One of the strangest things I have been working on in therapy is empathy.
In the past I never really considered myself an empath. I was emotionally volatile, but nothing exists in a vacuum. When we started exploring the possibility that I might be an empath, things began falling into place.
A while back someone pointed out how much of a paradox it is to be an extrovert with social anxiety. It shouldn’t work that a situation that gives you severe anxiety also gives you energy, but in a sense, that’s my reality. That’s why I will sometimes leave a place very quickly or linger in an entryway.
For most of my life I dealt with other people’s emotions by rejecting any emotions at all. Feelings were too strong and too big. Because of this overload, I adopted a very stoic demeanor, at least internally.
Before beginning to pick apart the reasons for my behavior, it was frustrating. It doesn’t make sense to crave company, but also be afraid of it. I don’t like things that don’t make sense. Now that I understand, at least in part, that I am susceptible to the emotions of people around me, my moods are more manageable. When in a tense situation, it’s important to take time to remind myself that other people’s emotions are not my own, my past emotions are not my now emotions, and that all feelings pass. It makes sense that the uncertainty of other people’s feelings would be distressing.
Sometimes I have a hard time differentiating my emotions from those of the people around me. Not knowing what you feel is hard to explain, if you haven’t felt it. Emotions are complicated, and sorting them out is even more complicated, especially when they aren’t all yours. It can be hard to find the balance between fulfilling my extroversion and not exacerbating my anxiety. Sometimes I have to wait through one to get the other. I don’t like waiting.