The definition for an empath usually goes something like so:
“An Empath is a person that is extremely sensitive to the emotions and energy of other people, animals and places. They have the ability to physically feel the energy field of others and their surrounding. They often feel everything, sometimes to an extreme, and are less likely to intellectualise feelings”
Whether you consider yourself an empath or not, protecting your emotional and energetic state – in a world loaded with in-your-face news and social media – is more and more important for mental health. Have you ever walked in a room and sensed that “elephant in the room”? That’s energy. Have you ever had a person in your life angry or upset and without any other physical indicators you could tell how they were feeling before they told you? Yep, energy too! Seemingly, we can all sense this – I just believe it’s to what degree that differentiates us all.
I spent much of my life really not understanding myself, feeling ever so lost in this world. I was sensitive for as long as I can remember. I have always felt like a chameleon in groups, whether I meant to or not. When I was often around people who spoke different languages or spoke in different accents I found myself naturally taking on their accent without any realization or effort. Oddly enough that was one of the external things that helped me connect with my inner empath. As I grew older my first real inkling that I may be some form of empath – that I can personally remember – is I felt deep grief when others grieved. When I say “deep” I mean I could not know you at all and I could feel what you felt so deeply that it would affect my entire life.
When I was a teenager, with the internet at this point now evolving into a more accessible source, I came across a story of a girl around my age at the time who passed away. She was stabbed while working her fast food job. She was just sitting in a booth, didn’t know her attacker and her life was taken. It CRUSHED me. I mean, that story did not leave my immediate consciousness for gosh, perhaps 3 months? I was so emotionally distraught you would’ve thought she was my sister or best friend, even though I was in Canada and she was somewhere like Idaho perhaps. I watched every video her friends made of her, I cried through all of them, over and over again. They had a video set to music with her pictures and video clips and I probably watched it 50 times, without exaggerating, tears running down my face. I couldn’t stop feeling the loss, and telling others how upset it made me. How horrendous it was. Then I found myself getting upset because nobody around me quite expressed their upset towards her story in the way I did. I felt like I was living her death, directly, but nobody around me was. I didn’t even know this poor girl, I couldn’t understand why I couldn’t let it go! And I see it so much more now, but even then I was coming to recognize there was something so very different with me. Unfortunately back then I saw that as a negative, and I had no way of managing it so it contributed to depression. I didn’t realize then that it could be used as a gift rather than harming my own emotional state over and over.
As I grew older, more and more I was looking back and seeing this happened so very often. I constantly found myself soaking up the room’s energy and it started to destroy me. At the time of course I didn’t know what was happening, or how to help myself through it. When I was just barely 15 I entered my first relationship, which was almost 7 years long. In my emotional state and beyond, we didn’t compliment each other well from the perspective of our energetic states. I couldn’t channel my energy whatsoever and I fought fire with fire in any heated situation. I lived out a relationship where the worst side of myself was pulled out, except now I find it hard to see whose emotions I was experiencing and at what time. I felt his rage in my own body, his pain in my own mind. His insecurities, but also his excitement and his rollercoasters, so I had myself unknowingly lost in his spiral, and I stayed far too long in that situation. I was so busy living out his emotions, fueling his fire while also experiencing my own emotions that I couldn’t even begin to tackle – because I was too busy trying to shed his. I lost myself entirely. For this reason and other reasons I don’t need to get into now, I was incredibly insecure and unsure of who I was. I realized the same relationship I seemed to want to stay in because I sensed his need and desperation for help, was the same relationship holding me under as I tried to save him without knowing how to actually help. But I felt a dire need to save him, because I had experienced his internal struggles on a whole different level than practically anyone in my life and I felt paired to him. But it wasn’t my job to “save” him, and I surely couldn’t keep it up any longer as the relationship quickly turned to a dating abuse type situation as my energy did nothing to help his own energy when we were in a heated situation. And paired with other reasons I started to finally connect with all of this and I retracted farther and farther away from him until I finally could let go of the connection.
