28/365 – Meditation Games #28 – Empathic Pain
Developer: Florian Dofmont
Launcher Quote: “I forgot the exact day, but it was late January, I lived a week without emotions. I tried to support people and tried to felt their pain to “help them”, but what I did in the end was hurting myself to numbness. Absorbing too much sadness or pain can make you hurt. I learnt that even though you can consider other people’s lives more important than yours, you still have yourself to take care of also.”
Back in the day, I played a MUD called Gemstone III. I enjoyed it for a ton of reasons, but most of all for the fact that there was realism to injuries and needing healing. If you got cut or hurt, there were clumsy ways to do up bandages or move but otherwise you had a ton of problems and bleeding to death was common.
In the game, there was a dedicated class to healing these injuries – the Empath. Empaths were terrible fighters to the point of being laughable, so how they gained experience and leveled was through healing. It worked by having the Empath take on the actual injury – from the smallest cut to things like severed limbs – and then healing themselves up through a unique set of spells exclusive to them. Tipping was optional but usually in good faith. Such that it is that Empaths would sit in Town Square, and patients with all manner of adventuring injuries would queue up for Empaths taking turns healing all manner of injuries. It was a painful, yet ultimately rewarding and unique class.
I’m a bit of an empath from an emotional standpoint, and that is what Florian’s cautionary entry today emphasizes in terms of the dangers of being one. Empaths not only are sensitive to others’ pain and work to try to help others get over it, whether physical or emotional, but seem to keenly feel, second-hand, the pain of others when trying to help them. While this makes them very effective at communicating and reassuring others that they have support, it’s also a double-edged sword. Practicing too much emotional empathy when it comes to your friends and loved ones can take a toll and is eventually harmful, which is exactly what happens with the character in the game. They take on so much pain and help so many people that it overwhelms and destroys their own sense of happiness.
I’ve had to learn this for myself. My best friend has a saying, where she says “put your own gas mask on before you do it for others”. It’s a reminder that we’re supposed to take care of ourselves, make sure we’re in the right headspace, and when necessary lean on others to be strong enough to help someone else take on their own pain. And it’s also important to be able to take emotional breaks, recharge your batteries with something you truly enjoy, and then head back in to help, feeling secure in your own state of mind. So if you’re an emotional empath like me, and you’re used to helping others, don’t forget to help yourself, too. Your brain, and your heart, will thank you for it.