“And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.” – Nietzche
This week on Conscious Living radio I talked about empaths. Empathy is defined as the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. On the spectrum of empathy, the least empathetic among us are described as sociopathic or anti-social. The most empathetic people are known as highly sensitive people or empaths.
What is an empath?
An empath is someone with an innate ability to absorb other peoples’ emotions. This ability is generally involuntary. The life of an empath is deeply affected by the desires, thoughts, emotions and moods of others.
Many empaths feel that they are constantly at the whim of other people, because other people determine how they feel. Some empaths can even feel anxious when the phone rings or when they attend family events, because they know they are going to immediately take on the feelings of the people they encounter. Empaths can feel like they are sponges for the emotional material of other people. Many empaths often need to withdraw into their own world to recharge.
Dr. Elaine Aron has spent her career researching the traits of highly sensitive people. She asks the following questions to determine whether you are highly sensitive:
o Are you easily overwhelmed by such things as bright lights, strong smells, coarse fabrics, or sirens nearby?
o Do you get rattled when you have a lot to do in a short amount of time?
o Do you make a point of avoiding violent movies and TV shows?
o Do you need to withdraw during busy days, into bed or a darkened room or some other place where you can have privacy and relief from the situation?
o Do you make it a high priority to arrange your life to avoid upsetting or overwhelming situations?
o Do you notice or enjoy delicate or fine scents, tastes, sounds, or works of art?
o Do you have a rich and complex inner life?
o When you were a child, did your parents or teachers see you as sensitive or shy?
BE CONSCIOUS OF YOUR GIFT: SEE IT AS AN ASSET
Many people experience being an empath as negative because they feel as if their life is out of their control. BUT being an empath is a gift that simply needs to be managed well. It’s a bit like having a high-powered car that is also high-maintenance. When you are highly attuned to other peoples’ emotions, you are able to get inside their heads. If you are conscious of your abilities, you can use them to your advantage. Here are 5 ways to manage your gift.
5 tips for empaths
1. Empaths need to create and be creative as a necessity. On a daily basis. Write, paint, play music, sculpt, arrange, decorate, Recycle the feelings of others that you have absorbed into art.
2. Learn what is yours and what belongs to others. The best way to do this is the ‘before and after test.’ Ask yourself, ‘How did I feel before coming into contact with this person and how do I feel after coming into contact with this person? The contact can be face-to-face, over the phone, via email or on social media. Don’t try to divert the feelings of others with humour, victimhood or sarcasm. This is not your true self and you are using these techniques as armour.
3. Know your triggers- Learn when to protect yourself. It may be necessary for you to avoid particularly aggressive or unstable people. If someone is taking advantage of your nature, have the courage to choose more nourishing relationships. It may be helpful for you to have a ‘protective ritual’ when you are going into crowds or overwhelming situations. You may need a flexible working arrangement where you complete some of your work at home.
4. Daily Cleansing: Water is cleansing. Bathe. Swim. Rinse. Water gives us the physical sensation of removing the residue of other people. Another daily cleansing technique is the magnet. At the end of each day (and particularly after seeing coaching clients) I imagine a large magnet at the top of my head. I consciously visualise all of the material that belongs to others being removed from my body and sticking to the magnet.
5. Mindfulness meditation is a great help because it allows you to concentrate on the present moment and brings you back into your own reality. The present moment is the best way to keep us all grounded. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed by the feelings of others, come back to your immediate environment: your senses, your surroundings and your breath.