a life altering experience, and not an easy one by any means. It is one where you must accept responsibility for your own actions, behaviors, and thoughts. In other words, it is one where you must accept the role you played in your own suffering. And that's a hard pill to swallow when you can only see yourself as a victim at the hands of others. But we all play a part in what our life becomes. We all bear some responsibility, even if that responsibility is shared by others who use and abuse us.
You see, in owning up to your own responsibility, you an inner demon within yourself that, up until that time, you refused to see/acknowledge and deal with. It's a piece of you, that because of low self esteem (among other issues), you gave willingly to another person to control. (And this doesn't apply to every situation, so please don't assume I speak of all abuse in this respect.)
Owning that responsibility is, a harsh dose of reality at first, but it is also one of the most empowering things you will ever do. Because when you acknowledge your role in this, you also acknowledge your own personal power. It can awaken within you the potential to realize that you can change your own life; that you don't have to be a victim of it.
I think that one harsh dose of reality, that no one other than myself thrust upon me, was the singular biggest event to take me from being a victim to being a survivor. And when you are a survivor, you are able to grow and develop, and realize you own strength as you get to truly know yourself for the first time.
It's not about developing self esteem, at least not in the beginning. That is something that comes with time, as you work on these issues. That is....and expression/product of your self awareness, not the reverse. And it is an onerous task to undertake, to be sure, when it is so much easier to avoid and pretend it does not exist.
For me, it was thrust upon me because the only thing I had left to face and lose was my life. I had nothing else to lose, and potentially everything to gain in the bargain. And it wasn't overnight, though I do consider it a miraculous event in my life....a pivotal turning point. It took a openness to grow, a willingness to do the work, and the forethought to be patient with myself along the journey, despite what mistakes I made.
What being an Empath has taught me, in connection with my life experience, is that I'm not the only one who suffered in such a way. And if I, who had been abandoned as a lost cause, can come back from the brink, then anyone can do it. It's taught me how to share my story and to be deeply empathetic toward those who share in my experiences, even remotely.
So with that in mind, I will leave you with this thought. No matter what your life is like...no matter how you suffer, you are not alone. And always.....ALWAYS....you are loved, not for what you can do for others, but simply for being exactly who you are, despite peer pressure and the weight of the world which rests upon your shoulders. You are loved. ^_^