The Life of an Emotional Sponge

Empathy is a beautiful thing. I have always embraced the fact that I am able somewhat understand another person must be feeling in situations that I may not have experience with myself. And even if I do have experience with something similar, I am able to realize that I cannot fully understand what they are going through, as everyone’s emotions and reactions to situations are unique. But with empathy, I am able to at least be able to put myself in their place enough to help them get to the root of the thing troubling them.

The downside to this quality, for me, is that I have also become an emotional sponge. What others feel, I begin to feel as well. I absorb emotional energy of all types. Whenever the person I am with is openly feeling blue, I become blue myself, but at least in that circumstance, I know that the source is external instead of internal.

Some people, however, have the ability to mask their feelings on the surface and portray themselves as being stronger, happier, braver, etc. than they really are. I am, of course, one of those people who will hold something in until it bursts. It is not intentional, but just a natural reaction within some people. Especially with an empathetic person who feels their problems will be a burden on others. But other people conceal their feelings, it somewhat jams my radar. Instead of absorbing their emotion and knowing its source, I feel it and take it on as my own.

It takes a bit of time, but eventually I am able to identify it as not coming from within myself, and then am able to hone on the source. Ultimately, my empathetic side is not satisfied until some form of good takes place, in the form of helping identify a problem and find ways towards a solution. It is this drive that makes me so sensitive to others’ feelings.

Comments

  1. says

    Hi Kristi,

    Came over from Facebook (which is rare, as I am seldom on that thing) — because I can so relate to just the title alone! And reading your description, it’s like reading somebody describe me.

    I have a strong empathic antenna, and I can vividly feel what other people are feeling. Strongly enough that I mistake it for my own feelings, like you said. So frequent isolation is necessary to recover — just so that I can isolate myself and touch base with what it is that *I* am feeling. And unfortunately, I have to choose carefully who I spend time with — so many people are concealing anxiety and despair beneath their surfaces, but I can feel them. And it can be quite uncomfortable. It doesn’t even have to be a physical proximity — I get feelings from news stories, videos, etc.

    Luckily, I am a musician and songwriter, so I channel what I soak up into my songs. My songs do display the ugliness I absorb, but ultimately they are all healing and affirming in their honesty.

    So, you are definitely not alone — and I do feel that the world has a need for us, the empathic. We are living proofs that we all share what others are going through, that we are all connected.

    ari

  2. says

    @Ari – I do the same thing through my writing & poetry. Usually, if I start writing about something, I am able to pinpoint where things are coming from, which is a great help. I have also found that separating myself from people with strong anger or anxiety alleviates those feelings within myself, which is necessary from time to time.

    @Vered – It is just the way I am. I’m not sure I would want to lose the ability or my sensitivity, because it is rewarding in the sense that I am more in tune with those around me, and (hopefully) much more understanding. Plus, I feel like strong emotions, good or bad, are really what makes us feel the most alive.

  3. says

    This post describes me very well, i find myself able to feel the other persons pain if only a little, but i’m one to not bear my burdons or problems on others, because i believe everyone has their own set of problems and mine pale in comparison to others. I really like this article! Great job identifying it and putting this feeling into words!

  4. says

    @Tony – Thanks. Since I have been more aware of my feelings, it has been getting easier to define why I work the way I do. It is nice to know other people relate to it as well.

  5. says

    Hi Kristi,
    I hear you! Oversensitivity challenges me to find the balance to be detached and still embrace what is, to be present to honor and support others for what they are going through. You might be interested in my post on this subject “Getting Unhooked” in my blog. I just happened to write it a few days ago before seeing yours!
    Great blog, I will be visiting often.
    Cheers,
    Miruh

  6. says

    @Miruh: I think my biggest issue is my emotions tend to go from one extreme to the other. If I turn on my detachment chip, as I like to call it, I am detached from everything around me. Like I can’t be selective to be detached from one thing, but not another. I will take a look at your article, and see if it can help me find that balance.

  7. says

    Hello.
    I went here from google.

    “I am, of course, one of those people who will hold something in until it bursts. ”
    Oh so true…

    —————

    Sometimes I’m so baffled by myself.
    I’m a cusp (May 21st) I dunno what I am this year. Me pal call me the Twin Bull, lol. It’s like I have three personalities:
    a. The Mute (the apathetic me)
    b. The Devilish Twin (the naughty me)
    c. The Angelic Twin (the virtuous me)

    ———–

    Empathy

    Sometimes I felt so horribly guilty when seeing less-fortunate people (not that I’m fortunate myself). But it sometimes ridiculously gets to a point where I feel so guilty that I cancel doing what I wanted to do (esp. involving spending money–even spending on the make-sense-stuffs), or at least postpone the plan until I feel better (less guilty).

    But the (prob.) good thing is I determined afterward that I want to be a better person, that may bring others’ happiness (even in just the tiniest bit).

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