Am I an empath?

sad_angel

I wonder. Until recently, I always thought people who say they’re empaths sounded a bit grandiose or even a little narcissistic. I never thought I was an empath, but as some of the toxic thinking patterns I was so trapped in begin to fall away (this is a very slow process!), I find that I’m better able to “see” things I couldn’t see since I was a small child. The “things” I see are what lies behind the facade all of us have to some degree or another, a facade which narcissists have become so effective at building that their real selves are all but obliterated (but they’re not really).

I was very emotional as a child and felt everything around me intensely. My sensitivity made me not only prone to being a target for bullies, but also physically vulnerable: I spent a lot of time sick and I had many allergies.   I had terrible ear infections that left me nearly deaf in my left ear.  The doctors said I was healthy and couldn’t figure out why I was always so sick.

Abused by my narcissistic family and the bullies at school, I gradually learned that it was too dangerous to fully feel my emotions or to connect with people on an emotional, meaningful level. I was made fun of or punished in some way. So I shut myself off from feeling anything but the most banal or self defeating emotions, only those that concerned myself or ensured my survival: fear, anger, jealousy, frustration, boredom, sexual desire, and a pseudo-love known as limerence.  Rarely could I feel true sadness, joy, love, contentment, friendship, connection with God or nature, or caring deeply for another.  I felt like I couldn’t connect with other people meaningfully but was still always quick to take offense to insults. This manifested in unpleasant ways like “going off” on people or losing control.   I often scared people with the intensity of my rages and low frustration tolerance.   Fear–a survival emotion–remained dominant.   My programming told me I needed that fear to survive, but it sure hasn’t made for a pleasant time of things, and made me afraid to take any risks at all.

Worst of all, my heart became closed.  I stopped being able to laugh or cry with abandon or with another person.  I loved the idea of getting close to others and having meaningful relationships, but the reality was just too scary and the relationships I did have were either meaningless and shallow or unhealthy and toxic.   I learned to isolate myself from others and avoid other people because other people meant pain.  I isolated myself not only physically, but by making it difficult for people to be around me.   I couldn’t stick with anything.  I couldn’t finish anything.  I couldn’t achieve anything.     I was afraid to fail because failure meant certain rejection.  This is what my narcissistic family taught me.  This comprises the genesis of my BPD (which I think is finally beginning to fall away).

Five things have led to my ability to begin to let go and to reconnect with the self I lost as a child and young adult, listed in order of their importance to me.

1. My relationship with God
2. Therapy
3. Blogging and writing (self-reflection)
4. Music — it’s incredible how powerful it is!
5. Time spent in nature, including time with animals (they teach us so much)

I won’t describe the means by which these five things are working for me, since I have done that elsewhere and it would turn this post into a book. But what’s beginning to happen is I’m realizing I genuinely care about others. I never thought I did. It wasn’t that I didn’t care before, it was because I was so protective of myself I couldn’t let those feelings of caring be consciously felt. Now when I hear a fellow victim talk about a lifetime of abuse or scapegoating, I feel true empathy for them because I’m more able to allow myself to experience my own pain and process it and that makes it easier to relate to the pain of someone who went through similar trauma. So I can no longer say I’m really empathy challenged. I always had it in me.

Something even more amazing is starting to happen. I’m becoming somehow able to see the lost child in the people I talk to on both my blogs. I may have always had this ability. From the time I was a young child, I could pick up the emotions of others around me. When I picked up my mother’s emotions, she told me to stop “acting spooky.” I think my X-ray vision scared her.

But I couldn’t just throw up a false self and become a narc.  I lacked the right temperament.  It was always so hard for me to hide the way I felt. So I went into hiding instead–emotionally and sometimes physically–becoming a near hermit. I stopped being able to have any deep relationships, even real life friendships. I stopped being able to feel the higher emotions that bring us joy and deep connection with others.  These are symptoms of Avoidant Personality Disorder, which I had/have along with BPD and C-PTSD.

