May 19, 2016

Transformed: An Empath’s Experience with Struggle.

Niklas Montelius/Flickr

There are moods that come for me like a storm. I feel it in my bones like a change in the weather, and it settles between my shoulder blades like the unwelcome shadow of a cloud dark with the coming rain.

I transition from a place of perfect peace to a place of darkness, and I feel it coming for me long before it arrives.

I never know how long it will last or what damage it will do to my fragile defenses. I only know that there are often revelations that come to me during this time, and I seem to discover aspects of myself not yet confronted.

While the mood is upon me, I feel hyper-aware of everything, sensitive to emotion, body language and even the others’ moods. After it passes, there is sometimes peace, although sometimes there is only the weary rebuilding of defenses, the piecing together of things that need fixing and the throwing away of that which no longer serves me.

These moods have often been blessings in disguise.

So often in life we are forced to confront patterns of behavior that need to be changed. When these moods come, they are harbingers of change, but they also communicate to us that there are issues in our lives that need addressing. The heightened senses and intense emotions signal to us that there are underlying issues waiting to be addressed.

At other times, these moods are devastating.

It is a brutal experience to have to pick apart our lives again and again, paring them down to the essentials. Knowing that the mood is coming is, for me, an excruciating feeling. Going through this type of change is lonely, too. We can reach out for support and discuss our insights, but no one can take the journey for us.

The process of change can be painful, at times soul-shredding. It can be difficult to endure and difficult to explain.

As empaths, we are living, breathing barometers for emotions, and it can be difficult to separate our own intuition and feelings from the emotions swirling in the air around us. When I feel the change coming, I only know to brace myself.

In the aftermath of the chaos, I find an overwhelming clarity. This is often how I come to the truths of my life.

Recently, this feeling came to me while I was enjoying a matinee film. It was the middle of the week in the early afternoon, and I had the theater to myself. My children were visiting with their father, and I had a rare free day to myself. I settled into my seat in the theater, anticipating an enjoyable afternoon.

However, about halfway into the film, I sensed the darkness coming. There is no more accurate way for me to describe the feeling.

Uncomfortable and restless, I felt an overwhelming sense of prescience. I had difficulty focusing on the story line, and I had to bring my focus to my breathing, as well as the sensations overloading my body. I left the theater at the end of the film with a sense of relief to be out of the darkness, but also with foreboding, because I knew that the mood would be upon me soon.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with a new friend, but was unable to adequately describe the feeling or ask for the support that I needed to weather it. Uneasy, I soon headed for home with the hopes of time on the road to process my feelings and time to write when I arrived there.

While I was sitting in the theater and felt the change, all I could do was focus on my body. I slowed my breathing and allowed myself to feel all the sensations coursing through me.

Being honest about my feelings has been a help when this happens. I’ll often call a close friend and explain what I’m feeling, reaching out for any and all social support. I have a small circle of fiercely loyal friends who are aware of this aspect of my personality, and I know that they will listen and talk me through it.

In addition, I make time to write. I’ll clear a block of time at the end of the day, when my children are sleeping and sleep eludes me, to write about anything that comes into my head. I use this time to try to trace the source of the feeling. I look for things in my life that are bothering me, and I try to find ways to address them.

On that particular day, I discovered that the end of a past relationship still left me unsettled.

Underneath all of the discomfort was the knowledge that the person I wanted to talk to the most about my thoughts was no longer a part of my life—a choice he had made without warning or explanation.

Lately, I have been trying to live with less of a filter. I took a moment and sent a message to communicate that I wished we still had an open dialogue and that I found it sad that we no longer did. I explained that I did not require a reply, and I was able to find peace by saying what was on my mind.

My sleep was restless, and I found myself online in the middle of the night. The change I had sensed coming for me found me there. I received a reply to my message—quite unexpectedly, given the previous lack of communication. The opportunity for closure came when I least expected it, and it also opened the door to possibilities, if I was willing to be brave.

Often, we experience uncomfortable feelings, and we try to avoid them. We distract ourselves or hide from them. However, I find that if we challenge ourselves to sit with them—to know them and face them—we often uncover truths about ourselves.

We learn what we’re able to live with—and what we choose not to accept. We find in the discomfort possibilities that would not have come to us if we had not faced the feelings and chosen to be brave.

I experience these moods often.

I’ve been told that they are essential to my creative process, and while that may be true, I also find that they are absolutely essential to moving me forward.

We continue to grow and change when we’re forced to confront our feelings head on.

I have found that I am better able to manage the onset of these moods if I stay active. I started training for a 5K after being fairly sedentary for years; I found that running helped me find balance, and provided a useful block of time for me to process. Writing daily also helps regulate these feelings. When we practice these types of self-care, we may find that the moods come for us less often and stay for shorter blocks of time. We may also feel more capable of handling them.

While I often struggle with the strong emotions I experience, I am learning to embrace them as teachers.

For me, this process is one of growth, renewal and strength. I find that the true challenge is to remain open to our moods, and to choose to suffer in the hopes of making ourselves better for it. We can face the discomfort, knowing that our bodies are telling us that aspects of our lives need our attention, if only we are willing to listen.

We can allow ourselves to be destroyed by our struggles—or we can prepare ourselves to be transformed.


Relephant Read:

When Change becomes Constant: 5 Tips for Riding the Waves of Transformation.


Author: Crystal Jackson

Editor: Toby Israel

Image: Niklas Montelius/Flickr


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