Do you often wonder which emotions are yours, and which belong to someone else? When people you care about are hurting, do you feel their pain so deeply that it’s hard to separate—even after they’re out of crisis mode? In relationships, do you donate so much of your own natural resources that you suffer from a chronic energy shortage? And with those you’re close to, is it hard to figure out what your own needs are—or even what you want for dinner? If the answer is yes, it’s highly likely that you’re an empath.
What does it mean to be an empath, and why is it fraught with these basic life challenges? Derived from the Greek “em” (in) and “pathos” (feeling), the term empathic means you’re able to “feel into” others’ feelings. But for empaths, this sensitivity is magnified to the nth degree. An empath is more tuned in, more empathic, and more sensitive to others than the average empathic person.
Being this tuned in, empathic, and sensitive is an asset, but it comes at great cost. Empaths are unusually vulnerable to emotional contagion, to “catching” others’ emotions in much the same way that you’d catch a cold or flu. But it doesn’t stop there: empaths get physically ill and suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic stress, professional burnout, and pain syndromes more often than their less empathic counterparts. And empaths often need lots of down time after social engagements, “recovery periods” at the end of a workday, or extended intervals of being alone. They can feel fundamentally different from others: As a conference-goer recently put it, “It’s like I’m an alien from another planet—no one understands me, and sometimes I don’t even get myself.” The empaths I work with often confess a deep-seated fear that this “alien thing” means something is wrong with them, that they’re somehow damaged.
As a clinical psychologist and yoga therapist, I’ve supervised psychotherapists, yoga teachers, and yoga practitioners for more than two decades—and a great many of them are empaths. I’ve helped them identify who they are and develop the skills to lead more balanced and healthy lives. And as a “recovering empath” myself, I’ve had to walk a parallel path. From this personal and professional immersion, I’ve found that it helps just to name the issue, to hammer a framework of understanding around it. And then, armed with tools from yoga, mindfulness, and psychology, we can work on balance. We can create a blueprint for physical well-being, emotional health, and more rewarding relationships.
Are you an empath? Here are five signs that you might be—and that your wonderful qualities, when left unchecked, can compromise your health.
THE EMPATH CHECKLIST:
1. You struggle with boundaries. It’s tough to know where you leave off and others begin, which experiences are yours and which come from others, when to open your channels for connection or to close them.
2. You’re often not in your body. For empaths, all that “feeling into” the experiences of others means that you dissociate: you leave your body or “shuttle” out of direct experience as a matter of course.
3. You’re vulnerable to emotional contagion. You absorb the emotions of others, from your boss and colleagues at work to your family and friends, and even the check-out guy at Whole Foods.
4. You’re prone to nervous system overdrive. It doesn’t take much—sometimes just a draining conversation or a party that’s loud and over-populated—to propel your nervous system into alarm mode.
5. You have trouble with intimacy. Your relationships are filled with intense bonding and equally intense separations. You can merge with others at the drop of a hat, but get so entangled that an “emotional exorcism” of someone you care about is often the only way to get your space.
Even when we’re aware of them, these patterns are hard to change. They’re wired into us deeply, at levels the conscious mind can’t reach. For that reason, to be a healthy empath requires daily practice. Here are the key issues and therapeutic practices that form the heart of the journey. The challenge is that much of the healing needs to happen through the body. And for empaths, the body can be a wasteland of sorts, a long-abandoned battleground.
Lest you think this is a “chick thing,” there are male empaths, too. It’s just that the process of natural selection draws empathic males underground more quickly than it does their female counterparts because sensitivity, empathy, and attunement to others are considered “feminine” traits. Male empaths can be ostracized for these qualities, and learn to bury them from sight. As a male empath in one of our therapeutics clinics recently said, “I take on other people’s experiences all the time. I have a huge amount of anxiety and depression, and it’s hard to know what’s mine and what’s someone else’s. But when I talk about it to my friends, they tell me to quit being ‘such a girl.'” Male empaths need the same kind of body-based support that female ones require.
RX FOR EMPATHS:
Empaths have an extraordinary capacity for union. They’re great in a crisis; people in need call forth their deepest abilities. They make gifted, intuitive healers. They see others deeply, well beyond the surface. And they have a magnetic quality that draws people to them. Yet flanking these positive aspects are several shadow sides. Here’s what you’ll want to focus on to help you live in a state of physical and emotional equilibrium.
1. Develop Boundaries. As an empath, you give too much space to others’ emotional lives. You solve their problems with ease and help them restore equilibrium, often at the expense of your own energy stores. But even when no one needs you, the habit of “trolling for crisis” means you’re always on alert, and makes it tough to return to the shores of your own awareness.
Empath Rx: Creating boundaries isn’t a matter of mental discipline, of “just say no.” When you’re an empath, limits need to be integrated into your physicality. The core body is your seat of power: What helps is a yoga practice that brings your focus into your deep, intrinsic core where you can develop “prana in the belly.” This four-pronged core body program includes awareness, strength, flexibility, and the capacity to release. Working with the core in this holistic way helps you ground back into your body and replenish your energy stores. Mindfulness tools can also help you monitor where—or on whom—you’re focused and notice when you’ve migrated into someone else’s direct experience.
2. Bring Awareness into Your Body. Imagine that you’ve left to visit a friend in another city and forgotten to lock your house. And that’s not all: You’ve left all the doors and windows wide open, so anyone can get in. This is what it’s like to be an empath. You can abandon your own home, your direct experience, in favor of someone else’s. The more you do this, the more difficult it is to return. What makes matters worse is that not inhabiting your body (and the moment) keeps the benefits of yoga and other mindfulness-based practices just beyond your reach.
Empath Rx: Offset this tendency toward dissociation with slow, mindful vinyasa yoga sequences that link movement with breath. Empaths can spend a whole yoga class or practice on auto-pilot: adding anchors for awareness will help bring you back to your body and to the present. Contemplative practices such as meditation and restorative yoga give you the time, space, and silence you need to get re-embodied again.
3. Balance Your Nervous System.
An empath’s environment is like “emotional satellite radio” with surround sound and hundreds of channels. Your nervous system surfs the dial constantly, flipping from station to station to listen to others’ emotional broadcasts: your boss’s complaints about work, your partner’s anxiety over a potential job loss, your best friend’s sadness about a breakup. These information-processing demands can catapult your nervous system into overdrive, which reinforces anxiety, depression, and chronic stress. On top of that, the incessant electronic requests of e-mail and social media can overload and exhaust you.
Learn to notice the signs of nervous system overdrive, such as that inner sense of something always “humming” beneath the surface, an elevated heart rate, and increased emotional reactivity. Practice simple breathwork techniques like nasal breath (and if accessible, nasal breath with a longer exhale) to slow your heart and bring your nervous system back to baseline. Regular breaks from social media also help, as do practices that balance your nervous system and quiet your mind, like Restorative Yoga.
4. Learn to Regulate Intimacy.
For empaths, intimacy comes down to matters of space and reciprocity. You can feel like Dr. Doolittle’s Push-Me-Pull-You: Sometimes you crave intense emotional, physical, and spiritual bonding. At other times, you need so much space that having your own personal galaxy might feel too crowded. When you want to merge, you can threaten people who have a higher need for breathing room; when you need wide-open space, you can appear remote and withholding. And when it comes to reciprocity, you’re rarely comfortable on the receiving end. Your giving nature attracts narcissistic people who crave the mirroring and validation you offer. In the meantime, you’re able to create a fantasy in which the relationship lives up to its potential—and you inhabit that fantasy as though it were real. You learn to subsist on a diet of mere “emotional breadcrumbs,” and can suffer from malnourishment.
To build your ability to receive care from others, try bodywork or yoga therapy with someone you trust. You can also balance a personal yoga practice with group classes to strengthen your sense of community. If your job requires any degree of public exposure, or you work as a healer, you may need stretches of alone time to reestablish your equilibrium. Here again, mindfulness-based practices can help you notice feelings of being devoured and interrupt the cycle of merger and isolation before you reach the breaking point.
5. Develop emotional immunity.
Empaths pick up on other’s emotions and even their direct inner experience so rapidly that it’s hard to indentify what’s happened. As a result, a large part of your anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and immune issues can belong not to you, but to someone else. And just like your nervous system and physical body, your emotional body and immune system struggle with boundaries. They have difficulty discerning what’s you and what’s not. This leaves you vulnerable to emotional issues like anxiety, depression, and chronic stress, as well as auto-immune illnesses such as allergies, lupus, or fibromyalgia.
