Psychic Empathy, Boundary Violations, and Deep Sadness

I have struggled with being a psychic empath for most of my adult life and probably a good portion of my childhood.  I don’t much discuss it with other people because most people can’t comprehend the sensations that psychic empaths deal with on a daily basis.  There’s just no point in it.

Now, just to be clear, most of the ideas that people have about psychic empaths are garbage.  There’s a Hollywood image of someone, “picking up,” crystal clear messages out of the ether, making astonishing predictions about the future, or having amazing insights about other people’s thoughts.  The truth of the matter is that living with those, “gifts,” frequently feels like pure chaos. 

INSIDE AND OUTSIDE

As near as I can tell, most people have a very clearly defined sense of inside versus outside, both in terms of their bodies and their emotions.  In other words, they have an innate sense of, “I’m in here, and you’re over there.”

To a large extent, that sense of differentiation doesn’t exist for psychic empaths.  We can, “feel,” other people’s energy, their moods, their emotions, their private thoughts just as if they were expressing them out loud.  Sometimes – especially with people we love or have some other strong bond with – we can feel their energy from a very great distance.  We somehow know when people we care about are upset, depressed, or in trouble.  We also know when they’re happy, joyful.

That’s not unheard of, even for normal people.  Many people have had the experience of thinking of someone that they haven’t heard from for years, when suddenly the phone rings and it’s that person.  It happens.  Now try to imagine if it happened to you every single day.  At a certain point, the psychic empath will begin to feel like a sponge, like we don’t know which energy is ours and which energy belongs to other people.  It can be very confusing:  why am I suddenly terribly depressed?  Is it me or is it that someone else’s energy?

EMPATHS VERSUS PSYCHIC EMPATHS

Claiming to be an, “empath,” has gotten to be kind of trendy.  There are articles about it all over the internet and I guess it’s a way of saying, “Hey, I’m a really sensitive, caring person.”  Which is cool.  We LIKE sensitive caring people.  But there is a major difference between empaths and psychic empaths.  It all exists on a spectrum, so imagine a straight line with different points on it.

A ———-B———C———D

At point A you find people with NO empathy at all:  sociopaths, narcissists, psychopaths.  At point B, you find, “normal,” people with some empathy but clearly defined and sometimes rigid boundaries between themselves and other people.  At point C, you’d find emotional empaths, who are people who can STRONGLY (and emotionally) identify with other people’s feelings.  At point D, you’d find psychic empaths who actually experience other people’s emotional energy as being mixed in with their own, frequently on an involuntary basis.

And, “involuntary,” is the salient word.  Contrary to the fictionalized image of the psychic, most psychics don’t intentionally, consciously, “tune into,” other people’s emotions and thoughts.  It’s just something that happens as a part of our innate make up.  It’s what we do, whether we like it or not.

BEING PSYCHIC VERSUS BEING HYPER-VIGILANT

People who grew up in highly abusive households, people who have suffered spousal abuse, people who have been in combat, and people who have extremely high stress jobs tend to become hyper-vigilant.  What that means is that they are in a nearly constant, “fight or flight,” reaction.  They have become so habituated to living in a dangerous environment that they are constantly, “scanning,” for any signs of threats.  They are in a constant reactive mode. 

Hyper-vigilance – that scanning for danger – can occur at such an amazingly rapid rate that it almost appears to be psychic.  People who are hyper-vigilant are taking in and processing cues from their environment at a speed that’s nearly incomprehensible to a, “normal,” person.  That’s how they survived in surroundings that were fraught with danger, by being extremely sensitive to the slightest nuances of what’s going on around them.

The difference between being hyper-vigilant behavior and psychic behavior may actually look blurry to an outsider.  Hyper-vigilant behavior, though, is learned, adaptive, behavior and psychic behavior is something that you’re born with.  The difference can get even blurrier because people who are psychic will frequently become hyper-vigilant as a result of being so open to other people’s energy.

BOUNDARIES:  BEING VIOLATED AND VIOLATING

If you do a quick survey of articles on the internet about empaths you’ll find that boundaries are a big issue.  Most of the articles and books out there are oriented toward helping empaths have stronger personal boundaries.  If you’re highly empathic – much less psychically empathic – keeping your energy and your emotions separated from other people’s energies and emotions can be a huge challenge.

I’ve recently become aware of a different aspect of that, though, which is that, “normal,” people frequently feel that their boundaries are being violated by psychic empaths.  And I don’t really know why it hadn’t occurred to me before.

To a large extent, all I can do is to describe it from my side of the experience.  When I sit down across from someone, I feel almost bombarded with energetic and emotional impressions.  I’m not just listening to their words and reading their body language and facial expressions, I’m processing – frequently on a subconscious level – a whole array of vibrations that they’re emanating.

While I’m doing that, it can be difficult to keep what I’m picking up on a psychic level separate from what the person is telling me verbally.  And inadvertently responding to the unspoken psychic content can make the other person feel personally violated.

Let me give you an example.  Suppose a psychic empath is sitting down having a nice chat with a stranger about the weather.  Unbeknownst to the empath, the person they’re chatting with has been having a lot of emotional issues with a romantic relationship she’s involved in.  So the conversation might go something like:

“Nice weather we’re having.”

“Yes, but they say it might rain.”

“You never can tell this time of the year.”

“Yeah, the weatherman always seems to get it wrong.  What’s up with your boyfriend yelling at you?”

And, NO, the stranger is NOT going to say, “Oh, gee, you must be psychic!”  They’re going to say, “That’s personal and it’s none of your damned business.” And then they’re going to feel creeped out.

The point is that the psychic empath wasn’t trying to intrude.  He wasn’t meaning to pick up on something that’s a deeply private issue to the other person – it just happens.  Psychics pick it up and it pops out of our mouths. And, yes, it can feel very much like a boundary violation to the person who just got, “read.”  (Interestingly, I’ve only been able to find one article that addresses this issue.  It’s called, “Hey, Don’t Read My Mind,” though it might as well be called, “Don’t Read My Mind, Goddamnit!”)

BEING PSYCHIC AND BEING ALIENATED

I realized as I was writing this post that I was feeling an immense sense of sadness.  There are virtually no people out there that psychic empaths can talk to about these issues.  It’s paradoxical:  being highly empathetic almost always leads to a sense of being highly alienated.  The longer you live, the more aware you become of the fact that you are fundamentally different from the majority of people you will encounter in life.  The more that you authentically honor your own nature – the very way that you were born – the less you feel that you will ever belong.

I’m not offering this little post in the hope that most people will understand what I’m trying to say.  Rather, I’m putting it out there for other people who are dealing with the same experiences and feel that no one understands.

You are not alone.

Author: Dan Adair

Artist, writer, semi-retired wizard, and the author of, "Just the Tarot," by Dan Adair

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