Saturday, February 9, 2013

Help, My Daughter is a Betazoid! Seeking Resources for Empathic Kids

I consider myself a slightly stunted empath.  I pick up on a lot of things, but nowhere nearly as acutely as my daughter does.  She is my little Betazoid, unerringly picking up on all the emotional energy around her and absorbing it into her own.  When she was smaller, I watched helplessly in dismay as over and over she would eagerly anticipate an outing to someplace special, and then she would find another person, especially other children, who were sad or upset and it would wash over her so strongly that she became sad or upset along with them.  I have also noticed how often her emotional state mirrors my own.

Image credit: Christopher Macsurak on Flickr
For me, this kind of thing would show up in several different ways.  Mental pictures.  Almost always gut feelings about what was going on inside of someone else.  Things that I knew without being able to tell you *how* I knew it.  Sometimes even feeling a fleeting sensation or pain in my own body.

As a Christian who grew up in Pentacostal/Charismatic circles, we have all kinds of spiritual language for this kind of thing.  It was typically described as manifestations of the Holy Spirit (unless of course, it was a negative/spooky thing, in which case it was considered demonic).  Even as a child, when praying for people I could sometimes see visions, or have "words of knowledge" or my hands would feel different sensations when I touched someone.

I do believe very strongly in the gifts of the Spirit and in spiritual entities.  However, I also believe that emotional energy isn't always about good or evil and that sometimes it just is.  But I have been frustrated in attempts to learn more because most of the material I have found has been all new-agey stuff on children channeling ghosts and showing psychic abilities, which isn't what I am interested in. I have no desire to communicate with the dead and no particular gifting in precognition.  I just want to learn about how to deal with the everyday matters of managing not only my own feelings but also those of the people around me and all of the other things that we notice so much more than most people (the constant noise and buzzing of fluorescent lights, for example).

I desperately wish I had more resources on the practical matters of being an empath--books, links, whatever.  I have a very intense need to learn more about this for my daughter's sake. 

We recently had a rather upsetting experience, and what disturbed me the most was her account of it afterward.  From my viewpoint, the confrontation was merely angry.  From her description, it was violent.  I could feel that she wasn't deliberately lying (there goes my own empathic radar!), but I also knew that her version didn't match up with the facts.   This ate on me for days.  Then I recalled a few similar incidents and suddenly everything clicked.

In each of the confrontations, a family member had been very angry and then touched her.  Although they hadn't physically hurt her, she had felt their anger as a physical sensation smashing against her.  As we began to talk about it, it made so much sense to both of us.  She wasn't lying--she just didn't have the maturity and words to explain what had happened and the subtle distinction between the person's actions and her perception.

Realizing again how strong her empathic abilities are has also brought greater insight to her behavior in other situations recently.  I have noticed how she often goes wild in a large group, or seems to get unreasonably sad or nervous as if she is shutting down.  She simply gets overloaded from all the feelings and emotions of the people around her.  And of course, most people don't consider it polite to express all their strong feelings in public.  So if someone was angry or sad or nervous and trying to act on the surface as if everything was fine, the disconnect between what she was feeling and seeing/hearing was unbearable.  As an adult, I struggle to process this kind of thing (and feel emotionally exhausted for days after a party, even when I had fun!), and being a child, she is less guarded and has fewer coping tools.

I want so much to be able to help her with this, and I really don't know how.  I know that I can shield myself a bit (unless I am very tired or hormonal), but I don't know how to help her do that. 

I know that this is a precious gift.  I have always seen her as a Healer, and there have been many times where she has used her empathic abilities to help others.  I just want her to be able to protect herself at the same time.

Ash over at Simple Gifts had an excellent post on this, but I need more.  Can somebody please share how to parent a Betazoid? :)


MomeeeZen said...

Hi Dulce,
This post resonated so much with me, as my 6yr old is the same. She is so empathetic, but she is struggling with how to protect herself. I talk to her often about how she needs to take care of herself and trying to teach her about balancing her acts of compassion to others with acts of compassion to herself. In my research on her personality, I have come to conclude that my daughter, and perhaps my other children too, are highly sensitive children. These children pick up on things others don't and their perception of emotions seems to be highly sensitized. So far the resources that has helped me the most have been the website Hand in Hand Parenting, the book Growing Happy Kids, and doing yoga with my kids to help them tune into their bodies and teaching them to calm their "insides" aka their mind. I'm finding that it's not going to change her, I'm not trying to do that, but I hope to give her the tools she will need as she grows and matures to be able to work through things.

Rose ASL said...

I think it would help if you explain to her that she has an unusual ability; that not many people feel things as strongly as she does. That may lighten some of the load she feels when others are directing negative emotions towards her. I know it helps me. I am empathic, and I remember being more so as a child but shutting down as much as possible since I was surrounded by negative emotions. Lately I've come to realize that I was affected by the negativity much more than others in my family, and I think this accounts for some of the very different memories we have of childhood. My mom shows her emotions far more easily than I, but I think that she feels them less. As a child I felt constantly burdened by her unhappiness. It would have helped to know that she might not have felt as unhappy as her emotions felt to me. Another thing that helped me recently was an activity in my Career Development class about toxic people. I realized that even the people who weren't toxic, but whose behavior brought negativity into my life, could be given a back seat. I didn't have to reject them completely, just self-protect, sort of like MZ said.

Sheila said...

This was me growing up. I exhausted my poor family with it! Now I know I am Highly Sensitive and it explains a lot. Have you looked into the Highly Sensitive trait? Google HSP and see what you find. I have also heard the book The Highly Sensitive Child recommended.

Some people just feel things more than others ... it helps so much to know that it isn't something that's wrong with you; it's just a special gift that you have.t

dulce de leche said...

Thank you all so, so much! Your encouragement and comments helped so very much. :) Sheila, another friend recommended The Highly Sensitive Child book and it is AMAZING! I am only about four chapters into it, but I find myself yelling "yes!" at nearly every line. Already it has been so helpful that I am encouraging my husband to read it (and he does not typically read any parenting books, but this one is so insightful and helpful that I think he will).

Jamie said...

Dulce, I'm so glad I found your blog through Deeper Family!
My 4 year old son is a Betazoid, too! One specific example would be when he was an infant sleeping in a carrier on my back, I got really angry with his sister and he was suddenly wide awake and wailing. I knew by instinct then that I'd have to be more careful with this one. Even to this day he picks up on the family's anxiety "vibes."
I am currently reading a book called Growing Up Brave which has given me some insights in how to help him. (Since anxiety seems to go hand-in-hand with his sensitivity issues.) I am just beginning to own discernment as my spiritual gift and he is made of the same fabric. I want to make sure I don't suppress his gifts in my efforts to help him.
I think there is not a lot of literature out there to assist us as yet, at least in Christian spheres, because Western Culture has created a dichotomy between mind/body/spirit. I grew up in Reformed church circles where emotions are highly frowned upon so this is relatively new territory for me. I am now doing a lot of reading from various sources and currently sorting through a lot of information.
I hope you will revisit this post with any/all helpful discoveries you make in this area. Thanks for sharing!

dulce de leche said...

Jamie, thank you so much! :) You totally hit the nail on the head about Western Culture. I am going to look for a copy of Growing Up Brave because that is definitely an issue for us. Thank you again--it is wonderful to be able to share this journey with others on the same path!