My life became drained of any joy or color. But now, I can see the hurt inner child in others, which is ironic since I still have so much trouble connecting with my own hurt child. This ability to see the real selves in the people who come to my blogs (or post on other blogs) even extends to people with narcissistic personality disorder. When I look at a narc now, I don’t see someone to hate or be terrified of, I see someone who didn’t get enough love and has no idea who they are.

I believe in No Contact. I don’t think any lay person can fix a narcissist and it’s always best to get away for your survival and sanity. But that doesn’t mean things are hopeless for a narcissist, should they sincerely want to connect with their real emotions.  More therapists are needed who have the courage to work with these difficult and often infuriating people. Therapists who can help them realize the potential to love and feel the real emotions they were born with, who can help them break down the strong fortress they have built around themselves to keep everyone out.   This must be done by professionals, and it can take a long time and it won’t be an easy road. I think there must also be a spiritual component, an acceptance that there is something–if not God, then some Intelligence or Presence–that is greater than all of us and is always healing and benevolent. I think the stigma is so bad that therapists either won’t treat them or give up when the going gets rough. Yes, some narcissists will leave. But some won’t, if the therapist is empathic and skilled enough and the narcissist wants change bad enough.

Both narcissism and C-PTSD and other problems caused by abuse all have their roots in childhood trauma. Why only focus on healing for the victims? Narcissistic abuse is a terrible thing. But it will continue as long as there are narcissists walking around allowed to get away with turning people into victims. If we can get to the root of the problem and help the narcissists themselves, then narcissistic abuse will end and there will be no more victims either. It’s analogous to alleviating crime in a city by addressing the problem of poverty that led to it. As long as you ignore poverty, crime will continue and there will always be crime victims.

I seem to have an uncanny ability to see the real, lost self behind a narcissist’s facade. This surprises me, because it seems like a quality an empath would have and I never thought I was one–just a run of the mill HSP.   But through therapy, prayer, being in the natural world, music, and writing, I feel like my heart has opened and with that, a kind of X-ray vision. I’ve actually had self aware and some diagnosed narcissists come to me (mostly on Down The Rabbit Hole) telling me the blog has helped them and they are learning from it, or admitting they want help.  A few have emailed me because they’re too ashamed of their narcissism to post on a public blog.  Right now, all I can do is try to offer encouragement and direct them to other resources. I feel empathy for them, just as I feel empathy for the abuse victims on Lucky Otter’s Haven and here too.   I wish I could help them more than I can right now.

I think I’m being called to something–working with people with NPD (as well as other trauma victims)–that’s going to take a lot of strength and courage and could even be emotionally and spiritually dangerous if I’m not very careful or don’t know exactly what I’m doing. It’s going to take a lot of training, and right now there are a lot of logistical problems (lack of money or time to go back to school; getting older; not liking confrontation and being socially awkward in general). But I feel like God has a plan and some doors will begin to open. I can work on my awkwardness and fear of confrontation in therapy (and these things are a result of low self esteem, not an “introverted” temperament). Working with people with NPD is something very few people dare venture into.  It’s also something a lot of narc-abuse survivors have trouble understanding.  A few even think it’s wrong.   I don’t believe it is.   I’m not ready to do it yet. But I feel like this is the shape my life is taking and the reason why everything happened the way it did.

Born an empath to narcissistic parents, they could not handle my ability to absorb the feelings of those around me and “see through” facades. They worked day and night to disable my gift because they were so afraid of it. But in spite of everything, I still have the gift and I want to use it to help people like my parents, even if my parents rejected the illumination of truth that gift had the power to reveal.

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28 thoughts on “Am I an empath?

