This is a specialist post for/about people who actually experience that kind of thing. I didn’t know I do – the idea never crossed my mind, until someone implanted it there and out of desperation concerning my emotional state then, to be fair, I followed it up – and it took me a good year of gently questioning and poking to take it seriously. I still don’t (dogmatically) “believe” it, but it seems to be the currently best hypothesis explaining many (again, many) situations, like this one.
So here is how it worked today. (Another recent example is here.)
I woke up in a good mood, reminiscing wonderful things past and texting a friend making pleasant travel plans. I did morning routine things, then had breakfast around 10 AM. Then tried to sit down and organise a few things on the computer.
But I couldn’t – I suddenly realised I’m incredibly agitated and irritated. I couldn’t sit still. I tried some more; after a while it was still there and bothering me – so my mind started scanning what could be the cause or context of the emotion; what could have happened; did someone say something (me being alone in the house)? Did I think an irritating thought (none came to mind)?
The only cause that seemed semi-plausible was that perhaps something in my breakfast had caused an allergic reaction, as food can sometimes drastically affect my mood (e.g. carbohydrate overload can cause agitation for me). I’m allergic to casein, and had used some ghee in the soup which was not perfectly clarified, perhaps there could have been a few grams of casein on it. Still, to be agitated and irritated for two good hours by now seemed … odd. (My usual reaction is a rash the next day.)
Anyways, I tried to go about my day. As I couldn’t sit still, I finally went to the bike shop and got even more agitated and irritated by trying to choose a bike (my typical freakout reaction when I have too many options and my mind isn’t Zen clear). Walked around. Talked. Came back – realised it had gone now, again – suddenly, without a reason, without any sort of resolution or follow-up to it.
Anyways, I was glad it was over.
Until an hour or two later I had a therapy session – in which I suddenly realised I had now become – sad; empty. Somehow flavourless. I could describe it as a grey landscape, perhaps the gap in the middle of an abandoned city that has been bombed, something like this – but very mellow, grey; slow, gentle, fragile, unreal.
Again, this one seemed out of context – I couldn’t come up with a connected cause, event, person, thought … by now I had accepted it though, that perhaps it was just the strange irritation from the morning hours running its course.
It was so disturbing that I complained to the therapist about it, who said to just be mindful, not freak out (it’s not out there to get me) and let it exist, pretty much. Ok.
This went on. For another hour or two. Until my best friend, with whom I talk on the phone almost every day, called. Somehow the topic of our moods came up. It then turned out that he had had a fight with a hotel attendant in the morning that had upset him a lot. Suspecting something, I asked for the exact time. He said it was about 10 AM – the time I remembered having had breakfast.
Suspecting more, I asked how he had been feeling in the afternoon. It turned out he had split up with his girlfriend around noon, and felt “empty”, as he called it. I figured that the situation warranted him feeling depressed and described my feeling to him – in the visual metaphor I used above. Asked whether that would be a good metaphor. He said yes.
After that talk, my odd feelings lifted – I haven’t been feeling any of that strange, context-less stuff for the rest of the day.
How to decide which feelings may come from another person?
This is a note to myself, but also to you, if you happen to be an empath like me (hypothetically).
Ever since I allowed the idea (based on someone’s suggestion and some preliminary evidence) that some of the odd, context-free feelings I feel may not be mine (and yes, I had considered them as possible effects of trauma, dissociation etc. – not just randomly jumped to that conclusion), when bumping into odd confusing context-free feelings like there, I’ve been trying to figure out whether they’re mine – I’m just not aware of parts of my own emotional life – or not.
I have discussed some possible signs for distinguishing this here.
What are emotions?
Now I’d like to add a few new observations on what made today’s odd feelings odd (assuming that they were a mirror of how my friend was feeling at the time, rather than how I myself was feeling).
New things I learnt about emotions lately
- Karla McLaren in “The Language of Emotions” describes emotions as a contextually intelligent feeling-energy (neurophysiological process) that has an action programme attached to it – a bodymind process that arises intelligently in a context in order to give us energy for specific, directed action.
- For example, anger arises when boundaries have been violated and gives us the energy to protect ourselves or others. Fear arises when we are facing the unknown (or danger) and gives us the sharp and acute focus and intuition we need to handle either. Sadness arises when we are holding on to luggage and gives us the gentleness and flow to surrender it. And so on for others.
What I noticed about today’s “odd” mirror emotions
I have mentioned in my previous post that they seemed sudden, out-of-context, and somehow qualitatively different.
- They seemed to lack not only the above mentioned “contextual intelligence” – there basically was no context apart from having cooked and eaten breakfast, while thinking about cooking and eating, and talking to no one, essentially; but they also lacked the second part that Karla McLaren mentions: an impetus towards an action program.
- What I mean was that typically if it were my own irritation, it would usually have a built-in action program – of wanting to talk back to someone (specific), kick that chair, or take some other protective measure, such as distance myself from someone, make a decision to avoid something in the future, or simply note and acknowledge that something (specific) annoys me.
- If it were my own sadness, it would typically also have an action program, although that’s less clear – but that would be to dwell on that loss or pain; sense it; savour it; gradually let it go. Here, none of that happened – there wasn’t even a remote shadow of a clue that there is a loss – just the abstract gist of the “pure”, schematic sensation; i wouldn’t know what to let go of.
- Both this irritation and this sadness had neither – no apparent source, and they weren’t pushing or inciting me to do something, or think about something, or let something go, either – they were more like frozen, static frames that required no flow or movement from me.
Perhaps, they were like shadows. A bit like the shadows projected on the wall of Plato’s cave, while my friend’s emotions – caused by the argument about the hotel room, and his breakup – were the fleshed-out, full-bodied beings that cast these flat, passive shadows – in me.
Wow, I am actually quite pleased with that metaphor.
Because this is how this seems to work – with my own emotions, in body and flesh, I can interact – in fact, they incite me to act (sometimes it’s just an inner act of acknowledging or letting flow), and as I do, they transform. I am the dancer that casts the shadow here – I move, emotional shapes transform.
However, shadow-emotions (from another person) apparently don’t – shadows don’t have the flesh and muscles to move; and me being the wall they are projected on, I can’t move them either – if I try to feel them more, or – worse – try to act on them (yes, done that frequently in the past) – that just leads to more confusion and mess. And doesn’t move them one millimetre. Then just suddenly disappear when they do (presumably, when the object that casts the shadow moves; i.e. when the other person’s state changes).
These shadow-emotions are somehow limp and impotent, like projections on a wall.
Maybe that’s a way to identify them more quickly next time?
So that’s my latest hypothesis on how this confusing empath-telepathy thing works, if it’s a thing (another similar story here, and more in the this category if you tolerate psi-experiments. I have huge backlog writing these up).
If you are interested in the topic of (this kind of confusing telepathic) empaths, I’ve written a lot about it a while ago in this article series.
Also if you have similar experiences, feel free to get in touch.