the real empaths & listeners

I. On Those Who Live with Chronic Depression & Suicidal Tendencies

I am going to paint a small picture of a beautiful young man who not too long ago had Maltese crosses inked over the scars on his wrists. For a young man, tattooed alongside the rest of his generation and ilk, each dermal imprint serves as some small illustration of his life to date – wounds and commissioned images alike. To mask scars with symbols as Teutonic and robust as these is a display of intentional, hopefully permanent reassurance to himself and others, that he had turned that most particular corner of contemplation, whether in gesture or full intent, choosing to invoke with symbols a representation of the spirit and spirits of the generations who preceded him, who lived and died in the country of his ancestors, and that he was feeling “better.”

This young man had been handed the unfortunate emotional platter of key, fraternal loss in the form of a drug-addicted, absentee father, who himself had struggled into adult- and parenthood with purposeful identity and acceptance of responsibility, who was in part motivated by vengeful needs that guided many of his choices. Having been the erstwhile partner opted out on, the jilted one, placed a scarred edge on his convenience-based connectivity with the offspring that biologically bound him to the ex who was left to play both sides of parent. This young man, whose name won’t appear so as to protect both his universality and specific identity, was an innocent of heart and mind, fiercely protective of his mother, a born tree-hugging environmentalist, animal lover and protector of peers, especially those challenged in any way that allowed for the big brotherliness in him to shine. He possessed a compulsively nobly-bent conscience that was as much a blessing as it was a curse, for such largeness of soul one generally grows into, the years affording license and space to act on and represent what exists within. For a child, it is a heavy pack on shoulders so small and untried, and almost impossible to defend to a society that leans heavily in favor of the Darwinian-rationalized cold and cruel.

Since the Fates have a terrible tendency to further test those already tested, this young man was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 16, at the very dawn of his years of maturity. He was taken to the doctor’s one afternoon following a disturbing sequence of events the night before: Ravaged by thirst, he drank and drank and drank only to throw everything up, feeling sheer exhaustion afterwards. His was weighed his blood was tested, and then he was immediately signed over to the ER. From there, he was, bewildered and scared, installed at the children’s hospital for over one week while his blood sugar levels were brought down to non-life-threatening ranges and where he was taught to check his blood sugar and inject himself accordingly.

His first night there, a child in the room next to him coded and died. The young man and his mother lay in the dark room, wide awake, listening to the panic, the bustling, the door opening and closing, feet running. They lay in the dark room and listened as the silence of death descended, the air growing heavy with grief and morbidity. That same air lifted the late the next day, after the child’s body was removed. Both mother and son could sense the moment the small body was taken away, though their door remained closed by staffers. While it separated the two from the energies just beyond, it also isolated them within their own cloud of fear. The code of silence that is HIPAA forbade any hospital staff member to say the first word to this frightened young man, to even acknowledge that something grave had indeed transpired on the other side of the very wall against which his own bed stood, against which he lay with his own life so newly on the line, so as to allow for some small word of reassurance or token clarity that would help him digest all he bore witness to. But not a word was uttered and the son and his mother mused on what scraps they could, taking comfort in each other’s presence, doing their best to move forward with the diabetic verdict that had been dealt him, dealt them. Henceforth, whatever simple bite of food this young man would ever ingest would work to kill him, unless accompanied by the blood sugar level testing and the injecting of insulins. Such irony, that all life-giving sustenance would forevermore only wreak havoc on his system…. And so long as the industry that supports diabetes is as profitable that it is, one can argue there is no end or fix in sight…. And so this young man’s sideline pariah commenced, adding to the dark mix of his adolescence.

This young man had always regarded the ending of life as an option, as a means to cease the nameless pain he would occasionally experience from the time he was a pre-teen. It was also a conversational element, appearing in random reactionary responses to ordinary, unfortunate situations, situations often fancied worse by him than they ever were, by the ever-deepening track his mindset dug out of sheer habit. Most likely, his brain function was one of those susceptible to the negative side effects one hears drone on at top speed at the tail ends of TV drug ads. I believe he has most likely been as much helped as he was hindered by the stuff he has been prescribed, and in the same manner he had to grow up and into the spirituality that always existed within him, he too had to struggle to catch up physiologically with the chemical fixes (aka meds and more meds) he was handed. We as American medical consumers all tend to tow that lucrative line on behalf of shareholder “healthcare” entities where the bottom line is not our wellness but their profit margins. This young man, like his innumerable kindred medicated ones, has “been on something” since adolescence. He will continue to line Socratic henchmen’s coffers until the day he is no more.

The question I cannot help but ask is this:

What if – what if people like this young man suffer from depression and dabble in dark thoughts of death, not because they are suicidal per se, but because they are somehow bereft of the filters most of the rest of humanity has in place (of which successful assholes have the most), that they actually feel  the current and past pain that exists all around us, “out there,” as if it hovers in the very air we who aren’t as receptive breathe with relative ease, which they however sense and inhale and hold like human vessels , feeling the pain, tasting the very bitterness, living it on behalf of themselves and others?

What if these empathic ones, who cannot help but live with the dark side of everything, contemplate the Other Side with the same ease and perspective the rest of us apply when we look over a neighbor’s fence and consider its supposedly greener grass? What if people like this young man, who has slit his wrists a couple of times, who has tried to hang himself, walking falteringly his own, long journey to Choosing Life, can feel even the latent pain of others, pain from times and events gone by, pain that exists in some nether dimension that the rest of our more content, inherently dulled society does not? What if they have a psychic radar up and running, an active functionality that, in addition to the proverbial 10% of the brain we humans are known to employ, they are tapped into and feeling emotions, ills, memories and vibes gone by, which for their weightiness can make being alive a truly painful thing?