  1. Lauren what a beautiful post. Bless you that you are helping all these people. And I wish you all the best in you new projects of becoming a therapist for people with PD.
    You will for sure be a great one.
    All the great things you do and say amd think make you a wonderful person. You must be souch fun to be around.
    Hope also you can love yourself and wish you the best for yourself.
    In the self work I made on codependancy I also had to connect with the wounded but rather more scared little child and I followed some book I read on picturing her in my mind and talking to her beautiful things and hugging her and it did really work well. I found her in a real image I had from childhood where I was really scared after a situation between my parents.
    Where as my mother was very young when she had me (20) she did not behave very maturely when she fought with my dad.
    Once i remember having beem terrified as I was maybe 6 and my brother 4 or maybe a little more, where after a fight with my dad ( normal fights my parents did not scream nor imsulted themselves), my mom decided to leave home and my dad to go after her to another city. I remember having hid in the closet with my little brother and crying not knowing what was going to happen. I remember telling him I would take care of him.. There are stll things I remember about that traumatic day. Of course there were the nannies there and an aunt who had no kids and them we were taken to my sleep at cousins but it was nevertheless terrible and not the playful sleepover we usually had.
    So when I had to find the scared wounded child I found here there in that closet and spoke to her… As Ross R explains is the way to overcome childhood trauma.
    I also read that we have to make this excersice often but I have not continued much.
    Maybe if you could write also about that I could take it as encouragement to talking to little scared girl.
    All the best again with your new projects 🙏🏻

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Nikita.
      I’m working on myself now. My therapist has me talk to my inner child all the time (I call her “Chair Girl”–in my mind she looks like one of those kids in those tacky “Big Eyed” paintings of waiflike kids from the ’60s) and give her the love she didn’t get. He’s having me reparent myself, kind of. I have yet to give her the gift he had me get for her. Probably next week. 🙂

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      1. I did read chairgirl. Do you have some techniques about that? This happened only once and I dont recall being often afraid except for the fights my parents had which whem I think about were discussioms where my dad would list my mother all what she did inefficiently or wrong and my mother would quietly suffer..
        i would liasten from behind a wall or the stairways..
        I will start also with a name then 😃😃.
        Thamks alot for sharing. Due to this post I will start the same excercise to continue with this codependancy journey. 😃

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I hope it helps you. I don’t know the exact techniques used. Basically what he has me do is imagine Chair Girl sitting in the empty chair and just talk to her. he has me ask her questions about what she needs and wants, and how she feels about certain things. Then he has me mirror her by telling her what I want for her and showing empathy. When I become critical of her he stops me or asks me to replace a criticism with something more loving or less judgemental. (I have this inner Judge who lives inside me too–he says it’s the Judge that kept me from developing NPD).

          It’s kind of hard to do this by yourself, but you can still talk to your inner child. It’s really powerful and works.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Thanks alot ❤️.
          I will do. I prefer to do it alone than with a therapist. RR said so in his book its possible without therapist and that there are some people who are okay like this rather than talkikg to somebody. Your guidance is really helpful. Gracias 🌷

          Liked by 1 person

        3. It’s certainly possible without a therapist, just harder because you don’t have that objective observer. But I wish you luck and i’m sure you’ll get where you need to be.

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  2. I am an empath raised by narcissists. I’m laughing here, but I’ve long suspected you are too. You reveal yourself in your writing sometimes, especially when you show your empathy for narcissists. I have to caution you away from that and encourage you to focus on yourself, though. You are a lot like me, still trying to save the narcissists, still trying to advocate for them. That can have deep roots, because the narcs become substitute parents, if we can heal them, we can protect the children we once were. The thing is, we need to invest in ourselves and let go of our concern for the others, for a while anyway. One important thing about being an empath is learning how to protect yourself. You have to know how to turn your empathy off, otherwise it can get very difficult knowing what is you and your needs versus someone else’s. Also, empathy can be painful, exhausting, and often the one you need to empathize with the most is yourself.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve talked about this with my therapist (my empathy for them) and he says what you say and I agree–I definiely think my empathy for them stems from still wanting to heal parents that could not be healed. I know it’s from a desire to heal our family. I’m nowhere near ready and I pray about this a lot–so if God’s will is that I don’t work with them, then so it will be. I can still work with abuse victims. I am definitely focusing on just myself right now. I still have so far to go. I’m still working on developing more empathy for myself, since I’m still so quick to use the shaming words on myself my parents used.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Hi IB
      i identify with your post. It can be exhausting and the boundary setting is extremely hard to achieve despite the awareness. Its a journey I suppose. 😃

