The Gift of the Empath
You’re in a crowd, surrounded by people. You’re starting to feel uneasy. You break out in a sweat. Your heartbeat increases. You’re feeling sad, happy, depressed, anxious – all at the same time. You suddenly feel as though you want to scream.
You are an empath.
To a certain degree, we are all empathic; it’s programmed into our DNA. As hunter/gatherers, we needed to know when wild animals were about, follow the changes in weather patterns, or where to find our next meal. Today, we get those gut feelings, or somehow perceive through our senses when a person or a location just doesn’t feel right. For many of us, we go about our daily lives, acknowledging what we feel and move on.
However, as with everything else, there are degrees to empathy. Some people are more sensitive than others and are known as empaths. Rather than feel the emotions and let them go, they are, in essence, human sponges who soak up so much of the world around them and physically feel the emotions of others around them. They become overwhelmed, losing their boundaries of where they begin and end. The energy they feel is so heavy, all they want to do is hide. Because of this, some consider their empathy a curse.
We know because we grew up this way.
However, once you learn how empathy works, it actually becomes a wonderful gift, something inspiring, and yes, even magical. Instead of hiding away from the energy, you can actually change it.
Albert Einstein explained how energy cannot be destroyed. But its vibration can be changed. To illustrate this, think about how you feel when you’re depressed or angry or sad. What do those emotions do to you physically? You probably feel heavy, as though you’re walking through muck. Time slows down and you find yourself carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Your stomach tightens and your chest may ache.
Now, how do you feel when you’re in love, or something wonderful has just happened to you? You feel light, as though you could fly. Time speeds up.
These two examples demonstrate the vibration of the energy you’re feeling. When you give into depression or sadness or anger, the energy has a lower vibration to it. It becomes heavier. As a feeling human being, you physically feel that heaviness. On the other hand, when you’re feeling happy, the vibration is higher. It doesn’t have the oppressive weight to it. You don’t feel as though you’re walking through mud.
Everything is made up of energy and everything has an energetic vibration to it. Plants, animals, rocks, trees – all these have an energetic vibration. Why do you feel refreshed when you walk through the woods or sit with your back up against a tree? Or walk along the ocean? Because nature is happy being nature. Plants, animals, trees and rocks have no problem being what they are. They don’t strive to become something they’re not. It’s we humans who have a hard time being who we are.
You try your best to negotiate the muddy waters of co-existing by being what people want you to be in order to fit in. Why? Because your gift of empathy allows you to feel deeply the emotions of love and acceptance. Knowing how wonderful those emotions are, you desperately seek to recapture that feeling. However, in the process, you begin to bargain yourself away, becoming whatever someone else wants you to be in order to feel that love and acceptance. Unlike nature, you start the process of losing who you truly are. Or you hide away, becoming a recluse because you can’t stand to feel all that you do. Unfortunately, even by hiding away, you will still feel, even if it’s just your own emotions you’re feeling.
Relationships test you because you know if your partner or friend is lying to you. How do you know this? Because an untruth has a lower vibration to it. And if there’s one thing an empath is an expert at, it’s feeling the truth of energy in any given moment.
So, how do you try and get a handle on what you feel on a daily basis?
First is to understand that no matter what you feel, it’s just energy. You don’t need to get into an adversarial relationship with it. You don’t need to own it. You don’t need to plug into it. What you can do is change its vibration.
Of course there are many ways to learn about energy, but we’ve found the following two techniques to be the easiest to learn and use, and also quite effective. They can be used by anyone, no matter the degree of their empathic abilities.
Grounding allows you to remember you are made up of Earth and can connect back to it, allowing whatever energies you are feeling to move through you and out your feet. It’s very simple and effective, especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed, whether by your own emotions or someone else’s. In fact, you will hear many times that you shouldn’t ground someone else’s energy. However, whether it’s yours or someone else’s, you’re still feeling it. You still need to deal with it. Step one is to realize – it’s all just energy. You don’t need to own or take it on. You have the option to move it out of your energy field and into the earth. As you do this, the energy around you starts to change. You are, in effect, lightening up the energy. You will feel the difference, and so will others around you.
Close your eyes and picture a red ball about a foot beneath the soles of your feet. You may actually feel a tingling in your feet as you picture this red ball. Now slowly visualize yourself bringing that red ball up your legs and into your stomach. The stomach area is where many empaths feel discomfort and a tightness when they’re plugging into someone else’s energy and taking it on themselves. Let the red ball sit in your stomach and watch it spin as it gathers all the energies and emotions that are stuck there. You should start to feel a lightness as the red ball takes in all the emotions that have physically attached to you. It should only take a few moments. Now watch the ball slowly drop down past your stomach, down your legs and back out through the soles of your feet into the earth. The more you do this consciously, the more you are training your body to do this unconsciously. You’ll know you’re grounding when your feet start to tingle or grow warm and you physically feel lighter.
This is a little bit more difficult, but we can attest to how useful and successful it is. If you start to see emotions as simply energy, you can begin to get a handle on how to deal with them. For example, let’s say you have a friend named Mary. Mary has just said something that really upsets you. You’re so angry, your stomach is churning. Taking our theory that everything is energy, by reacting the way you’re reacting, you’ve just given that anger a job to do. You’ve plugged into the anger, given it a story (Mary made me angry) and the energy is now clinging to you. An easy rule to remember is that energy follows intention. If you, whether consciously or unconsciously intend to be angry, sad, depressed, or happy, the energy will always follow that intention.
There is a way to deal with anger, or sadness or frustration. After all, who knows energy better than one who has to feel it all the time? In simple terms, don’t give the energy a job to do. Don’t attach a story to that energy. Allow yourself simply to feel the purity of the anger without thinking “Mary made me angry.” The thought process is more like, “Okay, I’m feeling angry. Let’s see where this goes.” Remember, it’s just energy. As humans, we’re born to feel. That’s how we learn and experience life.
Think of it this way. By attaching a story to the anger, you’ve created a coat hook in your energy field. Now the anger has a place to attach itself to and it’s harder to get rid of. But if you just feel the anger without attaching a story or giving it a job, it has no place to attach to. You haven’t created that coat hook. And like a coat that has no hook to hang itself onto, it will fall to the floor, as will the emotion. Without that story, the anger will move right through you and ground itself out. A few moments later you’ll wonder just what you were angry about in the first place. This takes a bit of practice, but it does work. It just takes a little more awareness on your part to catch yourself before you become so immersed in the emotion that it becomes harder to pull out of.
Regardless of how little or how much energy and emotion you feel, there is still a responsibility to what you put out on a daily basis, because whatever you put out, others are feeling it, whether they want to or not. Therefore, do you want to add more anger, more sadness, more fear to a world that is swimming in negativity? Or do you want to actually begin to change the energy around you, one person at a time, starting with yourself?
Bety Comerford and Steve Wilson are shamanic healers with over thirty years experience teaching and assisting empaths to embrace their gifts. They are the authors of The Reluctant Empath, finalist in the 2015 Coalition of Visionary Resources awards for Best Contemporary Spirituality Book. Their latest book, The Empath’s Quest will be published by Schiffer Publishing in late 2016. Visit www.comerfordwilson.com.