Discovering That I’m an Empath
It wasn’t until I posted my flash fiction story entitled “Imagine There’s No Countries” did I ever consider myself to be an empath.
When my blogger friend, Tina Frisco read my post, she pointed out that as she read, she figured out from the introduction that I was an empath.
I’d come across the term before but sort of dismissed it. I suppose I thought I didn’t fit all the criteria. Basically empaths are the people in the world who effectively absorb other people’s emotions, even to the point of physical symptoms. I never knew that that also meant that when I come across someone who’s sad or angry, I start feeling sad or anxious (not necessarily angry), too.
When people are happy, my heart leaps for joy. When they’re not (and they’re around me), I start to get really uncomfortable. It is extremely difficult to be around people who are angry (both in the moment and chronically so). It’s not that anger isn’t a healthy emotion when channeled effectively. But I’m referring to the uncontrolled or the toxic long-term anger that is difficult to process.
More Characteristics of Empaths
As I did more research, I began to understand more about this term. I’ve always had a tendency to people-please and will go to great lengths to create harmony for myself and those around me. Discord literally makes my stomach hurt. Or my heart. It will physically hurt.
This need for peace translates into me spending large amounts of time at home, where I can step away from the noise and hubbub of the world. It’s a reason I’m creating a work life for myself where I can be home a majority of the time.
I have found that when I’m in social situations for prolonged amounts of time, I feel an energy drain. That is a classic introvert characteristic (and many empaths are introverts). But then add to that how much I feel the emotions of others and it compounds the energy drain I might feel.
In a given social situation, I have always sensed the folks who are disgusted or not exactly happy. I can also sense the people who are happy with life. I gravitate toward other sensitive souls who instinctively know to tread carefully, taking every measure to spread an aura of peace.
It’s funny. I never fully realized that this is due to being an empath. I just knew – for all my life – that if I was around someone who had a temper, someone who seemed to have no boundaries, or someone who was negative, I would feel a desperate need to figuratively throw glitter at them and create a happiness fire. Or something like that. I just needed to fix it. Immediately.
So, to all those people who thought I was too thin-skinned and too sensitive? Yup, I am these things and I embrace it. It is who I am.My heart is happy when I see others happy. Click To Tweet
Empaths Need Harmony
Perhaps it is this empathic characteristic that I possess is what has led me to seek out the most harmonious work situations for myself. I always thought it was because I craved change. After all, I’ve embraced the multipotentialite lifestyle. Even as I write this post, I’m coming to understand that after awhile, I always get this craving to change-up my life: where I work, what I do, where I live….
As I reflect on the needs of an empath, I’m not so sure it’s “complete change in surroundings” that I crave, but rather a change in the energy from the people with whom I surround myself or a change in the energy from my surroundings. I actually wonder if the cumulative energy I would experience in a given workplace or familial setting would make me need to shake things up.
It’s just a thought. I generally love every place I’ve worked, but coming to think of it, when the energies of folks would get a little wonky, that would be when I’d get restless. Hmm…hmm….
I can recall that when I was younger, I never thought I could work or stay anywhere for 30 years. The thought of living in the same place or doing the same type of job for decades makes my energy sag just thinking about it. I admire those who have gone before me and done just that. There’s something to be said for the person who can hang around for a long time at the same place.
I am extremely fortunate that I have a partner in life who has a big heart, who’s empathic himself, and who is a wonderful listener. I often process my world verbally – by talking out loud with my closest companion. He is a gentle soul to whom I can turn with any question, any hardship, any moment of glee.
When I chose him (Ha! He’d already chosen me before I even realized!), I knew that I would be comfortable with his personality, his spirit, his way of doing things that would allow me (indeed both of us!) to flourish. I knew that my home life would be harmonious.
The Final Confirmation? Meditation…
You may recall that back in October or November, I cut back my formal meditation time. I still would “sit” for an hour each day, but I would formally meditate for 20 minutes, then write in my journal, then write a haiku and find a fitting photo to go with it.