This has happened with friends, in the sense that I had to remove myself entirely from high school during lunch time. I couldn’t sit in the lunch room while the girls discussed usual gossip and other girls and their home and relationship problems, because I felt nothing but an overload of negativity. One part of me wanting to give in and just join the conversation, and the other fighting to remove that bit from my life knowing it wasn’t me at all. I already had health issues and depression at that time, and with what was going on in my home life and in my relationship on a regular basis, I could feel myself sinking and I just needed to avoid it all. My own load felt like too much and I couldn’t take on any more. And as I’ve grown up I’ve done the same, I’ve retracted from people, in their hardest times sometimes, because I physically could not handle their load being put on my own as I experienced all of their emotions in my own mind. It’s only been within maybe the past few years that I have been able to manage myself better, to allow myself to be the friend I always wished I had. To be a support system for someone else without absorbing all of their emotional baggage on top of my own for too long. It’s been a struggle of wanting so badly to help others, but always feeling so incredibly burdened when I would extend myself to them.
So here’s the thing, I was working through all of this trying to find help out of my past relationship and I met someone. This won’t be everyone’s path of course, but it was mine. Being someone who hadn’t even considered my life with anyone else, but knowing deep down that my current situation wasn’t right, I allowed myself to feel something again. Flutters, joy, laughter, freedom from the heavy load of energy from my current life. That someone is now my husband and father to my children. I wholeheartedly believe he was put into my life as a soulmate, someone who would undoubtedly enter my life and help me find light when I’d lost it, and he did. The path was messy but we found each other and he put serious laughter back in my life. His energy didn’t carry the same weight, and although he has and had emotional baggage of his own from his own experiences, he seemed so free to me. So pure. There was something about his existence that reminded me of my own. I actually felt, well, energized. For perhaps the first time ever. I continued to be weighed down by everything else going on in my life and the depression stayed for a while after (more about that in another post to come) but he became my source of recharging in so many ways. I had no idea how we would make it work, him living in Pennsylvania and I in Ontario, but I just knew he was the exception to everything I thought I knew in my life.
As I continued to grow and evolve, he embraced me. He gave me space so I could find myself within our union. He balanced me out. As I rose up in my level of consciousness, he came right with me. He didn’t resist change, he became my person. And although we have the typical relationship and emotional difficulties as we co-exist, there’s something so concrete about being with him that I don’t need to take it all on myself. Because I know he’s in this with me. He thankfully doesn’t absorb energy as intensely as I do, so I can easily remind him to adjust his own energy when he’s dealing with something so I can level my own out and if you have recognized your empathic abilities you know how valuable that would be. Just a few months ago we were traveling in Seattle and I was feeling severe anxiety prior to leaving for the airport home. I couldn’t figure out why because I felt fine otherwise. I stepped back and said “John, do you have anxiety or something?” and he immediately says “Yes! I feel so anxious I’m like shaking”. He was stressing about the process of traveling home and the kids and trucking all the bags and making our flight and whatnot, and for once I was the one totally relaxed, that is until I entered the kitchen with him. I took on his anxiety as my own, and thankfully we have the awareness now and are able to recognize a bit easier when that happens. I was able to level out his emotions while we sorted out his anxiety and in turn my anxiety essentially disappeared. Who would’ve thought helping someone else with their own emotional struggles could bring so much relief to me! Oh how I wish in hindsight I would’ve had this awareness.. 😉 but then again, there’s beauty in lessons is there not?
And so forth, coming to all of these subtle realizations and finding a partner who is ultimately capable of counterbalancing my own capabilities, I’ve been able to recognize where in my current life the load of outer sources has weighed me down where it was too much to manage.
If you have had similar experiences to mine and need help trying to coexist in this world, here are 3 types of input that you’re likely currently exposing yourself to that I’d encourage you to adjust in your own life in however you feel fit:
THE NEWS – Just nope, I can’t do it. The constant flood of drama, pain, and sadness. The news is designed to create urgency, to encourage you to keep coming back desperate to know what is going on. They feed on your worry. But here’s the thing, the best thing you can do to help the world is to be a conscious human being and work on YOURSELF. The news is not teaching you to be a conscious human being, it’s teaching you to fear everything and mis-leading you. Even if they throw in a cute story here and there, the bulk of what you read and retain is the constant flood of homicides, political B.S., deaths, celebrity drama etc. Stories are often misleading and inflated, as they focus only on parts that buy them more viewers. It gives you a false feeling of belonging in this world when you constantly try to keep up with it. This topic will surely find its own post in the future but for now all I have to say is – I feel SO much more free without the news in my life. I have the internet at my fingertips and I don’t escape world news. But I can still choose when I feel the need to check in with it; and consciously make the choice to NOT follow it, to not watch it on TV and to live out my own experiences without absorbing a constant flow of pain and fear from the world.