Practice interpersonal hygiene: using mindfulness, notice how you feel after spending time with others. You’ll soon learn which people are hazardous to your health, and you can limit your interactions with them. Also try lymph-stimulating asana sequences and Restorative Yoga to stimulate your capacity for constructive internal reflection.
THE EMPATH’S FILTER:
One of the more insidious consequences of Empath Syndrome is having a very thin, membranous emotional skin which reacts intensely to real or perceived invasion. This skin is allergic to a variety of foods, social settings, and other people—and on the inside, it mimics the auto-immune pattern of self-hatred. This exposes our nerve endings to all the shame, rage, and deep, existential grief inside us and in everyone around us. An offhand comment from a loved one, a request for help from someone when our resources are at a low ebb, or a harmless comment from that “weird guy” at the gym can get under our skin in microseconds. This sets off an alarm, and we immediately filter that person as either “dangerous” or “safe.” Long ago, that type of filtering was necessary for our survival but as we mature, it becomes less adaptive, even destructive. Because we doubt the strength of this filter (after all, it’s tough for us to set boundaries), we construct a narrative around the experience. Once we’ve developed a juicy story about the person who got under our skin, we repeat it. We pull for confirmation from others, as though having an army behind this filter will help it feel more like a fortress.
Having the armed forces behind us can feel comforting initially, but our actions only strengthen the sensitivity of the danger/safe filter. And since our narrative is rarely limited to one encounter, we practice it over time. Soon, it gains a brittle hardness. This outer shell protects us from injury (good), but also from intimacy with others and our deepest selves (not so good).
Often, the deepest (and hardest!) work happens long after the interaction is over, when our nervous system is back to balance and the temporary comfort our narrative gave us has dissipated. Our task is to go back to the filter, to our initial decision in the moment, and reevaluate. We can (this is so hard!) reconsider and re-examine the encounter from all angles, balancing the harsh light of hindsight with a healthy dose of self-compassion. We can even ask others for input—preferably those who don’t indulge our stories, and who want to see us grow.
Over time, we can acknowledge where our filters make errors or blind us. We can change their sensitivity settings to be more open. We can acknowledge where they make errors or may blind us. Then we’ve got something to grown on. The challenging part: Empaths have a really tough time changing this filter because it feels so necessary for safety. What’s more, adjusting the settings actually stretches our “emotional skin.” This expansion is uncomfortable: It can feel in some ways like a “little death” and it can jolt the nervous system into caffeinated overdrive. This is when the quieter aspects of yoga and mindfulness like Restorative Yoga can help promote constructive internal reflection, and help us assimilate the changes we’ve made to our filter. I’ve been in this place many times and experienced the struggle myself. And while our asana practice helps us be more embodied, this epic battle with our filter is carried out on the very plains of engagement where mindfulness and yoga try so hard to lead us.
IT’S LIKE A TATTOO:
Empaths often ask me, with great sincerity, “How do I get rid of this?” Their poignant request reflects the cost they pay, in time and effort, to achieve a measure of balance. But being an empath is like having a tattoo: the imprint is there for life, no matter what you may do to change it. These practices aren’t a time-limited, do-it-for-three-months-and-all-will-be-well kind of program. Rather, they’re a lifelong journey of self-discovery. But it needn’t be a life sentence. Having a daily empath-balancing practice improves our relationship with ourselves. It juices our creative process. It improves emotional regulation. It deepens our work life, and enhances our physical health.
Empaths need community, a tribe of our own to belong to, and a shared language through which we can first unload the burden of being built as we are. Yet once we’ve ingested this sense of belonging, our task is to resist the temptation to rest there forever, and cultivate instead both personal and shared practices that bolster our body, calm our mind, and help us ground into and explore ourselves. We do this first in shallow waters and then in time, the deep.
It may seem that transformation is about transcendence: that we somehow leave behind our flaws to achieve a measure of spiritual perfection. Yet true spiritual evolution and emotional health entail a reckoning with and even valuing of the unique set of challenges we’ve been given. Sometimes the holes in our evolution—the very things that we lack—plait a deep thread of awareness into the fabric of our self-study. We’ll spend the rest of our lives unraveling that thread, and weaving and reweaving it. And there’s a measure of honor that comes from having to work so hard at the skills that others seem to master so naturally.
And the reward for all this hard work of integration? There will come an extended moment in time when something or someone will activate your nervous system, stimulate your filter and the narrative that comes with it, and tie you in emotional knots. But this time, you’ll recognize it as it happens. You’ll be able to enter a dialogue. You’ll say to yourself something like, “Oh- here it is again—it’s happening! This person has bumped right up against my need to feel special,” or whatever it is they’ve activated. You’ll notice the signs of activation: elevated heart rate, difficulty breathing, intense emotional reactivity, and an immediate gravitational pull toward a difficult story. “They must not care about me at all,” you’ll start to think. Then suddenly, you’ll remember to feel where that activation is concentrated in your body: often, for empaths, it’s the upper core or solar plexus area. You’ll bring your hands to that area and breathe deeply into it for several minutes. And if it’s still highly engaged, you’ll opt to practice a little longer until you hit your “reset button.”
And all at once, you’ll feel the deep worth of daily empath practices. You’ll find a simultaneous sense of yielding and resilience. You’ll feel a beautiful solidity, as though you’ve colored in your outlines. You’ll discover a newfound sense of your own intrinsic value in the world. And this will be matched by the joy that comes bubbling up from the wellspring of your body.
Being an empath asks us to become fluent in the field of paradox, to metabolize opposing concepts and challenges. How can we engage in rich relationship with others and the world around us, for instance, while finding the silence and space to discover the self and world inside us? How do we find balance between matter and spirit, inner awareness and outer focus, or self and other? And how might we engage in the dynamic interchange between the concept of evolution—which hints at a future self—and the self we are right here, right now?
It may be later in life by the time we truly blossom, but the time, patience, and inner work are well worth the effort. When we learn to regulate our nervous system, create healthy boundaries in our body, and adjust the filter through which we evaluate direct experience, we become truly resilient. And instead of making ourselves small to fit the world around us, to find a tribe where we belong, we learn to blossom on our own. This blossoming draws others to us. And an empath in full flower is an extraordinary thing to witness: vulnerable yet resilient, intuitive yet grounded, and deeply creative, expressive, and magnetic—but with a fully functioning sense of where and how these qualities balance.
Dear Empaths, thank you for your deeply impassioned response to this article! Out of respect for the porousness of your fellow empaths, please balance your sharing of your story with discernment about how the quantity and nature of what you’re sharing. We reserve the right to edit posts, or to not post responses that might cause others to be overwhelmed when reading. However, we do read each and every post. We thank you for taking the time to comment. Please know that you have a Tribe of people to whom you belong. Not only that, there are ways (and this article mentions several) to balance your empath qualities and live a life of balance, boundaries, and meaning.
We can’t ethically respond to requests for help, minor or urgent. If you are in the throes of an emotional emergency, please do not discuss this in a comment, but instead, go to your nearest emergency room for evaluation. We also recommend that you contact your state’s psychological or social work associations for referrals to psychologists or social workers who specialize in empathic regulation or highly sensitive persons (HSP’s). Thank you.
178 thoughts on “I Feel Your Pain: An Empath’s Guide to Staying Balanced”
OMG, did you have an x-ray to my soul when you wrote this?! Feels like was speaking directly to my experience. Thanks for this, very useful!
Olivia, love the “X-day to my soul,” what an empath’s phrase if I’ve ever heard one! and thanks for commenting.
Thank you so much! A very illuminating article.
I’m so happy to find this article. Olivia I know the feeling you feel. Where can I find local empath support ?
Thank you so very much
For writing this piece
I finally have found done normal in my crazy
Thank you so very much
I cannot calm down in my crazy life with kids to do yoga , is there anything else I can do , to balance myself before I deplete myself
What about meditation? I like to meditate in a hot shower since the heat of the water relaxes my body as I relax my mind. Doing so in the dark was actually how I dealt with insomniac episodes when I was younger. If that doesn’t work then maybe before you go to sleep you can meditate a bit and it will help you fall asleep easier too if that’s an issue you face.
You can end up replacing mediation with yoga and mindfulness exercises if you find you have the time for it as well. Also a bath may be more calming for others, but personally it relaxes me to hear the water from a shower
I feel The same way…
Thank you for this, Bo. It resonates deeply with my emotional experience, both personally and professionally as a psychologist. I will share this with friends and colleagues.
