My son tugs at his hair and thrashes against the passenger seat in a cold car. Tears drip heavily into his lap, “Something is wrong with me! I need help! I need therapy!”
I hear his plea, not from his mind…but from his soul. I hear him and I recognize the urgency in his desperate voice. He cries out and slams his hands on the dashboard. His brothers extend comforting words, a gesture that lands flatly on his aching temples. He cannot hear them. He cannot see any of us right now while he’s caught between worlds. He kicks out his legs in an attempt to get rid of the ghosts that take up space in him, full of tribal noise beyond the reach of his fingertips.
This is the chaotic reality of a Little Empath.
He has expressed the desire for therapy, and I know why. He demands answers. He’s had enough of endless emotional anguish, suspended anxiously in the realm of the unknown. Unfortunately, therapy will not give him the answers he truly seeks.
Who he is, this knowing, cannot be found inside the walls of a counselor’s office. His panic and dismay are not an indication that something is wrong with him. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a much bolder and more complex situation unfurling inside of him.
When he cries, a thousand children cry with him. It’s the girl in his math class, or the teacher who hasn’t slept in weeks. It’s his brothers’ nightmares or his grandfather’s aching bones. The pores in his very skin accept these realities as if they were his own. His song intertwines with melodies of the people around him, with no clear way to identify what [pain] is his and what is theirs.
His empathicness extends beyond his local tribe to global crisis. It is possible to feel heartache and sorrow echo from across the entire world. His flesh scorched by fires burning in different lands.
If the room is too quiet, he can hear the wind whip across the sea carrying desperate cries from unsettled spirits. Thousands of miles stand between him and charred forests, yet it’s right there all the same, living inside of him, bursting from his very cells.
This causes a sense of disorientation. How can he be both at home and amidst the blackened trees at the same time? Subtle anxiety escalates to panic wandering a dream that is his waking life. His body collapses to the floor, he sees the wreckage and wraps inside the collective fear — “What if the rain never comes? Who will come to our aid? Will the firestorm ever end?”
He is attuned not just to one world, but all of them. Battling his anger with a society who has willfully ignored a universal call for help.
He wishes to acknowledge and share what is buried deep in the heart chambers of human despair. He will not rest until the people around him recognize their own screams bursting from his lungs. He will not turn his back against those with trauma dripping from their weeping souls.
Empaths are capable of embodying invisible wounds melting from silent frozen lips. They desire to end patterns of abuse unknowingly passed down through generational lines. Empaths’ willingness to feel this is admirable. But, they are shamed for what they know and how they know it.
Empaths illuminate injustice, but these perceptions are often dismissed by teachers, leaders, and authority figures alike. Even on the rare occasion this [reality] is accepted to a small degree. It’s like a pat on the head or a notation in a folder that gets filed away forever. It is certainly not fully incorporated into the full scope of health and wellness.
But true empaths need to consistently center this awareness in order to sustain function in their everyday lives. It means mental health days and emotional supports are necessary for growth. This is an important part of an empath’s self-care regimen. They should be treated with delicate hands and the family system around them should be supported, too.
It is real, and can be a crippling road of shame and despair should the awareness go unnoticed.
He believes if he lets go of the hurt, it means abandoning the heart of another. He holds it all…every teardrop, every unspoken prayer, every invisible monster that haunts the dreams of the innocents. If he holds on, then it can’t be ignored. If he doesn’t let go, it will inevitably lead to salvation.
Little Empath, I hear your call. I watch as you quite literally bang the voices out from your head on the passenger seat.
I commit to acknowledging how much of this can take you “out of the game.”
I will continue to validate how this functions in your life.
I vow to allow you space to express the experiences you’re having.
I promise never to minimize your feelings, as someone who (also) feels deeply the feels of others.
Together, we will pray for the girl in math class, and extend our intention to the exhausted teacher awaiting true physical respite.
We will use the power of our compassionate witness to share the stories left untold.
We will learn to unfold ourselves from others, to keep our spirit safe.
We’ll even join a planetary prayer for rain with those dancing oceans away.
Dear Little Empath, you are both bold and wise. I see your tear-stained cheeks. Quiet new questions in your eyes…what is this? Who am I?
Together, we will answer these questions.
We will show others how to embrace their empathicness and set these burdens free.
For more self-study, The Urban Howl recommends The Highly Sensitive Child: Helping Our Children Thrive When The World Overwhelms Them.
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