Any empaths out there? Raise your hand!
Yeah, I’m raising my hand, too. 🙂
The word “empath” comes from the word empathy.
An empath is someone with an extreme ability to empathize.
When an empath is with someone, they can start feeling that person’s emotions as if they were their own… and they may not even realize this is happening.
You could be sitting next to someone with a headache, and you start feeling like you’re getting a headache. But when you get up and leave, the headache goes away. Yet you still think it was your headache. You don’t realize you were picking it up from the person next to you.
Now imagine being an empath and being in a crowd at a political rally or rock concert. You’re surrounded by all these people feeling really strong emotions. It’s very overwhelming!
Unless empaths learn to manage their empathy, they can find themselves withdrawing into solitude or nature, environments that aren’t so stimulating.
But we don’t want empaths to disappear into the woods forever! We want empaths to be out in the world running organizations and helping people and making a difference.
In order to do that, empaths need to learn to take in information but keep out what’s not theirs.
These two skills can help…
How Empaths Pick Up Energy
Why do empaths pick up other people’s energy in the first place?
There are a lot of woo-woo explanations out there, but the truth is probably more prosaic.
It’s likely that empaths have more mirror neurons than most folks.
Mirror neurons are brain cells that enable us to mimic other people.
When we watch someone start to cry, we feel like we’re going to cry ourselves. When the person we’re with puts a hand on their hips, we put a hand on our hips. That’s our mirror neurons firing.
If you couple that with emotional intelligence, which is the ability to pick up on subtle signs of how other people are feeling, then you get an empath: someone who seems to know instinctively how other people are feeling and absorbs those emotions inside themselves.
Empaths and Relationships
Empaths have very porous personal boundaries. They soak up other people’s energy.
So their relationships are really challenging.
If they haven’t chosen a partner who’s calm and steady, they can find themselves becoming more emotionally volatile or overwhelmed. Their guy comes home feeling stressed or angry, and now they feel stressed. They can’t block out his moods.
What makes things worse is that the empath doesn’t always know that it’s his stress she’s picking up. She just feels stressed, and she feels like it’s her feeling.
That’s why the most important skill you need to develop as an empath is the ability to distinguish between your feelings and someone else’s feelings masquerading as your own. Here’s how to do it.
My Feelings, Your Feelings
This exercise came from a wonderful teacher of mine. She had us sit quietly, get centered, and then say out loud, “My name is [whatever your name is].”
Where do you feel the truth of that statement in your body? Say it a few times and feel where it resonates.
Now say, “My name is Bob.” Where do you feel that in your body? Do you feel it somewhere else? Can you tell the difference?
Your body knows whether something is true for you or not. It’s like a tuning fork. It’s much more perceptive than the mind.
The next time you feel a strange emotion come out of nowhere, ask yourself whether it’s yours or not. Say, “I feel sad,” and see where it resonates in your body. Is it your sadness you’re feeling? Or does that not feel true for you? If it doesn’t feel right, then chances are it’s someone else’s feelings.
The second big challenge empaths have in relationships is the desire for harmony.
Empaths don’t like conflict. They take arguments incredibly personally, and those negative emotions feel like poison. It can take them days to recover from a fight.
But all relationships involve two people bumping up against each other from time to time.
The only way to avoid conflict completely is to be a doormat… and that’s the last thing an empath needs to be!
The empath needs to learn to prioritize her personal boundaries above her desire for harmony.
This means that she says no on a regular basis, even if that means disappointing her guy.
Pay attention to how you feel when you assert a boundary.
If you’ve practiced your ability to distinguish between your feelings and his, you’ll notice that the boundary feels really good inside your body. It feels true to you.
But you’ll also notice feeling some anger and frustration that doesn’t belong to you. Those are his feelings, and they’re not your business.
You are not responsible for anyone else’s feelings. You are responsible for listening inside to find out what’s true for you and then acting on that truth even if it stirs up uncomfortable emotions in other people.
Because the alternative is to betray yourself… and no relationship is worth that.
I used to feel like I’d get destroyed or crushed if I dared to make a stand with my partner.
Now I surround myself with strong women who feel no guilt about setting boundaries and saying no. They inspire me! It’s so reassuring every time I see them assert a boundary and nothing bad happens to them.
What are your biggest challenges as an empath? Let me know!