How to use your empath experiences for debugging yourself


If somebody’s energy “sticks” to you for longer than just an initial flash of recognition-and-letting-go, you have an issue with manifestations of that energy in you, or something it conveys/brings up.

This way, as we say in Poland, you can trace back along the thread to find the skein. Every time.

One of my teachers was even of the opinion that if an energy from another person shows itself to you uninvited in the first place, it is a sign of the above. I am not sure whether I agree, as there are days when I simply seem more permeable (ungrounded, ethereal, dissociated) than on others, and energies on the whole vibrate through me more, without getting stuck though. In this paradigm, when an energy does not follow this relatively peaceful flow but gets stuck in an eddy, I suspect a skein and the end of this thread.

So what’s all the wool?

Most likely, you are afraid of it or reject it in yourself.

For example, I used to freak out whenever someone with painful chronic disease got on my empath radar; I would sense the heaviness and dampness and morbid physiological milieu in my body; often, this type of disease would have what I can only call a spiritual element – an accompanying darkening or clouding of the soul. While I am able to write about it now (with some pain but still), it used to drive me into states of perceived near-madness literally for days.

Why couldn’t I perceive it, sense compassion for the person, and let it go?

My understanding is that I was so dead scared of it that my whole system blocked its energy-conductance, so to speak. I was afraid that if I would let this energy touch me, it would just stay in me forever. And that would be (at that time) a horror so unbearable that I was unable to even look my fear in the face.

The underlying misconceptions were these:

  • I thought that I can keep an energy that I’m sensing out by rejecting (fighting, resisting) it. (Wrong)
  • I thought that I can escape scary energy through a freeze/shut down response. (Wrong)
  • I thought I can avoid disgusting energy by distracting myself in order to avoid it, in a let’s-deliberately-pretend-it’s-not-there manner. (Wrong most of the time)

I didn’t realise that the shortest way through this is exactly that, through (a bit like running at the monster). Surprisingly, what may look like having to climb mount everest or suffer millennia of elaborate tortures in hell, when you just to at it, often turns out to just be a tiny sandhill or a brief pin prick – it dissipates fast (for sure faster than you expect it to).

I once heard a metaphor from one of my teachers that describes this quite well (I’m modifying and exaggerating it here): let’s say you notice a big slug crawling up your leg in a tight hug. Let’s say you are freaked out by slugs and panic (I’ve always loved snails and saved worms from being stepped on, but I know many people beg to differ).

None of the above three methods will help; because the slug is already on you, you’ve already made contact. Now if you can’t wait until it leaves by itself, to get rid of it you’ll need a moment of even more contact (shriek!!) – you have to grasp it and remove it. However, that’s less than a second of touching it, as opposed to what seems like an eternity of staring at it in terror.

In the energy “slug” example, it’s even worse because the longer you stare at it in frozen paralysis or denial, the more the slug grows. It becomes as large as your ankle; then covers your calf; and then you’ll sure it’ll just swallow you up. The bigger it seems, the more you freak out of course.

However, when you do decide to touch and remove it, you’re surprised that to your touch it’s actually still it’s normal, manageable slug-size.

The hard core, traumatising existential slugs

Why does the energy-slug, unlike the real slug, grow when you freak out? Because with your fear and other emotional reactions, thoughts, and general upheaval, you are adding energy to it. And it’s that what gets the slug stuck on you (or such is my experience).

The problem is, it’s really not easy to touch some slugs. In the brief moment of touching it, you can’t avoid feeling what it feels like – its slimy texture. But sometimes it’s more than a slimy texture – sometimes it’s hardcore stuff like a despair more bottomless than you’re known in your life, an intense flash of looking mortality in the eye, death, evil, or something comparably existential; sometimes it’s something so disgusting that it’s hard to process (e.g. energies related to sexual abuse).

So in some cases, the slug is attached to something that’s just too big for you to emotionally process at this time. Or so it seems. I’d go as far as saying that exposure to certain emotional energies can be close to traumatising, depending on your emotional resilience – just like certain horrific images can linger in you long after the TV screen is off or you’ve thrown out the newspaper.

These are the hard core slugs for which I’ve actually found no other solution than to “simply” (yes, that’s a ridiculous word here) face these existential issues. In myself. To accept the first-hand, tangible reality of disease, disability, despair and death – even though it’s not touching me for the moment. But it’s real. It’s not a reality for me right now in this moment, but it’s a real thing on the plane of human experience. And to be frank, the only answer that’s worked for me so far is to devote years to the study of Buddhism. You could also pray, trust in life, or find another way to coexist with the reality of human existence while cultivating joy and love.

The less hard core slugs that are just pointing to your shadow

However, not all of the energies that you can’t just let go force you to take a profound pilgrimage to the heart of human meaning. Some merely force you to face minor things you can’t stand – accept some minor imperfections that are part of our shared humanity (including, mine and yours).

That’s a form of what they call shadow work; working with the parts of yourself that you hide from yourself (for a variety of reasons).

Example from my life: for a long time I had huge issues with all energies remotely related to dominance and (the slightest) aggression. Being loud, dominant, taking up space – this type of “sharp”, heavy, resounding, prickly, and also stereotypically “masculine” energy would make me allergic but also stick to me after I’m out of the situation like a bad taste in the mouth.

“Touching the slug” meant “tasting” this energy for a second, just letting it flow through me, once it was already in my system (as said, once you let them flow, they are usually out soon enough; although they may leave a trail of mental disruption if they’re the hardcore existential ones, but at least that’s your own mind now). Letting it fill my body for a moment, sensing what it’s like.

Staying with that for a moment longer (and I had to repeat this many, many times), I started realising that I have this energy in me, too; but I hate it; I’m suppressing it; and I fear it in others in part because I reject its existence so deeply that I pretend it’s not there in me at all. While I’m not a loud or dominant person, most definitely not, still by virtue of being human I do have inner access to this felt quality – and once I learnt to just feel it, even for a moment, I actually realised that me it can be very beneficial to be in touch with it (in a thoughtful way), for example to set boundaries with those very people who I previously couldn’t deal with because of sensing that energy.

Even just being able to sense and contain it in myself, in a neutral way, as in “a-ha, here is this quality. hm, interesting”, puts me out of (the worst of) overwhelm and into a position where I’m able to perceive other aspects of the person, too.

More than that, it gives me back a piece of my own full human range of feeling and expression, too. A new toy in the sandbox!

I’ve walked (am still walking) a similar path with energies of sadness, grief, and depression that would “stick” to me badly – finding my own ability to grieve, and in that deep pain but also so much more emotional space, flexibility and strength.

Freeing up your own entangled energies

In both cases (hard core and soft core), these experiences are – painfully, acutely, but if you meet the challenge, very effectively – pointing you in the direction of highest gain for your personal development. At least that’s the logic I suspect: you’ll get the most gain from facing the thing that’s most scary and disgusting (because suppressing and avoiding just that is what’s sucking your energy most). And this is what these unpleasant empath trips are usually pushing in your face.

Because in my experience, that’s the energy that typically gets stuck rather than moving through. It’s not a pleasant way to grow, but if you see it that way, you may be able to remove some of the bigger blocks in turn, and will not just be left with less stuck energy, but also with an inner integration of your self and humanity. And the rest of humanity, as you’ll no longer feel compelled to cut yourself off from so many energies.

This is not an easy path, but it shifts a lot.

For another metaphor on this topic, see here. 

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