I think I finally get it.....
Updated: Jan 11, 2020
I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts "Armchair Expert" today and had a profound experience. This is my favorite podcast . Part of the reason is because Dax Shepard is the host and while that in itself is not all that interesting, the fact that he studied anthropology in college and is very knowledgeable about psychology is. It is an interview style podcast so they bring on movie stars, musicians, politicians and such but along with just chatting there is a much more interesting context of human psychology. My favorite episodes are the ones where they bring in experts "Experts on Expert". They talk to psychologists, doctors, therapists and what not. Just fascinating.
Well today I was listening to an episode from 2019 with Adam Grant who is a professor at U of Pennsylvania in organizational psychology. He studies the psychology of being in an organization and how people work together. During this conversation they talked about the concept of empathy, and how that plays out in a work setting. That got me thinking about my life and why this work is so important to me. And I think I have the answer: I am an empath.
Up until this point, I didn't realize that everyone didn't experience the world the way I do. (How could I?) When I meet someone, I always know how they are feeling, especially if they are in some kind of distress. I can tell if there is tension in a room and where it comes from. Back in my CNA days, if there was some sort of uncomfortable tension in the family dynamic, they would send me in to smooth things over. I was called "The Fixer". I would make a quick assessment of what was going on and in just a few minutes everyone was calm again. I knew it was a skill I possess, but I didn't understand where the skill came from. Now I do.
And I perceive negative emotions very strongly, especially what I can only refer to as malevolence. I always tell my girls "go with your gut", if it tells you there is something not quite right about your Uber driver, don't get in. I have met a few people in my life where I just knew that I never wanted to be alone with them....one of them was a contractor who gave us an estimate on our basement remodel. He didn't say or do anything, but I felt there was something very wrong with him. Needless to say , we went with the contractor who was more like having your goofy brother-in-law around (thanks Chuck, I enjoyed your company and you did a fabulous job!) But I digress....see? : )
Not only do I sense my clients fear and distress, I feel it myself. This explains why I find this work so important and why I feel so horrible when I hear about school shootings, fires, floods etc. I can't help. It makes me absolutely sick to my stomach! I wish I could rescue everyone, but I know I can't. So instead, I focus on the ways in which I am able to help.
So when someone calls me saying their insurance won't approve a surgery, their fear and pain become mine. I HAVE to alleviate their fear and pain.....have to. My empathic abilities and years of experience in the healthcare field as an ancillary care giver has given me very important skills. I can help, so that's what I do. It's what I HAVE to do. I fight for you like I am fighting for myself....because that's how it feels to me.