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh how I love your posts and how they help me. So many question however keep brewing up in my mind. Again, I know that no one can be put in a box and I guess that is why I am so confused now as to not only what my ex is, but what I am as well. I do think I am an empath to a certain extent (I truly do try to put myself in others situations and feel for them in so many ways) I also think I am codependent but only to a certain extent (going to explain below). Maybe it is because I am discovering that my mother is definitely an empath (always truly caring for others and putting herself last) and my dad is a narcissist (always caring for other for his own benefit and glory, being super selfish, and never being wrong). Maybe because I have been with my Ex since I was 16 and have had a fake sense of what love really is for the past 20 years. I truly feel like the visors have finally been lifted but at the same time, I go back an forth on whether he is truly a narcissists (or something along the spectrum) or whether I am the problem.

    When I read about codependency, I do see a lot of qualities from my 20 years with my ex. I did allow him to control me (but only to a certain extent), gaslight me (but I had an affair and I thought his gas-lighting was justified …not sure what aspect this has added to this toxic relationship and my need to “fix” it and him out of my own guilt). I see the stories, what he has done to me in just the past year, all of the signs of N and he fits most of them. But what about me (is that an N question?) Why did I decide to cheat? Or maybe I was the one who just got caught? Why does he keep bringing me back? Why has he said so many times to leave it in the hands of God? Do N’s even say that? Is that what he just wanted me to hear? When he describes his current wife (who he left for me) he describes her like an N would, no feeling for her. But does he describe me like that for to her? Even after he tried to break me several time and failed, he kept coming back to me. But again, he pulled away…again. Is it because he can’t trust me or bc he never loved me?

    I guess I am just really confused in so many ways. I know I am not perfect in any way and have made so many mistakes but I also know that I “feel” things. And I know that I part of living is truly feeling things. Maybe too much but not in the sense that I am hyper sensitive but in the sense that I understand his pain and still want to “fix” him but essentially know that fixing him will destroy myself and my kids and he is not worth that. I even toyed with the fact that I might be an N bc of my affair but other than that I really care more about others than myself 95% of the time and because I was willing to give up “almost” everything to make him happy until I realized that nothing I could do would make him happy.

    Probably out of my mind but I feel comfortable being there with you. Went to the Narc Forum and read like crazy. Still feel more comfortable posting here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Alex, I don’t think you are N because you had an affair. I had an affair when I was married, in fact more than one and I was actually the worse of us that way. I am not proud of this and know it hurt my kids too, and of course it was wrong. But while I was with him I was really mentally ill and didn’t know what I was doing or why. Now I know why–I was desperately seeking love and validation, which he could not give (he was unfaithful too, and many other things). That didn’t make it right, but that’s where my head was at at the time. It’s common for people with C-PTSD to act out in almost Borderline ways, such as having affairs, being self destructive, drinking or drugging, you name it.

      As far as you narcissist ex talking about God, yes, lots of them are gung ho about God and religion. They use religion against you, to make themselves feel better. Most churches are full of narcissists who use religion to control others. What they don’t have is true spirituality. They can’t have a relationship with God because they are incapable of having relationships with anyone, even themselves.

      As far as being unfaithful–no one is perfect and you were in pain. We all need love and validation and you werent getting it at home. You acted out because you were being abused. I went through a period where I thought I was a narcissist too and it wasn’t even that long ago. My ex always told me I was too narcissistic and selfish, and I believed him. He got everyone else to believe him too (triangulating and gaslighting). But how could I care for anyone else when I was dying a slow death and in terrible psychic pain because of the mind games he played with me?

