Recently I wrote a post on being an empath that resonated with a lot of people very deeply. This morning I received a new comment to that post that touched me so profoundly that I had to write a longer response to share with James and with anyone else whom it might help.
[quote]I always attributed my ability to perceive the emotions and moods of those around me as simply paying close unconscious attention to subtle facial, expressions, body language, tone of voice, etc. I believed that my sensitivity to these signals came to be as a result of growing up in a violent environment where being sensitive to such things was a necessity for self-preservation. I thought that it was common and that I was just like any other sensitive person.
Over time I’ve come to believe it’s more than that. It’s both a gift and a curse. Being able to connect with others on such a deep personal level and offer kindness, compassion and understanding is more meaningful and beautiful than words can describe.
The other side is experiencing being completely overwhelmed by the anxiety pain and suffering of the world around me. It can take me to a very sad and lonely place. Unfortunately, when this happens I tend to numb myself with alcohol. It’s sad that I know of no other way to get through these occasional difficult times but I am not ashamed. It’s been the “medicine” that has allowed me to live a happy, normal, productive life. Without the ability to numb myself when I need to I might not be here today. I wish I had a more positive coping mechanism, and I’ve searched, but I’ve not found one.[/quote]
James, I think just about every empath believes as you have, that what we feel is the result of being good at paying attention to the subtle signals in the people around us. It’s a bit of an eye-opener as we begin to learn and realize that not everyone ‘feels’ as we do. (Let me be very clear for non-empaths. When I say ‘feels,’ I mean having the physical and emotional sensations of someone else’s emotions.)
And you have so beautifully encapsulated the experience as both a ‘gift and a curse’ – “Being able to connect with others on such a deep personal level and offer kindness, compassion and understanding is more meaningful and beautiful than words can describe. The other side is experiencing being completely overwhelmed by the anxiety, pain and suffering of the world around me.”
It is so true. An empath’s ability to feel someone else’s emotions at an energetic level is a gift – even more so when coupled with a compassionate and loving heart. It makes us perfectly tailored to naturally respond to the other person and offer them what they need, without even realizing we are dipping into our own reserves to heal and soothe the other.
Scale that empathic capability – of feeling what one other person feels – and focus on an issue or cause in the world like hunger, or poverty or children without clean water, and in moments you become one single person feeling the emotions and hardships of thousands or millions. Now that can be truly overwhelming.
And that overwhelm can soon become oppressive and formidable when we don’t know what to do to find relief. Or when what we have devised to cope is only that – coping to get by.
You are not alone when you turn to alcohol to find some relief. I believe many of us do. My friend and I also turn to a good margarita (or two) when we’ve had a rough day and need to disconnect. I know that I also use other foods to ground my energy – mostly really delicious fried or greasy things – a burger and fries does the trick for me most times. I commend you for being aware and knowing what is going on. I think many, many of our children are highly empathic and energy-sensitive and without any guidance on how to work with their energy they too turn to food to ground them or numb them. They don’t know and don’t have anyone to explain or help.
You mentioned that you have searched for other means of coping. Since I don’t know what you’ve tried, or what other people reading this have found, I’m sharing the lessons I’ve learned in hopes that you find something new.
Lesson #1 – Your empathic sense is like a language
It might help to think about it this way. Your empathic sense is like a language. It’s like we’ve all grown up speaking English. And before long we realize we really need to be able to fluently speak an unknown language (the language of empaths). It’s ridiculously frustrating because the English speakers can’t help us learn this language because the language we need to learn is subjective and person specific and there isn’t much common ground.
Here we are, you and me and other empaths, teaching ourselves a language without words. We’re learning to navigate the energy systems of our body without the comfortable assurance of our 5 physical senses.
Needless to say, I believe it’s really important to continue learning the language for our own well being.
I continue learning and sharing so that my kids have a different and better experience. So that they have more than just me to look to when they need help and counsel managing and working with their energy systems.
Lesson #2 – Use Source energy not your energy
Your body is a complex energy system. All of us are energy; constantly creating, sending, and receiving whether we realize it or not. So when we ’empath’ someone else’s feelings what we are doing is energetically focusing on that person and taking their ‘hurting’ energy into ourselves and simultaneously sending them our energy to help them feel better. The end result: we drain out our own personal energy, and end up feeling emotional overwhelm, exhaustion, anxiety or more.
What can you do instead? Your complex energy system has a direct connection to Divine Source energy – that is infinite, loving and perfectly what is needed at all times. Learn to connect to Source energy consciously (or imagine doing it if you can’t sense or feel it) and when you find yourself feeling someone else’s feelings intend that Source energy flow THROUGH you to the person in need. Do not use your energy. Do not take their energy on. Believe that Source energy can and does flow through you to the other person filling them with exactly what they need. Practice this a few times and notice the difference it makes for you and them.
Lesson #3 – If you connect, you can also disconnect
Know that when you connect to world energy, and you can also consciously disconnect.
I know this one sounds easier than it really is. I promise my dear friend has taken me to task more than once for glibly noting that she has connected to a global energy so she should just disconnect.
Here’s what I suggest: first, and most importantly, you have to notice and be aware that what you are feeling is global energy. When you do, close your eyes, breath deeply, feel or imagine your core energy and consciously ground yourself. Once you are grounded, 1) imagine you are disconnecting, 2) say or think the words “I disconnect my energy from all energies that are not serving my highest good” and 3) ask for Source, God or Divine help.
You may or may not feel a shift or change but it is the intent of your actions that carries the power, and I believe it begins to train your personal energy systems. As you learn to be more aware of how or when you connect to global energies, you will get better at touching them and letting go faster.
Lesson #4 – Find an energy practitioner (or two or three) to help you
Simple, but so true. Get help.
Fortunately, consciousness is shifting so there are more energy workers openly talking about and sharing their talents. And with the internet we can more easily find them. And even better, many of them offer their services remotely so you can be in different parts of the country and still get the help you need.
Each energy practitioner has his or her own set of unique skills and talents so you have to look around for what it is that your particular energy needs. And recognize that you may ‘graduate’ to new and different practitioners as you develop and grow.
My journey has brought me into contact with many different practitioners with quite differing skills. In every instance they helped with where I was on my journey.
Lesson #5 – Take energy classes and find teachers and mentors
You are empathic. You feel energy. Find the modalities that help you work with it.
I took classes in Resonance Repatterning and Spiritual Response Therapy. These worked for me. You might also consider Reiki as a good place to start. Because once you start, you meet other people who offer you additional resources and options you never considered or knew about.
Lesson #6 – Meditate daily
If you are not already meditating daily, get to it.
As an empath you REQUIRE the centering and grounding time that meditation provides, even if only 10 minutes a day.
If you are not already meditating, my personal counsel is to let go of any and all rules about what meditation is and how it’s done. Do a little research online to get the idea, sit down in a quiet space, breath and let your body guide you with what feels most helpful.
Lesson #7 – Find kindred spirits
Create a support group of friends who understand what you are experiencing. Start talking about being an empath with people you know. You would not believe how many people want to talk about the energy and Spirit questions they have. As you start talking with people you find the ones who can be helpful, understand you, support you and will help you on your daily quest to learn this language without words.
So tell me, has this helped you? And if so, how?
Originally published March 29, 2013