For some people, it’s enough to understand what an empath is and that they are one; i.e. to take the possibility that part (or a lot) of what they are feeling on a daily basis are not emotions, feelings, moods or sensations that are generated within them, by their own system, based on their own life experience and events – but that they feel many things that were actually generated from other people’s unique life paths and mental configurations.
Understanding this (if it is in fact true for you) and then applying mindful awareness, and a diligent amount of detective work to start “catching” when it’s happening (using the criteria here or others that you gradually discover by yourself or learn from others), may be enough for you to become relatively free of interference.
Understanding what is happening and being able to “catch it in the act” in a significant proportion of the cases is the first step to gradually gaining control over your “empath sense”. In some cases, it may also be the only step required – as you learn to distinguish your own feelings from those of others, you may automatically develop a certain distance, detachment or equanimity towards what you know does not come from your own life and vital signals.
As you do that, initially you will still receive a lot of signals from others, but they will simply not absorb and bother you as much. If now you are feeling that every time you are absorbed by someone’s intense emotions, you are thrown into the middle of a new action movie, disoriented, and trying to find your way back to your own “baseline channel”, after developing this type of discernment you can gradually come to feel more like you are still sensing others’ feelings, but merely seeing the movie on the screen, while staying in yourself.
Learn to Skype
This is a bit like developing an internal Skype video call screen.
When initially the whole screen was taken up by the other person’s signal (face, emotions, pixels) layered on top of your own webcam image, everything just looked like a mess and you didn’t know what’s going on. Then you learnt you are an empath and understood there are two sub-screens here. Aha!
Developing discernment about what are your emotions and what are others’ emotions is like installing a filter that splits the mixed, overlaid signal into two images: yours and theirs. Now everything makes so much more sense!
Once you have two separate screens, you also have the capacity to adjust their size and location. You can put the other person full-screen and yourself in a tiny window in the corner; or you can do the reverse on a mouse click.
For new (and even relatively experienced?) empaths I recommend the latter as a default setting. Set yourself full-screen. Maybe even screen the other people out for a bit, in the beginning, for phases, to really adjust for full sharpness and saturation in your own webcam image. Tune them out (when you can, e.g. spending alone time or going on mini-“retreats”) until you see (sense) yourself really clearly.
Then, open the other window as needed or wanted. You can experiment with its size and brightness and volume to keep it at a level where you feel you are getting useful information (when you need or want it), but you are not getting overwhelmed or getting your own signal dominated or messed up.
That’s easier said than done, but it’s a useful metaphor to me.
What if the other window won’t minimise?
I’m not sure how big the proportion of empaths is for whom this is enough, who can “tune down” the part of the signal that is not from them as soon as they learn to tell them apart. I certainly needed a lot more self-development (with the help of friends and teachers).
Because typically the issue you will bump into is that even when you are aware that a certain signal does not come from your system, and it is an unpleasant or disturbing or distracting signal on top of it, there are some cases where saying “hey signal, seems like you got here by mistake – you aren’t relevant to me – push SKIP” is not enough to bring you back to yourself and your focus.
No matter which metaphor or “technique” you use (I discuss some popular ones here) – whether you are turning the volume down, creating a protection bubble, minimising the Skype screen, returning the thing back to sender – sometimes the volume will ramp itself back up, the bubble will let in all sorts of stuff, the screen will just stick no matter how much you click around, and the envelope you put the unwanted energy in will just keep landing back to your doormat like a boomerang.
At least for me that was the case.
I consider this a sign that some serious debugging is required.
You might talk about these cases using different terminologies. You could call these energies very obstinate, or call them entities, or whatever. This is a valid approach and there are tools to work with the issues in this framework.
I personally prefer to use more psychological language, saying that there is a part of you that does not want to let these energies go, but that part is currently not available to your awareness.
I know that it feels like these energies don’t want to let you go, but from my experience if you dig a bit, the reverse is true. At least I haven’t encountered a case in my own life so far where that wasn’t the case, even where it initially really felt like I’m being assaulted by something external beyond my control.
Traveling down into the roots
The trick is to bring this not wanting of yours into awareness. In my own case, these were usually some quite profound, sometimes surprising, sometimes shameful, sometimes just unknown truths about myself – often eye-opening though. I often felt a type of fine yet profound, deep release and a few millimetres of inner transformation when I could locate and remove on of these “sticking points”. So I would say it’s definitely worth digging them up.
How do you go about that? I personally don’t have an “algorithm” for that. Often it’s about honest self-inquiry, keeping the question in mind over a period of time and letting it simmer silently until an “aha” moment opens up a new view.
I wouldn’t recommend over-analysing or trying to reason this out – the insight has to come from a deeper place within and be felt in your body/heart.
You can look at some of these typical “sticking points” that I’m familiar with, and sense whether any of them resonate with you. See if you feel an activation in your body or energy for any of them.