Thank you Monty- it’s a lifelong project for healers and therapists…
Thank you so much for this. I am so grateful for the validation and permission to be alone to re set my self and to take time to digest after being with others. I had been a high school teacher and department chair for 11 years as an empath and I thought that the life was being sucked out of me. In hind sight it makes so much sense. My yoga and shamanic practice in the last 9 years has taught me much of what you have shared and I am so grateful! Your class at Kripalu last spring for Immunity was also wonderful. But being in my body and learning to listen to it is my biggest teacher, to help me be calm and centered and quiet to digest what is. Thanks again!
Monica, you’re right on! It’s so great when we can trust in our body as our greatest teacher: something that comes “late” for empaths but is all the more rewarding when it does… and that gnosis, the body wisdom, can never be taken away.
First time I have read something on the subject I have been addressing in myself for my whole life, in a way that speaks to me. It can feel like being taken over by the other and a huge psychological effort to retain a sense of self in the most ordinary situations. It’s been a long, difficult journey in coming to terms with how these feelings have affected me.
Particularly reassuring was the idea that the yoga practice can help unravel, weave a new thread and transform the complexity of the mind, by focussing on the deep centre in the body. Grounding imagery has helped me immensely. It’s a deeply stressful experience at times to experience enmeshment/heightened empathy. It’s a calling to tune in, so a lesson and deep one at that. More pieces of insight like this will help hugely. thank you
Thank you for commenting, Laura. You’re right about the effort that even the most ordinary situations can require. And yes- it’s all about the body for empaths.
Thank you so much for this Bo. I was at the Toronto Conference last weekend and you mentioned this a few times. I was intrigued and now I know why! Can’t make the session in Kripalu but would be very interested in any other sessions you are holding that cover this topic.
Patricia, we’ll be doing a three-day immersion on this later in the year; stay tuned to our Workshops + Intensives page on this site and you’ll see it when we put it up. Either May 31st, July 4th, or August 1st.
great post, Bo. Think people will find this really helpful. Thanks for putting it out there.
Bo — meant to add that I reblogged it on my website http://dfay.com/archives/4101
Thank you, Deirdre.
Bo, I experienced your weekend workshop at Kripalu last week for empaths. Wow, am I glad I went. So much information, insight. That pulls together so many pieces of who I’ve learned I am over the years. It was huge. Thank you for your smart work and generous, buoyant, grounded spirit.
Right now I feel like the newborn robin, a few days old, just hatched from its shell. A little scary. I have new tools and understanding. And am still ABSORBING everything that was covered. You have so much to empart! So, here’s to unraveling the threads, growing ‘stronger’ and feeling s a f e.
Resonating strongly for now, “What if I don’t HAVE to be ungrounded? What if I don’t HAVE to absorb other people’s feelings”.
Hi Bee, YES! We can make these choices with intention. I hope it’s all percolating well… and I love your coining of the word “empart.” 🙂 Keep your Practice Lab focused on nervous system regulation, boundaries, and filter re-setting! And blessings to you…
Not that many guys writing here, but I’ll have a go.
This has got me into so much trouble. I feel intuitively – I over-commit – I get into shit – I feel deep remorse, etc
Am generally upbeat about most things, but dreadful about connections because I feel and feel and feel, then feel nothing because I’m all used up.
Will have to examine the RX things in depth.
Hi Richard, it’s great to hear from a male empath. Let us know how it goes- and consider coming to one of our “Empath Events.” We’ll be doing a 3-day workshop in the Boston area for empaths in either July or :August. Check out the “workshops + intensives” page here for more. You CAN learn healthy relationships!
Wow! I KNEW I wasn’t the only one, but it sure has felt that way. It is the worst thing feeling so entirely alone with all these other people ‘living’ inside my self. Inviting them to leave seems to diminish who I am but, rather than suffer the constant storm of others’ emotional instabilities, it is just easier for me to live as only half.
Hi Chris, we all know that feeling… but perhaps having those people outside you doesn’t diminish you but, instead, allows you to expand to your fullest and deepest self!
I get it . Having to let go to someone you felt so connected with that you can feel their own pain as if it’s your own .Letting them go seems like you are letting go of yourself. Why have those emotions in the first place? Why feel their pain of you were meant only to be a part of their life for a moment? I had to let go of these toxic relationships. Let go and pray for their healing . I couldn’t just waste myself away in pain . In their pain. But it’s so true . I found myself by letting go of others. I had to set stronger boundaries. Has not been entirely easy because it comes with the territory of being empathetic. You want to be there for others .
Wanted to say, for me, when I finally made myself “let go” of some of the people in my life it let us have a more healthy normal friendship/relationship after we both healed some and got in touch with ourselves. That possibility is always there, if you were that close it might be for a good reason, and you both just needed time apart to see the real you. I e found this happens for me more with others that I think may be sensitive, too but maybe in diff ways.
This is a fabulous article. Thanks for sharing. I have re-blogged it on my site. I think this will help many people.
Thank you, Lee Anne. Empaths unite!
Well, empaths unite in a BOUNDARIED way, of course.
Here is the link to my reblog: http://www.apathtoselfhealing.com/blog.html
What a joy to read this article!!! I have enrolled in your on line course on restorative yoga thru Shamballa as I had been thru problems at work earlier this year which was an empaths nightmare . I am not able to attend in person your course -Yoga for Empaths, so are you planning to have an on line version of your empaths course, I am very keen to do a regular practice asap!
Hi Kathy, so glad you got something from it. Yes, we’ll have an online version, but it takes a while to produce, so it won’t be asap… but it will be in 2014. Looking forward to the next Shambhala webinar on May 21st.
I wanted to share a really nice moment/new experience related to Empath learning!
In being aware of ‘filter-resetting’ I had an experience at a gathering where I felt very triggered and in my mind snapped to a negative conclusion/judgement about myself and the situation. At the end of the evening I shared my thoughts with my dear sister in law. She didn’t really respond. But when I spoke with her several days later and said (the new approach), “I was wondering what YOU thought about what happened…this is what I thought….” which engaged a delightful and eye opening conversation. And deep understanding of how far off I was in what had happened. The sweetest part was her response at one point, “I’ve never heard you talk like this! :)”
Thank you, Bo, for an excellent piece. This is the first time I have read anything that accords insight, respect, and assistance to the universe of an ’empath,’ as you suggest here.
There is perhaps a kind of original self-loss that generates such a life cycle… Dissociation leads to a terrible chill inside, and experience of raw, wounded emptiness. Vicarious emotion perhaps becomes a salve, a great warmth, at least initially. Before the kinds of inundations and nervous fatigues set in, as you describe here.
Sourced in an empath’s protective cover, strong dissociation, depersonalisation may lead to full-blown disturbances… Your writing really feels like a breakthrough.
I am currently taking your online course — yoga for emotional balancing. This article provides a powerful orientation from which to approach the materials in it. I would also love to be part of any courses you may be conducting (online) that are in fact dedicated to work with empathic equilibrium.
Many thanks, for the promise offered by your personal journey, research, and teachings.
Thank you so much, Bo! This is amazing – I definitely feel this to be true in the deepest sense, and it’s so helpful to have these experiences articulated in words and practice! Look forward to learning even more – thank you!!!
A precious friend, therapist, soulmate sent me this empath months ago and I tearfully wrote asking her how she read my agonized soul and sent the answers I didn’t know were out there. I had withdrawn into my own dark place & had lost touch with everyone. Thank you for being the source and sending this again as it got lost in cyberspace and I’ve been looking for it these many months. Can’t wait to participate in healing with you and Jessica Leeder, awesome healer, blessed friend in Tacoma, WA. What a lucky person I am now.
Thank you, I’m working on me and though it feels selfish I need to do it to survive.
Thanks for the post, it was really helpful. I just have one question: I personally find that one of the biggest emotional drains for me is animal suffering, but that’s something that’s very nearly impossible to avoid, as animal exploitation is so pervasive in our culture. Do you have any suggestions for that problem specifically? I’m (slowly) getting better at having more positive and less draining relationships with people, but because I don’t usually interact with animals directly, I’m not all that sure how to mange this problem.
Thank you so much for writing this. I have a habit of taking on the symptoms of other people’s pain and illnesses, from my sister’s pregnancy and labor to my boyfriend’s soreness and sickness, and up until now I thought I was just plain crazy, honestly I was starting to think I’d been cursed at birth. It’s comforting to know that I’m not alone and that there are ways to help cope with this and regulate it.
