1. the intellectual identification with or vicarious experiencing of the feelings, thoughts, or attitudes of another.
When really terrible things happen, like what happened in Boston yesterday, those of us who are sensitive or predisposed to feel empathy tend to feel things the hardest. The horrific events that transpired in Newtown last year knocked me on my butt for a month. All the way to the new year, I did not feel like myself.
Nobody I knew was directly effected in either of these events, but just hearing their stories was enough for me. I might not have lost anybody, but I could very much put myself inside the shoes of those that did. Combine that with the feeling of hopelessness, of not being able to predict or change events like these, and it can be quite crippling.
I could feel that same thing rush over me yesterday when I first heard of the events at the Boston Marathon. In fact, I couldn’t get it out of my head here at work. I just hit refresh on my news sites over and over again, wanting to know and also not wanting to know how bad things really were. These poor people were just out, having a nice time, enjoying the day and the absolute wonder of human athleticism, and now everything was ruined.
It felt like EVERYTHING was ruined.
Then a funny thing happened. It was 5:00 and time for me to drive home. I logged off my computer and walked to my car, observing the faces of those also walking to their car or to their next class, or wherever their journey was taking them. Everybody seemed fine. And when I got home to my kids and my wife, everybody was fine there too.
This isn’t to say that everything is fine. My heart goes out to those who did lose someone in this act of terrorism. And to those whose lives have been changed because of this act.
But those of us, the empathetic, who tend to internalize these types of things, I think it’s important to remember to walk away from the computer for a bit. Go outside. Enjoy the gift of life. Listen to the birds. Feel the rain on your skin. Drive in your car. Listen to that mix-tape of 1980s music that reminds you of when you were a kid. Play that video game.
Turn off the news. It doesn’t mean that you care any less. Sometimes you just need to walk away.