Highly Sensitives and Empaths – A Way of Life
I want you to listen to me very carefully, Harry. You’re not a bad person. You’re a very good person, who bad things have happened to. Besides, the world isn’t split into good people and Death Eaters. We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”
-Sirius Black, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix
Last week I posted A Reminder with the quote above.
What fascinates me most about these words is that they give a beautiful guidance for empaths like me to find back to our center when we feel confused and thrown off track.
For those of you who don’t know the Harry Potter stories or don’t remember the context:
Teenager Harry, who survived an assassination aimed at him at a very young age, now has a special connection with the attacker Lord Voldemort, the leader of the Death Eaters. The young boy has nightmares in which he is experiencing scenes of murder performed by Voldemort. He is not just seeing it happen but also feeling it from the perspective of the murderer.
Confused and exhausted by the latest events which slowly conjure up a war, Harry is talking to his godfather Sirius Black about his visions, wondering, if something has cracked within him so that he is turning bad, himself. The quote above is Sirius’ answer.
Sensitivity and Empathy
Looking at my own life, I believe this is exactly how it often feels to highly empathic persons. Many highly sensitive persons are also empaths. The difference between a high sensitivity and high empathy is, that one is not just noticing things that others don’t but is also feeling it like one’s own feelings. Like Harry, who is not just seeing the murder happen while the others are not yet aware of it. He is also feeling what the murderer feels.
This can be very confusing. For example, I remember a talk I once had in a bus with a person who was very judgemental towards foreigners and gay people. The person did not actually state it in words, yet I could sense the judgement. When I left the bus on my own, I felt ashamed for those judgements because for a moment I believed they were my own. Then I noticed that this can’t be, as I don’t share any of the fears which lead to those judgements. – I later got validated in the perception that these feelings had been what the other person felt but didn’t state.
You Cannot See What You Do Not Know
Of course, in that situation I could only see judgement for what it is, because I know judgement. I have experienced it from others and I have practiced it, myself. In this lifetime I can’t say that I have ever shared the ideas of this person I talked to, that day. But I surely know how it feels to judge.
Empathic people usually have a wide range of emotional experience. That is why they can resonate with all these feelings, why they know them and therefore are able to see them. They have explored them in depth before they made their choice on who they want to be.
A Talent To Value
Looking at it from this perspective, it takes a lot of strength and courage to be an empath (or a highly sensitive person) and live with these qualities.
It is true, as a person who senses a lot one needs more retreat-space than somebody who senses less intensely. To others that may look like the life of an introvert. On the other hand, a high level of sensitivity or empathy requires a great openness in general. It requires the courage to face all the feelings and emotions one has – the light ones as well as the dark ones. It demands clarity on who one is. It is true that these people tend to turn to their own inner self to find out more about what they are facing on the outside. But it is not true that they live in their own little world without connection to what is going on around them. I would say, rather the opposite is the case.
How often have I heard people telling me:
“You are too sensitive.”
“You have to become harder.”
“You have to become stronger.”
“You have to arm and shield yourself.”
If you are a highly sensitive or empathic person, I am here to tell you:
You are perfect as you are. Yes, you might be different from most other people. That is, because you bring a special talent into the world.
The fact, that you come without arms and shields brings peace. The fact that you have the courage to face your weakness brings strength. Your softness and gentleness radiates into the world and creates a space for these qualities. Your sensitivity is a gift. It makes you a leader, a way-shower for those who seek peace, tenderness and support.”
Everybody comes with many special talents. Your sensitivity and/ or empathy is one of yours.
Do you have experience with highly sensitive or empathic people? Or are you perhaps one as well? Would you like to share your insights, here?