If I’m an empath, then I will say that some empaths are non-comittal idealists that operate from a consciousness in the grips of complete identity crisis. After stripping all the labels away, I still have nothing to hold on to. Nothing fundamentally and objectively identifiable as the core and source of my being. Like a ghost. That is why I am “open”, when I am. I need to connect to something.
I’ve never met anyone who can read me. I’ve prayed to the Gods, to the God of the Gods. I’ve humbly bowed down to the ONE who dwells within me as me. Yet, I’m still lost without a thread of any real knowing. It’s an absurd, ridiculous reality from my point of view.
Love yourselves and love one another. Do your best, and your life will have occasion to be remembered for a time in this grand, persistent illusion of permanence. Be happy now.
Wow Richard! I couldn’t have put that better myself! That nearly brought tears to my eyes because it hit so close to home! It is good to know that we are not alone and we can “find ourselves” with help such as this website. I have faith for all of us that we will and even more, we’ll find this as a unique gift rather than a burden.
How do I get ride of this?
May I simply say whawt a comfort to uncover somebody who truly understands what they’re discussing
online. You actually know how to bring a problem to light and
mzke it important. More people neeed to read this and understand
this side of the story. I can’t believe you aren’t
more popular because yyou definitely possess the gift.
I keep experiencing feelings of someone long distance (It was a complicated relationship with a guy.) I seem to feel his emotions (yes long distance- relief, happiness, stress- like waves). Well we keep going back and forth and now I get massive waves of stress- I don’t think it is me. I think it is him. I don’t know what is causing it (maybe it is our problems- maybe it is something else). I would just like it to stop because a) it is causing me physical and emotional pain and b) if we are not going to be together, I don’t want to feel all his emotions. Has anyone ever felt this way and does anyone have any suggestions? It is driving me a little crazy and even weirding me out- this is not normal for me.
As a nurse I am constantly feeling like I am being drained with each patient encounter and by the end of the day I have headache, neck ache and feel “spacey” with no energy to pursue the things I enjoy, which in turn makes me more vulnerable to being “sucked in” to other’s problems/stress. I no longer want to feel this way and end up hating what I do or get to the point where I “shut down” and don’t care or feel at all (aka burnout). I will take the Rx’s given in this article for Empaths–STAT!
A truely amazing article. You really understand what I go through completely, I hope to one day reach that “flowering stage”
well…..well said……shine on….
I began writing recently in order to try and organize myself. I started writing about how around 10 years old I noticed the void within myself that I often visited and how it was directly related to the hurt I felt coming from others. I specifically noted how I felt broken and spent years reading people to try and solve what was wrong with me.
One of the largest struggles I have and am dealing with is that after devoting so much of myself to reading people that I have grown a scarey skill set of being able to effortlessly manipulate others. I was told by my psychologist that it is common with people that are more developed in these areas to feel like a monster is within them. Which is because the ability to powerful help and heal others is mixed with intelligence and can be used to destroy others just as thoroughly. Suicidal thoughts and attempts had also rose in me quite often in my younger years deriving from the digested helplessness I absorbed from others.
My question is, have you, in your journey of introspection, felt this way. The fear/self-hate seems to be fading as I grow older and have completed more of the puzzle that is existence’s many paradoxes. It’s still there though at times for me.
I attended the class you taught re: Empaths in Estes Park. You mentioned noticing that your young nephew is an emapth. I have at least one young one who is now 5 and empathic. He has issues when in class with too much stimulation from too many classmates. I am wondering if you can give a few pointers on how to teach children how to protect themselves from taking everyone elses’ feelings.
Thanks so much for this!
It was odd to hear someone else describe the “out of body” experience of being an empath. I’ve never known how to describe it, myself, but yeah, when you’re so into someone else you practically reside WITHIN THEM. I don’t know about the gender stuff, I’m an open empath, male. I’ve been fortunate enough to heal some very disturbed people. I also feel great pain at times, and have rearranged my life many times over because of the “vibe” of various locations (cities/towns), and can connect with anyone, but often find myself wanting out then when I realize they’re quite negative. Right now, I’m at a cafe and the woman next to me is REALLY worked up (AND drinking caffeine – WTF), and I’ve felt like I’m having a mild heart attack since she down. I want to ask her to calm down. My chest hurts.
Thank you so much for writing this… I cycled through so many self diagnoses, explanations for “why am I LIKE this?!” — especially the dissociation!
What an intense relief that not only are there many many people (cool, intelligent, fascinating, gifted people!) like this, but they have already tried and tested ways to re-channel and heal.
Will take these Rx’s to heart, immediately, this day and every day.
Again, such a relief, thank you for including all of us! WE needed to hear it!
Reading this slung me into immediate self awareness! The words were comfort and now I know I’m not crazy or alone. I need to manage being an empath now that u know I can. Thank you!
What a beautiful article. It made me finally realize who I am. I never knew until recently. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Thanks for this insightful information. Can relate to all of this. My life makes much more sense after reading this. This has only recently been pointed out to me. So in the back of mind I’m still quite sceptical
the Universe conspired to bring this message to me.
I have been suffering a lot lately.
I feel that I am just an open wound walking around and cannot focus.
I am lost. I feel too much pain.
The hormonal changes are too much for the empath in me to handle.
Thanks. I can relate.
I finally sought therapy after years of this pain. Confusion. You name it. Within a month she referred me to a specialist for empaths. I’d never even knew there was such a term. I’ve read so much. This article hit me between the eyes. Thank you.
Since a young child I have been able to be greatly affected by the energy of others…… I am now 63 and crumbling under all the baggage… I needed answers, I truly believed I was flawed.. And dying…
I began searching … And found your writings… Thank you.. It is a place to begin… To come to terms… To be happy in me…
I’ve had this gift and a few others now for a while, but did not know what it was until a few years ago. I am thankful for your posts, being an Empath does not end there you have healing gifts, and also being a medium you pick up feelings from the other side. I have to learn to turn off my feelings when doing readings or just picking up energies from spirits. I thank you for sharing your information with us Empaths.
I have to read through this more than once because some pieces I emotionally responded too and other spots I feel like I may understand as I continue in my journey. I am always seeking answers that make sense. Your information and insight has given me confort, and it’s also given me an idea of how better prepared I will be in the future. I’m an Empath mess now, but your story says I should have hope for the future. Thank you.
Wow this really spoke to me, thank you so much for writing this – I’ve been struggling lately with a great deal of negative feelings because of the suffering in the world and the things that i see on the news and an intense feeling of guilt and sadness, and i didnt really see any way out of it until I read this! I think I’m going to start yoga 🙂
I feel like I am crazy all the time. I found out I was an empath about a year ago. I also have a moon in pisces which makes my emotions even more wild.
I thought I had a mental disorder all my life. But I can rationalize thoughts, I just don’t know where the negative thoughts are coming from. One moment I’m as happy as can be, the next unhappy. I have been looking on the Internet for coping skills for being on empath and I found this writing. Just glad there are others like me. We truly carry the weight of the world on our backs. Sometimes I wonder why I’m not normal like others and I wish I was. It’s very hard for me to cope not understanding why I’m feeling mood swings for no apparent reason. I am just glad I now have some guidance to make my suffering stop.
I’ve done the work for years to shield myself and I still find the shield slips occasionally. Thank you this piece helped.
Thank you so much for this article. I knew I was an empath, but have never truly understood exactly what that means or how it was ‘that’ that was affecting me physically, emotionally, spiritually. Your article was exactly what I needed to understand myself. I am so thankful to have identified this and grateful for a plan to now get grounded.
I am 42 years old. Like some others that have posted here, I thought I was mentally ill. After years of suffering, I realized I am an Empath. A blazing, hot mess of one. This article is amazing, like you’ve been looking into a window of my life. So many helpful suggestions, I will definitely be trying them. Thank you.
Thank you for this article and information. Please keep me posted on any future empath workshops that you offer.
Thank you for this article. It has come at the perfect time in my life. I have been struggling with being an empath since I was a small child. I always knew I was too aware, but that I had a lot to learn. At the age of 26 I am finally trying to take control of my life, follow (and forge) my path and be able to better myself so I can help others. This is probably one of the most tiring journeys I have ever taken on. My body is sore, I don’t sleep well, and I am irritable and depressed. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but this article was the reassurance I needed tonight to keep on trucking.
I would like to extend my sincerest gratitude to you for taking the time to not only find out who you are and be comfortable in your own skin, but also write about it to help others. Again, thank you.
