Signs you are an empath and how to manage your gift
A few years ago, I learned that I am one of those highly sensitive individuals who is capable of experiencing other people’s emotions or physical symptoms. In other words, I am an empath. And no, it does not mean that I can read minds. However, I can feel in my body what others are experiencing in theirs.
Let me give you an example from a workshop I recently attended. We were all standing in a circle learning an exercise called the mirror dance. The instructions were simple. One person would step into the middle of the circle and show us a dance move. Everyone else would mirror the dance move for about 10 seconds. Then the next person would step into the circle and show her move. The group would mirror again.
As the facilitator explained the exercise, I could feel a sense of fear rising within me. At one point, I could feel my body and mind starting to panic like I had no idea what I was going to do when it came to my turn. You might be thinking that’s a totally normal response to dancing in front of a group of strangers. You might also know how out of character that response would be for me. I LOVE to dance and it’s a struggle for me to stand still when there is music on.
After we each took our turn with the mirror dance, we did a little recap of the exercise. Two women who were standing nearby admitted that they were totally freaked out by the idea of showing their dance move when we first started. I understood what they were saying because that was what I had felt. My body had been reflecting the fears that they were actively experiencing in that moment.
Have you ever walked into a room and could feel the tension or excitement?
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and could tell that they were going through something even though they were not saying it?
Have you ever watched a movie and cried your eyes out for reasons unknown?
Have you ever suffered from light headedness or an urge to pass out when you see an injury?
Have you ever had people tell you that you are too emotional or overly sensitive?
Any one of those things (and so many more) are signs that you might be an empath.
When I first discovered I was an empath, it felt like I finally had a diagnosis for a curse that I didn’t even know I had. I began to realize the overwhelm that I was experiencing was not necessarily my own which in many ways made it feel even worse.
I have no doubt that the years I spent being numb was largely due to the fact I didn’t know that I was an empath. I was unconsciously experiencing everyone else’s emotions and pain. It was too much to handle, so I managed it with alcohol and a schedule that kept my mind too busy to feel. Numbing out did not remedy my situation. In fact, it made it far worse because I didn’t have the physical or mental support system I needed.
If this resonates with you, I want you to know that being an empath is an incredible gift. I understand that it might be difficult to think of it that way, but that’s because you haven’t learned how to work with it yet. You were given this gift because you are capable of using it. There are ways to manage your experience and to work with the energies you are feeling. You have an ability to see people in a way that not everyone can and that is a beautiful thing.
I use my gift in order to be more effective in my coaching and healing work. Being able to feel what someone is feeling allows me to guide the person through their process. You don’t have to hold the title of “healer” to use your gift. Holding space for a friend to process a heart break is just one example of how you might use your gift for the benefit of another.
We don’t come into human form with an owner’s manuals and I don’t think life would be as enjoyable if we didn’t endure a little bit of mystery. Most of us were born without any recollection of our natural gifts. Then we become confused and overwhelmed because we don’t know how to understand what we are experiencing. That is totally normal and congratulations! You are starting to wake up! Now that you know you have a gift, let me give you some tools for how to work with it.
Start by being gentle with yourself and practicing regular self-care. Your system has been in a heightened state and is likely worn out. Take some time to rest. Spend time in nature. Drink plenty of water and make sure you are nourishing your body with nutrient dense foods. You would also benefit from starting to establish and enforce your own personal boundaries. You may be able to feel other people’s energy, but you are not responsible for doing their growth or healing for them.
I recommend implementing a daily energy clearing practice. Imagine that you’ve been living in a house that has never been vacuumed. The first time you vacuum you probably think “Wow! This place feels way better!” But if you don’t continue to vacuum the dust bunnies are going to come back and eventually you’ll be right back to where you started.
One example of a daily energy clearing practice is an intentional showering. When you are in the shower, repeat the phrase “I cleanse my physical and energetic body of any energies that are no longer in alignment with my highest vibration.” Then imagine you are cleansing both your physical and energetic bodies.
Another daily tool that might be helpful is to create an energetic safety bubble. Imagine using your hands to create an imaginary bubble around you. You could pull it up from the floor, pull it down from above, or maybe it’s something you step into. Do whatever feels right for you. It is your bubble after all. Once inside, repeat the phrase “I keep my energy safe and separate” three times.
When you find yourself around others and notice a strong emotion, feeling or sensation in your body, pause and notice what you are noticing. Repeat the question (either out loud or to yourself) “Is this [fill in what you are experiencing] mine or someone else’s?” Listen and notice the response. An answer might pop into your awareness or you may feel a shift in the energy. Don’t over think it. Your first response is usually the right one.
If you identify an energy that is not your own, ask the energy what it needs. This could be through internal dialogue, you could ask it out loud or you could even spend time journaling with it. The energy may want you to share it with someone. Ask the person for permission before telling them what you are noticing.
You may also be asked to give the energy a place to go or choose for your own benefit to ground the energy. This can be done with the breath. Breathe in and imagine releasing the energy that you are experiencing down through the bottoms of your feet. Repeat the phrase (either out loud or to yourself) “I release this energy and return it to Source. I allow the space that is created within to be filled with my Soul’s light.” Continue with the breath work until you feel the energy has been released.
This is going to be a little bit like learning to ride a bicycle. You’ll start with some practice, but once you get the hang of it, you’ll be good to go.