Below are concise reviews of techniques I’ve tried myself. I’m giving a source for each so you can find more information, but also because … my academic conscience won’t let me cite others without giving credit.
Source: it’s all over the web
How it works: The idea is visualising some kind of bubble, elastic skin, ring of light, or anything enveloping you that makes you feel safe and protected. I’ve found quite a cute twist on this in Catherine Crawford’s The Highly Intuitive Child, encouraging kids to use their imagination to visualise their magic bubble in the shapes and colours they intuit (you can make it a house, a garden, a seashell, a space ship …) and fill it up with sights, sounds, scents, feels, people, animals, plants, objects, memories that give you safety and comfort. You can even install a script on what you let into your “bubble” and what you keep out.
If a bubble feels too rigid, you can also visualise every type of light-body, magic gown, selectively permeable latex suit etc. that gives you a feel of solidity and protection.
Advantages: This can certainly be fun and provide some instant relief.
Problems: I didn’t like this because it takes mental energy to keep up a visualisation. It also reinforces a sense of struggle or opposition between me and the world; something that I already have enough of.
Adaptation: A version of this that somewhat works for me is to not visualise a light-body, but to actually sense into my physical and subtle bodies (see here). This feels incredibly grounding and stabilising, while I don’t feel I’m having to make (and keep) anything up. It’s already there.
Turning down the volume
Source: Elise Lebeau
How it works: You ground yourself, then visualise a volume dial and imagine turning other people’s emotional noise down. You can also turn the volume of your own feelings up (full instructions here).
Advantages: This seems like a simple and elegant biofeedback-technique that works for many people.
Problems: It didn’t work for me when I first tried it. After a year of practicing other ways of grounding and attuning to myself rather than others, when I try it now, it does provide a sensation of relief. So I suspect that this works for people who are already reasonably good at grounding themselves and sensing the difference between others’ and their own signal – I’ve had to learn this in other ways before this technique could be useful.
Adaptations: Elise (judging by her account of going deaf here) is a more hearing-oriented person, while I’m more into seeing and touching; that may be why a sound-based technique didn’t work for me. If you try this, you could adapt it to your dominant sense.
Return to sender
Source: it’s all over the web, but I’ve learnt it form Caroline van Kimmenade
How it works: You treat the energy you received like a stray letter. Put a “return to sender” stamp on it and send it back. Or you come up with your own visualisation that for you conveys the same neutral attitude of “hey, sorry, you’ve made a mistake, this isn’t for me. There it goes where it belongs.”
Advantages: While the act of “sending back” didn’t always work (sometimes the thing would just stick or come back again and again), with practice this technique taught me two other important things: maintaining an awareness of and registering whenever I “receive” an erring letter (starting to sharpen my sense of “this doesn’t belong here”); and cultivating an attitude of neutrality (neither attachment nor rejection) towards the stray energies touching me. The latter could be seen as a mini-training in mindfulness.
Developing a deeper and deeper neutrality (equanimity) towards these energies is I believe an essential ingredient not just in gradually mastering your relationship to them, but also in developing energy work skills.
Problems: As mentioned above, for me this worked, except in cases where it just didn’t want to – because there were deeper subconscious resistances at play (part of me didn’t want to send back = let go of certain energies; and part of me feared others too much to even touch them and put them in an envelope). The upside is that the technique can help you detect and later work on these same resistances.
Adaptations: You can adapt this in endless ways using your imagination. Think postman, mail pigeon, or just snapping them away with your finger like random leaves blown onto your desk.
Pulling in the antenna
Source: Catherine Crawford
How it works: Visualise that you have a special antenna that receives all those empath and intuitive signals from the ether. When you are tired of the signal, pull it in.
Advantages: If your mind spontaneously responds to this image, it’s a fun and simple method. Playing around with finding the right visualisation for your “antenna” – whether it’s that of an insect, an alien, a radio, or perhaps a bat’s echolocation device, where it’s located on/in your body, and what kind of secret workings control it – can help you get more awareness of how your empath sense works, or how you experience receiving these signals. This in itself can help you figure out how to control your exposure, and ultimately how you use that “sense organ”.
Problems: Like “turning down the volume”, this worked for only after I had learnt a lot about grounding and sorting out my own signal from others’ signal from other sources. So if you are (like I was) in deep empath chaos, you may need to work on the foundations first.
Adaptations: If (like me) you don’t instantly respond to the antenna visualisation, it can be a useful exercise to reflect on what your empath sense looks like (feels like) instead, and especially where it’s located in the body.
For example, mine is largely in the belly and chest areas, but it’s actually more of a whole-body sense than an antenna. And after even more reflection, I realise that I don’t even always feel like I’m receiving a signal – sometimes it feels more like my soul travels to another (energy)body and senses its states instead of mine. So for me the equivalent of “pulling in the antenna” is “keeping the traveller home” (or sending him on errands that I control :-).
Source: Dave Markovitz
How it works: I need the book handy to find the details, but the essence of this technique was letting other people’s energy pass through you rather than trying to block or deflect it. You visualise this in the form of your chakras (especially the heart chakra) being “keyholes” through which others’ energy passes from front to back without disturbing you.
Advantages: I’ve found this technique helpful for shifting the focus from blocking, pushing, and fighting (typical sins of a Westerner?) towards letting the waves wash over (through) me while you keeping my ground.
Problems: The visualisation was very detailed and many aspects didn’t resonate with me. However, this is not a major issue, because it was still easy to distill and use the essential elements.
Also, this didn’t work for me in crowded places – the concept of letting all that “pass through” was just too overwhelming. An adapted version works for me to release energies that I’ve accidentally sponged.
Adaptations: While I’ve had other starting points in developing my own empath strategies (namely vipassana, mindfulness, and somatic bodywork), over time I have actually arrived at a hybrid method that resembles Dave’s in that in effect it feels like becoming transparent and thus not disturbed by what passes (you can check it here).
A major inspiration was Judith Blackstone’s (dense and enlightening) book on “attuning to fundamental consciousness”, i.e. something that feels like finding stability in sensing (not imagining) that you are (also) the subtle space pervading and underlying the material world.
Connect to Reiki energy
Source: Jacek Skarbek
How it works: If you are familiar with Reiki, some claim that channeling Reiki energy keeps you protected from taking on the energy of others (while you’re channeling), because – so to speak – the energy flow is unidirectional: from you to them.
Advantages: This seems to work for me when I’m giving energy healing sessions. In fact I’ve started using sponging as an indicator of when I’m losing focus (unless I want to deliberately take on another’s energy for any of a number of bizarre reasons). My understanding of this is that while my “antenna” is attuned to receiving pure energy out of nowhere (Reiki), it’s occupied and can’t simultaneously receive the vibrations of the person I’m channeling to.
In this sense, the principle is perhaps similar to my method of simply attuning to my own energy field (and hence busying my overactive antenna with something useful).
Problems: Not every empath has (developed) energy healing skills or is ready to play with Reiki.
Adaptations: You don’t have to be a Reiki practitioner to do this. If you can summon any kind of felt sense of the Divine or – call it what you want – a life-giving, pure, healing, loving energy, contemplating that – practicing connecting to it with your empath antenna whenever needed – may help you. Be careful to not overdo it to the point where you space out and become ungrounded: make it a connection between heaven and earth (your body, your here and now, your and others’ earthly troubles), not a space flight.
Share your experience
I hope you’ve found this helpful. Does any of this work for you, or do you know other useful techniques? Please share in the comments below.
For more details on empath overwhelm and various alternative strategies, check this rambling article series.