Happily, Blue is in no danger of becoming a narcissist. By definition, she could never succumb because her magical Gift, the attribute that sets her apart from human “Norms” who hate her for her abilities, is that she is an Empath. And I’ve been thinking about what that means, especially as I listen simultaneously to Lover Enshrined, which offers new information about a variety of vampire in the world of the Black Dagger Brotherhood called Sympaths. Sympaths feed off the misery of others. Empaths are just miserable at others’ misery. Big difference. I’d rather be saved by an Empath than a Sympath. An interesting contrast between the two and more food for the green beast who lives in my breast who is torn between intense admiration for these imaginative authors and despair that I will never feel so inspired. But that is fodder for another post.
I’ve often wondered how mental health professionals do what they do–listen to their patients recount terrible experiences in the hopes of exorcizing the demons from their minds. Some level of transference must occur between doctor and patient so that the patient’s loss is the doctor’s gain—and in this case, finders don’t want to be keepers. No one wants that mess. But head doctors do it all the time so they can help and heal. Blue is the same way, and her Empath abilities are part of what make her an excellent investigator and also what ensure her unending compassion. That compassion, in turn, will keep her away—permanently—from any danger of grandiosity or narcissism.
But how does it keep her from insanity or despair? For years I worked in the counterterrorism business (I know, that sounds weird—but it is a field of study and work, just like being a lawyer or a plumber). My colleagues and I thought about ways that terrorists do to could hurt or damage our population and our infrastructure and then about ways to thwart their ill intent. It was important, challenging and engaging work. I was proud of my efforts and our accomplishments. I was good at my job and grateful I could make a difference. But, over time, the contemplation of Armageddon took its toll on my soul and dimmed the light of my own spirit so that others’ spirits could continue to shine. Fighting the transference of evil from those we would oppose to my own aura was an exhausting fight and took a huge amount of effort to resist the urge to give up at the never-ending nature of the battle and the increasingly overwhelming sense of the futility of it all. If we are hell bent on destroying each other and our world, I thought with increasing frequency, we deserve what we get.
Clearly, it was time to get out. Which I did. More or less. At least I got away from waking halls filled with workaholics who competed with each other to see who could work longer hours and become privy to the most exclusive clubs. If I never see another pocket protector again it will be too soon. The hardest part of working among those who think about the unthinkable, besides the unrelenting fluorescent lights that is, is the ubiquitous expectation that it’s only a matter of when, not if. Soul sucking is what it is.
So I’m not sure how Blue and all of those like her do it day after day, subjecting themselves to the worst that human nature has to offer our fellow humans. I don’t know how doctors do it either, or the Angels who work in hospice care, the heroic men and women who tend the poorest of the poor and the sickest of the sick. I thank God that there are those who can perform such vital functions without losing their minds, although certainly not all escape intact or unscathed.
To be empathetic is the highest expression of our humanity, putting ourselves in another’s shoes and feel what they feel, the good, the bad and the ugly. Empathy gives us the ability to step back from the brink of our own selfish desires and assess how they might affect others. Empty is the “stop” button on the universal remote that controls our behavior. We might think about doing or saying something, but the knowledge that empathy gives us that we would hurt another through our actions gives us the necessary pause to avoid causing pain. Empathy is why we help when we don’t have to, and why we care even when something does not impact us directly.
I love that Blue’s gift is Empathy, of the paranormal variety. I love that it makes her a feeling hero, and that her Empathy keeps her forever humble. Because that is the other consequence of empathy—when we can feel what others feel, we cannot get so full of ourselves that we have no room for thoughts of anyone else. This is a good thing, by the way. So while the talented Ms. Abernathy has not finished Blue’s story yet, I’m putting my money on the prediction that the vampires will be delivered by a savior who is perfect for the part.