I’m not what I would call a particularly empathetic person. I hardly ever understand people’s’ reactions to things and I find it annoying when my own emotions override my sense of judgment and rationality. I just don’t know what to do with feelings.
And I think this lack of understanding is part of the reason I love books so much. Books let you get inside a character’s head. Literally. And as I see the thoughts unfolding, I’m able to ride the tidal waves of emotion right alongside of them.
I’m not emotive when it comes to real life people because I can’t get inside their heads. I can’t figure them out. But I’ve had a lot of practice with books, especially my favorites. I delve into the minds of my favorite characters over and over again. I know them better then I know myself. It’s gotten to the point that sometimes when I’m reading, I take on their emotions.
Ender feels alone, so I’m feeling introspective and lonely. Sorcha can’t speak so I’m not feeling chatty. Jaenelle gets down to business like a badass so I’m full of swagger. It’s not that I learn from them, it’s like I am them for a little while. Inside and out.
I’m working on improving my connections with other people. I want to be the best and most supportive friend that I can be and that means I need to try and understand better how others are feeling. I’m also working on understanding my own feelings better and not bottling them down. I’d like to avoid another panic attack.
But it’s somewhat of a comfort to me to know that I’m not completely numb inside. I’m not an emotionless robot. I just need to learn to put myself in the shoes of living people the way I can do for my characters. And that’s going to take practice. And probably a lot of patience, too.