      Slowly I’m finding out now that I can care, that I’m not as selfish as I thought. In small ways I’m starting to reach out to others in need. I never did that before. To get to this point, I could no longer be with him. Although I may empathize with narcissists, I have to remain No Contact with them because they are too dangerous for me to be around. I can talk to them online, on my blog, etc. but I can’t have them around me in the real world. One day I do want to work with them but right now I’m nowhere near strong enough to do that and keep my sanity. One day maybe I will be strong enough. But today I’m so much better for them being out of my life and ironically, that distance from them is helping me to begin to understand them and have compassion. When I was newly No contact, I hated all narcs–I needed that anger in order to make my escape. Rage is necessary for survival but if you don’t move on from it, eventually it eats you up inside and you can become narcissistic yourself. I’ve seen it happen to other abuse survivors who needed to hold onto their hatred but because they couldn’t let go of it, they remain stuck and can’t evolve any further.
      I hope this helps answer some of your questions.
      Thank you for your sweet comments, it means a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This answers so many questions and I will never allow myself to close myself off so much that I do not realize or feel how my decisions affect and hurt others. I have felt such extreme guilt over my affair for many years now but honestly do understand (I do not excuse or justify) why I had the affair. Surprisingly, I still don’t hate my ex “narc” (although I have in the past when I did not understand his condition). I feel sorry for him actually. Which is what my daughter is struggling with now bc he is reaching out to her and she has mixed emotions on whether she should talk to him or kick him to the curb. My struggle is letting her make her own decisions bc I know how he is and I know now that he will use her for his own good and not necessarily hers. Again, I thank you for continuously responding to my comments. You are going to make a great therapist someday (already have become one for me every day I read your blog and responses). Not trying to feed into your ego (LOL) but you deserve it!!!

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    1. How old is your daughter? If she’s an adult you have to let her make her own decisions. I’m faced with the same thing with my 23 year old daughter. I’m NC with him, but she is not. Because she lives with me that means she sometimes is on the phone with him in my house. It’s not really a boundary violation, but it concerns me because she has a lot of emotional problems because of what he did to her (she was his golden child, but he also parentified her when she was still a child (told her all his adult problems), exposed her to things she should not have been exposed to, and attempted to turn her into a flying monkey against me). Because she is an empath herself, she tends to be very codependent and falls in with a lot of narcissists, psychopaths, and sociopaths. That worries me. But she also sees the red flags, and I have tried to educate her about these disorders so she can be aware. She now knows what to avoid. But she does love her dad, and I have no right to tell her she can’t talk to him or see him. That is her choice.

      It’s my pleasure to reply to your comments. I enjoy having this conversation. 🙂 I appreciate all the nice things you’ve said and if I was a narc, I’d be puffed up with pride right now and getting fat on narcissistic supply. LOL!

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      1. I’m reading this on my phone at work so I will respond in more depth later. But short and sweet my daughter is15 and I’m terrified that both my and my ex’s actions have somehow tainted her. He told both of my children (our son is 19) way too much but I’m guilty of this as well. More detail to follow.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Neither one of my children have ever been really close to my ex. It has always made me sad but neither of them trust him. He has made so many promises left unkempt. Like his own father, nothing they ever did was right and he often was crabby and angry with them. Despite the fact that I had an affair 5 years ago that he exposed to EVERYONE including my children (then blamed me for making him so upset that he lost in in front of my son and that is why he knew everything) I did everything in my power to prove to my children that I loved them and could be trustworthy again. Neither feel like they have a voice around him and while I didn’t realize it at the time, he Gaslights them as often as he does me. So neither ever feel comfortable being honest with him yet he gets upset that neither feel comfortable being honest with him.

    So last summer when he came back a “new man” telling both of them how miserable he was without me, without them. How he just wanted his family back and didn’t want his kids to resent him like he resented his own father. He told both of them how he ran from us and it wasn’t right. He made so many future promises, and then he walked away with little to no explanation other than I did something “horrible” to make him not trust me. The thing is, that my kids are both smart and I am pretty open and honest with them. In addition, they have been with me every day the past few years and know exactly who I am. So neither of them were buying what he was saying and both turned away from him. My son was lucky enough to move away so my ex could not get to him (tried to get him to stay) but my daughter was still under his clutch and when she refused to see him he used force (telling me he would take me to court) and then guilt (so much pain not seeing her). He even made her go to his wedding even though she said she didn’t want to.

