So, you’re an empath.
Hi, me too!
I spent my earliest years taking on everyone else’s problems, feeling their pain and sadness and worrying about fixing it for them. Not just friends or family members but random people I’d stand next to on the bus or in a shopping queue. It was often confusing, and very draining.
But I found ways to stop absorbing other people’s emotions and re-purpose my skills. And you can too.
Being An Empath Isn’t A Life Sentence. You Can Stop Absorbing Other People’s Feelings
I believe there are two types of empaths in the world:
a. Those who absorb and feel other people’s emotions. Though they may or may not be aware of it.
b. those who know they are empaths and work consistently to stop absorbing other people’s emotions. They may not be 100% successful all of the time, but it gets easier.
The work that it takes to get from a to b is multi-faceted. It also fits together like some kind of odd jigsaw. You might do a bit of one thing, and a bit of another, then something else which makes the first thing easier. You then build on it and continue to develop and work on yourself.
You can’t do something once and be cured!
This is one element of what is often referred to as shadow work. It’s facing up to the dark side of being overly empathic and doing something about it.
We don’t want to become hardened to the plight of another. Empathy is an important part of being human. It’s generally a good thing. (Honestly! You can find out more about that here.) It’s only when it becomes overwhelming and limiting to us that we need to take action.
So, what can we do to control our empath superpowers?
The first step is to recognise that you’re an empath. Understand that not all the emotions you feel are actually yours, and the world’s problems that you are seeking to fix, aren’t always yours to fix. (If you’re not sure, have a read of Am I An Empath?)
Once we start to recognise this and question things more we are on our way to being able to stop absorbing other people’s emotions.
1. Let’s get some perspective.
Question the feelings that you’re feeling and explore them. Are they yours? Talk them through with someone. Name the feelings you have and discover where they come from. If you don’t know, they may well have come from someone else.
If you discover they’re not yours release them. Exercise, screaming, and dancing will all help you to let go of those clingy remnants of someone else’s emotions that have attached themselves to you. (You’ll find some more tips on this in my Empath’s Action Plan)
In the moment: When you’re with someone and they’re telling you their story you may, suddenly or gradually, feel yourself being drawn in to it and start to experience the feelings associated with it. If this happens recognise it and tell yourself it could be your empathic part (perhaps give her a name and tell yourself something like, ‘Oh, here goes Alice, off down another rabbit hole again’) Then get curious. It will help you to remember this stuff isn’t yours if you take some control and start to enquire about the person’s situation.
One of the things that can impact an empath is that they think they understand someone’s predicament but often get it wrong. So ask about it. Be questioning, and also, if needed, maybe challenge them.
But Be Gentle!
I remember someone telling me a long story about a friend once. I could tell they were completely drawn in to it, they had become emotionally invested in finding them a solution. They had made themselves a part of this story. I recognised it was something I might have done in the past. So I asked questions. And then I challenged part of the story, saying something along the lines of ‘Oh, that doesn’t sound right, are you sure you’re getting the whole picture here?’.
Admittedly I was one step removed from this, but you can still ask questions to clarify points or encourage the person to seek help, find out more about their rights for example or even to ask the other people involved for clarity.
Remember, ‘Alice’ is curious too, so she wants to know more.
Something I discovered was that I would often take on the pain and problems belonging to someone who was quite pleased (subconsciously) for me to have it.
Eventually I realised that while I was spending all my time and energy worrying and trying to help them, they were getting on quite happily with their life with no cares in the world. This is not fair, but it’s our fault, no theirs. Look closely at what is happening in your situation and question your need to be involved.
I realised that, in the past, I regularly fell in to the role of ‘rescuer’. In Transactional Analysis (a psychoanalytical model) this is one of three points on a self-perpetuating triangle. The other two being persecutor and victim. I needed to step away from this drama triangle and be more grown up about it all!
We need to understand that rescuing someone doesn’t empower them. Rather, it does the opposite and makes them dependant. Alternatively, they become resentful of your help and jump over to persecutor putting you firmly in the role of victim. It gets ugly!
So when we are being told about someone’s problems, let’s try to engage with compassionate empathy rather than emotional empathy and help them to find their own solutions, Asking open questions like
- what could you do next?
- who could seek support from?
- how might you feel more positive about this?
Another activity that will help you understand yourself and your empathic tendencies better, process your feelings, and gain some perspective is journalling.
2. Put the focus firmly on you
Empaths always put others first, so we really need to stop doing that and fast! Make a point of focussing on:
- Self care
- Re-energising yourself
- Being kind to yourself – but eat well. Don’t turn to food, alcohol or other temptations to salve the hangover feelings or the guilt of looking after yourself.
