Sharon is a certified health coach and Mindful Life Guide. Her mission is to help others develop harmony and meaning for themselves.
What to Do When You're More Empathetic Than Most
Do you often feel emotions (or even physical pain) that you know are not your own? Have you ever felt what another person was feeling while they were close to you? Do crowds tend to drain you and send your emotions all over the chart?
Chances are you may be an empath.
What Is an Empath?
Empaths are people who can literally feel what another person is feeling. Some feel physical sensations, some feel emotion, and some feel both of these. These feelings can be very uncomfortable, especially if the empath has no idea why they feel the way they do. Other people may think the empath is too sensitive or too emotional, which may make the empath feel even more upset.
How I Discovered That I Was an Empath
My own experiences left me feeling confused and at times alone. I didn’t know why one moment I would feel happy and the next very sad. In crowds, I would sometimes feel pain in one area only to have it disappear or move to another area in minutes. By nature, I am a calm person, but there were times out of nowhere, and for no apparent reason, I would suddenly feel angry or anxious.
Not knowing anything about empaths at the time, I figured there was just something wrong with me. It was easier for me to attempt to shut down all feelings and emotions than to try to deal with what was happening to me. That of course led to other issues as shutting off all emotion is never healthy.
With the advent of the internet, it is easier to research what is going on and chat with others who have had similar experiences. As a matter of fact, it was not until very recently that I discovered there was a name for what I was, many other people had similar experiences, and there were ways to deal with it.
Grounding, Centering, and Shielding
Fortunately for empaths, there are many ways to cope with the overwhelming barrage of emotions we feel. When you are constantly bombarded by incoming emotions and sensations, shielding becomes essential. Grounding and centering should become standard procedures for daily practice, along with shutting down the Chakras (the body's energetic centers). The main Chakras are at the Root, or genitals, the Navel, the Solar Plexus, the Heart, the Throat, the Third Eye, and the Crown.
Steps to Ground, Center, and Shield
- To ground yourself, sit or stand with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Imagine roots growing from your feet and reaching into the ground, deep into the Earth. Feel like a tree, connected to the soil. Feel all negative energy flowing into these roots and being deposited into the Earth to be transformed into beneficial energy. You can then imagine the beneficial energy traveling up into your body and through the Chakras.
- To center yourself, bring your awareness to your breath. Breathe in for three counts, release for six counts. Do this at least three times. When you feel comfortable, imagine your energy, or your aura, stretching out as far as you feel safe. Then, when ready, pull it back to you, into your solar plexus. Breathe.
- To shut down the Chakras, imagine each Chakra as a spinning disc. With each disc, imagine shutters closing each one. Another way to do this is to imagine a zipper along your energetic body. Pull the zipper up over each Chakra. Or, simply take your hand and wave it along your body in front of each Chakra.
- An effective shield can be as simple as imagining a bright white light surrounding you. After you have grounded and centered and closed down your Chakras, envision a ball of white light over your head. Imagine it encasing your body and surrounding it like a bubble or eggshell. Feel the light infusing your cells and becoming part of you. If you feel the need for extra protection, you can envision yourself in armor.
Do these exercises in the morning, and they should be good for the day. You can, if you feel it necessary, do them again at any point during the day. This is especially a good idea if you are in a crowded area like a mall.
This is a very rudimentary introduction to empaths and simple coping techniques. I shall be writing more in-depth articles in the future. But please know this: There is nothing wrong with you. There are other people who experience this, and thankfully there are many resources out there. Being an empath can be overwhelming, but it can also be quite a beautiful gift at times. Knowing you are not alone and that there are ways to use your gift to help others are comforting thoughts.
Please check out some of the links below for sites you may find helpful. It takes all types to get along in this world. We are in it together, we are all connected, and it is all good.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
ReymundoExcava on February 03, 2014:
Yes. I have felt all of these things since I was very young and after spending two thirds of my lifetime did I figure out what I am. I have spent a considerable amount of time, mostly in fear, teaching myself how to block these things out. I have found that it takes an incredible amount of mental concentration and diligence to stay "closed" for long periods of time; in addition I am often taken off guard when I don't realize that I'm "open" and incidentally become overwhelmed at the amount of emotion that is passing through me. When I was much younger I used to hear and feel the thoughts of people swirling around in a "helter skelter" menagerie. It has been a long time since this particular phenomenon has happened; I have learned to distance myself and cut these experiences off altogether.
Oscar Jones from Monroeville, Alabama on November 17, 2012:
Hi Sharon, I am aware of this event where we are involuntarily empathetic with others, and yet I see it as a ministry and approach it from a more spiritual standpoint.. As a boy I was visited by an angel, taking away my fear of the dark and the unknown.. I have been able to direct special people at times in my life, knowing what is their dilemna, or sometimes showing them how to see their own deliverance from unknown inner conflict. While searching at one point into a situation with my oldest daughter, I was shown in a dream that a family friend had two personalities, and one was evil; helping me severe ties with that person. when used right, these gifts are beneficial. rather than avoid them, learn why God gave them to us..