- Fear. Paradoxically, if you fear an emotion or energy, and you are really scared that if you feel it for even just at tiny moment or look it in the eye and name it, it will stick to you forever and that will be just too horrible and disgusting to bear – it’s guaranteed to stick. One way to think about this is that once an energy has touched you, it’s natural route is to pass through you, even if ever so lightly and just for a fleeting moment as it is released. You typically really just feel a faint quick flash when it’s released (see here). But if you fear it so much that you refuse even this millisecond of contact, your system blocks the through-passage to release, and consequently the energy keeps cycling in your system.
- Disgust / rejection / fighting-it / etc. The mechanism is the same as for fear – these types of attitude towards the energy you have touched block the through-passage for it to get released.
- Touching on one of your deeper issues. You may get an itchy feeling that there is something “behind” it, that even as you release, additional layers come up. I interpret this as the energy you picked up fusing and intermixing with something problematic (to you) that is inside you, and, in a sense, rousing the monster. For example, perhaps I can’t stand being near someone who is depressed and self-loathing because I start feeling just horrible, and it sticks when I leave. I understand it’s them, because it’s obvious (their eyes are black holes). But it still doesn’t go away. I keep having an itchy sensation. In my case, that itchy sensation can mean that I have a few grams (or kilograms) of the same in me, and I am unable to process it – what gets me stuck is the inability to process something that’s present in me (even if the amount is much smaller). E.g. if I can’t feel and release my own grief, another’s will also get stuck on me – there’s a bottleneck for that feeling in general. In this case, the empath experience will force me to face myself. Once I deal with my own grief, suddenly others’ will be able to pass through relatively gently, too.
- Guilt. You think that you can’t just “leave the person alone” with that.
- Thinking you are helping them. You have the idea that if you suffer more, they suffer less.
- A mistaken sense of responsibility. You think you are responsible for resolving or healing every single difficult energy that you encounter in the world. Just say this out loud to yourself and realise how preposterous this is – are you super-human?
- Fear of punishment / a sense of obligation. A variation on the above, except that you fear punishment from God, or from the spirit world, or from some other enigmatic, archetypal dark source of absolute taboo. I actually had a variant of that; I feared that if I remove certain energies, they’ll find a way to have revenge. I am not sure where that comes from, but I tend to think (because of the enigmatic, archetypal nature of it) that it’s very early child-beliefs (or even stuff ingrained in another life or from the collective unconscious or whatever).
- Fear of rejection. You might think people won’t like you if you refuse to take on their suffering.
- Ego. You think you are a super-shaman and all that should be a breeze for you to heal and process and just letting it go and letting it be means you are a loser.
- Curiosity. Somewhat unexpectedly, this was my big sin (on the other hand perhaps not so surprising for a person who compulsively has to understand and analyse absolutely everything). I would feel that if I don’t understand it, I can’t let it go. I can only let it go after I have pinpointed exactly what this energy is and what information it contains. As in, I receive kind of a fuzzy but intense feeling-energy and I won’t let it go before I can fully articulate what it means about the sender, before I’ve read it completely. It’s like if I don’t, I lose a precious piece of knowledge irretrievably. Now consider how that stacks up on my to-do list and drives me nuts 🙂
- FEAR or hypervigilance. Again, this seems to be a biggie. In your bones you are scared that if you, even for a second, stop constantly monitoring everything that goes on with everyone – you won’t be safe. This can take different forms. In the most hard-core cases, you might be afraid of being surprised by aggression or physical violence; in milder cases you are afraid that things will go wrong somehow if you stop non-stop x-raying and controlling them. Perhaps people will get upset. Perhaps people will get lost, or make mistakes. Perhaps someone else will get hurt. Perhaps … [fill in the gap] (more details here)
- You get it … hundreds of other reasons that depend entirely on your personality (often generally positive personality traits will be sticking points as they backfire in empath circumstances), upbringing, circumstances, religious / moral / social belief system …
Here is really the field for profound self-inquiry (a.k.a. psychoanalysing yourself). This is slow, deep, gradual work.
Let the King threaten you
Feel the resistance. One good way in my experience is to ask yourself – what would happen if I just let this energy go? And tune into yourself to sense the consequences you expect. Feel into them, physically. Feel the fear, or the guilt, or whatever else comes up. Feel if these consequences are really that horrible. Feel if they are even real. Feel if they are more important than your own emotional and bodily well-being (which is compromised by holding on).
Don’t push yourself across the resistance, that won’t work. Just gradually examine it, many times, until you know it very well and are friends with it. Usually at some point it will come alive and shift.
While I don’t have a script for figuring this out, in my experience the empirical method works: observe patterns. Is the type of emotion that sticks to you always the same? Is it always from the same type of person (whatever that means)? Does it always occur in the same type of situation?
Collect data, note them down (if you like), then let your intuition work on this.
This is my suggestion. It’s a bit-by-bit process, but in my experience worth it as you will be led to clear out a lot of your own junk on the way and feel much clearer, lighter, and more whole.
May the right spirits guide you.