What if people like this young man are the real-life Empaths, who are in actuality are more sane and in tune to the universe than the rest, who are the more open and evolved beings? What if they live subjected to the emotional abyss that lingers for them alone to process, thanks to our collective horribleness, the emotional stew in which we all exist?

Likewise, what if this young man who perhaps feels the pain of others can also see the Other Side as a more living, parallel state to our humanistic timeline? What if the transition to the afterlife, which the religiously devout interpret as borne of serene light, awareness and fabricated a la life on Earth, is to people like this young man as far less of a  barrier than we – even our storytellers, mystics, self-centered religionists – have so far imagined it to be? That fine, fine line magicians, mediums and paranormals chase and attempt to criss-cross might be more of a bridge than any white, god-filled light we purport it to be.  What if this young man’s ideations on self-induced death were simply just more of life’s multi-dimensional, navigable paths, in much the same way another might wind their way through the erratic streets of an old, European village?

Well, he worked to lift himself up and out of the fatalistic thought paths that too often beckoned. He worked to find and grow accustomed to less destructive admonitions to himself, and his family continues to work on working with him. That, and the love that was always there, allowed for the one person who could turn a critical corner to do just that. For the time being, he would continue on the same plane as those with whom he resided. So far, it is working. Life at best is a work in progress, life at its worst is a work in progress. This young man, the empathic one who might be saner than most, sees the same sun as we do each morning, and he sees the dark skies at night as we do, too. At this point, the dark of night is there to welcome sleep, not to threaten him or encase him permanently. I have concluded we are all less “finished” than we might ever like to think. We live with You Never Know. And, as this is not an option, it must be enough.

II. On Hearing Voices & Creative Thought

I have also wondered on the running inner dialogues that are a normal part of an active brain, that when surfaced to the conscious self are as yet considered a major sign of psychological malfunction and seen as something to silence (aka cure or fix). I wonder that those of us who don’t actively “hear” these voices simply do not have the ability to do so and are the less accessed to our truest, deeper selves as we go about with our socially accepted, rather silent minds. Though it so far is not a choice, drug use and hypnosis do seem to nudge open those doors of inner voice access, and when not going south into horrific imagery, tap into complex, concurrent conversations that run ongoingly alongside the trains of mental activity as a matter of course as basic thought. If directed elsewhere and outside oneself, it is a form of meditation. Many still call it prayer. I wonder that those who purport, and convincingly so, to hear voices they believe at times to be of others/other personalities, somehow simply possess brains that have had very normal, omnipresent channels opened up, out and into their subconscious, and that they hear verbatim the processes/threads the rest of us only “hear,” as realizations, in summarized batches of thought, in batches we call intuition, gut feelings or instant explosions of creativity/inspiration.

As a college sophomore, I wrote a brief paper on creativity, specifically endocepts (1). As a creative thinker/doer, the theory of endocepts has stayed with me, for it seems as logical to me as being of a running, creative process as are the inner voices others claim to be able to actively listen to. Plausible but only available to the select few, they like their empathic cousins, are the listeners, both gifted and burdened with their ability. I am fully on board with the idea of multi-layered (of dissent as well as of support, i.e. mass-accepted conscience or divine guidance), ongoing, inner thought processes that rise to our consciousness when the time is right and the conclusion or concept is ripe, triggered into an often explosive revelation by a combination of outside and inner forces. Soothsayers, seers and channelers, some elevated and revered, many persecuted and institutionalized by societies and their structured regulators, were no doubt among those who endured/were gifted with such inner voice access.

America’s big-business penchant for social homogenization has dominated the issue of inner voice access and its “healing,” vis a vis elimination, for to have inner voice access is as yet to be assigned archaic illness-related labels. To fight these voices with medications and therapy, both mixed-relevance and agenda-tainted avenues of so-called help, is, like the business of health as a whole, capitalism at its most interesting. It is a rather toxic mix of profit and intent. John Nash, Nobel Laureate in Economics, famously dealt with these voices, as did the film “A Beautiful Mind” beautifully illustrated his story. A 2013-posted Ted Talk by Eleanor Longdon brought the conversation nicely into tech-based 21st century discourse.

Let us hope the dialogues (inner and outer) continue to move forward alongside time as we know it, so that what until now have been regarded as illnesses or conditions in need of “fixing” can be redefined with an allowance for the possibility of their being extra-ordinary abilities, or gifts. So considered, may our inner voices and inner voice access be then embraced as mental prowess and even powers that we small-minded humans no longer blindly shun. Perhaps the goals will no longer be to merely squelch them but to learn how to channel them, to minimize those that cause pain and destruction and to maximize those that enlighten. And if we can grow into a Mankind that listens, we can together quite literally expand and evolve with these gifted ones.

(1) Endocept

(from Greek endo, inside), the term introduced by Arieti (1976) meaning a cognitive function which is realized in amorphous cognition; the diffuse and abstract idea often accompanied by strong but unverbalized emotions (‘I know what I mean and feel, but I can’t explain’). Endoceptual or non-representational states usually have place on the early stages of creative process such as incubation. The endocept is opposite to the concept, a mature form of cognition that can be expressed to other people by the person who experiences or produces it. The endocept has also been referred to by other authors as nonverbal, unconscious, or preconscious cognition.

Endocept. Dictionary of Creativity: Terms, Concepts, Theories & Findings in Creativity Research / Compiled and edited by Eugene Gorny., 2007.

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