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Awesome article!! I’m an empath myself and I have to say that it has taken me some time to learn how to balance it. At first I was overwhelmed by it and I really didn’t like crowds, funerals, hospitals, … It drained me soooo much. I’m 27 now and I have learned to “activate it” when I want to. It is easier with strangers than with family or friends. I have discovered that with my family it is more difficult to not take their emotions in but Yoga has helped a looooot. (I’m a yoga teacher and I practice almost every day… )
I don’t know if it just me but my room is the space where I feel safe and where I recharge. I used to call it fortress of solitude (Superman reference) . Whenever I lose balance, I regroup here and it feels like it is a no-outer emotion zone. I have always loved being in my room with me (of course I needed to rebalance myself)
Anyway, thank you for writing what I have always felt I was. And YES, I have always believed I’m an alien hahaha so funny when you said that.
Before I used to get so tired by this empathy, now that I’m a yoga teacher and a Therapist I have to say that it helps a lot. You can easily detect what people are feeling or going through and I feel that’s a great advantage when helping them through their own hurricanes. Of course you need to learn how to observe and feel without absorbing it yourself… Mindfulness is key for this!
Anyway, thank you!! Big hugs!
Rock on Empaths!!! We are not alone! Haha
Wow! I felt like you looked into my soul & were explaining every question, or confusion & every emotion I’ve ever felt!! Thank you so much for your insight into ” my soul”…
In reading the article, it reminded me a lot of codependency. How is this different or is it?
Thank you so much for this article. So much of what you write about is what I have dealt with my entire life, and I am coming to have a new understanding of how to embrace my empath identity and live in the world. The self-discovery has been hard; I am now at the point that I feel extremely sensitive to AND aware of the energy of others, instead of just sensitive, tired, hurt, and overextended all of the time like I used to. I know that awareness is part of the journey toward finding a balance for my existence in this world. But it is a painful existence right now, being aware and trying to rewire and rethink why I do things and interact with others in specific ways. Feeling the need to be completely isolated from everyone is a common feeling for me at this point in my journey. THANK YOU for sharing all of this – it is comforting to know that I am not alone or crazy as I experience and work through this “reconstructive” period of my life.
Metaphors help me the most to explain my experiences and the emotions/energies that I take on (sometimes, without even knowing it!) Sometimes it’s felt like I am in the middle of a tornado, watching and feeling the whirl of “things” (usually emotions, energies, and baggage of others) spinning around me. I don’t know what is mine and what isn’t mine – I just feel all of it and cannot separate the large mass. Recently, I experienced a level of overwhelm that felt as though I had had a blood transfusion; I felt like I had the blood of others running through my veins and no blood of my own. It was an intense, physical feeling and extremely frustrating – I’ve tried to be more cognizant of what I take on, from whom, when, and what kinds of boundaries I need. Feeling the emotional overwhelm, despite my work to be aware and to set up healthy boundaries, is exhausting and frustrating. It is hard to not be hard on myself. Has anyone experienced any of these things throughout their journey?
Thanks so much!
The more I read about Empath’s, the more discouraged I become. Seems like there is a business out there to cash in on damaged souls, which is a real shame. I feel and agree with much of what has been said, but disagree with many of the solutions.
I gently disagree, Stella. Most empaths (and you can really sense this from the comments above yours) feel alone and disenfranchised our whole lives. Even more, we can feel like something is wrong with us. Discovering that we’ve got a tribe is huge- and having tools to work on (which are, by the way, free tools) is even more important.
I’d also caution about the term “damaged souls.” There is absolutely nothing wrong with our souls. Empaths aren’t damaged: we’re just wired differently. And we have beautiful souls. We just do better in life when we work on the body, and the nervous system, that houses our souls.
You’re free to disagree with the solutions, of course. I’d just work on the filters you have here for information, ’cause when these filters narrow, they make it hard to be open-minded and ultimately, to re-wire ourselves for greater well-being.
Hi. I am a 32 year old physically active male. I have suffered for years with a diagnosed “panic disorder” no meds work for me except benzodiazepines. I have felt for years that I have empathic qualities. I always think of someone before they call me even after months of not hearing from them. I feel other people’s emotions especially negative ones. Loud sudden noises make me unexplainably irate. Animals and little kids always engage me in public. I require solitude daily and am only truly relaxed in some kind of nature. How can I be diagnosed? This gives me hope that I’m not just an anxiety mess. Maybe an empath….
Oh I forgot to mention that I can’t even watch a tv show where the plot begins to become laced with stress/ conflict. I feel uneasy around any confrontation but will occasionally explode on people
One single tear, one long deep breath, and all this time I thought I was the only one here, born into a world of confusion, overload, like I have been walking this earth unseen, detached, waiting for my next fix of filling myself up from connecting, no, absorbing all emotions told to me by others. All this time wondering why can I see right through other human beings, clearly, completely, no need for words, and the intense longing to sit quietly for hours , no need for explanations, or excuses as to why it is I know what I know, and how others cannot understand my constant quest for answers that must lead me to solutions before I go completely mad.
Hooray for this information! I can feel people. I love that I am sensitive, but the false power that I needed to fix, save, or change others cost me much energy. Currently I am not running to my drug, which was legal…. Over volunteering… always signed up for projects, always committed to friends and family. The world will cheer you on as an amazing, kind hearted person when you do this, all the while you are covered up in others because you don’t know how else to live. I am 43. It took me 39 years, a very empty 20 years marriage, and starting over in life to understand this was not a healthy way to live. Blind for so long. Began private counseling, celebrate Recovery program and the 12 steps. Still have much to learn, much more growing to do! I’m interested in groups, books, and conferences in my area. Thank you!
Sometimes, the lack of balance that comes, from what I feel all the time…well it’s a crisis really.
It scares me sometimes because it’s so impactful that I imagine a particular devil puppeteering the negative vocal tones, and transparent facial expressions. And it’s isolating.
I have spent large chunks of time trying not feel. To no avail…
I’m ready to make peace with this “information” that’ comes in.
I began tonight and yours was the first piece I’ve read. I’m greatful so greatful for your thoughtful, and supportive perspective.
I feel encouraged.
Thank you again and again.
hey i have a question , when i touch someone i feel like there is too much of something ,(cant describe it ) and i talked to someone about it and they said that im gifted and by touch i feel the pain they are going trew . can that be true ?
Wow….I’m so new to this, scary as it is, yet I know it’s right to continue if that makes sense? I’ve discovered that I’ve been doing a lot of actions naturally (shielding myself, etc.) because I knew I needed to create a barrier in some instances. Not really knowing why, but knew that it would affect me negatively if I didn’t.
I have been drawn to yoga for so long, but being disabled (difficulty bending, straining, damaged leg) I have found it difficult to find something that works. I will keep looking! Your article has only reinforced that it is something I need to pursue.
So many questions, so much to say, but I’m going to keep learning!
Thank you for this awesome post! I completely resonate and just wrote a post on this topic and how feeling is a superpower. 🙂
I’m so happy to see this conversation come to life more and more. You wrote this so well and hit on so many subtle yet spiky threads that I deal with, especially in relationships to self and others – when it comes to thought language and the stories that result…on repeat.
Thanks again from sister yoga teacher and empath.
I had never heard this term before. I am 53 years old and for 53 years thus has been my life and I never knew why. I’ve spent years in tears and feeling like I don’t belong. Then I read an article today tags said 33 traits of an empath. I had no idea why I decided to read it but I discovered I had at least 30 of them. It led me to look up other articles on the subject. Being a filmmaker, I see life in images. This was a great big huge image of my inner world. I’m soooo grateful to have landed here and can now begin to really do the work towards recovery. Thank you
I am very thankful for you and your abilities, I’m 35yrs of age and I am struggling. I like so many of us have felt like I’m not like anyone else around me. I use to think I was doing something wrong because I cared so much. I tend to care more than the one who is going through the pain. I am happy to know I’m not alone and there are ways to protect myself and others.. lol from this whirlwind of emotion I experience daily. I am also relieved there are others especially like you that can help me and others find our way. Right now I would be severely depressed however I over this past week have stumbled across this information that I 100% relate to and so now I am focused on learning as much as there is to know and Start to live and thrive again. Thanks so Much.
