In Mary Carol’s guest post Just How Real Is Suffering?, she described an insight she had as a result of being subjected to the negative energy of others. It dawned on me that I’ve never really written about empathic abilities or how to deal with them, except in a roundabout way in the article “How To Deal With Energy Vampires“. Being an empath myself, I suffered through the unexplained mood swings, the feeling of being completely drained by others and the indignity of being told that I was “too sensitive”. So, if you’re an empath as well, I feel your pain (ha!). But not only are you not alone, there are techniques you can use to stabilize your own vibration and protect yourself against the onslaught of others’ energy. The key is in understanding exactly what is happening.
[Note: I realize that this post may seem a tad "technical". I've included lots of links to articles and previous posts that explain some of these points much more fully. If you need further clarification on anything, though, you can always ask your question in the comments ]
What exactly is an empath?
Everyone has empathic abilities, so people who are defined as empaths aren’t fundamentally different from anyone else. We simply have an easier time connecting to the energy of others – like a talent. Anyone can learn to play a musical instrument, but some people will take to it quickly and make music from the moment they pick up a guitar, while others need weeks or months of study to get the first song out. Empaths are especially talented at connecting with and translating the energy of other people and places – their energy receptors are naturally more sensitive, if you will. How exactly that energy is translated comes down to the particular person. It can be a visceral feeling, an emotional response, some people see energy, others hear it, still others get images in their minds.
We all translate energy all day long – through our eyes, ears, noses, tongues and fingertips. We even regularly translate non-physical energy, often without realizing it. If you’ve ever had an “off” feeling about someone, you were translating their energy and feeling the discord between them and you. Everyone has this ability. Again, empaths are simply more sensitive, which causes them to pick up more of these frequencies. And that can lead to problems. But because we are translating energy all day long, it’s often impossible to discern between the energy we want to translate and the energy that just happens to be floating on by, unless we’ve trained ourselves to do so. Empathic children and teenagers in particular will have a really hard time with this, since they’re still coming to terms with their emotions in general. Take an overly emotional teenager, amp up their energy receptors and add a massive dose of conflicting and confusing feelings, then tell them to just suck it up and not be so sensitive and you’re going to have a rather ugly situation on your hands.
Adults with empathic abilities have often learned to “manage” the situation by shutting their sensitivity down. They mostly ignore their emotions and sensations, which means they’re ignoring their own feedback mechanism as well. Or, they may still feel the energy, but they don’t think or talk about it. They suffer silently. Women are afraid to be stamped as overly emotional, while men are afraid to be seen as weak. But there is nothing wrong with our emotions – they are simply vibrational indicators, a feedback mechanism that lets us know what’s going on in our own energy body. Having sensitive energy receptors may be a pain in the ass, but once you learn to manage them and become more skilled at discerning between the energy of others and your own, this skill can actually turn out to be a valuable asset.
So, what do you do when you’re walking down the street, sitting in a Yoga studio or trying to work at the office and you’re suddenly hit with emotions you can’t explain?
Recognize that the energy may not be your own
The first step in learning to manage the energies you’re picking up on is to understand that you have the ability to translate the vibrations of others. The energy you’re sensing may not be your own. Try to detach from the emotions or physical sensations you’re feeling and take on the role of observer. What are you experiencing? Name the emotion. Think of the cause of this emotion as a stream of energy that has just floated up to you and wafted through you. Let it keep going – let it float away. If you know how to work with your chakras, allow the energy to simply run up through your chakra system and out through your crown chakra. Release the feelings you’re experiencing. With some practice, this detachment exercise can help you to quickly release whatever you’ve just attached yourself to, which will not only help you let go of the resistance of others, but your own, as well. In other words, even if the emotions you’re experiencing are coming from you, detaching this way will bring you relief.
Focus on a neutral symbol
When you pick up on the energy of others, you are essentially allowing their vibration to influence yours. So, if you’re happy and someone is afraid, you cannot pick up their fear unless you allow your own frequency to dip down to theirs. The key to stopping this from happing, or to reverse it once it has happened, is to raise your own vibration back to where you want it to be. You can do this by focusing intently on something that makes you feel good. I’ve found that if you have a “Go To” symbol, something that comes to mind easily and is completely neutral (brings up no negative associations), it can help you quickly regain control over your own vibration. The more you practice focusing on this symbol, the easier and faster it will be for you to shift your emotions.
