The empath in a dissociated family

For almost my entire adult life, I would feel down after meeting with my family of origin. Every time I came back, I would feel like there was something wrong with me. I felt weak and somehow broken, like I could not function in this world the way I was supposed to. It took me years to understand what had been going on and to break that pattern.

In the beginning, I thought I was just being too sensitive to their energies, and that I would be fine if I just protected myself enough from it. So, I started testing various ways of energetic protection when meeting with family members. And to a certain degree this really helped. But no matter how much I prepared myself for these encounters, no matter how much I protected myself energetically, I always needed a phase of recovery to feel like the “real me” again. Only little by little I understood the real dynamic of what was going on and managed to change it.

The empathic child

Like many of you who are likely to read this, I grew up as an empath amongst people who were not very connected with their emotional selves. Already as a small child I would feel all of their emotions while they themselves were completely numb to them. I did not know how to handle the contradictory information I received from them – feeling one thing and being told something completely different. I did not understand why they would hurt themselves and each other all the time and behaving like nothing happened. And I could not find a way to cope with the emotional neglect that seemed normal for the rest of my family.

For me most of the “normal” family interaction was painful and I could not ignore it. However, whenever I showed any form of reaction to them (actually whenever I showed any negative emotion) I was being told that I am too sensitive and that I was overreacting. My emotions were never valid because none of my family members knew any of them. They were too dissociated to feel them. So while I felt pain and did not know how to get along, they seemed fine and more capable of dealing with life.

The family scapegoat

When I grew older 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 more healthy 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 got blamed for seeking attention by causing trouble when actually, everything was the way it was supposed to be. I tried to explain my behaviour, my perspective to them but this only 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 communicate my truth I appeared completely irrational to them.

Since everyone around me shared the same opinion, that everything is alright and I am too sensitive to function normally, or that I am just a difficult child, I 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

In the course of the years I found methods that helped me handling my sensitivity. Moreover, I met more and more like-minded people who perceive the world like I do. And as a result, I learned that there was nothing wrong with me; that I simply have a different perception to my family of origin. I started to feel confident and empowered within myself. This self-confidence however would disappear in almost every encounter with family members. Suddenly I felt incapable and broken again.

Finally, 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. Little signals like the hidden pity in my mother’s voice when I told her about some issues at work and she did not believe I could handle it. Or my brothers overly factual way of talking to me, that suggested emotions are irrational and invalid. To me it felt like I was entering a parallel reality where emotions do not exist. And I was wayward to even feel them. I entered their reality and unconsciously took on the old perspective again: the weak and odd child.


Recognizing this mechanism has set me free. I do not need to buy into this anymore. And after learning more about denial 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. Also, I realised that my perspective was painful to them, as it uncovered their shadows. 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 greater well-being.

And I am very grateful for that.