If you are reading this blog, chances are good that, like myself, you are someone who feels things very deeply. Maybe you're familiar with the term empath.
A search for "empath definition" on Google yields the following result:
noun: empath; plural noun: empaths (chiefly in science fiction) a person with the paranormal ability to apprehend the mental or emotional state of another individual.
-- Have you ever been to a shopping mall, or a party, or maybe just your office, or a gathering with friends or family, and, after feeling perfectly fine a mere moment earlier, you found yourself, out of the blue, feeling really heavy, or frustrated, or sad, or mad? Do you sometimes wonder if there's something wrong with you because you can experience such intense emotions at random for no apparent reason? If you have these kinds of experiences, it may be because you are actually picking up on the emotions of other people around you. Some of you reading this will already be well-versed with the terminology of being an empath and have stocked your toolboxes over the years with countless tips and tricks for navigating this world as a highly empathic being. Others among you may have stumbled across this blog being fairly new to what it means to be an empath. If so, I hope this post will shed some light for you and leave you with a sense of hope that you can feel more ease in navigating this life and this world. I have met so many people who have spent their lifetimes taking on the emotional energy of others in an effort (subconsciously) to restore harmony for their loved ones and the world around them, not realizing that they were harming themselves and not really helping others while doing so. Without knowing how to transmute the energy we've taken on, it will linger with us and create an adverse effect on our physical and emotional wellbeing. The emotions we hold onto don't only affect our state of mind, but they can have a very real impact on our physical health as we somaticize them - meaning that we store them in our bodies. --
[ suh-mat-uh-sahyz, soh-muh-tuh- ]
verb (used with object), so·mat·i·cized, so·mat·i·ciz·ing. Psychiatry.
to convert (anxiety) into physical symptoms. -- Oftentimes, when uncomfortable emotions arise, we don't have the time and/or the bandwidth and/or tools to deal with them, but we cannot necessarily just "let them go," either. So what happens is we store them away for later processing. I recently took a continuing education class for my acupuncture practice, and the teacher explained something I hadn't thought about before in those exact terms that made so much sense to me as I heard it. She talked about a type of channel pathway that we refer to in Traditional Chinese Medicine as Luo-Connecting vessels. We have Primary vessels and various types of extra vessels, and you don't really need to understand their significance in depth for this example to make sense to you. All you need to know is that the Luo-Connecting vessels provide a communication pathway between the different Primary vessels. What the teacher explained was that the Luo-Connecting vessels were where emotions that we don't have the capacity to deal with as they arise are stored in a state of "latency" to be processed later. -- la·ten·cy /ˈlātənsē/
noun 1. the state of existing but not yet being developed or manifest; concealment. "tension, and the latency of violence, make the greatest impressions" 2. COMPUTING the delay before a transfer of data begins following an instruction for its transfer. "poor performance due to network latency" --
The problem is that, in this modern world that we live in, where new information comes at us non-stop, that "later" never comes, and, instead, those channels just get gunked up with all kinds of information and emotional energy that we never do get around to processing, sorting, and discarding or filing away. (Kind of like our overrun inboxes, junk mail piles, or, for some of us, our closets. We may well have the best intentions of getting around to sorting through them to determine what needs to be discarded, addressed, or saved, but more pressing things always arise and take priority.) In the long run, this has an impact on not only our emotional wellbeing, but also our physiological functioning. It affects the vitality and functionality of our organs, our tissues, and cells. Empaths, in particular, tend to somaticize not only emotions that are our own, but also emotions that belong to others, often in a misguided (while well-meaning) and rarely conscious attempt to lighten the burden for others. There is an incredible sense of freedom to be found when we realize that, not only is it not necessary for us to do this, but it doesn't actually help others. It only disempowers them from moving through their own feelings and engaging in their own healing journeys, and it keeps us all stuck. So, how do you know when you're taking on somebody else's "stuff," and how can you keep from doing it, or "un-do" it when you've caught yourself doing it yet again? I've learned some really valuable tools over the years that are quite simple, yet very powerful, and I'd like to share them with you. Tool #1: Who does this belong to? One of the simplest tools I've come across stems from Dr. Dain Heer and the work of Access Consciousness. When you find yourself feeling an uncomfortable emotion or physical sensation, pause to ask yourself (silently or aloud): Who does this belong to? You may not get a clear answer, but that does not matter. The mere act of asking the question will help your body to release any energy that isn't yours. Very often, you'll have a very tangible sense of it if the sadness, anger, frustration, confusion, hurt, or whatever it may be isn't yours. You'll have this little