The symbol I personally use is the butterfly. This has nothing to do with butterflies, I just happen to like them and have built no negative associations with butterflies. I’ve used this symbol in many exercises, so I’ve built up a lot of energy around it. It’s very easy for me to focus on butterflies. So, when I’m out and about and suddenly get hit with a wave of say, anxiety, out of nowhere, I quickly focus exclusively on the symbol of a butterfly and the anxiety simply passes right through me.
It’s interesting to note that as I’ve gotten better at protecting and stabilizing my own energy, these kinds of events happen really rarely. Usually, it’s only when I’m really tired or my mind is all over the place, in other words, when I let my defenses down.
Limit exposure to “hot” zones
There are going to be events and places that are harder to deal with than others. The mall has always been my own personal nemesis. I can only handle being there for about two hours before I feel drained. If I insist on staying past that point, I’ll get irritated and downright bitchy. For this reason, I rarely go to the mall, and if I do, I don’t stay long. Large crowds can be another difficult zone for many. Protecting yourself against the energy of one or a few people is very different from subjecting yourself to the onslaught that comes from hundreds or thousands of individuals. I’ve found that it really comes down to the mood that these people are in. A large, angry crowd will cause me to run for the hills – I don’t want any part of that. But a happy group of people will create an energy wave that I’m happy to ride into the sunset. You see, empathic abilities work both ways!
Although practice does make it easier to protect ourselves over time, there will always be places and events that will be more difficult to digest. Figure out what your “hot zones” are and limit your exposure to them.
Prepare yourself before you leave the house
You can prepare your energy and stabilize yourself before you go out into the world and mingle with all the energy that’s floating about out there. I like to use a grounding meditation, where I see a column of light running vertically through my chakras (or spine). It runs deep into the earth, connecting me with nature and mother earth, and up into space, connecting me to the energy of the Universe. Even just a few minutes spent applying this grounding method leaves me feeling stronger and refreshed.
The second thing you can do is to train your mind to view situations and people in a way that makes you feel good. The Law of Attraction always applies; this means that whatever you’re feeling has to be a match to some nugget of energy within you. You can’t pick up on anger unless there’s something that can cause anger already present in your energy body, or unless you allow your own energy to drop to a point (matching whomever you’re picking up on) that will cause you to feel anger. The solution for both scenarios is to notice what you’re focusing on and/or to train yourself to think better feeling thoughts. This will stabilize your own vibration and stop you from allowing the energy of others to influence you. You can still pick up on that energy, but you won’t feel their emotions anymore.
The upshot of being an empath
Being an empath isn’t all bad. Once you learn to control your own energy, it can actually be quite useful. I speak from personal experience. I connect to the energy of others all the time; I always have. The difference now is that I no longer allow their energy to affect me. This is partially because I’ve stabilized by own vibration to the point where it’s very difficult for someone else to draw me down (they will almost always come up to meet my frequency). I help this process along, however, by also focusing all of my attention on the energy of Who They Really Are, the purest, most positive part of them. I don’t feel their pain, their discomfort, their anger or their sorrow. I can be aware of these emotions, but I don’t focus on them or allow them into my experience. My ability to connect with the energy of others allows me to connect with whatever part of them I choose to. By controlling which frequencies I’m willing to connect with, I’m able to “see” where they are, gain a deep understanding of what they’re going through, but keep myself at a high vibration (because what I’m focusing on is a high frequency).
Many empaths become healers, teachers, therapists and coaches. The ability to connect with others, especially once you’ve learned how to keep that connection from affecting your own vibration, is a set of skills that can be extremely useful when it’s your intention to help others. Sensitive energy receptors are a good thing. They allow us to detect and translate more of this amazing reality, to connect more deeply with people and, with some skill, to deliberately transmute this energy to a better feeling place. It’s well worth the effort.
Are you an empath? What techniques have you discovered that have helped you to protect yourself and manage your experience? Share in the comments!