Us HSPs pick up on the emotions of others, including pain and sadness. It can stay with us and bother us more than others.
There are tons of examples I could talk about, but one popped into my head the other day. It was something I haven’t really thought about in over fifteen years, and it was interesting to examine it all over again in the lens of high sensitivity.
When I was in high school, the father of a classmate died in a tragic plane crash. I wasn’t close with his daughter, but we were friendly and played on some sport teams together. Her father was well-known in the community, everyone liked him, and he was my softball coach when I was younger. My sister was good friends with another of his daughters.
Of course the community was devastated. And even now, I feel like a jerk for talking about how this affected me, since obviously how I felt is unimportant compared to the pain felt by his wife and daughters. What right do I even have to talk about the pain related to his death…
When I heard the news, I remember lying on my bed and sobbing until I couldn’t breathe. I thought about so many scenarios–the moment the mother found out, when she thought about how she’d tell the kids, the moment she told them, and how they were all heartbroken together. The unspeakable, raw, pain. How can they even bear it? I thought of my classmate and couldn’t fathom her heartache. It made me hurt so much to think about it, and I kept thinking about it. I wondered why no one else in my family seemed to be as bothered as me.
My family went to the showing. I did not want to go, because I worried I would cry, and that would be awkward. I also did not want attention on myself, of course. I felt I did not have the right to feel as strongly as I did. I wasn’t close enough to the family to be as affected as I was.
But I made it through without crying. I saw my classmate there for the first time since it happened, and was full of empathy. I thought about the mundane things we do in a day–take a shower, put on clothes, brush our teeth, eat a meal. She had to do all of those things that day, knowing she was going to her dad’s funeral. How can you even function with such a huge loss?
I think, to me, that her loss represented all loss. It represented the loss I will have to face some day of someone close to me. I worry about that. But what good does that do? None, of course.
In situations like this, I wish I could turn off my sensitivity. It didn’t do me any good to feel so much pain and sorrow about that man’s death.
Related posts: Empathy toward the physical pain of others