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I feel like I live in a world that no one can relate to so I’m hopping someone here can help. I’ve always been a wall flower sitting in the back ground not saying a word unless spoken to. There is a since of peace when I’m alone, a calm center that no one can disturb. When you add to many people to a room its like standing on a stage at a rock concert trying to pass a chemistry test, I just can concentrate. If i’m in a room where people are fighting or yelling i have to walk away because ether i will get a headache or i will become vary moody or even angry myself. For this reason i always loved being by myself in nature or somewhere quiet with trusted friends. But there is nothing better then walking in the woods or feeling the sand on the beach its like nature keeps me calm because it has that majestic silence. I believe I’m naturally shy to keep people away from me (not sure if this is healthy), to keep their emotions has far away has i can. I think is a coping mechanism or some sorts or a shield. There are only a vary select few people i allow too touch me, if its not one of theses people its like garbing onto a thunderbolt, I cant explain it any better but its like a strange foreign flow of energy.
I can sense the emotions of people and objects. People’s mood I can read like a book not always right away but it will come to me, I can see there emotions and know how to act when talking to them or know when to stay away. Then there are a few here and there that are nothing but blank pages… I can feel the age in a house and can scene its emotional history good bad or just well lived. I don’t like things at yard/garage sales its always like buying used tooth brushes; i can always feel the remnants of the people before.
I don’t take well to violence or war. Watching movies that involve killing people makes me mentally sick and sometimes I will become mute for hours to cope. There is nothing worse then watching pointless killing so i try to avoid theses movies when possible. Also, i can become depressed or even have full mentally break downs if i watch really sappy drama movies. I would like to hear what you all think I’m just a 24 year old man looking for some help and guidance. And thanks for writing this articular and the people who replied.
Thank you for this. Such a great article. I am now in my early 40’s and have known since an early age that there was something that made me different. I think most people around me accepted that I was a ‘very sensitive soul.’ However true this may be, I think now that this labeling somehow misses the point. I also have to say that I dislike your phrase, referring to yourself as a ‘recovering empath’.
The reason I dislike both of these is because I feel it labels us in others eyes as somewhat weak, and in need of help, when I think that yes, it is surely a phenomena that is preset in certain individuals, but it is not a disease. It should be looked upon as a gift as much as a burden.
I spent lots of my younger years very confused, I felt very different to others and constantly stressed by my feelings. I avoided social gatherings and as you said – spent much of my time outside of my body trying constantly to connect with the outside world and the people in it. However, I always knew that I felt things on a much deeper level than most people around me.
I started practising yoga and mindfulness in my 30’s and whether now at a class or even on my own at home I try to incorporate this into my life on a regular basis. There are still times when I feel emotionally overloaded. For me the biggest sign is always my health. It’s at these times that I know I need to take time to be with myself and restore my energies.
I think you have a wonderful understanding and your recommendations are very reassuring. Thank you for this.
My degree of empathy all my adult life has been a puzzling and oft concerning thing to me. I have wondered if I was a freak or something. I have always been able to easily connect to certain people, many people, and feel a deeper connection than can be found with only the 5 senses.
The depth of my feelings for the profound emotions of others I experience has caused me discomfort at times. I would look around and see that this piece of music, this life story, this tale of an underdog’s struggle, it affected me far more than others around me, or so it seemed, and I have wondered if I had something clinical, and can I and should I seek advice and counsel to put thinks into perspective.
I am a lifelong atheist and Progressive Humanist, and have always pooh-poohed away any answers to questions regarding “invisible omnipotent deities” along with ghosts, psychics, card readers, astrology, and anything involving invisible forces from invisible beings.
I happened to see the word “empath” recently and as soon as I read the word I felt an enlightenment approaching. I was totally blown away to read and learn about other people who have similar emotional connections and experiences. I immediately felt a sense of calm, it all became clear….. there is a name and a culture for much of what I had been apprehensive about for so long.
I am an Empath. It no longer feels confusing and exhausting.
Thanks for the enlightening info and for letting me share.
Exhausting! Know exactly what you mean. Thank you for saying so – helps me clear it for myself.
Thank you so very much for the information and validation. I was having a difficult time explaining my EMPATHIC abilities to my sister and your website is a great resource.
I can’t believe that being an empath is a thing! I really just thought I was crazy all these years. I would love to meet or attend a seminar or discussion if you are ever in NY. This is like my entire life in a nutshell. I do feel like a carry the weight of the world on my shoulders.
1. Sometimes you crave intense emotional, physical, and spiritual bonding. At other times, you need so much space that having your own personal galaxy might feel too crowded.
2. When you want to merge, you can threaten people who have a higher need for breathing room; when you need wide-open space, you can appear remote and withholding.
3. And when it comes to reciprocity, you’re rarely comfortable on the receiving end.
4. Your giving nature attracts narcissistic people who crave the mirroring and validation you offer.
5. In the meantime, you’re able to create a fantasy in which the relationship lives up to its potential—and you inhabit that fantasy as though it were real.
6. You learn to subsist on a diet of mere “emotional breadcrumbs,” and can suffer from malnourishment.
Finally! So much begins to make sense. Phew…breathing easier.
Is there an alternative to yoga to help me cope wit the above? Yoga is not for me. I tired it once and damaged my wrist quite badly that the doc said no yoga for life! So. Would you know of another way for me to find the space I need in my relationship so as not to overwhelm my partner and underwhelm myself?
It would be VERY helpful if you did since you’re the only website that has explained this aspect of being an empath so VERY clearly. Please?
Finding balances (inner and outer ) is my next step in my path. Starting out as a young teenager after the passing of my grandmother ( grams)
Ive developed my cruse and blessing as some of us call it, but even now at 41 im still having trouble finding out what is my feeling or is it something or someone else’s, the dr. Have me on bi polar meds and ptsd meds high quality doseages and they are not working but instead enhancing “the problem” but without them im that same little teenager!!! Looking for a place to hide from people and feelings, as you discribed im physically emotionally and mentality damaged but no one can find whats wrong??!! As an empath / natural born by blood, on my grams side, facebook,and texts, are even dangerous to me i pick up feelings, sensitivity, anger … but it wont let go…. ( here i am jumping all over the place) can you or someone please help!!
I think your article explains a lot about why I have been depressed most of my life. Being a male empath, I have been told that I am over sensitive (since I’m from a country where sensitivity in men is BAD). I now realize that the source of most of my anxieties is from absorbing the emotions of others. I have tried to not be affected from this, but it is difficult. I am unable to focus properly on my work and my personal life is being affected very badly. I am having trouble getting close to people. Can you suggest any meditation technique or tips to counter this?
Hi KT and all,
Thank you all for your comments. There are so many that I won’t be able to respond to each individually.
KT, with respect to alternatives to yoga, you can certainly try other embodied practices like tai chi and walking meditation (also known as vipassana). I’d be careful of the conclusion you drew above, though: sounds like what we call a “filter issue.” You went to one class which may not have been the most careful one- and to conclude “no yoga for life” is rather extreme. When time has passed, consider re-assessing that filter, just as you would with a decision about a person, or about anything else. Yoga is one of the best boundary teachers around, when done mindfully. Also check out Sue Hitzmann’s work on the Melt Method (you can google her).
There’s something about connective tissue work being really affective in “coloring in our outlines” for empaths. Sue’s work and the work of Jill Miller (Yoga Tune Up) can help.
