Am I am empath?

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I’m a little scared to post this, but I’m going to anyway. I’ve never regretted posting anything I’ve felt shy about posting.

Until very recently, I always thought people who say they’re empaths sounded a bit grandiose or even a little narcissistic. I never thought I was an empath, but as some of the toxic thinking patterns I was so trapped in begin to fall away (this is a very slow process!), I find that I’m better able to “see” things I couldn’t see since I was a small child. The “things” I see are what lies behind the facade all of us have to some degree or another, a facade which narcissists have become so effective at building that their real selves are all but obliterated (but they’re not really).

I was very emotional as a child and felt everything around me intensely. My sensitivity made me not only prone to being a target for bullies, but also physically vulnerable: I spent a lot of time sick and I had many allergies.   I had terrible ear infections that left me nearly deaf in my left ear.  The doctors said I was healthy and couldn’t figure out why I was always so sick.

Abused by my narcissistic family and the bullies at school, I gradually learned that it was too dangerous to fully feel my emotions or to connect with people on an emotional, meaningful level. I was made fun of or punished in some way. So I shut myself off from feeling anything but the most banal or self defeating emotions, only those that concerned myself or ensured my survival: fear, anger, jealousy, frustration, boredom, sexual desire, and a pseudo-love known as limerence.  Rarely could I feel true sadness, joy, love, contentment, friendship, connection with God or nature, or caring deeply for another.  I felt like I couldn’t connect with other people meaningfully but was still always quick to take offense to insults. This manifested in unpleasant ways like “going off” on people or losing control.   I often scared people with the intensity of my rages and low frustration tolerance.   Fear–a survival emotion–remained dominant.   My programming told me I needed that fear to survive, but it sure hasn’t made for a pleasant time of things, and made me afraid to take any risks at all.

Worst of all, my heart became closed.  I stopped being able to laugh or cry with abandon or with another person.  I loved the idea of getting close to others and having meaningful relationships, but the reality was just too scary and the relationships I did have were either meaningless and shallow or unhealthy and toxic.   I learned to isolate myself from others and avoid other people because other people meant pain.  I isolated myself not only physically, but by making it difficult for people to be around me.   I couldn’t stick with anything.  I couldn’t finish anything.  I couldn’t achieve anything.     I was afraid to fail because failure meant certain rejection.  This is what my narcissistic family taught me.  This comprises the genesis of my BPD (which I think is finally beginning to fall away).

Five things have led to my ability to begin to let go and to reconnect with the self I lost as a child and young adult, listed in order of their importance to me.

1. My relationship with God
2. Therapy
3. Blogging and writing (self-reflection)
4. Music — it’s incredible how powerful it is!
5. Time spent in nature, including time with animals (they teach us so much)

I won’t describe the means by which these five things are working for me, since I have done that elsewhere and it would turn this post into a book. But what’s beginning to happen is I’m realizing I genuinely care about others. I never thought I did. It wasn’t that I didn’t care before, it was because I was so protective of myself I couldn’t let those feelings of caring be consciously felt. Now when I hear a fellow victim talk about a lifetime of abuse or scapegoating, I feel true empathy for them because I’m more able to allow myself to experience my own pain and process it and that makes it easier to relate to the pain of someone who went through similar trauma. So I can no longer say I’m really empathy challenged. I always had it in me.

Something even more amazing is starting to happen. I’m becoming somehow able to see the lost child in the people I talk to on both my blogs. I may have always had this ability. From the time I was a young child, I could pick up the emotions of others around me. When I picked up my mother’s emotions, she told me to stop “acting spooky.” I think my X-ray vision scared her.

But I couldn’t just throw up a false self and become a narc.  I lacked the right temperament.  It was always so hard for me to hide the way I felt. So I went into hiding instead–emotionally and sometimes physically–becoming a near hermit. I stopped being able to have any deep relationships, even real life friendships. I stopped being able to feel the higher emotions that bring us joy and deep connection with others.  These are symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder, which I had/have along with BPD and C-PTSD.

My life became drained of any joy or color. But now, I can see the hurt inner child in others, which is ironic since I still have so much trouble connecting with my own hurt child. This ability to see the real selves in the people who come to my blogs (or post on other blogs) even extends to people with narcissistic personality disorder. When I look at a narc now, I don’t see someone to hate or be terrified of, I see someone who didn’t get enough love and has no idea who they are.  I think of my parents and feel so sad that they spent their lives spiritually asleep instead of awakening to the authentic people they could have been.  But I don’t think they chose narcisissm–no child ever makes such a choice, at least not consciously.

