This is another episode from my empath story, this time in the form of a brief anatomy of madness. Because by my late teens, I thought I was going crazy. However, I never quite understood the logical structure of why. Now I think I do.
I put it out there because I believe that phrasing these insights clearly can have some mind-clearing value for people who have gone through a similar experience. These are not just empaths — I believe versions of this apply to people who grew up among people who for whatever reason didn’t see, or want to see, what the child saw.
As a baby empath, you sometimes sense the emotional elephant in the room, and since it’s so huge compared to you, you may want to discuss it.
Starting point: “Hey mommy, what do you think about that huge grey thing with ears that’s been sitting on the carpet since morning?” — “What?!”
(I use “mom” here as a general term for the person that is your primary point of reference in childhood.)
From here ways may part into several directions:
- Your mom is an empath or intuitive herself. I’ve met one family like that, and was both elated and shattered to see how well the child was supported — elated because of how the kid could develop in his natural way; shattered because this was the first had demonstration that the almost two decades of mental and emotional agony (not to mention the health, career and personal consequences of that) that me or others go through are not necessary.
- Your environment is sensitive and understanding. While initially bewildered, your mom-figure or tribe spends time digesting the news and trying to understand your perspective. Although they don’t feel what you do, they work on carefully figuring out what is going on and offer acceptance and support. (If you have an empath or intuitive kid and want to support them, Catherine Crawford’s The Highly Intuitive Child is the best resource I’ve found.)
- You push your point; if she still doesn’t get it, well, you are bewildered, but continue trusting in your perception and asserting it. At some point you experience the painful backlash of that, ranging from being silenced to being convinced that there is something wrong with you to even being punished. You may or may not be able to preserve your inner wholeness through that (perhaps depending on whether you ultimately internalise what you are told).
- You greatly respect your elders and shoot yourself in the foot with Catch-22: you assume that the elephant is so obvious that it’s impossible that other people don’t see it; I mean, just look at it! And they are smarter than you, right? So you shut up and start building conspiracy theories as to why they don’t (want to) talk about it; or what’s wrong with you for needing to talk about it.
An exploration of number 4 a.k.a. empath Catch-22
As a child and youngster, I built my life on foundation number 4. This means that in addition to feeling others’ feelings, I also received intuitive insights and perceptions. I believed everyone does that — except for some reason, I observed that they never talk about it. My child mind understood that for some reason, there is a taboo on talking about that.
Because for me these experiences were excruciatingly intense, but also stimulating and fascinating to my mind — I wanted to understand all the things I “saw” and sensed — I couldn’t quite get why other people didn’t have a need to discuss them (remember, it was too outlandish for me to consider that they simply don’t have these experiences — they were, and largely are, the air that I breathed and the water I swam in).
I am not quite sure what my child mind concluded; perhaps that I was too weak and sensitive for needing to discuss these things, since others seemed to get over them so easily — they didn’t even stir them up (again, it dawned on me at 32: because they don’t experience them; when they start to, some adults run to psychiatrists in panic).
So I tried to simply (“simply”) function like others.