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Am I an Empath?

An empath is often described as one who identifies with another person’s emotions as if they were their own. This personality trait goes beyond the usual definitions of relating to others.  For example, being sympathetic is merely understanding another’s experience.  Empathy moves beyond this definition, where somebody feels for or with another person.  Sometimes highly sensitive beings perceive what others are feeling so intensely their emotions are being pulled about with little understanding why.  This experience can be challenging for some because their life can turn upside down when family members or close friends experience the agitating cycles of life.

Despite this challenge, this form of empathy is often thought of as a gift.  I agree with this perspective.  Those who relate emotionally to the experiences of others in this fashion often assist in the healing experiences for others because they validate others feelings in meaningful ways.  Sometimes those who are empathic bridge communication gaps where language has no nourishment.

Recently neuroscientists have discovered the human brain contains specific brain circuit structures called mirror neurons.  These neurons primarily respond by interpreting the emotional state of others, then translating these experiences into mirrored responses.  This research provides scientific answers to how this process occurs.  Furthermore, the latest research describes how human beings experience and interact in their environment and how we are wired to connect.

If you’re very empathic and highly sensitive, what can you do to create emotional stability?  I recommend taking a moment in the morning to establish an emotional baseline.  As you feel a shift during the day, ask yourself, “is this mine?”.  It may also be helpful instead of thinking “why” are you feeling this way, ask yourself “who” may be feeling this that you are picking up on.  This isn’t to say all emotions belong to others.  When it is your emotions, it’s possible there is somebody in your social-field who is picking up on you whom you can connect with.  This reality of the human experience presents an ideal opportunity to become vulnerable and realize that you’re not alone.  After all, we are biologically wired to understand how others feel and experience the world together.

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Making Memories

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Along with a large segment of the American population, I have recently been intrigued by the Netflix phenomenon, Making a Murderer, a documentary series that details Steven Avery’s involvement with the criminal justice system after he serves 18 years in prison for a crime that he did not commit. While in the midst of a $36 million civil suit against the county that imprisoned him for damages related to his wrongful conviction, he is accused and later convicted of the brutal murder of a young woman with whom he had brief professional interaction.

Now, I’m a psychotherapist, not an expert in criminal justice and I am certainly not here to argue in either direction in this case. In my work as a psychotherapist I’ve gained a deep understanding of how memory works. As such, while I watched the docudrama, I questioned the accuracy of the testimonies provided by witnesses months, and even years, after the fact.

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