    So here we are again (deja vu). Can’t believe I fell for it again and my daughter feels the same way. She actually said that she thinks she might hate him but she also feels sorry for him (both of my kids are empaths like me. My son I believe is even more than my daughter). I told her that I would support whatever she felt and however she felt no matter what. That he is still her father. The sad thing is, is that he really hasn’t tried to contact her much. The couple times he did, he did not say sorry (now I know why) instead he told her he was her father and would not be going away. He texted her yesterday as if nothing happened and asked her if she wanted to go on drive and hang out. She said she wasn’t ready and he didn’t respond (so sad). So I really don’t know.

    Last time I was much more angry with him. I think its bc I didn’t understand and didn’t have an explanation for his behavior. I know that my anger definitely rubbed off on my kids. I tried to contain it for their sake but they saw my pain and anger quite frequently. This time I’ve been better and am really trying to support whatever decision they make I just am concerned with their future heartache whatever way they decide to go. My son just wants a father that accepts him, my daughter wants a father that is around and true to his word. Both wanted us to be together but both told me that it should not be at all cost. My heart breaks in the fact that they will never get that. They know however that I love them, accept them, am there for them no matter what. Just today my son text me and told me how much he loved me and to stay strong.

    Sorry, I wrote you another book. Didn’t even get to the chapter where he showed up at my house yesterday and the drama that entailed.

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  6. Oh honey! I just want to give you a big hug.

    No bead to question if you are an Empath because it resonates through all your writings and posts that you ARE one. Embrace it. Nurture it. Love it and yourself. You are so powerful and insightful. It hurts me to hear of all the pain and obstacles that have been thrown in your way. Unfortunately that is quite common with Empaths. I believe that the stronger the Empath the more obstacles and hurdles we have to overcome. Is it right? Is it fair? NO! But it’s the Life Path we are on. It makes us stronger and better able to help other Lightworkers. You are blessed to have such a wonderful therapist to help you navigate through the obstacles. I hope that you are also learning how to ground and how to cut the negative cords that have attached to you. There are some very easy ways to do this. Being an Empath is very rewarding but can also be very taxing on you and your health. Be sure to talk to your Guides. Be specific. Ask them to bring positive people into your life that can help you in the right direction and with your Life’s Path. If you aren’t already meditating, I recommend you use some of the guided meditations on YouTube. Follow your inner voice when picking ones. Using ones to open your chakras would be helpful. But take your time. Do it in steps. You don’t want to open all your Empathic energy at one time. Follow your instincts, guides, and inner voice. If your brain starts to feel “loud” or you feel like there’s a lot of chatter just ask that it be turned down. I could go on and on here but I just wanted to hit on a few key points. If you want more info, advice, or to talk, I’m available.
    Love, Light, & Blessings,
    Nica

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Wasn’t sure where to put this or if I really wanted to post it but I need to get it out and I feel most comfortable on your page. He went back to her! I mean I knew he did/would (its the reason I confronted him 3 weeks ago, essentially discarded him right before he could do it to me, and have been obsessively reading about narcissism. I know you explained how they think but it is just so frustrating to me to know all of the things he said and promises he made and poof, gone! Poof, now they are back and things are “normal”…wtf!!! In addition, he has completely abandoned our children. Wont even talk to them bc they have called him out on his lies. I completely know and understand that NO CONTACT is the best solution but until I sell this house we have together (which he is now trying to control decisions on and making my life a living hell through the house) I have to deal with him and it HURTS!

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    1. Leave it to a narc to discard his own children when they call him out on his BS. My ex is the exact same way. Off and on he blocks his son from FB and refuses to take his calls. My family is the same way. Months, sometimes years go by where family members don’s speak to other family members. In a N family, blood means nothing.

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  8. Well it is his loss. My N family likes to replace apologies with material things. Instead of I’m sorry that I only care about myself and hurt you so bad, its can I buy you a new pair of shoes. Yes, my son just saw on fb that his father went back to his “wife” after telling all of us so much about how he could not stand her bc…blah blah blah. He sent him a text calling him out on it and he never replied and now refuses to talk to him. I guess it just make me so angry that the WRONG people are being punished!! How can you hurt people and them punish them for your faults!!!!

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    1. Projection. My family is like that too. They never apologize but will buy you things, or just give you things they don’t want anymore, acting like they’ve given you some great gift.

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