I was inspired to write this post after coming across a list of differences between empathy and clairsentience. Apparently traits of one are frequently mixed in with definitions of the other. I almost worried for a moment that I had it wrong, that I’m not an empath at all, only clairsentient. But no, it turns out I am both.
I am a full-time empath and a part time clairsentient. Regarding the latter, there are sometimes I am hyper aware of ~all the things~ to the point of creeping myself out, and other times I am completely tuned out. I don’t have a lot of control over when I am tuned in or out. It just happens.
As for the empath part – I’ve been struggling with this part of my identity for a long time. I grew up introverted and aloof with a history of terrible social etiquette, only to find out later that I have an ASD. I figured empathy was out of the question. People from all walks of my life have told me I lack in that department and I believed it.
As I’ve come into my own and gained increased self-awareness and understanding, I realized that empathy is not what I am lacking, despite having Aspergers. In fact, recent studies have shown that aspies are capable of intense levels of empathic ability. I internalize other’s emotions like nobody’s business. I am also a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) and have mirror touch synesthesia. I can feel you, I can understand you (though how I get to that understanding might be unconventional as they say INTJ empaths go about it a different way), but there’s no denying that I get it. What I don’t have is the (natural) ability to act on it. I lack the ability to sympathize and comfort. And as I back away from comforting someone, they hurt more and I feel it more. It’s a terrible thing. Some part of me deep inside screams and cries as the emotional tension amplifies, and yet on the outside, my face is stoic. I tell people to man or woman-up. stop whining. leave me alone. I ain’t your shoulder to cry on.
It didnt start out this way. Initially, I retreated without any additional dialog. I played the part of aloof well. But as I learned to accept my supposedly cold and non-empathetic persona, I turned it into a game to cope. I laughed it off. My silence became rude comments which became dry sarcasm. At least the end result doesn’t hurt people as much. They don’t take me seriously, nor do they expect anything from me. Or do they?
The strange thing is, I’ve had a surprising number of people, even some I dont know well, come to me in times of trouble. Why me? Don’t they know I will only make it worse? But they still come, they tell me their problems. I listen. I absorb the pain and leave them with hardly a few words in reply. And still, they return. It makes me immensely uncomfortable. I care, but I don’t know how to show it. All I can do is feel.