I believe in No Contact. I don’t think any lay person can fix a narcissist and it’s always best to get away for your survival and sanity. But that doesn’t mean things are hopeless for a narcissist, should they sincerely want to connect with their real emotions.  More therapists are needed who have the courage to work with these difficult and often infuriating people. Therapists who can help them realize the potential to love and feel the real emotions they were born with, who can help them break down the strong fortress they have built around themselves to keep everyone out.   This must be done by professionals, and it can take a long time and it won’t be an easy road. I think there must also be a spiritual component, an acceptance that there is something–if not God, then some Intelligence or Presence–that is greater than all of us and is always healing and benevolent. I think the stigma is so bad that therapists either won’t treat them or give up when the going gets rough. Yes, some narcissists will leave. But some won’t, if the therapist is empathic and skilled enough and the narcissist wants change bad enough.

Both narcissism and C-PTSD and other problems caused by abuse all have their roots in childhood trauma. Why only focus on healing for the victims? Narcissistic abuse is a terrible thing. But it will continue as long as there are narcissists walking around allowed to get away with turning people into victims. If we can get to the root of the problem and help the narcissists themselves, then narcissistic abuse will end and there will be no more victims either. It’s analogous to alleviating crime in a city by addressing the problem of poverty that led to it. As long as you ignore poverty, crime will continue and there will always be crime victims.

I seem to have an uncanny ability to see the real, lost self behind a narcissist’s facade. This surprises me, because it seems like a quality an empath would have and I never thought I was one–just a run of the mill HSP.   But through therapy, prayer, being in the natural world, music, and writing, I feel like my heart has opened and with that, a kind of X-ray vision. I’ve actually had self aware and some diagnosed narcissists come to me (mostly on Down The Rabbit Hole) telling me the blog has helped them and they are learning from it, or admitting they want help.  A few have emailed me because they’re too ashamed of their narcissism to post on a public blog.  Right now, all I can do is try to offer encouragement and direct them to other resources. I feel empathy for them, just as I feel empathy for the abuse victims on Lucky Otter’s Haven and here too.   I wish I could help them more than I can right now.

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I think I’m being called to something–working with people with NPD (as well as other trauma victims)–that’s going to take a lot of strength and courage and could even be emotionally and spiritually dangerous if I’m not very careful or don’t know exactly what I’m doing. It’s going to take a lot of training, and right now there are a lot of logistical problems (lack of money or time to go back to school; getting older; not liking confrontation and being socially awkward in general). But I feel like God has a plan and some doors will begin to open. I can work on my awkwardness and fear of confrontation in therapy (and these things are a result of low self esteem, not an “introverted” temperament). Working with people with NPD is something very few people dare venture into.  It’s also something a lot of narc-abuse survivors have trouble understanding.  A few even think it’s wrong.   I don’t believe it is.   I’m not ready to do it yet. But I feel like this is the shape my life is taking and the reason why everything happened the way it did. It was the reason for all my suffering.

Born an empath to narcissistic parents, they could not handle my ability to absorb the feelings of those around me and “see through” facades. They worked day and night to disable my gift because they were so afraid of it. But in spite of everything, I still have the gift and I want to use it to help people like my parents, even if my parents rejected the illumination of truth that gift had the power to reveal.

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About luckyotter

This blog is my journal. I just choose to share it with the world instead of keeping everything inside my head. I'm a recovering Borderline and have also struggled with Avoidant Personality Disorder. I also have Complex PTSD due to having been the victim of narcissistic abuse for most of my life. I write mostly about narcissism, because I was the child of a narcissistic mother, and then married to a sociopathic malignant narcissist for 20 years. But there's a silver lining too. In some ways they taught me about myself. This blog is about all that. Not all my articles will be about NPD, BPD or other personality disorders or mental conditions. I pretty much write about whatever's on my mind at the moment. So there's something for everyone here. Blogging about stuff is crack for my soul. It's self therapy, and hopefully my insights and observations may help others too.
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16 Responses to Am I am empath?

  1. mothererased says:

    I am so happy for you that you are starting to reconnect with your authentic Self. There is nothing better or more important, in my opinion. Keep on doing what you are doing!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. CarissaMarie says:

    I can relate to this post. I, too, since childhood felt everything intensely and not just my own feelings, but those around me. For awhile, I tried to shut myself down because it became very hard to handle. And enter in parents that couldn’t cope with my hypersensitivity, also being bullied at home and school. Reading this made me weep, for your past, my own, and all that struggle with home life, currently or otherwise, and are misunderstood, unaccepted, bullied, and left out. I’m glad you shared this. I hope it touches every heart that reads it and I hope you always see this as a gift. Sometimes it can be overwhelming, but I think it is worth it to be able to connect with and help others. May your love and light shine brightly for all around you to see and embrace.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Thank you. It was a little painful for me to write this, and yes, having the gift of empathy can be both exhausting and painful. We often find ourselves targeted but we also have the ability to see the truth and make the right choices based on knowing the truth. This is a gift that’s like a rose–lots of thorns, but a beautiful flower that can bring joy. It’s also like an orchid–very hard to cultivate and easily damaged or destroyed–but worth the extra effort of cultivating for its beauty.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Wolfgirl says:

