Do you identify with the term ‘empath’? Do you feel aware of the energies surrounding you and feel overwhelmed a lot of the time because of it? Do you slip into depression easily? Are you drawn towards healing and psychology, with a desire to understand others and where they are coming from?
Many people who are drawn towards healing themselves, the planet, and others, can also relate to feeling overwhelmed and disassociative states alongside their very developed consciousness. These types have a strong knowing that there is a greater connectedness going on, a higher purpose to life and all of its challenges. Ideas of spirituality and purpose pervade their every thought and action. Where do I fit in all of this, how do I affect change, what is my work, who am I? Their gifts and challenges are both unique.
When working with people with highly developed energetic awareness and delicate sensitivity, I like to work in this specific order: first and foremost, I tell these types, you are the self. You are an individualized expression, an individual soul, with a unique destiny. Therefore your main job is…self care! The self comes first for the empath. First you are the self and then, you are the whole.
In many empathic types, the wiring is opposite. The whole comes first and the self comes second.
Why that’s not functional
When the whole comes first, and we lose the awareness of the self, it is easy to think we are impacting something greater, when actually we cannot impact anything because our personal boundaries and structures are not strong enough to hold any truly transformative energy, and we are constantly being thrown off by small incongruencies in the fields of energy around us. If we dissolve into the ocean of being, there is nowhere for our good intentions to land, and we are ineffective on the levels we care about.
In some these issues come from many past lives and experiences in an ashram, monastery, or commune, where the self was given over to the function of a larger whole.
What does work?
If you can relate to the overwhelming-amount-of-information feeling in much of your life, and wonder why it’s hard to translate your depth of knowing into meaningful action, these are a few important tools to help you build a sense of personal self that is strong enough to offset those energies and actually create something meaningful. If you want to improve your effectiveness as a healer, designer, mother, author, but find yourself drifting off into the ethers more often than you’d like to admit, these are the tools for you!
- Strengthen the basic structure of the energy field.
This is very important. This means you have to start attending more completely, more intently, to the basics of life functionality: caring for your physical body, paying attention to your energy levels and planning your life accordingly, making money, having what you need physically and emotionally. You will find that if done with care and intent, these things start to take very deep meaning since they are skills that you haven’t cultivated before, and can therefore be more transcendent for you than, say, joining another ashram or doing more spiritual service! When you start to value yourself and have simple personal dreams and goals, the feelings of “I don’t matter” or “I’m not strong enough for life” will start to release, giving way to a stronger sense of self and purpose, and more ability to be effective in life.
What we’re looking for is a one-pointed self instead of a chaotic or scattered feeling.
- Build healthy boundaries by feeling yourself.
Developing a sense of who you are in a situation, instead of what the whole energy is or what others are doing and thinking, is crucial for reducing overwhelm. What we’re looking for is a one-pointed self instead of a chaotic or scattered feeling. When we feel our self more than the environment we are in, a lot of things that aren’t really ours to deal with, like other’s energies, complexities of the environment we’re in, thoughts and feelings that others are having, etc, don’t metabolize through our energy field. We stay lighter, cleaner, and more congruent.
It can be a shocking realization for an empath first to realize that a lot of what they feel has nothing to do with them! And, then, that it is not their job to manage other people’s emotions. Instead, they can practice being contained in a positive field that protects them and lifts their environment. When this principle is functioning, your social situations, work situations, etc, start to feel more effortless and fun.
- Have an opinion and make choices.
In Buddhist teachings, there is talk about aversion and attraction: we can either have a ‘lean-in’ or a ‘lean out’ response to every situation in life. In many empathic people, however, there has been cultivation over lifetimes of a ‘middle-of-the-road’ response to all things. There is neutrality in the face of life choices, from minor to major. “Well, all roads lead to the same place, so I don’t really care which road I’m on…” What results, though, is not so positive. When the whole human experience is undervalued as inconsequential, or details not paid attention to, life gets flat, colorless, and the personality lacks variety and beauty. The person ends up with a destiny that doesn’t feel very exciting or accurate for their real passions.
