I am an Empath
These are my favourite and most useful tips and tricks to manage if you are too.
As long as I can remember, I have been effected by the emotions and energy of the people around me. I easily become overwhelmed and need quiet time to myself. When I’m in the presence of someone who is sad, I start to feel sad as well. The same with any number of other emotions. I have high levels of empathy. Something I am only recently coming to terms with as I figure out how to manage and deal with this part of myself. Don’t get me wrong, it is a trait that can be very useful when I teach yoga and work individually with others, but it can also be difficult in daily living.
For clarification’s sake:
a person with the paranormal ability to perceive the mental or emotional state of another individual. (the dictionary says this ability exists in science fiction novels…I beg to differ as I believe it is a real life thing too!!)
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
When I was living in New York City, I would ride the subway and often have the intense sensation that the anger, stress, sadness and frustration from everyone around me was flooding my system. As a result, I often would shut myself down through alcohol, putting myself into my own state of rushing, non-feeling busyness, or any number of less than useful coping mechanisms.
Recently, having started studying for a Masters in Counselling and Psychotherapy, this sense of intense and extreme emotions from others has come back. Often I experience emotions and have some confusion about why I’m feeling a certain way. What I’ve come to realise is that they are not always my emotions, they have not always originated from within me.
Here is an example: My ex-partner suffered from clinical depression. He would go through a bad few days, during which I would assist and support as best I could. After the couple of days past, I would start to feel lethargy, sadness, dullness, low energy (symptoms of depression). At the time, again, confusion. Why am I feeling this way? What is going on with me? The feelings would arise seemingly out of nowhere with no external reason to have caused them. What I now realise, is that I had taken on his feelings without understanding them as separate from my own.
This ability to feel others’ pain and others’ joy can be very useful. I humbly believe it is what makes me a good yoga teacher and yoga therapist. I have an instinctual and sometimes very real and felt understanding of what the people in my class or the person in front of me is feeling. As a result, each yoga class and private session is unique. Taught in such a way as to assist what the person has been brought up in that moment.
However, as mentioned before, it can also be intense, overwhelming, exhausting and confusing.
How to cope?
Over the years, with clarification and understanding of myself and what is happening within me, I have developed a few methods to keep the boundaries of myself clear. I’ve written them with instructions for you to try if what I’ve described above resonates with you:
Visualise an orb of energy or light around yourself. It covers your whole body, top of your head and under your legs. Remind yourself: “I am the only person inside the ball and I have released all other's emotions so they are outside”. “This ball protects me and keeps me clear so I can best assist others and myself as I move through my day.
After a private session, a class, or after being out in the city all day: I burn sage, incense or palo santo sticks. Light the stick, allow the smoke to move all around your body. Over your head, around your heart and down to your legs. The smoke will clear out any unwanted energy hooks, people still in your system, emotions that are not yours. Leaving you feeling clear and free.
3. Affirmations/Self Talk
Say to yourself:
“I am me, I am here, I have my own emotions and feelings which are separate from yours”.
”You are you, you are there, you have your own emotions and feelings which are separate from mine”.
You can also write this in a journal or on a post-it note to hang on your mirror.
Last words of advice:
Remember to stay open when the situation is appropriate. Being empathetic can be a beautiful and amazing thing, so treasure your gift but know how to protect, honour and take care of yourself when needed. We are of the most use to the world when we’ve first taken care of our own needs and love ourselves.