TV – We haven’t had cable TV in the almost 8 years I have been with my husband, and I’ve never missed it. We have Netflix, which if you don’t already know, is an excellent source for incredible documentaries on every subject. When we go places with “normal” TV, like hotels, we are constantly finding ourselves saying “I can’t believe people are paying to give up 15 minutes every hour of TV they watch, to watch processed/fast food commericals that feed on their vulnerability, followed by drug commercials ( you know, the drugs you’ll need to counter-act the effects the fast-food has on your body), followed by life insurance commercials..” guys, it’s a trap. You aren’t escaping your demons, because they are getting to you through other sources. It convinces you to eat when you’re not hungry and you get so distracted by that that you don’t realize the subliminal messages you are receiving. Notice it next time you are watching a television show on TV. And while on the topic of TV I want to ask – are you aware of what you are watching? If you are hyper-sensitive like I am, do you find yourself experiencing emotions well after the show has ended? Everything you see and become emotionally invested in (ie. a show or movie) becomes input. That input affects your psyche. It remains in your mind, you can’t cancel it out. I noticed that – as I became more and more aware of where my sources were that burdened me so much emotionally, I realized that the shows and movies I was watching were feeding those emotions in me too heavily. Horror movies full of blood and gore, were unbearable. Yet I’d watch them with other people because I felt there was something wrong with me and I thought maybe if I watched them more I’d enjoy them more. Wrong. They really just seem to feed aggression in a lot of people and work at desensitizing you to the the horrible things that happen. I also came to see how much the most emotional-rollercoaster type shows, (I’m talking about ones like Grey’s Anatomy, yes I know it’s hard to hear I do love it too) well I came to realize that the stories were so relatable sometimes that it kept affecting me throughout the day. It triggered horrible feelings, feelings with very very low vibrations and that kept me operating at that level all day. I found myself fearful of what I’d do if I was in those people’s situation, and I had trouble shutting it off. Multiple dark and gloomy shows I begin watching and then can’t continue. Drama-filled reality type shows are a no-go here. It doesn’t feed the part of me that wants growth whatsoever, so I’ve refused to give my valuable time away to something that doesn’t enrich my emotional state. That’s not to say I don’t watch shows. I seriously love movies and shows and think they can give great perspective and encourage deep thought in many case, I’m just much more mindful of what I choose to absorb myself in and at what times in my life. If I’m feeling particularly overloaded with my own baggage I will steer very clear from those shows/movies that increase the difficult emotions I’m feeling. And likewise, if I’m feeling very well-managed emotionally I might actually indulge in a mindless drama tv show. Balance.
Added bit: why I value Netflix specifically is that you can start and stop whenever you please, the options are incredible, the documentaries have literally changed my life for the better – and I’ve watched over 60 of them (Yes I know, I actually keep a list. lol) – but there is just so much on there to enrich your mind. If you’ve never tried it they always have a free trial going and then it’s like $10 a month and you don’t have to deal with commercials putting subliminal messages into your mind. 😉 You can also binge watch since they have full seasons online which I value since I’m very impatient with shows and dread waiting a week to see next episodes. (We have Amazon Prime as well which in my opinion is really good for kids TV shows, but not my favorite aside from that.)
