Being An Empath— 4 Ways I Protect Myself
No. This is not humblebragging. Trust me, there’s nothing cool about sitting with my friends, my big beardy tough Vikings, drinking Mjød, punching rock, and watching sports when I suddenly start to go cry because of how much it must have meant for the goalie to do that save.
What's an empath?
I have been Googling like crazy to find a good definition, and the best I found was:
: are highly sensitive individuals, who have a keen ability to sense what people around them are thinking and feeling.
: 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
: A mushy(in every positive sense) person with an enhanced ability to adopt other people's feelings.
Why do empaths need protection?
If I don’t shield myself from everything that’s miserable in the world, I wouldn’t survive a day. Empathy is good, in normal doses. But like anything in life, too much is bad for you.
I see 4–5 lost souls each day before I take my morning coffee at the office. People I meet on the bus, lying in their own urine at the bus stop or begging at the street.
I can’t live four terrible lives in my head in addition to my own. That’s why I have to shield myself. And this is how I do it:
Putting on the mask
No, not the pandemic-infection-control type of mask, if that’s still a thing when you read this. It's a metaphorical mask.
Think about it as the oxygen mask on airplanes; you should always put your mask on before you help others. (You did pay attention when the flight attendants tried to save your life, right?)
You can’t go to every addict and asking how he/she is or holding the hands of the homeless sitting next to you on the bus. If I do, I would be lying under my office desk sobbing for 8 hours straight.
The first step is to acknowledge that you have a problem. And you have to focus on yourself most of the time to even have enough surplus energy to let your empathy fly once in a while. It's not egoistic, it's surviving.
Don’t (over)watch the news
Media get rich on tragedies. Tragedies sell, and the worse the tragedy, the more coin will clank into the proverbial bowl. I am not saying you shouldn’t watch the news, but be mindful of it.
- Pick the newspaper/webpage that is least tabloid.
- Only read the news once a day
- Only read articles that aren’t going full out ape- sh*t-misery-mode
Don’t watch Sophie’s Choice (unless you're a masochist)
And make sure you have emptied out the local store for Kleenex.
I shun sad movies and TV-shows like the plague. I watch comedy and action. It’s probably why I write humor (If you haven’t noticed, well I do! cmon…)
I never watch “The Voice” or other talent shows with my wife and kid. I always take my Ipad to the bedroom, alone, so I can cry in peace. I will never admit it though.
Don’t work at a psychiatric ward.
Trust me. I have worked at an emergency psychiatric hospital, were the worst of the worst comes at their lowest point in life. I miss that job every day, but it also put a toll on me.
It was heartwrenching, gut-tearing, and euphoric at the same time. I hope to do it again when I am a super-famous writer-genius that sells millions of books each day. Because then I can work as much as my empathy can handle.
It’s why I work as an engineer. The perfect work for an empath!