All of the clues were there, but until I discovered the term â€œEmpathâ€ in my mid-30s, they didnâ€™t mean a whole lot.
As a young child, I never played with toy guns like the other boys. I cried at the sight of a fish getting caught, and I couldnâ€™t stand to see dinner plates bearing identifiable pieces of creatures.
From the age of 6 or 7, I avoided sad songs (especially â€œWhat A Wonderful Worldâ€) because I knew they would stir the urge to cry. I watched hockey but couldnâ€™t understand why the players felt the need to drop their gloves and launch their bare fists into each otherâ€™s faces â€“ or why anyone would want to view such barbarity.
As a pre-teen, I prayed to God (and I wasnâ€™t a prayer) for a particular Hollywood film to be a hit, as I felt bad for the aging, seemingly out-of-touch star. At school I felt sorry for lonely and unattractive teachers, even if that didnâ€™t stop me from seriously misbehaving in their classes.
As a young adult, I cried when coworkers I didnâ€™t get along with were let go. One man was dismissed largely because he did not treat me with respect, and even my deep-seated anger toward him could not mask an underlying sympathy. It felt so bad to hate him.
Further into adulthood, I attended counselling after it appeared as though a close friend had been sexually violated. My anger toward the apparent perpetrator never felt genuine, because it was difficult for me to genuinely harbor such intense feelings of hate. At one point I told a counsellor, â€œI hate hating people!â€ to which she assured me that itâ€™s perfectly okay to hate someone who has done something bad. She had no problem doing what was tearing me up inside. I knew I could never be like her.
I often thought there was something wrong with me. Perhaps I was depressed, weak, numb or just didnâ€™t have what it takes to be in this life. I took things so seriously, felt emotions so intensely and for long periods of time.
But another part of me thought I was normal; that the things I felt were what everybody felt, and if they said otherwise they were just acting macho and denying their emotions. It never occurred to me that someone could actually be malevolent or use someone else with no remorse. Wasnâ€™t I in for a shock.
The experience that finally set me on the path to discovery about my spiritual nature (and itâ€™s still a little weird for me to write that) was a painful one. Without getting into the gory details, a woman I thought was a loving friend used my compassion and strong emotions against me to hurt, inadvertently on my part, an innocent person.
What should have been my strength, my compassion, was twisted into a disgusting weapon. No one around me could understand why my involuntary act of hurting an innocent person wrought such emotional havoc. Theyâ€™d remind me that I was a good person who had been duped, but inside I was overwhelmed by what had happened. I was completely shut down.
I began a search for wellness that gradually led down a spiritual path â€“ and to a spiritual healer. Soon enough, the term â€œEmpathâ€ entered my world.
At first I was unsure whether I was an Empath. I felt unworthy of such a beautiful description. I also wondered whether I was a spiritual hypochondriac, self-diagnosing and slapping a label on something I knew nothing about.
For months I went back and forth between â€œyesâ€ and â€œnoâ€ on the Empath question. The evidence never seemed clear-cut, no matter how many online questionnaires I filled out or how many â€œah haâ€ moments I had while reading books on the subject (there were also plenty of â€œnuh uhâ€ moments).
I definitely wanted to be an Empath. To me, a guy long fascinated by the powers of the mind, to be an Empath was to have a super power, which I guess is another clue that the term did indeed apply to me. I mean, would a non-Empath really read a list that includes items such as â€œcan feel other peopleâ€™s emotionsâ€ and think, â€œYou know what, I wish I could do that!â€?
But I also had a past. I had misbehaved so badly as a teenager that I more than once brought my mom to tears. I stole and vandalized. I picked on kids who were socially beneath me. I drove recklessly. How the hell could an Empath do such awful things?
Of course Empaths arenâ€™t perfect. And they donâ€™t necessarily come into this world knowing their true identity right away. Learning this helped me appreciate how much more complex this subject is than the Empath checklists you find on spiritual websites.
When I really delved into the matter, there were simply too many additional â€œah haâ€ moments to dismiss. Even the tingling I experienced in my head in 2013 took on a new meaning, as this can be a symptom of a spiritual awakening rather than the confusing bacon metaphor a doctor provided me at the time.
Recently, I had an experience where it seemed like I may have picked up another personâ€™s annoyance as my own. A few days before that, the love I am cultivating inside spontaneously comforted me during what would have otherwise been a moment of self-hatred. So things out of the ordinary have been happening as I move into acceptance of my gifts.
Yet even as I write this, I only accept the statement â€œI am an Empathâ€ at about 80 per cent. It still feels a little too good to be true that I am part of an army of Lightworkers, that my sensitivities will serve some healing purpose. I often ask myself, â€œAre you believing this because you want to believe it or because itâ€™s actually true?â€ Iâ€™m increasingly leaning toward the latter, and it feels good.