a-ha revelation that tells you: This isn't actually mine at all! If the feeling has come on seemingly out of nowhere, that's generally a pretty good clue that it may not be yours. There will be times when it will be yours, and then you'll have some processing to do. That may be a bit more than we can cover in this blog post, but, essentially, you'll want to do an internal inquiry around what you're feeling, allow yourself to be with it, and allow it the space to move through you. E-motion is energy in motion. As long as we can keep it moving, it's no big deal. It's only when it gets stuck that it causes problems. Tool #2: Clearing Statement Another wonderful tool I've picked up along the way has come from Neil Sattin and Chloë Urban's work, and they, in turn, adopted it from their teacher Gabrielli LaChiara, who has created a beautiful healing practice called Infinity Healing. What I've learned from Neil and Chloë is a simple clearing statement that can release from your body and energetic field anything that does not belong to you or is not serving you in this moment. It may be someone else's energy, or it may well be your own, which isn't serving you at this time. An example may be when you're trying to go to sleep, and you're really not wanting to keep reliving the frustration you felt in an interaction with your boss earlier in the day in a never-ending repeat loop in your brain. The statement goes like this: I command the Light of Consciousness to close all circuits that are not generative or required at this time. Activate change, and generate healing IMMEDIATELY! (If you prefer, you can replace the term Light of Consciousness with the Divine, the Universe, God, my Higher Self, Source, or whatever term feels most fitting for you.) After speaking the statement (aloud if possible), let out a forceful breath and move your hands palm down from your head down the front line of your body, so as to clear any energies from your field that you are ready to release. Trust that the Earth will recycle these energies into positive frequencies. You can also do this all quietly and without the visible gesture, just picturing it in your mind, and breathing out a stream of air between slightly parted lips without making an audible sound. Another variation of the statement I like to use is as follows: I command my body and Being to release anything that isn't serving it and isn't in its best and highest good at this time. Activate change, and generate healing IMMEDIATELY! Tool 3: Shaking it off This is a very simple and effective tool when you've found you've taken on an energy that doesn't belong to you, or even if it's self-generated energy that you do not wish to hold onto (such as anger, frustration, disappointment, etc.). Go to a private place if possible, such as the restroom, and do the following short exercise: Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, sink your weight into your heels, relax your tailbone, tuck your chin under slightly, so it feels as if the top of your head is suspended by a string and your spine is supple and relaxed, then start to shake your body. Start first by shaking your wrists, then your elbows and shoulders, then bounce into your heels, and finally shake your whole body. Take a deep breath in through the nose, and, on the exhale, release a long sigh out through the mouth. Feel the release of it as you're doing so. If the space you're in isn't very private, you can also do this inaudibly. If you aren't able to step away (say you are at a conference table with work colleagues, or you are sitting at the dinner table with your mother-in-law), there is a very inconspicuous version of this exercise you can do to still release built-up energy: Point the fingertips of one hand towards the ground. This can be done under the table, or with your hand by your side, without anyone having to notice the gesture. Gently part your lips, and exhale through your mouth without making a sound. In Qi Gong, the healing sound we use for clearing energy is Heeeeeee. You can make that sound "sub-vocally," i.e. you're shaping your mouth the way you would if you were making the sound out loud, and the air is flowing through your lips in the same way, but no one can hear. Try it next time the opportunity presents itself. You'll be amazed at how much tension relief such a simple action can bring! And your body will thank you for not internalizing more emotions to process "later!" ~ The above are exercises are ones I'm constantly sharing with my patients, and I regularly apply them in my own life. Being someone who feels very deeply, I can be profoundly affected by something seemingly innocuous that might not have a significant impact on most people. Witnessing any kind of violence or social injustice is one of my biggest triggers, and I can feel it very viscerally, as I do witnessing any creature in pain. When I pass the scene of an accident, for example, I can easily pick up the energies of the people who are involved. In my younger years, I was often unaware of this and would find myself wondering why I was suddenly feeling so heavy when I'd previously been in a good mood. With time, I learned to recognize what was happening, but, initially, I still didn't know how to stop it from affecting me as deeply as it did. Over the years, I acquired a great many tools, such as the ones I shared with you above, that helped me process and release such emotions faster and move on with my day. This morning, on my way to work, I witnessed the arrest of a young man across the intersection where I was stopped at a light. A couple of policemen were on the scene, and one was putting the man in handcuffs. He was shirtless, probably homeless, and possibly mentally unstable. I'm pretty sure I'd