If you’ve heard of someone being described as an “empath”, it may because you are one or you know someone close to you who is. Technically speaking, empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, that is, the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Someone who is labeled as an empath is highly in tune with other people’s feelings and possess the ability to connect even further past empathy itself. Rather they take on and absorb the feelings and emotions of those around them as well. During my junior year of high school, my theatre teacher told me that I was an empath. At the time I didn’t really know what that meant, but I definitely recognized that I had a lot of emotions and was sensitive to the emotions of others. The fact that she was able to describe what I was feeling with a single word really stuck with me. She was actually the first adult in my young adolescent life that really taught me how to connect internally and acknowledged the fact that it’s hard when you have a lot of feelings and not a lot of ways to deal with them.
Speaking for myself, being an introvert and an empath is really challenging on a daily basis. I find myself deflecting things often because social interactions don’t normally entice me, and I also tend to absorb other people’s energies easily. One of the main reasons why I consume cannabis is that it recharges me. It fills me back up and reconnects me to things that are important to me. I also suffer daily from anxiety, and THC allows me to slow down and filter through my racing thoughts.
On a social level, empathy is a key component when it comes to my communication and being able to talk and work through problems or issues with others. When you’re highly empathetic, it’s easy to get into the mindset of trying to please everyone else around you especially when you notice tensions or frustrations in others. I often find myself scanning a room that I’m in and thinking “What could I do to make so-and-so more comfortable?” “What should I say to this person who is having a hard time?” or “I’ve had so many bad days myself; how can I make sure no one else has a bad day today?” I blame my heightened sense of empathy for these daily over-compensations, and as I’ve gotten older, I’m grateful every day for being able to consume THC safely and consciously in ways that combat my struggles. I’m also a notorious “Yes Man” and sometimes have a real fear of saying no. I don’t ever want to disappoint people, and this often leads to me taking on more things than I can handle. By the end of the workday, I’m beat. Our spare bedroom in my house (aka my plant/vibe room) is where I do most of my smoking consumption, and it’s the place I go to when I need to be alone. After a day of being so in tune with how everyone else around me is feeling, I’m finally able to ask myself the same questions. How am I doing? What do I need right now? Am I okay? If not, what steps do I need to take to be okay? I can choose what strain to smoke, roll a joint, look around at my plants and check in with myself in a safe place where I’m not taking in the feelings of my coworkers, patients or my friends and family.
I joke all the time that my empathy is my greatest strength and weakness. Finding the balance between homing in on other people’s feelings in order to bring light and positivity to the table and also not allowing people to walk all over me or caring too much about other’s opinions is a line that I dance with frequently, if not daily. Even though I find a plethora of benefits from cannabis, socially and professionally it is an amazing resource in terms of being able to dissolve certain barriers I build up in my head and allow myself to have full access to parts of me that might be closed off otherwise. During the day especially, I gravitate towards strains that are more abundant in citrus and pine like Mandarin Cookies, Blue Dream and Tangie. These terpene profiles are my favorite type of high, where I can be elevated into a better mood but still remain calm and clear-headed. Being able to communicate clearly and efficiently is crucial for me, especially working in a fast-paced industry like cannabis.
When someone is lacking in empathy, there are obviously a lot of different factors that come into play, but a big component that is missing from them is connection. We know that cannabis affects our dopamine responses, and therefore breaks down barriers which lead to empathy. Simply put, our favorite green plant can be an incredible tool in connecting with others, ourselves, and the world around us. Of course, as with anything involving cannabis dosage, method of consumption, terpenes and many other factors all come in to play. I think it’s important to tune in to yourself often and ask hard questions, especially if you are also an empath. Whether you like a mid-day gummy or an after work blunt, cannabis can help refuel you after a day of feeling depleted if you use it with intention.