My feeling is that all of the small choices in life, if fueled with enthusiasm and passion, create a life of much more beauty and radiance. The empathic soul’s growth comes through applying passion, love, and joy to the small choices, and assigning meaning to those things. It’s like imagining your life as a canvas that you will give to God at the end…would you want to present something lifeless and just “correct,” or something of incredible beauty and color?
You don’t necessarily have to make grand sweeping gestures to change everything in your life. I’m talking more about subtle shifts, and bringing greater awareness and intention into things that you already have in your life: deepening your friendships, for example, or choosing what you eat more carefully, or choosing your outfits and how you present yourself with more creativity. Again, it is about coming out of the vastness of no choice and landing in something that you choose to make meaningful.
It can be a shocking realization for an empath first to realize that a lot of what they feel has nothing to do with them! And, then, that it is not their job to manage other people’s emotions.
- Use healing energies intentionally, not vaguely.
All of the clients I have worked with who feel sensitive to energies benefit greatly from learning to channel energy intentionally. This takes them out of feeling bombarded, and into more leadership and functionality with their sensitivities.
Even if being a practitioner doesn’t appeal to you, having some mastery and understanding around energy dynamics and how to work with them can be very helpful, and not to mention inspiring! My meditation and healing groups are designed for this purpose: to bring more awareness and energetic tools to daily life. Other great places to start are with PranicHealing.com, or look for a school or practitioner near you who offers classes.
It is better to cultivate and give form to your gifts, so that you become an effective vessel for healing rather than someone in reaction or depression because of your overwhelming sensitivity.
- Start witnessing and moving things through spirit, not through your personal energy.
“If one gains the Peace of the Self, it will spread without any effort on the part of the individual.” – Ramana Maharshi
Because those of us who have developed our sensitivities can feel when energy is not right, is ill, off, or unbalanced, we tend to think we should fix it or manage it somehow. All that we really have to do, though, is manage our reaction to the fact that the energy is off, rather than having to actually fix it ourselves. If it is going to be fixed, it is not through our reaction to it, believe me! It is through higher spiritual energy. Say, for example, you have a highly moody and irritable coworker who drives you crazy because the energy emanating from him is so negative and charged. It can be shocking! “Oh my god, why does he choose to live this way?! That is so terrible! I can’t be around this person!”
When we react like this, though, we tend to take the energy right in and churn with it. We join the vibration of reactivity, anger, or whatever is going on, and immediately we become enmeshed. If instead we can cultivate a higher perspective, and let go of needing things to shift so that we can be more comfortable, we put the responsibility back on to the person for their own behavior while accepting and letting go of our perfectionist ideals about how people should act, or should deal with their feelings.
Really, people are messy, the world is messy, and part of maturing our sensitivity is to get more into acceptance and trust in the higher learning of the person/situation. It is also about being happy and joyous long before the world and the people in it are perfect.
This is not to say you should become a cold, stone person who doesn’t feel others at all…rather, it is seeing and responding to life without using your own personal ‘caring’ energy to try to change situations or people. Once you aren’t in a reaction, it is easier to bring in Spirit/Spiritual law energy to shift the situation. The person or situation may remain in the same state, but you might find yourself in a different vibration, where their energy doesn’t ‘hit’ you in the same way.
Because those of us who have developed our sensitivities can feel when energy is not right, is ill, off, or unbalanced, we tend to think we should fix it or manage it somehow. All that we really have to do, though, is manage our reaction to the fact that the energy is off, rather than having to actually fix it ourselves.
I hope that these tools have shed some light for you, empath, on ways you can shift your energy so that your unique gifts are more fun and useful for you! This topic is a huge passion of mine, as I myself have moved from an overwhelmed-all-the-time empath to someone whose gifts work for me, not against me (well, most of the time…it’s a process!).
I hope these tools also inform you, healers and practitioners, of how to help empathic types move towards more meaning and rulership over their gifts, and out of overwhelm and depression. Personally I love seeing the process of helping empaths awaken to the positives of their awesome gifts, so that all that sensitivity and beauty doesn’t go to waste. A boundaried, not-overwhelmed, mature empath is a powerful force!