Empathy, Creativity, and Negativity

I am what people call an empath. Not in the spooky Star Trek type of way, but I am a person who is hyper-sensitive to other people’s emotions. I not only read people well, but I am personally affected by their emotions. At funerals I rarely cry until I see those close to the deceased crying. At weddings I cry happy tears when I see the joy of the couple.

Not only do I feel what others feel, but it sticks with me. There’s a reason I can’t watch certain films even though I hear they are fantastic—because I know the emotions will haunt me for weeks, perhaps even triggering an anxiety spiral because of their intensity.

I am not alone in this. Many creatives are also highly empathic. It’s what allows us to walk in other people’s shoes as we write characters different from us, inhabit and perform characters different from us, and envision a world different than ours.

And I know that many creatives, like myself, have been very off their game the past few years. In my case, my anxiety disorder has flared up, and everyone knows that when you are anxious you have difficulty focusing and therefore completing tasks. The past few years have been stressful for creatives, and for empaths in particular.

Darkness is everywhere we look, oozing over everything like a thick oil slick. The anger, the bitterness, the despair, the pain, the rise in hate crimes, the never-ending gun carnage…the list goes on and we empaths suck it all up like a sponge, whether we want to or not, and it infects us like a disease.

I think now that my creative slump is not just from my high anxiety. I realized the other day that I have been seeing so much darkness that I have had trouble seeing any light. My books contain some darkness, but in the end the light always wins. But I couldn’t see the light in real life, and I therefore struggled to find it in my work. I seemed caught in a black tunnel that had no end.

But a few days ago I watched Greta Thunberg’s impassioned speech and I saw hope. And I heard Alex Borstein urging women to “step out of line, ladies”. And I realized that I had been seeing something else these past few years, too. Something I hadn’t really noticed.

Women. Women coming together for a purpose. Women moving outside their comfort zones to make things happen. Women finding their voices and taking up positions of power. Women saying, “It’s our turn now.”

A change is coming. I do not know exactly what it will be, or how it will play out. But I feel it. A wave is cresting, sweeping in something new.

Maybe that is why I’ve seen only darkness for so long.

Because the darkest hour is always just before dawn.

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