AlleyKat311 on November 15, 2012:
It's so nice to find people who deal with the same EXACT thing that I do. I always "knew" I wasn't alone, but reading comments from other people who are like me make me feel even less alone. I only recently got it 'confirmed'. I saw a medium because I was pretty sure I had 'something' going on, lol. All the meds have done nothing to remedy this over the years. I looked into 'non-psychiatric' information (I Love You GOOGLE) and it all fit the bill, along with a few other 'symptoms'. When I went into the room with this medium (whom I have formed a great bond with!), before I sat down she confirmed my main suspicion (that I am an empath). I said, 'is that all?', she was like, 'no, you are also a medium'. She has been helping me with my 'quest to figure all this out' ever since. She suggested Hub to me and said I will probably find more information to help me out. I was so excited to find this post!! Thank you SM O'Brien!!! And thanks to all of the other people who posted additional comments. I have found it to be most helpful! I am also grateful to "Momma Bear" who pointed me in this direction!
Sharon OBrien (author) on November 15, 2012:
It is often difficult to enter situations were there is some strong conflict or emotion present. And you are correct - it is "good news, bad news". The good part I have found personally is that I can actually send calming waves. And I can tell what is going on with someone without them trying to put it into words. The worst example though is when I went to the Titanic Exhibit - I almost hyperventilated. It was rough.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 14, 2012:
In my group of sangha of practitioners we say Good news, Bad news. The good news is you are aware and feel all the feelings emanating from folks, the bad news is you are aware and feel all the feelings emanating from folks.
I wish it were not so but anger and fear, perhaps the same, dominate my culture. I walked into a place where I needed to conduct business, braced myself against the wall and left. I just could not deal for a few moments. Breathe in and Breathe out. I went back in and a lady was being fired fairly publicly. Breathe in and Breathe out. I escorted the damsel to her car, nearly sobbing with her. She now has a charity job and thanks me for it. Total boulderdash! I helped her so I could breathe. yes I reckon Bi-Polar. that is a cost.
Natasha from Hawaii on November 14, 2012:
My grandfather always said I was very emphatic and would ask for (and value) my opinion of people, even when I was a child. Today, I have a tendency to get irrationally stressy, even when I know nothing is actually bothering me. I wonder if that might be emphatic stress?
Sharon OBrien (author) on November 14, 2012:
You are very welcome. Yes, many that are treated for depression and bi polar disease are in fact Empaths (this is not to say all are, or that mental illness does not exist). I myself was treated for depression before truly grasping what was going on and researching further. It is difficult at times, but can also be useful. Peace and blessings to you on your road.
Liz Davis from Hudson, FL on November 14, 2012:
Wow. Sometimes I become overwhelmed with sadness when I witness the difficulties others face, often to the point that I feel as though it's happening to me. I thought it was some kind of mental illness! Thank you for writing on this subject--I'm looking forward to reading more about it.
Sharon OBrien (author) on October 27, 2012:
Thank you everyone for your kind words and input. I do feel that empaths are just beginning to be understood. Peace.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 26, 2012:
Wonderful insight. About a year ago I had to slow down and stop putting aside personal pain. I had to feel others, my heart chakra required it to find peace. Next time, feel me all these miles away and I will feel you.
I feel you are on the cusp of full enlightenment. Keep teaching others.
Gone on October 26, 2012:
I work as a Patient Rep in the ICU. I deal with the families of the patients. Sometimes I am so worn out I can barely drag myself home. But most of it I can handle....The bad...Really bad part, is when I'm around a person whose sick mentally, or emotionally...someone dark....I can barely tolerate being in their presence.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on October 26, 2012:
Most assuredly this is good for everyone. I reckon we all have a touch of empathy. It has taken about 3 years of taking the techniques as daily ritual to get where I can deal with it appropriately. I still get just plain knocked aside sometimes. But the worst is when people know you know just how they are feeling ,,,, and it really bothers them, as to a normy that is personal space. The other is letting others personal energy overwhelm mine, and I really feel what the are feeling and it bad. Oh well take the good with the bad. Namaste
Sharon OBrien (author) on October 26, 2012:
Thank you for your comment! Yes, it is especially hard when dealing with someone close to you. I have learned that most empaths can "project" emotions sometimes as well. I used this when my mother was ill and losing her fight with cancer. She said whenever I came into the room, a peaceful calm would fill her. I was concentrating on projecting just those emotions to her. It is very important for empaths to find balance. Mediation helped me so very much. I hope some of my suggestions work for you. Good luck, and let me know!
Gone on October 26, 2012:
Amazing, I was discussing this last night with my 76 year old mother for the first time. I was explaining why it is hard for me to be calm around her. I'm an empath but didn't know it for years. I have had to learn to close off in order to function. It changed my personality from when I was younger. My mother had a rough childhood. She has anxiety and self worth issues...She is feels she has to control most situations which is difficult for her now, being older, a lot of life is out of her control. But to my point, I feel her anxiety and confusions...She causes me extreme discomfort if we get into a "real" conversation...I have to battle her emotions in order to try to stay calm...most times I lose! I am going to try the grounding and centering you've suggested...I would love to learn to stay calm.
Sharon OBrien (author) on October 25, 2012:
Thank You! I am glad you enjoyed it.
Kimberly Vaughn from Midwest on October 25, 2012:
Welcome to HubPages! This is a very interesting topic that I have never really given any thought to. It looks like you are off to a great start!