I am an empath.
I’m discovering what that means for me, but the funny thing is that my closest friend is an empath and I knew it before she did. When I work with new clients, I often discover they are empathic and help them give the experience/perception a name and help them work with their empathic sense.
However, for myself it’s been an interesting discovery.
What is an empath?
Empaths are people who feel and sense what other people are feeling or experiencing. They will feel the emotions that other people have. They literally feel the emotion and very often have a corresponding sensation in their body.
Here’s an example: My friend has told stories of walking into a room after a meeting has taken place where two people are sitting waiting for the next meeting. She can tell from the ‘feeling’ in the room how the previous meeting went (it had been contentious). She can also sense from the two people in the room that while they are expressing concern and appear to be worried, they actually feel like everything will be fine.
Most empaths I’ve met don’t even realize they are empaths. They know they feel everything and many times don’t realize that not everyone feels as they do.
Also, most empaths will automatically feel what someone else is feeling and then automatically, and often unconsciously, become or do exactly what the other person needs to feel better.
You’ll know you are working with an empath because they don’t just understand you but they somehow ‘get’ what you are feeling and after spending time with them you tend to feel better.
You’ll know you are an empath when you tend to know what someone else is feeling and you often feel a compulsion to help them feel better or ‘whole’. But at the end of a day or week of a lot of time engaging with people, you likely feel drained, exhausted, anxious for no reason or even slightly depressed.
Five years ago if you had told me I was an empath I would have denied it.
I simply did not feel what other people felt. In truth I intuited what they felt so it came through my mental body, not my emotional body.
About two or three years ago, I had people telling me that I was empathic. I kindly smiled and knew that what I felt from other people paled in comparison to what other emapths felt. So I still didn’t accept that I was an empath.
About a year ago, during a meditation program the guide very clearly talked and engaged with me as an empath. Partially through the program I explained that I understood what she meant about empaths, but really my felt experience was just nothing like what my empath friends experienced. Her answer: Oh you are very sensitive and feel it, you just have a very profound ability to distinguish between your stuff and others. And that opened up a whole new world for me.
I was able to understand what she said and it made sense to me in the felt experience of my awareness.
For those of you who do not know what I mean by the felt experience of my awareness, try this:
- Close your eyes and turn your attention to your body. Notice your body – the muscles, the bone, the skin. As you sit in your chair, your body has a physical felt experience of the chair.
- Now, turn your attention to the space just outside your body, right beyond your skin. Not necessarily the room, but the space just 6 or 12 inches around your body. When I turn my attention to that space it, like my physical body, has a felt experience of my surroundings – and if I pay really close attention, my physical body will feel or sense that space too.
- Empaths are always feeling that space, whether they know it or not.
So rather than intuitively understanding the guide (which for me is a way of knowing something without having the actual experience), I could feel or sense in my body that what she said was true for me.
So I’ve had about a year to really be aware of how I extend my empathic sense and I’d still say that compared to my high empath friends, my experience of sensing others or what is around me has been more like a faint, muffled sound. I have had a true hint of whatever someone else is feeling but only a hint – which I use as a guidepost and then use my intuition to give me a fuller understanding of what is going on.
Enter January 2013. OMG. The volume has been turned up.
The past few weeks have been interesting. Here’s one way to describe things: I’ve felt hopeful. And grouchy. Distracted. Unmotivated. Peaceful. Bruised in an anxious sort of way. Terribly humbled and shaken. So sleepy. Excited. Inspired.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d be confused and reeling by the extreme feelings and extreme changes that come about for no discernible reason. Maybe you’ve been feeling it too.
Last night I realized that all of this ‘feeling’ appears to be my body’s way of processing a more pronounced empathic sensing.
This month I started taking dance lessons – which I love. Last night I went to my dance lesson at Go Dance (they have a really great set up if you’re interested). I stayed around afterward to watch and enjoy the other private lessons. As I sat there, I felt more and more like I needed to leave and when I got in my car after 40 minutes of watching I literally felt bruised. The space around me felt bruised and my body felt that way too.
It took several hours for the feeling to dissipate. But I had time to reflect on what was going on. I was in a dance studio where hundreds of people come and go daily. There were probably 10 couples on the private lesson dance floor. There were probably another 60 or more people in the group classes. And I had been sitting there watching. Or so I thought.
Empaths don’t just feel, empaths experience the energy around them.
Whether they understand it or can make meaning of it, they quite literally sense the energy around them. Whether they are engaging with a person or walking into an empty room, they will pick up on the emotions and energy of the person or place.
In the past, I really haven’t had to worry about this too much. Only when I concentrated or focused on the people in the room would I have a faint sense of the emotions and energies. And even then it would register as a mild unease or a desire to get away from crowds.
But after last night, I’m pretty clear that I’m going to have to be much more aware and conscious of myself and the people and places around me. I’m aware that the roller-coaster feelings I’ve had this last few weeks are coming from what I’m sensing around me.
Empaths will get what I’m saying. Non-empaths simply won’t relate.
Here’s the best way I have to explain it to a non-empath. It’s a bit like going to a country where you don’t know the language. Everywhere around you there are people speaking and you can hear everything but none of it makes any sense. You may have the ability to block out the voices, but you will still hear them even if they don’t make sense.
An empath senses everything around them, even if it doesn’t make any sense. And some are able to block it out but it doesn’t mean that they are not sensing it in their energy or body.
The biggest difference between the two is that you could find a teacher who could teach you the language and it would make sense and have meaning for you and you could then use your new language in helpful ways.
As empaths, we don’t have that teacher; we don’t have the common meanings; and many of us attempt to learn by trial and error how these senses can be used in helpful ways, rather than having them be an obstacle or hardship. The even bigger challenge is that most people don’t even know about empathic sensing, empaths, or their experience of the world.
It’s time for me to amp up my own personal lessons in discernment and meaning as an empath.
So, here’s what I’ll be doing to help me as I move through my heightened sensing and super-saturated emotional world:
- Every morning I’ll be intentionally grounding and clearing my energy so I start off the day with only my energy affecting me.
- I’ll be shielding. Some people will need to consciously close their chakras as well, and I may need to as well, but I’ll be paying attention.
- Before I head into a meeting with one or more people, I set the intention to have my energy stay with me and not take on other people’s energy.
- I’ll carefully plan and determine where I meet with people based on how the space feels.
- For large group activities ( like networking or social events) I’ll be very discerning about what value they have for me before deciding to go. And if I do go to a large group activity, I’ll spend extra time before and after clearing, grounding and shielding.
I’d love to hear how you have learned to manage as an empath so please share with me on my Facebook page. And if you’re not an empath, please share your questions or observations – because they really do help all of us.
Note: This post inspired another post in response to a comment I received. Read 7 Lessons for coping as an empath.