When I was a teenager I had some serious issues with the general public. I started working at the mall, in a coffee shop. While the job itself was fun and amazing, working with the general public was NOT. I already hated the crowded halls of my high school, long lines at grocery stores and pretty much shopping in general. Why? People. I love individual people but I hate crowds. This is part of being an introvert and an empath. Sixteen-year-old me had to adapt, and fast, if I wanted to survive my new job.
My sweet mom knew I had issues. (She, too, is an introvert). At one point she said, “Sarah, imagine yourself inside a big bubble, like a Glenda-the-Good-Witch bubble. You can see and hear everything but you have a layer of protection.” Code: Activate Bubble. My imagination was already ripe for the picking (I grew up to be a Theater Major after all), so it was not difficult to pretend I could activate a giant imaginary bubble – a force field of sorts. If only my bubble could float around like Glenda’s!
At first, this was a challenge. My Bubble was flimsy and popped easily – people got to me or I got that all-too-familiar sickening feeling when I was forced by circumstance to be in a large crowd somewhere. I practiced this imaginary bubble thing – and over the course of several years, I got really good at it. Maybe too good sometimes. In the early days the Bubble would only last a few minutes and then I would crumple. Pop! What started out as a weak decorative bubble grew into an acrylic bubble (think of those chairs from the 70’s!), and eventually that grew into what I referred to as “the Steel Bubble”. Like I said – this took me years to master.
What was actually happening to me on a mental level was something that has served me well my whole adult life. I developed and nurtured my own coping skills. The bubble? That was just the vehicle I needed to promote and integrate these coping mechanisms. My imaginary Bubble Shield allowed me to peruse exterior circumstances and decide what I would “allow” to affect me. This force field provided a view of the surrounding world without the threat of being attacked by sensory overload. I could cope.
As my Bubble grew stronger I was able to work many jobs in service industries – all serving the general public. Anyone who has ever worked at a mall or a grocery store or as a waiter or waitress – well, ANY job dealing with the dreaded public – KNOWS how hard it can be! There are times when the noise gets to you. Some days the sheer negativity wafting off of people can almost knock you down. As an INTJ personality I always loathed the endless small talk and hearing everyone’s life story – I hated the complaints and chatter. My Bubble worked overtime.
I have always been stingy with my time and energy and creativity – it is mine and I do not want to spend it all frivolously or on wasteful ventures. Working with the public was a necessity because I needed money to survive. I had to cope somehow – and even though my Bubble wasn’t completely bullet proof – I cannot imagine the mess I would have been without it. My Bubble allowed me to stay sane and keep some reserves for myself until I could scurry home and quietly recharge my soul’s battery.
Today, my husband and I have three beautiful, intelligent children. ALL three of them are introverts. All three of them are also empaths. Guess what I have taught them? Oh yes – we started young and now they use their own Bubbles. Whenever we load up the Suburban to head out to a birthday party or a big public event you’ll hear one of us say, “Activate your Bubble!” It has made all the difference in how they are able to cope in this crazy world. Nowadays my Bubble is Titanium and Kevlar. It’s pretty impressive. Even my husband jokes about his Bubble sometimes. It is a ridiculous concept – but it works.