Welcome to the world of the empath. So how do empathic people attempt to survive on a daily basis? What can we do to become more resilient in the world, more at ease and more confident in ourselves, while still maintaining our innate loving nature?
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You wake up in a great mood, the sun is shining and you are excited by your plans for the day. You get dressed and go downstairs to the kitchen where your teenage son stands brooding. You can immediately feel something is up which is confirmed by him yelling at you that there is nothing to eat in the fridge. You quickly make some suggestions, even offer to make something for him, anything to calm him down but he yells at you some more and storms out of the room leaving you standing there wishing you had never even gone downstairs. Your mood had suddenly gone from happy to angry in the blink of an eye and you are left wondering what you did wrong.
One of my clients shared this story with me during a heART reading only last week. Perhaps you can relate? If not to the exact scenario, but a similar one where your state of mind was completely altered in a negative way by someone else’s mood.
Welcome to the world of the empath
Don’t know the term? All good, I didn’t either till about ten years ago when I started questioning everything in my life post divorce.
So what is an empath?
Empaths are energetically sensitive souls who can be completely overwhelmed by other people’s energy, certain situations and even the busyness of life in general.
We tend to take on other people’s feelings, reactions and moods as though they are our own and wonder why we feel so miserable all the time when just ten minutes prior we felt happy and content in our own company.
Often solitude is our best friend which we actually need for our sanity, in order to function in the world. This is because we care so deeply about others to the degree that any form of disharmony effects us like it is happening personally. We certainly don’t like to say or do anything that we think will hurt someone else’s feelings even at our own expense.
Classic careers that empaths are instinctively drawn to are any roles where being of service and helping others is core to the job. Think nursing, childcare, healers, alternative therapists, disability workers or any role involved in caring for animals or the earth.
I hope, (there is the empath in me coming out) you don’t think I am saying there is something wrong with being an empath. Not by any means! It’s actually a very beautiful ability that we have because it allows us to show compassion and deeply care for and understand others.
The main challenge with being an empath is that we usually care for others above and beyond our own needs. We feel like, and can be made to feel, like we are responsible for everyone else’s happiness so we try to do everything humanly possible to make sure our loved ones, our friends, our colleagues, our customers, our pets etc are looked after.
What kind people we are, doing all this good in the world, playing the role of superwoman, being everything to everyone! Yet quietly on the inside resentment building day by day as we gradually get more and more burnt out, simultaneously berating ourselves for not making it to our favourite gym class (guess why we missed it? We were helping our daughter do her math homework).
So how do empathetic people attempt to survive on a daily basis?
There are a number of ways we try to cope, to protect ourselves from the daily energetic onslaught. One common way is to overeat. When our stomach is full, it is focused on digesting the food, which means it cannot digest any emotions that are present in the body.?
According to a yoga instructor I have known for many years, our stomach can be seen as the home of our emotions, the place where we mull over stuff. You know that saying – I can?t stomach it – it’s because we ?digest? life through our stomach. (I know someone who physically can’t eat until he feels emotionally OK)
If you have a habit of eating every time you feel attacked, misunderstood, sad etc, guess what, you will likely find it difficult to really hear and feel what your emotions are trying to tell you.
Food is a wonderful way to avoid looking at something your soul needs you to see such as:
‘this situation is not good for you, you need to leave’ or ‘I am really sad about that thing that happened today’ or simply ‘what about me!!!’
Of course the flip side of an over eater is someone who is extremely thin and can’t put on weight because whatever they eat gets churned up in a flash by their anxiety. These beautiful souls are so concerned about doing the right thing by everyone else, they run themselves ragged. It’s almost like they can’t or won’t even allow their body to receive the nutrients from the food because they have learnt their own needs are not as important as everyone else’s.
What both of these types of copying styles have in common is that neither of them include caring about ones self as an option. (if we dig a little deeper there are underlying reasons for this that will be different for every person).
You may have heard this example before but I reckon it’s the best one for putting this situation into perspective – it was certainly a light bulb moment for me years ago!
What does the flight steward instruct you to do in the unlikely event of an emergency? When the breathing masks fall from above you, put yours on first, BEFORE helping anyone else. Why? Because if you can’t breath, you are no good to anyone else on that plane!
Same applies in your day to day life. Us empaths need to learn that our emotional, physical and mental wellbeing is JUST AS important as those we love. Period. No life is more important than another. We are not a bad person because we need to take some time out of our day to look after ourself. We can be made to feel guilty, bad, unkind even, for looking after ourselves but that is because the other person is only thinking about getting their needs met without regard for ours.
Are you starting to see the imbalance here?
So what can we do to become more resilient in the world, more at ease and more confident in ourselves, while still maintaining our innate loving nature?
We get to know who we really are. Intimately.
Yes, I hear you. How on earth am I going to do that with three kids, a husband (or not), a part time job, a house to maintain and a dog?
Well it is not going to happen with just a swipe to the left unfortunately. It is going to take some time, and the amount of time will depend on your level of commitment.?\
However, every little step you take towards self care and self love is a step forward in a direction that models to your own children, especially your daughters, that caring for themselves is a positive, essential thing in order to be a balanced human being.
Because when we are balanced within ourselves, it is reflected in the world around us until eventually we are a race of balanced human beings that care for each other and the planet equally. Wouldn’t you like to live in a world like this? I definitely would!
Putting yourself first, or at the very least, including yourself in the equation, is not selfish like we have been led to believe from past conditioning. Personally I see it as the ultimate form of service to the world because when you care just as much about your happiness as everyone else, then everyone benefits. When your cup is overflowing with love and life, you can give in even more purposeful ways, leading and inspiring a whole team of people in humanitarian projects that benefit millions if that is your purpose. If you are a mother who adores raising your children, then the positive energy you create from having looked after your own needs will overflow to them. This is how the next generations will be able to create a more loving, inspiring, heart-centred world, because YOU took a stand for yourself now and showed them the way.
It is time for the empaths to stand up and be counted. To support each other as we find our voices and our courage to fulfil our life?s purpose. Even if we don’t know exactly what that looks like yet – it?s time to find our direction and step onto the path, one step at a time.?
If there is a part of you that resonates with what I am saying and is keen to see what is possible for your life, reach out.
Sherree Maniks is a passionate advocate for women being their authentic selves in the world and living their life purpose.
Her qualifications are in Transpersonal Art Therapy. Having worked in aged care and with children on the autistic spectrum initially, she now focuses on empowering women to live the life they were born to live. Sherree is a born and bred Northern Beaches local, a mother, a dog lover, an artist, designer and a wild, free spirit who loves nothing more than dancing around a fire to the beat of a drum.
Her motto since entering her 40’s is ‘how much fun can I have and how much good can I do in the world’