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empathy, mama birds and new mythologies

mama bird in her nest protecting her own eggs

I am a walking mirror neuron. Highly empathic and extremely sensitive, I feel other people’s feelings and tend to see deeply into situations. It’s both a gift and a burden. At at improv class I took recently, I mentioned my tendency towards empathy in a self-deprecating way to a fellow student. She came back to me later and said, “You know, Kymberlee, empathy is the best of humanity. Hold on to that.”

This meant a lot to me. It is a wonderful thing to claim the gift of caring so deeply for other beings. This has been with me my entire life. People sense that I am kind and trustworthy. This is a beautiful thing. It also brought up my fears and the difficulties I’ve faced with this over the years. Here are the major issues I’ve faced:

  • I have a hard time with boundaries and self-advocacy at times because I feel others’ feelings and pain and want to fix things so they/I don’t feel pain.
  • I have a difficult time tuning into my own feelings when I am around others. I get caught up in their story/energy/feelings and forget about myself. People are so grateful for my “kindness” they want to be around me more often and I fade into the background more and more. I begin to resent this. This causes problems for me.
  • I have attracted a lot of needy people as a result of the first two things. These same people are often oblivious to the fact that I might have any needs because I don’t even voice them. I’m too busy attending to theirs. They laud me for my strength and wisdom. Then I resent them. It’s such a trap.

  • A recently-divorced friend of mine calls the needy part of himself “baby bird”. He used to talk about how he was worried that baby bird was hungry and needed too much attention. I find myself wondering how I got cast in the role of “mama bird”. I think the answer lies in my tendency towards empathy. I genuinely care about others and want to reach out and help. People sense this.

    My solution to this is to find a new metaphor. I shared this with my friend and I’m putting it here as a reminder to myself that empathy and care are indeed wonderful as long as they are applied equally to all hearts.

    I have my own baby bird I need to feed so I am not really noticing yours anymore. You are an adult and it’s your responsibility to feed it.

    I encourage you to protect your baby bird yourself instead of looking to others to do it for you. Feed it, nurture it and keep it safe. That is the task for each of us.

    I am a hawk who will kill baby birds to feed my own young.

    Your baby bird feels like a hawk to my baby bird.

    We are all birds of prey and we all have baby birds to feed. It’s good to remember that.

    eagle soaring high and seeing all but only caring for it’s own young

    “Do not be satisfied with the stories that come before you. Unfold your own myth.” ~Rumi

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