Friday, March 29, 2019

Where Empathy Meets Hyperfocus

"Overwhelmed" – by Elena Covalciuc Vieriu

I was mulling over the idea that I am a very negative person, when a friend reminded me that I tend to hyperfocus on certain thoughts. Worries have a way of making themselves real if I think about them too much, like if I worry I'm being cringey, I'm more likely to actually act that way.

I can be very happy if I'm focusing on happy things, and especially if I'm feeling physically and mentally well. My body and mind have always seemed determined to create obstacles where there should be none--sensory issues and physical imbalances, anxiety and depression, and not to mention the after-effects of little (and big) traumas that pile up on me as time passes.

I've talked before about breaking out of negative thought cycles in this podcast:


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I am very easily affected by what is around me. People's conversations, ambient music, what's on TV, etc. And not just sensory-wise, but emotionally. I have realized over the years that I am empathic, so I can feel the energy of what I take in as if it is my own.

If my mother is stressed out, I feel stressed out. If a friend is excited about something, I feel excited. If they are sad, I feel sad. Etc. etc. etc. Each person also has their own unique energy about them, and some are louder than others, some jive with me while others make me uncomfortable.

This is seriously a double-edged sword. While I can empathize with people's emotions, I don't always know what to do with them. And they can overwhelm me if they are too strong. So what use is it, knowing how they are feeling if I am helpless to respond?

"Pain from within" - by kimded on Deviantart
I can also feel emotions most people would rather not feel. I can empathize with people who abuse and do bad things, and feel their humanity when it seems no one else can or will. In no way does this justify anything they do, but it helps me understand why they might do something terrible. Their pain is my pain.

(This has come in handy in playing "devil's advocate" in various debates, when appropriate.)

I often have a hard time differentiating between my emotions/energy and the emotions/energy of other people, as well as stimuli like songs and characters in TV shows and movies. 

Pearl's precision and gracefulness makes me want to try ballet.

Sometimes I'd find myself in a terribly sad mood and not realize until later that it was triggered by a sad song I listened to earlier. Or I'll find myself inwardly adopting the mannerisms and thought processes of a movie character and have to remind myself that I'm me and not that person.

Perhaps this would make me a good actor someday, if I can manage to control my input and output of emotional energy.


As I said in the beginning, I tend to hyperfocus on certain thoughts and emotions. Being empathic intensifies this experience. My hyperfocus can either be a valuable tool or a crippling obstacle, depending on its direction.

Living alone helps me a lot, as well as maintaining a lot of control over my environment and schedule. And healthy habits are a must! For example, getting out of bed right away helps me set the tone for my day, rather than giving that job to my Facebook news feed when I check my phone while I'm still in bed.

I have an app on my phone that disables other distracting apps like Facebook Messenger, Discord, internet browsers etc. since I have a compulsive checking habit. It comes in handy on days when I want to center myself and regain my sense of me after taking in too much energy from other places. I have similar programs and browser extensions on my PC, and some days I just unplug from the internet or leave my PC off.

The best part of this is that creativity naturally flows from me the moment I take a break from absorbing other people's energy. Just yesterday, I sketched two characters, which is a lot for me in one day.

Amethyst from Steven Universe

Fade from Vael (my fantasy-novels-in-progress)
Sometimes though, I have very long creative dry spells because I'm constantly absorbing everything rather than giving much output. Some days, the most output I give is a Facebook status, and the rest of the day is spent processing other stimuli, along with other people's thoughts and emotions mixed up with mine in a confusing mass of confusion.

Still, once things quiet down, I'm really glad I can still get me back, and express myself again.