Tracking: The Unforgettable Fire of an Empath’s Memory
Although empaths possess exceptional neurological abilities in emotional coregulation and capacity, it is important to name that there are other unique adaptations to being an empath that exceed the neurotypical brain. Three of these phenomena are over-containment of ones own state, cognitive autoimmune responses, and tracking.
All three of these are sophisticated threat responses that employ the high-activation of normally disorienting and disorganizing situations to create a highly organized and focused response.
Firstly, we will address tracking: Empaths’ ‘wide-net’ of orienting is not only attuned to people’s emotional and physiological states, but also their nervous system tracks threat. Empaths tend to be competent protectors, meaning they feel highly responsive and responsible for the well-being of others. The etiology of this phenomenon is that they grew up in environments where caregivers were not ensuring their own and others safety.
Therefore, empaths developed a form of hypervigalence that not only tracks for potential threats in the current space, but also tracks for threats over time. Empaths have the capacity to utilize the overactive amygdala state of threat to route memories through the hippocampus while the association and visual cortex are activated, making for videographic memory with exceptional capacity for pattern recognition. This is a orienting response called ‘tracking’.
Empaths often report that they remember too much. Even when an empath is not consciously aware of tracking in the moment, they will later find that they remember entire conversations as if they had been recorded by their brain. Unfortunately, this videographic recollection of events can resemble the reexperiencing features of ‘flashbacks’ associated with PTSD.
As you can see, the brain and nervous system of empaths has adapted in an unusual way, being that amygdala activation usually leads to reduced hippocampal memory routing.
Whereas the disorienting and dissociative sequelae of amygdala activation in a neurotypical person results in memory impairment and more self-preservation type behavior, for the empath it enhances the ability to keep all and all things in mind. The Unforgettable Fire of an empath’s brain and nervous system forges a interpersonal neural net that creates safer and more deeply attuned contained spaces for others to operate.