I’ve known for a long time that I was different in some way. I never understood why I had been such an angry child. I had no reason to be angry. But, sometime else did… I’ve always had the ability to understand animals, “hear” them, and feel their pain. The same with plants. The human connection has been the hardest as The empathy grows. I no longer know what pains are mine. The more I become intuned, the worse my health gets. The realization of everything is mind blowing. I feel like my brain and heart have “unlocked” certain levels that are supposed to remain unconscious. I have had more health problems than I’ve ever imagined. They started 3 months after my daughter was born. She just turned 6. I’ve been told to see a shrink by 2 doctors. She has it too. I feel it and she knows she feels something that she doesn’t understand. I only hope I can grasp it before it consumes me, so I can help her. It feels like it’s killing me from within. I require A LOT of alone time. My anxiety, depression, mood swings… I feel guilty thinking that maybe my family would be better without me. Before I met my husband, I had just come out of a very difficult place. I had made up my mind to not get married or have kids. I’ve never really wanted kids and never felt comfortable around them. Then I met my hubby. I actually cussed out loud. We took our time getting to the alter, and another 2 years before the first kiddo. I’ll spare the story of how I came to this conclusion: I now know why I never wanted the things I have today. Self-preservation. It’s getting stronger as I grow weaker. The only place my mind finds clarity, is in the water. I was a swimmer for a very long time. The water is my peace. Unfortunately when I swim laps, I wind up with a “flare up” within 1 – 3 weeks. Yup. Been diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Raynaud’s, Hashimoto’s, Celiac’s, Reflux, Anxiety & Depression, headaches, degenerative spine disease…the list goes on & on. The newest is seronegative spondyloarthropy. That’s basically the “mutt” of autoimmune diseases . Test negative for everything, but fit into damn near every category . The empathy isn’t even all of it. I see numbers. Sequencing, repetitive, patterns…my brain turns & twists then on it’s own , to see the meaning beneath. I go outside as often as I can. The outside is free, inside I feel caged, like I’m suffocating. My childhood fear of isolation (physical and totally unrealistic) has come true, only I’m mentally isolated. Physically when I’m down. I’ve been exposed 2 weekends in a row to people with kidney stones. I knew when their meds wore off. I’m sensitive to touch, taste, smell (especially), sound, and light. I know that deep down, we aren’t supposed to know the true meaning of why we’re here. Life should be simple and we should enjoy it, for it is short. The challenges of living a simple life are difficult living in a world that relies on technology. Something that was supposed to make things easier. Oh the irony. I hate technology. My husband is the director of an IT department. Lol! I’m a glutton for punishment. I’m happy to know that I’m not alone. My best friend is also an empath. She brought it to my attention. Out loud. It’s very taxing to be able to feel emotions and pain from people you live hours from or haven’t seen in years. Some connections are stronger than others. I think I have finally recognized the feeling that someone needs help, isn’t necessarily on cue. When I reflect on past relationships, EVERY single one have been sociopaths. In the future, I now know to proceed with caution. I know I need to find my release button. It’s eating me up inside…and I don’t feel that this is the end. I think there is more to come. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m open, This is very weird to discuss. I’m only sharing bc I’ve read so many familiarities here. Thanks for listening/reading! 🙂
I started crying reading this and the tears are still welling. I’m a much older male (62) and I’ve only now begun trying to figure out why I am the way I am. The narrative above hits on so many feelings I’ve had my whole life but never understood and have created years of loneliness and depression and self hating. In the past it was very self destructive and I spent 8 years in psycho-therapy after years of drugs and drinking to stop the thoughts/feelings. I thought things were under control even though the thoughts/feelings remained in a subdued presence. But now they are back again with a vengeance most recently provoked by one individual and I’ve become an emotional wreck. I feel that I love this person but I know it can’t be real but I want it to be. I do and I don’t want to keep the feelings. At least I may be able to read further on this site and hopefully choose a path that may result in some happiness.
I don’t feel comfort, I feel sadness…. I thought I was a genuinely good person and now I feel lost…..
In my being an empath I suffer daily. I also have diagnosed Bipolar(NOS) Borderline Personality Disorder; which I developed over the years from some childhood trauma. I take meds but they don’t work because I have substance abuse and alcoholism. I appreciate your writing this because being an empath is a nightmare and a blessing and a curse. Thank you from the depths of my heart and soul. I’ve been reading a lot on how to control it because it is literally destroying me and killing me. Thank you so much.
This is amazing. I react like this all the time. The biggest component is my work . I work at a Sobering Center. Our biggest population are street people. They have so much pain and PTSD. Yesterday a man with one leg was brought in by our local PD. His BAC was .312. His jaw was swollen. He told me that he had been kicked in the jaw four times fo $40 . He said he wanted to die. I told him that if he sought alcohol recovery and a safe place to live that it might help. He didn’t really respond to that. I don’t expect them to and I know that I can’t fix them. But the big deal was first, my medical person thought I was mad. I wasn’t mad I was processing. By the time that I got home my upper body was in so much pain that I couldn’t move. I will do the breathing . I also will learn to protect my energy field
Can empathy be mistaken for bi polar disorder? I honestly think so. For years, as a teenager I was diagnosed as such. Yet, as I became an adult and learned about empathy, I began to realize that most of those emotions that I had felt WEREN’T MINE. By nature, I am a relatively calm, logical person. So, to constantly be in a state of inner turmoil is not my nature. I have learned over the years to ‘sweep’ the debris from my mind so that I can better think and focus. And you know what? It has worked! I have found that when I do such a simple technique, I can find my calming center.
Of course, sometimes one just needs to take a breather away from everyone. That, is not so easy to do, but when given the choice of that or slight mental overload… Well, take your pick.
May the Lord guide your way as you all deal with this incredible double edged blessing.
This article was deeply helpful for me. I have no words for how I felt validated and at the same time learning how to care for myself. Thank-you so much.
This was just so lovely! One of the most enheartening things I’ve read about this ability, especially when today it feels like a disability 🙂
Finally a name for it. I’ve struggled my whole life, some days I can barely make it through. I’m the employee that uses up all their sick leave and vacation just trying to maintain.
Daily energy cleansing has helped tremendously and so is finally knowing there’s nothing medically wrong to explain my “sensitivity”. Empathy need very clean diets as well – this made a huge difference in my ability to maintain optimism and physical and energetic endurance. After much soul searching and more many reasons going vegan was the best choice. I also gave up caffeine. I didnt realize it was making it much worse and actually sapping me (after the initial jolt).
Hang in there. This really is a beautiful gift once you discover how to live an empathic life. 🙂
Thank you very much for your comprehensive article. At this moment in time I am taking a personal retreat. As a professional healer I need to regroup once again. I have been an Empath from childhood in a society with not much interest in those living outside the box. Searching for answers over my lifetime put me on a spiritual path. I appreciate the additional guidelines in your article, and the opportunity for continued learning.
This was a great article however I have a question about one of the signs of being an empath. I recently have had very overwhelming feelings of sadness and pain for the world and its suffering. Its really hard for me to accept things. I am currently in college and my family is from a line of psychics. I feel like I am sent down for a purpose which is why I am studying medicine. However, currently I am shadowing doctors, I am in a research lab that deals with OCD in adolescents and I am at the hospital for volunteering every week and I was wondering if my extreme feelings of guilt, shame and pain for the world are coming from me picking up all of the emotions of everyone around me? I want to be a doctor because I want to help others have the chance to live and find good in the world but I am afraid I am unskilled in dealing with all of these feelings around me. I have noticed that I will be in a room full of RA’s and patients will have to pick someone for an exposure task and they pick me first every time and they bond with me; especially the social anxiety patients. Even my boss thinks its weird but I don’t say anything. Do y’all have any advice?
I am an empath, I thought I was alone until I found this site and it makes me feel so much better to know that there are other people who understand and are most likely going through the same as me. I haven’t ever told anyone about this because every time I try they tell me I am imagining it. I feel like I don’t belong anywhere.
I have been like this ever since I can remember and I have always been told off for being to kind or for being nice to the people who have hurt me in the past. This is because I can feel how they feel and why they do the things they do to me. I don’t like it, but I can’t stop it.
Recently it has been worse though I have been getting panic attacks and awful headaches , that I don’t know how to make go away (Is that normal for an empathic person ?)because I just can’t make it stop and I can’t get away from it, sometimes I don’t even have to be that close to a person to feel what they do and I sometimes see their pasts and memories and feel what they felt then. I used to get called a freak because of it and I’m not even sure if it is normal for an empath. I have been looking for answers but I can’t find them anywhere, I’m hoping maybe by posting this someone can give me some answers.
Thanks for any advice and this website has really helped me realise that I’m not alone. 🙂
This was just an amazingly helpful article. Thank you sharing in such an honest and compassionate way. I would love to be able to connect with other Empaths in my area or state, NC, but have had no luck. Is there a database of mentors or guides for Empaths?
Peace & Thanks!
I found your article particularly enlightening for me personally. I have been “electrified” by my feelings and my connections with others (people, animals, nature) for as long as I can remember. Sometimes so much so it has caused me many problems. I am so grateful I took the time to read your article. I am grateful to know I’m not weird or “crazy” and that there are others who understand, soulfully, where I’m coming from. Thank you and Many Blessings.
Thank you for writing this & thank you all for the comments; I thought I was alone in this!
If what I experience whilst awake wasn’t weird enough; the feeling of having had a blood (or soul karma?) transfusion as written above from just touching someone; constantly being able to tell the vibe of a place like I’m some kind of an xray machine (eg; one side of a street having a history/heritage of ‘DNA’ that isn’t in ‘conflict’ with my own) noticing/taking in every single little detail is very tiring & working hard to tone/filter it down; having to constantly be aware of ‘did this come from a positive traceable place’ for any food I consume, especially meat… Avoiding anything processed.