Social Media – This is one I struggle with on a daily basis. I literally go back and forth on it and it was the reason I decided to start my blog to express myself instead. I’m going to raise your awareness on a few things and once you’re aware you can test and see if this is something you do. So I have come to notice that if wake up in the morning and look at my facebook feed, I am GRUMPY – all morning! (Try it, a few different days wake up and don’t bother with your phone until later, see if you notice a difference). If someone posts about how hard their life as a mom is I’m immediately dwelling on the negative in my own life. I am a sponge, I already know this and know that social media is really hard for me with the constant flood of news and political mess, videos of drama and animal/human abuse, the complaining, the posts about ill-health, the posts about death etc. It’s literally never ending and you will not escape the negativity when you go on there. Yes there’s positive stuff too, I’m not a hater – I met my husband through facebook just saying – but if you’re like me you’re probably in a constant teeter-totter of wanting to delete it and wanting to stay connected. Instagram is a lighter source for me, but still an emotional battle. And twitter was never really my favorite because it seems like it’s use is mainly for in-the-now thoughts on personal pages. Which depending on someone’s personality it could be mainly “I hate it when…” or “why do people…” which winds up leading to more and more negative thoughts throughout your day and don’t we want our teeter totter to stay closer to the ground on the positive thoughts side? So what I’ve done is limited my time on social media, while also leaving my phone inside my house or in the car more often when I go out, so I am not constantly tempted and absorbing all of that energy of other people. Let me tell you, it’s been life-changing for me. I also try to choose times to go on it where I feel more “together” and emotionally stable, just like I mentioned about the TV. I don’t need to know how sick someone is with the flu, I feel for you, but I don’t want to have to! It’s not selfish to not want to feel upset and worry for every single person on your friends list that’s going through a struggle all of the time. That is what I found myself doing and I couldn’t do it any more. You having the flu and feeling miserable and sharing that with everyone, I’m so sorry you’re having to go through that, but we don’t have to partake in that misery. And subconsciously, we do! Whether we realize or not. But before social media, we didn’t. Because we didn’t showcase every single thing we went through. Now it all gets logged in our brain as input.
Of course I think social media can be very valuable and I recognize it’s value. I think it’s an excellent source to keep people connected and updated on large events, I just think the manner in how we use it is not always beneficial to growth. When life didn’t involve social media we surely didn’t have to experience the day-to-day struggles that EVERYONE else is having all of the time. Seeing problem after problem and never any solutions. You also don’t realize how much these things affect you while you’re scrolling, but they are all being inputted into your mind and you realize that – like when you have a dream about someone you haven’t talked to in SO long, but then as you start to think about it you realize you skimmed past a picture of them real quick the night before and didn’t even think you processed it. But it was subconsciously inputted.
There of course are many other ways you can reduce your emotional burden and adjust how you react to others, but these 3 things have been very important and helpful for me to keep my energy balanced enough to live happily and be able to be a supportive friend and mom. You need to know it’s okay, to remove people from your life for a while to figure out what it is you need. It’s okay to distance yourself from people who seem to always be only discussing their struggles, or other people. You don’t have to indulge in social media to feel relevant, and should you be sensitive to energy, that’s most likely doing you the most harm. You don’t need to feel awful when a friend’s extended family member passes away that you didn’t know in any way. That doesn’t discredit their pain, nor does it make you insensitive, it just means you don’t have to take on new pain that you otherwise would never have experienced! You don’t have to be like everyone else watching the news with tradition television or watch shows just because your friends are. And you don’t have to attend funerals of people you hardly know, or attend parties with people whose energy you struggle with. I’m not saying don’t do these things, I’m saying that you don’t have to if your emotional stability, in your opinion, is at risk.
You are responsible for the energy you bring into a room and you should also be aware of the energy someone else is bringing as well. The more you can see it, the more you can recognize when you need to remove yourself! We are not just protecting ourselves, but we are protecting others. When we are vulnerable and put into situations with high anxiety or anger or aggression, if we are not aware we often automatically respond with the same intensity and we do nothing but add fuel to a raging fire! When we find that power of awareness, when we realize why we are feeling that anger or anxiety or fear, and we realize it’s not even ours to begin with and we can leave the space it exists in, well that there is POWER.
Sensitivity opens a door for empathy and in my opinion, empathy is what will save the world. Embrace your empathic side. Nurture it and allow it to grow so you can find new ways of balancing yourself. You already have the power, we just all need some encouragement sometimes. Someone to get real with us and remind us of where we really want to be.
I’m here for you. Help me, help you.
We’re all in this together.
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