For as long as I can remember I have been labelled as an emotional person by everyone I know. I was also labelled as meek by many teachers, and when it came to personality quizzes I always felt I matched the introvert best. I am easy to cry (even when laughing too hard), I take offence probably too easily, I am no good at accepting compliments, and I feel deeply affected when something happens (good or bad). Being emotional however, did not automatically grant me emotional intelligence, and as a younger person I would often be upset without knowing why.
One example that comes to mind is the first death I experienced (and I also just feel like sharing this particular story today). When she was alive I remember loving my Nana dearly. She was my favourite grandparent, the one who took me to the movies and gave me cookies as a bedtime snack. I remember watching her put makeup on in the mirror, warming up the plates before putting dinner on them, and hearing the ice clink against the glass in which she had her nightcap. I remember family get togethers at her house, the smell of her perfume, and how there was always a candy dish full of chocolates. I remember her taking me to church and thinking that one day I would join the choir because they sounded lovely and it would make her proud. At one point she got sick, I believe that she couldn’t breathe properly and so had to be put on machines at the hospital. I remember going to visit her, she couldn’t talk but she would write notes to us. She promised we would watch the movie ‘The Sound of Music’ when she got out of the hospital. Unfortunately she never did, I was about 10 years old, and after that I hated hospitals because they made me feel sick. I remember crying a lot, I didn’t really understand why specifically she had to leave when I would rather have her there than my grandpa (her husband). I went to the funeral wearing a blue dress with multi-coloured geckos all over it, and I remember thinking that it was inappropriate to not wear black. I remember sitting in the front row and watching this woman that I didn’t recognize as my Nana’s friend just wailing a few rows behind on the other side of the church and wondering why she was there. I remember the dream I had either a few days or weeks after in which my Nana appeared as a glowing flame-engulfed person with angry eyes. I thought she was angry with me and I was scared, to this day the image is burned in my mind. I was sad for a very long time after her passing – even to this day I am emotional about it. Every year on the anniversary of her death I take a day to myself and watch ‘The Sound of Music’. For a time I wondered if I wasn’t dealing with my grief properly, but I don’t think that is necessarily the case anymore.
I have mentioned in previous posts that my life hasn’t exactly been cheery lately. At some points I have felt completely overwhelmed and like my emotions are controlling me. I wanted to gain control of my emotions so that I could appear cool and collected on the outside as protection from some of the less than friendly people I have to deal with. But when I tried I realized that suppressing my emotions is not effective for me. In fact, when I tried to suppress them they just came flooding out anyway. Gaining emotional intelligence meant putting labels on what I was feeling and really looking into myself to figure out what was making those feelings happen. It meant accepting that it was okay and even an advantage to have these feelings that felt overwhelming. Putting labels on feelings was beyond hard – to me they were just how I felt, I didn’t want to label them because it meant I would have to confront what was wrong and that felt like it would be overwhelming. Working on identifying where my emotions were coming from also caused some confusion. Sometimes I would feel angry or sad without really knowing why or having a reason to. I would be going about my day and suddenly a wave of sadness or anger would come over me. I didn’t understand but I would be nicer to my co-worker or stay away from my mother at home. Recently I heard a really emotional song and felt like I was going to pass out because not only was the song emotional and about loss, but the feeling the song evoked in me brought up my own experiences and I became extremely overwhelmed. I am still working on the emotional intelligence thing, it is really hard.
Awhile ago I came across the term empath. From what I have read, it seems that empaths are individuals that are extremely sensitive to not only their own emotions, but those of other people as well. Finally my emotional experiences made sense to me. It made sense that my happy and sad emotional experiences were over the top sometimes. It made sense that I ‘knew’ my co-worker was going through a hard time and needed someone to be nice to her. It made sense that I would avoid my mother because I ‘knew’ she was angry and I didn’t want to be in her line of fire. I’m not saying I am an empath for sure, but I know that I strongly relate to most if not all of the empathetic qualities that the empath articles talk about. So as much as I think I have benefited from gaining some emotional intelligence, I also think that it can only help me so much. I think that being an empath (in theory/my mind anyway) I will not be able to control my emotions, since I am so affected by others around me and tend to take on their emotions. What I am working on now is accepting this, and trying to find balance in my emotions so that instead of drowning in them I am able to ride the wave, whatever it throws at me. Giving myself the empath label also makes me feel confident that I am able to be an amazing S-LP (if I get accepted into the program, fingers crossed I get called off the waitlist) because of my ability to put myself into ‘other people’s shoes’. I am not sure that I fully buy into the whole holistic healing thing, and I realize that the label of empath fits into that category. I am a scientist in training, but a natural dreamer so it can be challenging for me to balance both sides – I guess at the end of the day I just really have an overall issue with being mentally/emotionally balanced. This is almost an ironic thought because my physical balance is also not quite right due to an ankle injury. I’ll save that story for another time.