Dear Sonny

Ask Jean

You’re most likely to find goop’s executive editor, Kate Wolfson, shopping a great sample sale, waxing poetic about a Jewish deli, discovering the best ’90s nostalgia on Instagram, or being everyone’s cool mom. You can also find her in The goop Lab on Netflix—see the episode “Cold Comfort.” She originally wrote this piece for goop magazine.

    It’s time you knew: Your mother has a superpower. I got it from your grandpa. I think he may have gotten it from his dad, or maybe his mother, because his brother had it, too. People like us, we pick up vibrations from everything, everywhere, all the time. We relate to strangers, to animals, to stories in the world, to evidence everywhere that humans tend to take more than we give, to the beauty and the tragedy of the human condition. It is all-consuming. We feel what they’re feeling, experience what they’re experiencing. It makes us kind, and it makes us generous, and it makes us see things others don’t. We’re fiercely loyal friends and all-in partners. I’m so tapped into a handful of people around me that I’ve developed a kind of targeted intuition. And when I get it right: magic.

    But you know how Dr. Bruce Banner is this brilliant gamma radiation expert, but his spotty relationship with self-control turns him into a raging, deeply troubled monster? (Well, you will.) My superpower, while maybe not as impressive as The Hulk’s, comes with a heaviness. Over the years, therapists have told me I’m a textbook empath. Healers and intuitives say I’m a “psychic sponge.” Whatever you call it, it all comes down to the same thing: That hypersensitivity—the involuntary tick that makes me absorb other people’s fear, anger, grief, whatever—is a heavy cross to bear. It’s emotionally depleting, even physically painful. It’s one thing to internalize someone else’s problems; it’s another when those problems make you (me) faint or end up in the emergency room with an IV drip. I’ve developed coping mechanisms—some healthy, some not. At first, I didn’t know how to deal with this constant feeling, so I self- medicated with substances that made me feel: nothing. Later, I dismantled, and then rekindled, relationships with the people that mattered most to me, over and over and over. These days, good therapists, great friends, and your father snap me out of it. Medication plays a key role, too—it’s just that this time I’m not prescribing it to myself.

    Then I had you. I watch you, like any mother watches her son, sure. But it’s more than that. I watch you intensely, as if I’m trying to spot this genetic glitch in the way you tear up a roll of toilet paper or play one-sided hide-and- seek with the dog. I figure that if I can spot this trait early enough, I can give you the tools you need to avoid the IV drip. I am amazed at how clued in you are. You’re stingy with kisses, but you’ll plant one on me before bed, as if you know that I can use the reassurance. You sniff pictures of flowers in I Am a Bunny even though you know they’re not real, just in case. Your little mind gets overwhelmed and you ask to be put in your crib—you aren’t tired; you just like to get away for a little while. I get it.

    Maybe I’m off base. Maybe you’re nothing like me. Maybe you will feel things, all the normal human things. You will cry when something is sad, laugh when something is funny, tremble when you fall in love. And that will be wonderful. But maybe you are like your mother. Maybe you share the gene that I shared with my father—the one that makes everything too potent sometimes.

    My fear isn’t that you’ll inherit this superpower; it’s that you’ll grow to dread it or think of it as a weakness. Or worse, that you will meet this power with the same numbing, self-destructive behaviors I used. So here’s my wish: Own your emotions; give yourself permission to hone your intuition; trust that your feelings are worth feeling. It took me decades to accept my superpower for what it is—a power, not a curse. My beautiful boy, be brave. Talk to me, and I will tell you that you don’t have to be afraid.

    Love, Mama