    You are so strong, lucky. Congratulations on starting to work past all your issues and beginning to become your beautiful true self! I know it’s a hard road (I can’t begin to imagine how very hard it must be), but I believe you can get there 🙂 I understand the hesitation to say one is an empath; it’s like, “Am I really, or am I just puffing myself up?” But you seem to me to be both compassionate and insightful, which seems to me to qualify one as an empath.

    I also think it would be wonderful if you ended up working with NPD sufferers; I agree with you that, if they choose to seek help, they should be given help without being judged for it. Obviously, you’d have to be careful and cautious, but I know you know that, so I’ll just be quiet X) But yes. To bring more love and joy into the world is an admirable goal.

    “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good unto them that do spitefully use you.”

    God bless you.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David says:

    I read that feeling like I was reading about myself. I am now a cold hard logical engineer. I remember at school I got emotional watching a movie, at a boys school it made for great entertainment for everyone. I was forever picked on at school, now I get picked on by my NPD wife. I have sadly seen a different picture of domestic violence than what the media paints.
    I guess the universe keeps beating me around the head with the same lesson. I get it, however its hard to leave with the vampire sucking all my energy away. Enough excuses.
    Thanks for you article, it made things much clearer.

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Thank you for reading and I’m glad it cleared thngs up. Keep reading! There are also a lot of great boks out there about C-PTSD and narc abuse. I especially recommend Pete Walker’s book about C-PTSD. Don’t just resign yourself to having all your energy sucked away by our wife. Have you ever thought of leaving her? Talking to her won’t help.
      I wish the courts recognized domestic violence as being emotional rather than just physical but I guess it’s hard to prove especially because the narcissist in the relationship so often has everyone believing them, that YOU are the sick or abusive one!

      Like

  5. Judy says:

    This is the first time I have heard the word “empath” but my God, I think that’s me. I empathize with everyone, so much so, that those still not being authentic to themselves resent me and often reject me, for seeing their true selves, and exposing them. Truth is the greatest charity and it is so often the most hated one. But I wish more people spoke to my true self, when I was a shell of a girl, controlled by a jealous narcissistic schizophrenic mother. I would have recovered a lot faster. How did you discover all this truth Lucky Otter? With me, it has been God all along, speaking to me in a whisper too loud for others to hear. He always spoke the truth, even when I didn’t want to know. I believe He is especially close to those who have been abandoned in some way by their own parents. I am so enjoying discovering your meanderings of thought, and allowing others an intimate look at your journey. I feel like you are a soul sister! God bless you! Hey, are you going to see Richard Grannon in NY, by the way? Judy

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      Hu, Judy! Thanks for your sweet comments here. First of all, no, I a not going to see SLC in New York–wish I could though! He’s pretty great. Did you see the guest post he wrote for this blog a couple weeks ago? I’ve been trying to find out if he’d be interested in writing a regular column for this blog but I haven’t heard from him–he’s probably way too busy.

      As far as the empath thing, I haven’t always known I was one. I’ve always been an HSP but only recently in my healing journey have rediscovered the empathic qualiies I remember having as a very small child. I was always good at seeing through peope to their true self, including narcs. I could see behind my mother’s facade at the age of 5, and called her out on it at age 12–which is when she began to devalue me. She didn’t like that I could see the truth.
      Being able to see the truth isn’t easy. And sometimes I ignore the truth because I don’t want to see it. That’s gotten me into some bad situations with abusive Ns, although I saw the red flags early and should have known better.

      I have a weird relationships with Ns. They either know I’m onto them and target me because of that or they come to me for help (the online ones who are probably low spectrum and don’t want to be narcissists anymore). I always tell tehm that all I can do is direct them to the proper resources since I can’t be a therapist. I try to be empathetic though. I don’t demonize all Ns but the malignant ones are very bad.

      Anyway, as to your question, I was agnostic for years, until about 2 years ago. I foung God as part of this healing journey, which started with blogging and writijng about it. Over time I’ve found myself changing, getting more in touch with my inner child and buried emotions, and as that happens, I’m reclaiming my empath abilities.

