Being an empath is not an easy life. At times it feels much more like a curse than a blessing. My father, who I suspect has empathic tendencies, constantly muses that he is sought out by strangers at every party so they can share their deepest regrets and emotions with him. I too am cursed with the gift of too-much-information (TMI) from strangers. I can’t tell you how many times at cocktail parties’ people have begun a monologue of their lives that ends in tears, hugs and the inevitable statement, “I have no idea why I just told you all that, I met you five minutes ago!” The empath is also a tad confused for their only question was, “Are you having a nice time?” The empath also doesn’t know why you chose to tell them about your dog dying in 1978 or how your mother could be cruel at times but you chose to share none-the-less.
What people fail to realize is that the empath will carry another person’s pain around for days until either it begins to wear off or the empath has learned to shield themselves. Empaths will literally cry over someone else’s painful story or burdensome past and then wonder if there was something they could do to help. The truth of the matter is that we will never see this person again and can’t help them because we will never speak to our second cousins, best friends, future mother in laws, sister…ever again.
If you have experienced these types of scenarios, maybe you too are an empath! Dr. Judith Orioff MD has written extensively on being an empath and in 2016 she published an article examining The 10 Traits of Empathic People. Here are some of the highlights:
- Empaths are highly sensitive people, naturally giving, open and good listeners
- Empaths absorb other people’s emotions, good and bad
- Many Empaths are introverted or prefer small groups – crowds zap their energy
- Empaths are highly intuitive and that’s how they experience the world, through that lens
- Empaths need alone time to recharge
- Empaths can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships; needing space to stay grounded
- Empaths are targets for energy vampires who zap their energy and peace of mind
- Empaths become replenished when surrounded by nature
- Empaths have highly tuned senses, getting easily frayed by too much noise or smell
- Empaths have huge hearts and sometimes give too much
(Suggested Reading: The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People by Dr Judith Orloff)
Like many of you, I identified with all the traits listed above but let’s take a deeper dive into #6 and #7, empaths can be overwhelmed in intimate relationships needing space to recharge and empaths are targets for energy vampires who zap their energy and peace of mind. Take a second to think back to all of your previous relationships, looking at them through the filter of being an empath and what you have learned so far. Then read on.
The Need for Space
I get it, you’ve found someone that you connect with and you want to spend all of your time together. In my previous relationship, my ex wanted to spend all of his time at my house, and I didn’t object. My house was a safe space where I recharged and centered myself. Who wouldn’t want to be there? Things were fine for a while; it was the beginning of the relationship and things were really good. My house was a place of happiness and laughter and that still helped me to recharge, but that didn’t last forever.
When an empath is in a situation like this it won’t be long until we feel like our space is being invaded and our ability to recharge and center ourselves disappears. There were times when my ex would ask if I needed to be alone. Sometimes I said yes but other times I would say it was fine, which it rarely was. It was my fault for not recognizing that I did need time alone and my own personal space. There was part of me that was a little scared to say no. He’d shown me his space insecurity before and I wanted him to feel secure in our relationship.
But there is also a dependency that forms when you see someone every day and that dependency can happen very quickly. While controlling partners aren’t always abusive, often they are and dictating how much time you spend together or how little time you spend apart, can be a useful tool in getting what they want even if it’s not healthy for you. Some relationships can have healthy co-dependency, but others do not and its difficult to recognize what you truly feel when you lack a space of your own. As an empath it’s essential to create a quiet space for yourself to recharge and get centered on a daily basis.
Next time someone walks into your home or office, notice the energy. Empaths can feel the energy shift on a deep level even before their brain consciously recognizes it. When your partner gets home from work, notice your energy level before and after they walk through the door. Notice if you are suddenly tired or if you get a burst of energy and happiness. This will tell you a lot about what your body is feeling even if your brain hasn’t caught up.
In my personal experience, with several ex-boyfriends, I would get home after work, start cooking, be in a good mood and have lots of energy. On more than one occasion I started yawning the second my partner reached the door. It was during my last relationship that I really started tracking my energy before and after he came through the door. I knew immediately if he had a bad day at work or if he was going to pick a fight with me. I knew all of this before he even said a word. I knew all of this before I even laid eyes on him.
So do an energy experiment of your own! See what you’re like when you meet up with friend’s vs your significant other. Notice the differences in energy you feel around different types of friends. There were times when I would show up to a friend dinner completely exhausted and having a terrible day. It wouldn’t take long for the energy of love and excitement from my friends to lift me up to a happier plane. It is so important to surround yourself with people who bring you true happiness and love. Be careful who you choose to spend your time with and if you partner brings your energy down, it’s time to find someone who lifts you up.
We all have intuition, but it takes effort to really learn to listen to that intuition. A lot of people have asked me, “what did your gut say about your previous relationship?” While there was certainly a point where I knew it was time to go, there were other times my intuition was sending mixed messages or rather, I wasn’t receiving messages clearly. You could say there was interference in my spiritual channel. As empaths, if we are disconnected from our intuition then it is almost impossible to see a clear path ahead.
When we are in controlling or toxic relationships it can be hard to decipher what emotions are in fact our emotions and what emotions are our partners emotions. The more time you can spend alone to process your thoughts and clear away the clutter, the more confident you will be in the path forward. Just remember, toxic people and abusive relationships can cloud everything. Its ok if you don’t know what your gut is saying right now but you can take steps to get yourself to a better place of understanding.
For Empaths, creating boundaries is very difficult because we tend to sacrifice our feelings for the feelings of others. Unfortunately, that often makes us most vulnerable to abusers and those in our lives who use emotional manipulation to get what they want. This could be romantic relationships, friendships or family-ships because emotional manipulation is not limited to just abusive intimate partner relationships. Often families are the biggest culprits because they’ve spent the longest learning how to get you to do what they want, guilt. Guilt works overtime on an empath because, again, we can truly feel the anguish and heartache in everyone’s intention. All it takes is one sob story, and you’ve got an inexperienced empath on the hook.
Learning what your boundaries are and how to protect your energy is key to learning to live in positivity and happiness. Knowing how much time you need to yourself, teaching yourself the difference between helping someone and being taken advantage of; these are all skills that come with time and practice. If you need a counselor to help you identify your boundaries, don’t be afraid to seek help. You aren’t just overly sensitive, you are a fighter, so it’s time to learn how to protect yourself. Only a whole person can truly be of help to another.
Advice for Empaths
Having wrestled with these emotions for years now, I can’t stress enough how important it is to protect yourself from negative energy and toxicity. Sometimes that means cutting certain people from your life that aren’t serving your highest good. Maybe that means turning your phone off and taking some time to relax in nature and recharge. You can join a guided meditation class and work on building your intuition. Why not go to the beach or jump in the pond behind your house, water helps you reconnect with your inner self.
Remember that you deserve a partner who is uplifting and positive. No one is perfect all the time, including you, but when a partner comes from a place of genuine love you will feel energized and ready to take on the world. Find the quiet place. Learn how to recharge your mind, body and soul. Build your armor and build your positivity. You are stronger than you think.