seen him there once before, and I'd wondered about his safety to himself and others. Arresting him was most likely the "right" and necessary thing to do, and, yet, I couldn't help but hurt for this young man as I witnessed the scene across the way. A person dear to my heart has had an experience of being arrested and spending a night in jail. Everything she told me about that experience made my stomach turn. There is an inhumanity in our law enforcement and judicial system that disturbs me to my very core. Granted, there are certainly "good cops" out there, and the entire system is probably not "all bad," however there is a very real dehumanization at work in our current system that is of great concern to me (and many of my fellow caring citizens). So, knowing what I knew, I thought the chances were slim to none of this young man being treated with kindness, dignity, and basic human respect in what was ahead for him. It occurred to me that what he needed most - regardless of whether he'd committed a crime, regardless of his mental state, and regardless of his immigration status (I couldn't help but wonder whether his arrest might lead to deportation - he was a young Hispanic man from what I could tell)... what he needed most was to be given some clothes and a warm meal. From what I've been told, that's far from how it works in our jails, and I felt the pain of this young man's experience - present and future - very viscerally. A despair over the state of affairs in our world - and our country in particular - started to come over me like a heavy cloak. It's easy to get sucked into that spiral of despair, hopelessness, and outrage. But is it helpful? It can be, in that it can motivate us to take action, like call our representatives or contribute financially to organizations that fight for human rights. I do that monthly. But, in that moment, was it going to help this young man if I let myself get pulled down into a place of darkness? I knew it wouldn't, nor would it have helped me to feel peaceful, nor would it have put me in the best mental state to start my long day of treating patients in my acupuncture practice, for whom I strive to show up as positively as possible every time I am with them. Negativity begets negativity, and so, as my heart weighed heavy from the scene I'd just taken in, I started thinking about a friend who had shared with me through text message earlier that morning about the heartbreak she was going through. My heart weighed doubly heavy. It's amazing how much our emotional state can be affected in the short span of a 10-minute drive by the energies we're exposed to in that short amount of time - or even just by the thoughts we're revisiting in our minds that may not even be events happening in real time! I'd started the day out feeling light and grounded, and I knew I needed to get back to that state, so that I could show up for my patients at my best. Here's what I chose to do: First, I visualized a powerful, healing golden light emanating out from the young man's heart, flooding his body and Being with strength and calm. I asked his spirit guides to be by his side and infuse him with a sense of reassurance and a knowing that he was not alone. I reminded myself that this was his karmic path to walk and that it was not my responsibility to carry the burden of it. Equally, I needn't close myself off to his suffering and could choose to send compassionate energy, albeit without taking on the heaviness of his situation in my own body. I instantly felt more ease. Next, I visualized how I wished things would unfold for him in a perfect world. I pictured him being given clean clothes to wear and a warm meal to eat and being treated with the dignity all human beings (and all living creatures) deserve, even as he was kept safe from any harm he might cause to himself, and others were being kept safe from any harm he might be capable of causing them. After that, I said the clearing statement out loud: I command the Light of Consciousness to close all circuits that are not generative or required at this time. Activate change, and generate healing IMMEDIATELY! I felt so much lighter by then! Lastly, I thought of my friend who was experiencing heartbreak and visualized her heart also bathed in that healing, golden glow, emanating out through her whole body and Being. I focused on my breath and pulled my energy gently yet firmly back into my own body. I stayed with the compassion I was feeling for others in my sphere, without compromising my wellbeing and alignment with my own center for it. As it turned out, I ended up having conversations touching on the topic of absorbing people's energies and how to navigate the world as an empath with several of my patients today. It's not surprising, really, as these conversations come up in my practice a lot (empaths tend to attract other empaths), but they were especially present today, and it felt fitting to write about it here. There are so many wonderful tools to shift/clear/refocus our energies and create healthy boundaries as deep-feeling people (aka empaths, aka highly sensitive people). If you have favorite techniques in your repertoire, I'd love for you to share them in the comment section below. I will close with a quote by Aletheia Luna, from her book Old Souls: The Sages and Mystics of Our World: -- The Empath is often said to have such a great degree of empathy that they can literally feel what others feel, and thus intuitively know many of the yearnings, sensitivities, tastes and even thought patterns of the people they're around. -- I wish you peace in heart, body, mind, and spirit as you bravely navigate this wild and wonderful world and shine your light brightly to touch the lives of others. 🙏🏼✨ So much love. Angie K. 💗