Friday, May 25, 2012

Empathy

The incident with my schizophrenic, former neighbor made me realize something.  After Randy died, I shut down a big part of myself.  I couldn't communicate, because I felt like I was a spewing volcano of toxic emotions whenever I tried to write or even talk.  I also couldn't handle my empathy.  Dealing with my own emotions was hard enough, and I had to shut it down.  I don't know how I do it.  I just know that I threw my barriers up, and I became, in the words of my much loved Dickens, as solitary and self-contained as an oyster.

Actions always have consequences, and we're not always able to know what those consequences will be.  I got some of what I wanted.  No more auras. No more walking into a room and getting hit with a wave of unwanted, multiple emotions. It was a sweet relief.  Also gone were my intuition and my instinct.

I replaced those with order, structure, stoicism, and classic Southern lady manners held together by grief and self-pity.  I continued my quest for insight.  The motto of the clan from which my family descended became mine.  Disce Pati -- Learn to endure.  Yet again, I proved myself a good student.

When you cut yourself off from your intuition, you also lose your creativity.  The leaps, twists and turns my mind used to make nimbly were unimaginable.  I also couldn't get a good read on people, and that, in part, led to the unpleasant encounters with my schizophrenic neighbor.  That little insight didn't come until he was safely away from me.  During this same time, I happened to meet a woman I had first known as a child.  She was one of the first kids I ever babysat, and now we're becoming friends. She's an exceptional woman who's worked to understand her life and herself as hard as I have, and she has recognized the double edged blessing of intuition and perception in her own life. You could say that she was the angelic counterpart to the devil  of a schizophrenic stalker.  I could see the benefit of  having my empathy back

Barriers go up more easily than they come down, but I've been working on it.  I've found that I have to go gently here as well.  A few days of being the sympathetic listening friend to several people left me frazzled and on the edge of a panic attack.  A rough conversation with the daughter sent me over the edge.

I've found myself crying over a book.  That's not a bad thing, but when it's the new Sookie Stackhouse novel, it's gone too far. I'm crying over many little things, just a tear here or there. No deep sobbing, thank goodness. I'm feeling very vulnerable, and my own emotions are spilling out all over the place. I'd forgotten that feeling vulnerable is often a consequence of empathy. It's a good thing for my family and friends that I've had another round of laryngitis, because there's no telling what I might say.  I'm starting to see traces of light around people, but full auras have not come back.  It's pretty obvious that I haven't found my balance, yet I'm sure that I will.

5 Comments:

Blogger Lisa :-] said...

Though my trials don't compare to yours, I believe I "shut down" to a large extent when we closed the restaurant... Though I professed to be dealing with it and expressed surprise that it was "so easy," I know that I stepped as far away from my emotions as I could get without becoming Vulcan. Which was an odd place to be, because when something did come to the surface, it was huge and unexpected. As you say, I haven't found my balance yet...

May 25, 2012 1:35 AM  
Blogger Cynthia said...

You had so much invested in your restaurant, and you know that I mean that in ways far more than financial. Closing the restaurant was a damn, hard loss, followed by a pretty big upheaval. Sometimes the lack of emotion sounds like a good idea. Modifying our emotions seems like the mature, reasonable and responsible choice. When that choice disconnects you from yourself though, it's an unhealthy form of escape.

May 25, 2012 8:54 AM  
Blogger Robin said...

I so get this. I have (I think) extracted myself from a luncheon of friends today. For one thing, after three days of nonstop interaction with people, a group lunch holds zero appeal for me. For another, I have a furniture delivery that was scheduled last night for the same time. A friend offered to send her husband to wait and I accepted, and then declined, realizing that the thoughts of two simultaneous obligations was making me crazy. I am working hard on being attentive to my limitations where extroversion and attentiveness are required.

May 25, 2012 9:55 AM  
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July 09, 2012 10:20 AM  
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July 09, 2012 10:23 AM  

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