It was still meditative to me. Or so I thought.
One day recently, J noticed how I seemed to be feeling anxious and that I was particularly sensitive to the hurts around me, and the rest of the world. He mentioned how he’d sensed quite an uptick in me feeling like I was experiencing discord in all my relationships – personal, professional, and otherwise.
I’d already noticed, as well. I’d felt it and was aware, deep in my core. (Meditation does wonders for self-awareness, by the way.)
Instinctively, I knew that I needed to go back to my regular early-morning date with my meditation cushion, and I had to work my way back up to an hour. The sooner, the better.
Because of the self-awareness I mentioned, I had already been increasing my meditation time 5-10 minutes per day. In the past week, I had 60-minute full mediation sessions, followed by journaling and haiku writing. Basically, an hour and a half of inner-work.
The difference is noticeable. It’s incredible, really, how much I already feel better-equipped to face the world, its noise, problems, glad tidings, and successes. I feel a deep sense of calm as I notice my breath during the day, and I’m aware of how much I feel “protected.”
For me, in order to process the world, its feelings and sentiments, and to come away still being able to function normally, I have to meditate. I can’t substitute anything else for it. Writing is meditative, yes, but it doesn’t replace the benefits I feel from focusing just on my breath, behind closed eyes in the morning twilight.
I began doing research about protecting myself more as an empath, and meditation was the top piece of advice.
To that end, I have learned that even though I’ve tried different things with meditation this year with the LIFE project, as well as scaled up and scaled back, I know now that without a doubt, meditation helps me to navigate the world in a protected way.
Helping Myself Energetically as an Empath
I looked into what might help me even better to navigate and process the world around me. I imagine there are others out there – indeed, perhaps even folks who already follow this website – who would benefit from some ideas and tips on dealing with the energies of the world more effectively.
First, I can tell you of a practice that I used to do more, but haven’t been doing lately. It’s time I incorporate it again because I know it works. It’s a way of shielding myself with white light, using the chakras (energy centers) of the body.
At the end of my mediation (this can also be done during meditation), I remain still and imagine all the energy centers of my body as marbles of light. These are what you think of as chakras, ranging from red located at the sacrum, then orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, all the way up to the crown of the head and is purple in color. These energy centers are said to have a specific function as they relate to the body.
As you imagine the marbles of different-colored light, imagine the light expanding from each marble at once. Watch as these auras of light overlap and grow into each other, eventually getting so big that they merge into white light that surrounds your body. This is your shield. Take a moment to thank this shield for protecting you from negative energy and from danger throughout the day.
You can then conjure up this energy shield at any time during the day. I love to do this before I drive off in the car and before important meetings with different people. I also imagine my shield around me before any precarious situation.
Engage in Energy Clearing
This is where I get sage and sweetgrass. I perform a smoke-cleansing (smudging) ceremony. As I light the sage, I imagine all negative energy leaving my body. I circle the sage around and visualize it protecting me. I remember to express gratitude for the sage.
Then I take the sweetgrass and swirl it all around my body and imagine the wisps of sweet, yet peppery smoke enveloping me with positive energy. I also express gratitude for the sweetgrass surrounding me with good energy.
In addition to my intention journal, I have recently started a “brain splatter” journal. This is a place where all grammar, full stops, punctuation, capital letters and such go out the window and I just let my mind go all stream-of-consciousness.
I just let it all out, and don’t even really bother to read what I wrote – I just let the emotions get out and they can get stuck in the virtual world like velcro and there they will stay…forever. I have found this to be extremely helpful.
Stones and Crystals
Quartz and grounding stones really help, as well. As I meditate, I hold them near or in my hands and I can take them with me during the day. These help to serve as powerful reminders of their properties.
Many different types of stones and crystals exist and have different purposes. The ones I use most frequently are tiger’s eye for grounding, courage, and deflecting malice. I also like to carry amethyst for clarity in thought, powerful meditation, and protection from negative thoughts, among other things.