I am a very sensitive, emotional person. Just the other night, my good friend said "You feel things!" I do, I feel - I feel a lot. I can cry pretty easily, and feel incredibly moved even by certain stories on the news. ALL THE FEELS!! I FEEL THEM!! I mean, I've cried over commercials, and not just the ones that air during the Superbowl.
For most of my life I've been told, by friends and some family, that I need to not be so emotional; that I feel too much; that I shouldn't be a therapist because I can get caught up in the emotions that occurred in a session, after the session; that because sometimes it takes me a whole day to decompress after attending a moving but depressing conference to get CEUs. Stop crying, stop thinking about it, stop feeling.
I feel like shouting, "I am amazing because I feel!!" I am so in touch with my emotions and feelings that I can generate authentic, deep empathy. I can validate another person's experience because of my ability to feel; I spiritually acknowledge one's suffering by feeling affected by their story, and try to send them positive healing energy. It's not like I sit for hours and meditate on this person, but if I am watching the news and hear about some terrible incident that happened to someone, I will think about how they must feel or their family, and then wish them good health and a peaceful recovery.
I have been trying lately to have better boundaries with my emotions. I am trying to listen to my body and what it needs, so why not listen to my feelings as well? There have been days, more so in the past when I worked at a different job, where I would come home to my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I would get so angry over every little thing and lash out, directing my anger towards someone who was not the cause. Or, I would be super depressed and not know why. I even used to wake up with full-on anxiety attacks in the early morning hours. Luckily things have [significantly] improved now that I am not working such an incredibly stressful job. I recognize that sometimes I can carry other people's emotions. I may take them on during a session without realizing. Just recently I had a very difficult phone call with a client and I actually needed a good 15 minutes to cry after we hung up. Sure, the phone call ended well, but somehow I personally took on all of his anger and sadness and frustration and turned it inward. I recognized that this was unhealthy, so I allowed myself to cry and release the emotion, and told myself several times "it's ok, these are his feelings and not mine, let them go." I vented to a coworker, went on a walk, drank some water, and was able to carry on with my day. It is logical and almost automatic now, for me, to monitor these boundaries and maintain a balance. For example, after a difficult session, I check in with myself - how am I feeling? What feelings have been leftover from the other person? I can only control myself and my emotions, I cannot control another person. I can protect myself from their fears and frustrations, while simultaneously assisting them in healing.
It comes down to finding that balance. I am a better person, friend, wife, therapist, because I feel. However, I cannot be if I allow my feelings to consume me.
Everything is temporary; feelings are fleeting.
PS: Here's a great article on boundaries I used to use when I would facilitate therapy groups at my former job.