- Putting boundaries in place
- Learning to say ‘no’
All of these will help you deal with your empathic tendencies better, and fend of energy drains and toxic people if they’re around. You will be amazed but this will be one of the best steps you can take to stop absorbing other people’s emotions
3. Control The Energy Around You
In an article I read by Judith Orloff MD, author of “The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People” I found this quote
“If empaths are around peace and love, their bodies assimilate these and flourish. Negativity, though, often feels assaultive and exhausting.”
So remove yourself from negativity and get in to a place of love.
- Nature will nourish and soothe you, it will charge you up emotionally, energetically, and spiritually.
- Positive happy people will do the same. Ask for support from the right people. People who are working on themselves, who are positive and energetic and who understand your situation.
- Spend time alone. Not only will there be no one else’s emotions to absorb, this will also give you time and space to reflect on what you are really feeling. You will start to discover you really are.
- Watch comedies that make you laugh out loud.
- Learn to meditate and do it regularly, especially before and after visiting people who you know pull you in to their stories.
4. Protect Your Energies
Looking after your own energy can really help to filter out other people’s emotions and prevent you taking them on in the first place.
What does this mean?
In eastern philosophies it is taught that we have an energetic system that exists alongside our physical bodies, but at a more subtle (higher vibrational) level. This theory is the basis for acupuncture, reflexology, shiatsu, tai chi, and more.
When I work with people to understand and protect their energy better I start with the Indian and Tibetan teachings as they are (in my opinion) slightly easier to simplify and work with. So, let’s say we have a bubble of energy around us called our aura.
When we are an empath we have weaker, more penetrable bubbles which means that other’s people’s feelings, emotions and negative energies can seep in to our bubble. We then think they’re our own and we feel them as such.
We can work on our energy bubble to prevent this from happening and to help you to stop absorbing other people’s emotions; centring and grounding and protecting our energies are key.
Self care, meditation and some exercise (like yoga and tai chi) can strengthen our energy bubble but by far the best way to consciously take control is to use visualisation.
Here are some simple methods of working with your energy to get you started. A more bespoke blog just on this topic will follow shortly, or you can visit thepsychicworkbook.com
Visualisations To Protect Your Energy
- Grounding: Stand tall with both feet flat on the ground, even weight through both. Take a deep breath and slowly exhale. Close you eyes. Imagine yourself as a tree with a sturdy trunk and long roots extending down in to the earth from the soles of your feet. Maintain this for as long as you can and recall it whenever you need to feel strong.
- Centring: Focus your attention on the centre of your being; think about you abdominal area and imagine all you energy going there. Imagine a bright light forming there, in a deep orange colour. As you breathe slowly and deeply that light becomes bigger and brighter. Maintain this imagine for as long as you can and before you finish imagine the light condensing down in to a marble sized ball. It is still strong, vibrant and bright. It’s just condensed. It sits here at your centre. Later, if you need to focus on you and your energy or feelings, or you become aware that you need to stop absorbing other people’s emotions, focus on that marble, placing your hand on your belly.
- Protection: Imagine that your body is surrounded with a giant egg. It surrounds you in all directions, above and below. See it being filled with bright white light. See it being whole, solid, complete. Perhaps imagine that its outer shell is a mirror bouncing back energy and feelings that aren’t yours. Maintain this image for as long as possible and bring it to mind whenever you feel the need, and regularly throughout the day when you’re in contact with others in any way (even on the phone).
Try them all and see how you get on with them. You can use one at a time, or all of them at once.
5. Find your purpose and motivation in life
Sometimes we can think that our purpose in life is to help others. And that might be the case. But that doesn’t mean we have to help everyone and anyone we come in to contact with, taking on their feelings and rescuing them. They might not even want out help. If being an empath makes you feel needed and purposeful, then finding your true calling might negate the benefits over-empathy brings, Filling the purpose-gap in a positive, healthy, and more appropriate way can help you to work on your own journey and not take on ‘their’ story as your own.
6. Do the shadow work – get therapy if you need it
Similarly, getting involved in someone else’s feelings and problems might be a great way of avoiding your own, Is it time to get real with yourself and deal with your own pain or issues?
It takes time, practice and dedication to learn to stop feeling other people’s emotions. When you put the work in you will feel the benefits. Pick one thing that you are drawn to and work on it. Introduce the next thing when you feel ready. Although don’t expect to have one perfect before moving to the next. They all feed in to each other.
You’re on your way! Keep up the good work and don’t forget that if you want to have some support around this topic you can always book a call with me to discuss how we could work together.
In the meantime, if you’re struggling with feelings of empathic or emotional overwhelm, you can access my free download ‘The Empath’s Action Plan To Manage Overwhelm’ here.
Transformational Women's Coach, Trainer, Speaker & Author
Combining a spiritual outlook, a pragmatic approach, and a sense of humour I want to help you remember who YOU are and reveal YOUR path so you can step on to it empowered, energised, inspired and guided.
What are your thoughts or questions? Let me know below
This was so helpful to me, thank you Helen. I’m going to try the giant egg strategy first!
Good plan! Let me know how you get on.