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  • Brenda Hershey

Desensitization of an Empath - How Could This Be?

Being an empath is such an interesting experience; the back and forth of it all; the exchanging of energy and all the feeling that comes along with it.


I’ve always been one to feel the energy of the person or people with whom I’m sharing space with. I feel it, tune into it and either:

1. Gradually lessen my vibration to that which I’m surrounded by; or

2. Breathe, stay tapped into my own energetic vibration, and see a slow but sure lift of the energy levels around me as well. This one rings true if I am in a state of presence; acting from a place of awareness and intention.


I try to remind myself often that the universal rule says lower vibrations must meet the higher vibration in the space. I yearn to be that higher vibration.


However, I recently found myself becoming a bit apathetic or desensitized to the pain and suffering all around me.


You see, I’m a humanitarian aid worker in Iraqi Kurdistan and we were recently registering and verifying beneficiaries for a livelihoods project. Many of these people will receive training and support for agriculture or livestock projects; or their small businesses.


In total, we visited over 600 homes, retrieving personal information, information about their projects/ideas, then seeing their space and confirming what they’re saying is, in fact, true. In order for us to actually assist them, we need to effectively collect all of this information (in a timely manner).


That’s a lot of faces, stories, conversations, and connections.


I caught myself one day feeling pretty desensitized while interacting with a woman who was going on and on (in Kurdish) about how both of her sons were either sick or injured and she desperately needed support. Although I didn’t understand the words she was using in the moment, I picked up on her body language and tone of voice that she was complaining about some aspects of her current situation.


To be honest, this is not uncommon. It seems there’s a widely accepted belief that, if they can convince us of how bad their situation is, we’ll be more likely to support them in some way. *Like any population, not everyone’s like this, but it is somewhat common phenomenon.


We were trying to get information to register her ~ which is how we can help ~ but she’s going on (and on and on) about her sons. I remember thinking: Lady, you're preventing me from actually helping you.


The fact of the matter is, there is suffering all around us here. We’re seeing it every single day with refugees and displaced people, and even among host community members, as the economic situation in Kurdistan is far below par.



So this woman is talking and I’m becoming impatient because we can’t get the information we need from her. Justified, right?


But how about this phenomenon of being around so much suffering that you become desensitized to it? And for an empath to become desensitized? That’s saying something.


On a collective scale, it’s no wonder we become so desensitized to people’s suffering around the world. I mean, so many people are in bad situations, ya’ll. The suffering is real, there's no doubt about it. Many of our fellow humans are desperate for help or even just the acknowledgment of their circumstances... That's the least we can do, right? Don't we yearn to be seen and heard when we're the ones (figuratively) getting kicked around by life's circumstances?


This realization woke up me, as I stood in front of this elderly woman practically begging us for some assistance and felt little empathy. "This is very unlike me," I thought.


The reality is that there’s only so much I can do. But since then, and since reflecting on this fleeting but impactful experience, I’ve been more conscious about what I can do on a human level... what we can ALL do on a human level:

  • Always look them in the eye.

  • Be an active listener, even if they’re going on (there are polite yet firm ways to move the conversation along).

  • Assure them that they’ve been heard (even when you don't think you can do anything to address their concerns).

I get that it’s exhausting. I really do. But I think becoming of aware of moments of apathy like this, and making the effort to then step into that person’s shoes is the key to shifting our human consciousness in a positive direction. In doing so, we’ll be more compassionate with ourselves and others, and more understanding of the world around us.

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