      Like

      • Judy says:

        I am so excited that SLC is going to be in the US that I am hoping I can make it, trying to love myself enough to consider the financial splurge worth it… I found your blog through his piece on your blog.

        As far as being an empath is concerned, I don’t define the term like Wikipedia defines it. I believe as innocent little children we are all in tune with the truth, having just left our Creator “Who Is Who Is” – Truth Himself. It is not that the Inner Voice we hear as children is a special gift of telepathy, prediction of the future, or an audible voice sending us on some Divine Grandiose Mission, but a quiet knowledge of What Is.

        Let me make this clear, I am not a gnostic.

        Having read Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, I think most of what is called intuition is really the split second ability to follow signs to their reasonable end, without even being consciously aware of it. But having said that, I think The Voice of Truth is particularly audible to those that are 1) innocent and 2) suffer, because with those two characteristics we are imitating Christ, whether we know it or not.

        Dean Koontz wrote in his novel, Innocence: “Those of us who remain hidden from everyone else, however, know that this world is wondrous and filled with mysteries. We possess no magical perception, no psychic insight. I believe our recognition of reality’s complex dimensions is a consequence of our solitude….To live in the city of crowds and traffic and constant noise, to be always striving, to be in the ceaseless competition for money and status and power, perhaps distracted the mind until it could no longer see – and forgot – the all that is…Or maybe, because of the pace and pressure of that life, sanity depended on blinding oneself to the manifold miracles, astonishments, wonders, and enigmas that comprised the true world.”

        I actually remember what I can only recall as a conversation with God in which I told Him, in effect, I loved my mother too much to bear the pain that she was not the loving mother she pretended to be, and God told me it was ok to forget, but that He would send someone to unravel me back to Truth once again, whenever I was ready. I also remember knowing that it was His mother’s job, not my own mother’s, to unravel people back to show them Truth (only one woman without sin could do this) and I consecrated myself to her protection, as my adopted replacement mother. So I KNEW at five these intricate Catholic dogmas of the “Immaculate Conception” and her title as “Our Lady Undoer of Knots” (the sign in the Apocolypse) even though I could not then articulate them as such. I have truly been sleeping safe in the palm of God’s hands all along, and Mary gently woke me when I was able to bear it. After extricating my mother’s disproportionate focus on God’s justice over His mercy (and my mother’s supposed right to enforce this supposed condemning judgement upon me) from my Catholicism, my knots started to dissolve, and now truth, emotions and real memories come as such a pace I feel like I’m at the end of untangling a necklace, when all that remains is that final tug.

        Of course ever since this happened I became the happy little child shouting out the obvious about my mother “the emperors not wearing any clothes” and her sociopathical tendencies towards me accelerated in direct proportion to my mental physical and spiritual well being and success. I have a No Contact boundary with her.

        I believe most people suffering severe childhood trauma (narcissistic mother/father) cannot face the truth that their own parent failed in loving them right, so they turn their face away from truth in order to survive. (It is never that God turns His face away, and Truth stays constant, like the stars in the sky. The signs are always there, pointing to Truth. ) The resulting personality disorders when we dissociate from truth are not our fault. But if we choose as adults to do things we know are objectively wrong, we will fall further away from our reality and the understanding of who we were always meant to be. Some people did not have trauma as children, and they still choose to hide from truth. As all of us who have unraveled our CPTSD know, stuffing truth deep down inside until we can’t feel it or anything anymore only makes it grow like a giant festering tumor or ticking time bomb.

        Anyway, I could write a book… in fact I am. My apologies for doing it on your blog little soul sister. LOL

        Judy

        Liked by 1 person

        • luckyotter says:

          Judy, I have a lot to say, and you bring up some intriguing thoughts. I will have to post a longer reply later though, if that’s alright. I’m glad you found my blog through SLC!

          Like

  6. Annie says:

    I am so inspired by all of the work you have done and continue to do on your healing!! I too am an empath and struggle daily to not react to the narcissistic family member. I feel her dark energy, the stares the disapproval and quiet, seething rage that she is a victim of everything. I have a lot of work to do as well in detaching and detaching in love. I find that I completely shut down to protect myself when she is around. I need to focus on my relationship with God instead of focusing on what I feel when she is around. Thank you so much for your insight, strength and clarity!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • luckyotter says:

      I feel you–what you describe is where I was until I got the Ns out of my life, or at least out of any kind of close relationships. That’s why No Contact is so powerful. Is there a way you can avoid this family member? It sounds like you’re already grey-rocking this person, and that’s a start– but it’s better to not have to deal with them at all.
      I’m glad you’re finding inspiration on this blog — that makes me happy. 🙂 Keep on keepin’ on!

      Like

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