In the world of fandoms, “the feels” refers to the intense emotion we experience when remembering a powerful scene in a book, TV show, or movie. The most recent example I can think of is how everyone took a shot to “the feels” when we watched everyone fade to dust after Thanos snapped his fingers at the end of Avengers: Infinity War. I think most of us who had invested so much in all of our beloved Marvel characters felt like we had lost actual loved ones. I could not speak of Loki without tearing up for at least a week! In many situations these characters feel more real to us than some of the people we deal with on a daily basis.
As a child, I have very distinct memories of experiencing “the feels” of almost everyone around me. I cried when they cried, and I wanted to help everyone. Though it seemed odd strangers would often tell me their life story. I simply attributed it to being a good listener. I thought everyone was like me, but I found out quickly few people have this gift. Everyone loves to be around someone who has this gift, at least for a while. Life with humans reveals we often have a heavy price to pay when we love first and ask questions later.
The first time I heard the word Empath was based on a character named Counselor Deanna Troi on Star Trek the Next Generation. I saw myself in her. I would know if someone felt afraid or could sense if they were being dishonest, but at the time I did not know to trust myself. Often people would look at me crazy when I would walk away from a conversation and indicate a person was lying. I would say things like, “You can’t trust them. I just know it’s a bad idea,” or “They are furious at me and did not show it.” Anytime those around me or I would discount those nudges, we would pay the price. I have a trail of broken relationships (which I likely should never have invested in) because those I loved and followed did not listen to my warnings. I’ve learned the hard way to trust my instincts.
Life in the American Fundamentalist Christian Bubble does not make room for empaths. I was told it was simply “new age hooey” so I learned to bury my gift and hide a part of myself. I do not believe my gift, and I do now believe it is a gift, was given to be stifled because it does not fit in the ribbon wrapped box of American Christianity. The case can be made that Jesus himself was an empath as He was moved with compassion to restore the crippled, heal the lame, open blind eyes, and raise the dead. He even confronted the religious leaders as He perceived their thoughts revealing true motives and intentions. These things can’t be explained away with the simple explanation of He was God. Scripture says He was moved and He perceived which indicates He identified and understood their situation, position, and intention.
After walking away from the church system a few years ago, I have been able to fully embrace being an empath. I believe this gift was given for a reason, and I use it to help those around me. However, I’ve now learned I must set up healthy boundaries which I never had before. It is not necessary to always reveal what you may know as it’s the equivalent to tipping your poker hand, and all things tend to be revealed in the right time. After a lifetime of hurt feelings and broken friendships, I am moving forward. I recently listened to the song “Walk On” by U2 which I had always loved. However, this time it really spoke to me. “I know it aches, how your heart it breaks you can only take so much” just echoed in my mind. I have been learning to walk on for many years and suspect I will do so for years to come. I will continue to embrace the feels because it’s what makes me who I am. Sometimes I will hurt, sometimes I will laugh, but finally I will be able to feel them without doubting myself or my instincts and that is a freedom worth walking toward.
Peace and Love!