The empath in a dissociated family

For almost my entire adult life, I have somehow felt totally down after family gatherings. Every time I came back home, I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt weak and kind of broken, like I just couldn’t meet the demands of life. And it took me a long time to understand and finally resolve this pattern.

In the beginning, I thought I was just too sensitive to their energies and that I would be fine if I just protected myself enough. So I experimented with various energetic protection techniques when I met with family members. And to some degree, that really helped! But no matter how much I prepared and protected myself for these encounters, I still needed recovery afterwards, some time to feel like the real Me again. Only little by little I really saw through the dynamics behind it and was able to change it.

The empathic child

Like probably many who read this, I grew up as an empath among people who were not very connected with their own emotions. Already as a little girl, I was aware of all their feelings while they themselves were numb to them. I had no idea how to deal with the contradictory signals I received from them – being told one thing, yet perceiving something completely different on the emotional level. And I did not understand why they would hurt themselves and each other all the time and behaving like nothing happened.

The emotional neglect that seemed so normal for the rest of my family was almost unbearable for me and I didn’t know how to deal with it. Much of the interaction that was “normal” for the other family members was painful for me. And I couldn’t ignore it that easily. Yet, every time I showed a reaction (actually, every time I showed any negative or intense emotion), I was told that I was being too sensitive and overreacting. How I felt was never valid because none of my family members could relate to my deep emotions. They were too disconnected from their own feelings. So while I felt all their pain and was completely overwhelmed with it, they always fine and more capable of dealing with life.

The family scapegoat

The older I got, the more I became more aware of the unhealthy patterns within my family. I wanted to help improve our family life and started pointing out these patterns so that we could find healthier ways of communicating and living together. But by doing so I messed with their coping mechanisms and as a result they got really angry at me. I was accused of just fishing for attention by causing trouble – when actually everything is fine. And when I tried to explain my perspective to them, this caused even more distress and misunderstanding because I was talking about something that did not exist in their reality: deep emotions and subtle sensations. So, whenever I tried to share my truth I just seemed completely irrational to them.

Since everyone around me shared the same opinion, that everything is alright and I am just too sensitive to function normally, or that I am just a difficult child, I too began to see myself like that. I took on their perspective of me being overly sensitive and too weak. I started to believe that there is something inherently wrong with me.

Entering a parallel reality

Over the years, I found several methods that helped me handle my sensitivity. I also met more and more people who perceive the world the same way I do. And as a result, I finally understood that there was nothing wrong with me; that I simply have a different perception than my family. I gained more self-confidence and have come more and more into my power. Only in the encounters with family members this confidence disappeared again and I suddenly felt incapable and weak again.

Eventually, I figured out that it was not just their energy that was draining me, as I had thought for many years. Rather it was the patterns of communication that brought up again the outdated self-image of being too weak and overly sensitive. It was little things like the hidden pity in my mother’s voice when I told her about some issues at work that showed her doubt about whether the situation wasn’t overwhelming me. Or my brothers overly factual way of talking to me, that suggested that my perspective was irrational and my feelings exaggerated. For me, each meeting was like entering a parallel reality where emotions as I know them don’t exist and where it’s strange to deal with something like that. And as I entered that reality I unconsciously took on their perspective again: that of the overly sensitive and odd child.


Recognizing this pattern and moving beyond it has set me free. I do not need to buy into this anymore. And after learning more about suppression and dissociation, I understand that I have never been the weak one. I was just the only one looking behind the veil of self-deception. And my perspective was just too painful for them, it brought too many of their shadows to light. I could feel and handle the emotions they had to banish into their subconscious.

Now I can clearly see that my ability and willingness to feel has always been my greatest strength. It helps me to stay in alignment when others fall off track. It is this strong connection to my inner guidance system that brought me to a life of authenticity, genuine joy, and a deeper connection to those around me. And I am infinitely grateful for that.