For years I couldn’t explain it. I was labeled extrovert by every behavioral assessment I’d taken (which was a lot between grad school and my HR career). Yes, most of the time I loved being around people. Yet there was another part of me that felt introverted.
My favorite place to be was at home, alone, with my pets. Going out in crowds often felt overwhelming. I felt anxious at group meditations but didn’t feel that way meditating on my own. Walking my dog on a quiet evening at Balboa Park was relaxing and healing, but felt the exact opposite on crowded Saturday afternoons.
Eventually I was told I am an empath. A what? I’d never heard that word before and had no idea what it meant. Basically, it means I can feel other peoples’ emotions. I was taking on others’ emotions as if they were my own, not distinguishing between the two.
While that sounded crazy, I was willing to explore it since no other explanation seemed to make sense. I started practicing a few techniques (shared below) and began feeling much lighter. Most of the anxiety I felt was not mine! Before long I could walk through Balboa Park on a busy Saturday afternoon without feeling anxious.
It started making more sense. I liked being at home alone because I couldn’t pick up on other peoples’ energy there. Plus, the animals are unconditional love bugs – their energy felt comforting. Familiar places, things and people were easier for me to be around because the energy was familiar.
For someone who wanted to deal with her anxiety without being on medication, this felt like a huge discovery. When I became more skilled at differentiating between my own and others’ emotions, it changed my life. While I’ll admit Reiki is one of the primary tools I use to manage my empathic side, there are other powerful ones I use that you can as well…
Protect yourself. One of my favorite ways to protect my energy is to visualize a bubble around my body. The inside of the bubble is filled with white light. I can choose to send that light out to others. However, their stuff bounces off the surface of my bubble, not entering my energy field. (I know…I felt silly trying this at first too, but when it actually worked, I decided it was a keeper.)
Ask yourself. Is this my anxiety (or other emotion) I’m feeling right now? Or does it belong to someone else? When I ask myself that question, the answer is usually it’s not mine! I instantly feel less anxious confirming it’s not mine. Next I ask myself, how do I feel right now? I know that sounds simple, but when you’re used to being a magnet for others’ emotions, it’s a really important question to ask. It helps you get in the routine of being in touch with how you’re feeling.
Ground yourself. Clearing your energy field can help you release any feelings or energy you collected elsewhere. Exercise helps with this as does water (swimming in the ocean or talking a bath with salt in it). Walking barefoot on the sand or the grass also helps ground your energy.
Accept yourself. I still have moments when my empathic side gets the best of me. It happened recently at a big corporate event. All I can do is use my tools, set intentions, and hope for the best. When I have those off moments, I own them and move on. Now I view those rare moments as reminders of what life used to be like, which promotes feelings of gratitude for the progress I’ve made.
Finally, since we’re all energy, I do believe we all (to varying degrees) pick up on others’ energy and emotions. Whether or not you identify with the word empath, you can use these tools to help keep your energy strong and positive.