Have you noticed if your own mood shifts according to the mood of those around you? If it does you have empathy and could even be an empath.
How you absorb other moods is important to consider when you are supporting someone with a mental illness, particularly if it is depression or anxiety.
If you have strong empathy for something it means you care deeply and feel things deeply. This can be difficult if you are also a “Rock”.
It took some time for me to notice how my own mood shifts in response to how my husband is feeling. When we were first experiencing the strength of Richards depression, I often saw my own state shift to a state of unhappiness, just by being around him.
This was particularly evident in my son. Children, especially at a young age, are very aware of the feelings and moods around them, they are very in-tune.
I observed a direct link between Patrick’s behaviour and Richards state. As Richards state darkened Patrick’s behaviour would worsen.
This is a key point if you have young children and I will be exploring this in a separate article.
Looking at how my own mood correlated to Richards, it became very difficult for me to do the things I wanted and needed to do because I l would lose interest.
Whilst this was temporary for me, it did feel awful because whilst briefly and lightly, it gave me some insight into how Richard must be feeling.
The difference was I was able to recognise what was happening and I taught myself how to shift back to my own state, rather than Richards.
So, what can you do to manage the feelings you take on from others?
There are practices you can follow to recognise your own state and manage it. To realise which emotions are yours and which are coming from those around you.
Step 1. Recognising the emotion
This is harder than it sounds. To recognise the emotion you are experiencing you must be honest with yourself and look at your own thoughts and behaviours. For example, are you angry, frustrated or anxious?
To do this it is helpful to be still and quiet, you might even meditate and look at how you and your body are feeling. Think about whether it feels tense or perhaps energised if you are excited about something.
Try and identify what the emotion is, look at where it is coming from does it feel deep within you or external to you?
If you can pin down what it feels like and perhaps where it is located, you can now name what it is.
Step 2. Okay, I know what I am feeling, what now?
One you have identified the emotion you are feeling its important to look at where it has come from. Is it yours or have you taken it on from someone else?
You will know it’s yours if you understand that cause of that emotion, if you can’t identify the cause it is likely from someone else.
Step 3. Moving on from it
Understanding the source gives you 2 actions.
Let’s consider you are feeling frustrated about something. You might not be able to put your finger on why and that fuels further frustration.
If you can identify that the frustration is yours, you can then give yourself a choice.
You can decide to resolve the thing which is causing frustration or say “okay frustration I hear you, thank you, however I am making the choice to put that off until another day because I prefer to deal with this other thing first”. Either way you can move past it.
If the frustration is coming from someone else, I personally have found it harder to recognise and move past. It’s taken practice and in the main I can do it now.
Once I have identified it isn’t mine, I give myself permission to thank it for giving me insight to how Richard is feeling and let it go. I might then go and talk to Richard and say I am feeling frustration from him and is there anything I can do to help.
Often, he doesn’t recognise it in himself and denies the emotion, however it does mean I can move past it and am back into a state from which I can support him more effectively.
Step 4. Reflect
The process takes time and practice and it’s helpful to reflect on the process to assist the learning.
Sometimes you will recognise the emotion and sometimes you won’t.
The source or cause may not become evident until the thing which causes it has passed.
What is important is that you give yourself the chance to recognise it, step 1 is the key. Once you can step back from yourself and say “hello anger, hello frustration, hello anxiety, I see you, now are you mine or someone else’s” you will have come a long way!
If you do feel things strongly and recognise that your emotions and mood are affected by those around you, it is likely you are an empath.
This might be something you would benefit from exploring more and understanding more deeply. It’s also okay to be kind to yourself and compassionate. This isn’t easy and it might helpful to remember that you are not alone. Give yourself permission to recognise your own strength and that you are amazing!