Empathy – (n) the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation.
Cambridge English Dictionary
Empathy – (n) the capacity to understand or feel what another being (a human or non-human animal) is experiencing from within the other being’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position.
Empathy – (n) FEELING ALL THE THINGS FROM ALL THE THINGS EVERYWHERE ALL. THE. TIME.
The Unabridged Dictionary of Sonya
I’m empathetic. Ultra empathetic. Supermegamajorlyexpialadociously empathetic.
If you’re a writer, there’s a good chance you are too.
Being an empath is great for writers.
Empathy makes us able to put ourselves in another’s place, feeling what they would feel under various circumstances. It allows us, therefore, to write great characters.
Empathy propels us to write. All these feelings we experience? We need a way to process them, to understand, and maybe even heal some of them. Many of us turned to pen and paper, a keyboard and a screen, 1s and 0s to harness our tsunami of feelings and use it for good – like hydroelectric power, but it’s word power. And instead of generating electricity, we generate stories, stories that can hopefully have great power to entertain, to educate, to broaden minds, to heal, or make people laugh.
Empathy is a gift.
It can also be a beautiful affliction.
Those who know me know that I have a daughter in immense pain. I care for her as best as I can. I also have another daughter who is still trying to heal from an attack two summers ago. I cannot take away either of my daughters’ pain and trauma. I can only be here to love and support them and share their tears and hold them when they cry. Maybe you too have people in your life in pain. If so, you understand the toll that being an empathetic caretaker can take on one’s energy reserves and soul. To be able to function, sometimes I find that I must limit my exposure to any pain beyond that of those I’m fighting to keep sane and quite literally alive.
Sorry this post just took a sad turn didn’t it?
Anyway, the point I wanted to make to you, my fellow empaths, is that yes, being an empath is a gift. But sometimes we must protect ourselves from the world’s torrent of incoming bad feelings.
Especially on social media.
Especially during 2016, this exceptionally tough year.
I love the beautiful parts of social media: my friends, the beautiful souls in my writing community, the support, the love, the creativity and humor.
I abhor the dark parts of social media.
And I don’t know if I’m the only one who feels this way, but to me, social media feels darker and uglier this year.
Tens of thousands of disturbing, sad, horrifying, angry, angsty tweets or FB posts bombard us every day. The barrage of terrible news seems endless. Gruesome images are tweeted and retweeted (or shared) thousands of times.
We’re exposed to the ugliest sides of humanity. Racists and misogynists and bigots and bullies plague the timeline, spewing streams of hate and poison.
Some days, it’s all too much. Some days, we have to step away and recover from what feels like a prolonged, violent attack on our psyche.
Empaths need to practice self care and some days that means avoiding social media. It can mean blocking hateful people. It can mean muting negativity. Some days it can mean ignoring certain hashtags. Some days it means cuteness therapy in the form of cat gif retweeting. Some days it means coping by engaging in unadulterated silliness.
And that’s okay.
Sometimes I feel guilty for turning off the news or for muting a pessimistic rant. I’m getting over feeling guilt though. I try to keep myself informed on current events while avoiding being beaten upside the head with them. Protecting oneself is important. When I’m feeling strong, I actively engage. When I’m exhausted or heartbroken or deeply troubled or battling depression, I give myself permission to raise my shields against the onslaught of darkness. I give myself permission to retreat. To recover. To recoup my reserves. I go outside. I play with Fang the Kitten of Destruction. I draw. I write. And I leave the internet for a while.
And that’s okay, empaths. Self care is important. You are important. You take care of you, then you’ll have the strength to take care of your loved ones, your writing community, your readers, and your fellow humans on this tiny beautiful marble we all share.
Sleepy kitteh floof therapy for anyone who may need it…
And irrepressibly happy Fang the Kitten of Destruction therapy…
Much love to you,
me (and Fang the Kitten of Destruction)