Its worse when I am in a place where there has been recent trauma/fighting etc; I found a recent trip to USA/ Canada very challenging; feeling all the trauma from the last few hundred years & often feeling like I am seeing events/patterns repeating themselves (is this past life stuff through a thinning veil?!). Not so bad in UK where major ‘battles’ & land trauma etc happened further back in history.
Being in crowded places is becoming a no go area; often wearing earplugs (earphones full blast for music worked great until some V weird occurrences where using the shuffle function started relaying vibes of those I was trying to drown out like musical tarot!)
When I am asleep I dream the energy of the building/ land, often experiencing it as a participant, regularly having many names, numbers & even full songs shown to me in dream (the few times a feeling of having something shouted in my ear as I wake up & once seeing a ball of swirling dust by my pillow until I fully woke with a voice repeating a date & 2 town names was really disturbing)
Often dreaming that I am in the house (psyche?) of someone else, usually those who have drained me in some way in the waking world; that I have had to stay away from; nearly always I can ‘see’ or feel in the dream what is currently going on in their actual lives.
The weirdest recent thing was being out listening to a DJ; a few songs I hadn’t heard for a long time I associated with a particular person, several hours later finding out they had passed on around the same time.
Its tough experiencing these things & having to be very careful who I discuss it with… A safe private environment to share these things with you lovely folk who experience similar would be so very welcome!
Thanks again all for sharing
Wow, rejecting/excluding my comment not allowing me to connect or share with others experiencing similar: thanks for not being the person you write about being!
This stuff is horrid enough to experience all alone without false teachers like you turning me away too.
Thanks a lot!
We haven’t rejected your comment, or not allowed you to connect with others experiencing similar issues. Keep in mind that you posted your comment just a few hours ago, and someone needs to review it: me. I’m just a live person, not a robot, much as I sometimes wish otherwise… 🙂 I’ve got a pretty packed schedule with many things on my plate.
It might also be helpful to know that many blogs, including this one, don’t immediately “ping” the author when there’s a commment. We have to go in manually and review each one, which I try to do once or twice a week. It’s just one of a number of services writers provide, and we do so free of charge. So hence, a little time delay.
So this is the empath filter in action, no?
This is such a great opportunity, though! You get to see, here, the other side of being an empath: When our nervous system is triggered, or the empath filter kicks in, we can get overwhelmed and react from off-center. When that happens, we don’t always stay in our body. We can’t see or sense the person on the other end of that interaction- and we might come from a reactive place. The cool thing here, though, is that you get the opportunity, in real-time, to rewire your neural pathways. You can go back into this interaction! You can try practicing the nervous system mellowing tools mentioned above, or the ones you already have.
Then, in time, you can revisit the filter. You can ask yourself, “Was I really turned away?” or “It’s only been a few hours; maybe I’ll give it a day, or two, or three.” And say that we actually decided not to post your comment (as it says at the end of the article, sometimes we don’t- particularly if we feel they’ll be tough, sometimes contagious, reading for the other empaths- ’cause we want to take care of them, you know?)… You could ask us why, because the answer might be illuminating and hold up a mirror to something important. You could also then move on to the meaning-making mechanism, something we talk about a lot in workshops. The “I feel rejected, therefore this person isn’t honest” filter. So you could ask “Is Bo really a false teacher?” Or “Did something really deep in me get triggered, a sense of loneliness and rejection that made me want to strike back at the world?” Empaths feel this so often, which is why we need embodied practices and social support. It’s why we love having a Tribe to connect with. Mindfulness practices are great, too- especially the deeply embodied ones- because they can help us be present with what we’re feeling, and metabolize and process it.
I hope this feels as exciting to you as it does to me to see someone have a live opportunity to try this out when you’re in the thick of it. There are so many rich possibilities for growth and evolution in this exchange, and we hope they’re digestible for you.
Why should you take the time and trouble to do all this work? Because these strong reactions are internally corrosive. They devour your life force, your good will, your connections with others, from the inside out. These reactions require a big chunk of our own internal resources to maintain, which leaves leaves very little left over to explore our boundaries, engage in productive relationships, and explore the well of creative energy that lies within. A fringe benefit from doing this work is that empaths aren’t always, well, empathic. Sometimes they can be hostile, unecessarily confrontive, and righteous- and that’s part of the shadow side of being an empath.
Your idea of a safe, private environment with which to share things is a wonderful one. This blog won’t be able to give you the felt sense of immediate response that you want, and deserve. And although I’ve taken the time to respond to you as thoughtfully as I can, this medium doesn’t really facilitate support. The only resource that might do something like this that I know of is the Empath Connection, a facebook group. You can find them here: https://www.facebook.com/Empath-Connection-134926033194344/timeline/.
Thank you Bo, It is wonderful to have how I feel validated, I need rest after being with other people and I used to think there was something wrong with me. I need nature and nurture. With gratitude
I can sympathize with the urge to squelch the pain, but I think that in general understanding how emotions work and the interaction between our emotions, viscera, and thoughts is a lot more empowering than figuring out who’s “causing” our emotions and where to build walls. It’s more difficult, and granted the tools are hard to come by, but it’s also more humanitarian.
This so explains my desperate need for quiet alone time, especially after intense time working with people who have trauma. Was beginning to think it was aging – but this article really helps me see it as part of the balance I need as an empath. The part about attracting narcissists also resonates with me and helps me understand some feelings I experience after spending time with particular individuals who have been in my life a long time. I love the book and look forward to the online course. Thanks for sharing this insight in such a deep and wise way.
Thanks for nailing it once again, Bo. The discussion of intimacy issues, in particular, resonated so strongly. That continues to be an area where I feel stuck, although direct work on boundaries revealed and helped quite a lot.
I had an experience just the other day of being so off-kilter and then getting into my body (through dance), and having everything re-calibrate. My perspective completely shifted to reflect my actual values. For some reason the importance of practices that get me into my body had never been quite so crystal clear.
So, to my fellow empaths, I guess I would just offer this: in this world where mind and body are dichotomous, we are perhaps more naturally drawn to the life of the mind–let’s not forget, then, to stay curious about the life of the body.
Lord knows I’m trying! haha. Thanks again. You know I’ll be popping into class next chance I get, no matter where in the world it might be or how much time goes by!
I just found out today what I am. I am an empath. I have struggled for years. I can walk into a room and if there is a negative vibration I can feel it. When I was 17 my mother married my stepfather. He had a lot of unresolved rage. I left the day after graduation. I couldn’t tolerate being around that negative energy. In college I accidentally stepped on my friend’s foot. I felt a pain course through my body. It was like I had stepped on my own foot. When I see someone get hurt I feel physical pain.
My husband was having an affair. He was talking to me but he didn’t mention it. He wanted to discuss “us”. His emotional pain was reflected in me. I couldn’t talk to him. I felt a pain and heaviness in my chest. It only happened with him. I am an optimist. He was struggling from depression. I told him one time that I felt like I was being sucked dry.
Once I knew about the affair I could talk to him and the pain went away. He was not projecting that inner turmoil.
A few months later he was diagnosed with cancer. He lived fourteen weeks. At that time my empathy allowed me to care for him and love him. It was difficult to sit and see him in pain but I was able to relate to him on a deeper level.
Just today I learned why. Now that I know I can protect myself. I wish I had known sooner. I could have had a much better marriage. My husband was a type who held things in and created a wall. I could feel,it as if it was a tangible structure. With the knowledge I have now I could have bridged the gap or at least understood what was happening to me.
Thank you for this article! I did always wonder if something was wrong with me. Whenever someone shares their feelings with me or even just around me, I feel like I’m experiencing it.
I was diagnosed with social anxiety disorder at age 15. It’s taken years, but I’m starting to understand this is the cause. Everything you posted in the article felt like an emotional X-Ray. I used to cry when my brother was punished when I was little. I could feel every toxic negative fear that afflicted my mom and dad.
I’m 25 now and it still happens. Every time anyone shares a feeling, be it good or ill or anything in between, I still feel like I’m personally experiencing it… That’s why I’m afraid to associate with people unless I’m sure they won’t threaten what I have managed to learn about my own self, and unless I’m sure they won’t be talking about things that scare me, or thinking they know better than I do about what would be healthy for me.
It will be exciting to learn how to balance this… Im usually not so open, this feels good
Thank god i know what i am now and what to do it makes things alot easier.
It feels great i am grateful for my gift and wish to learn and control it.
I do like being different from others.
People find me weird and like they don’t know me.
But you know i think out of my experience when your an empath u should keep it ur self.
may god be with me and those who have this amazing gift. : >
Ok… I just finished the whole thing. I took the time, read and digested it very slowly, craving to understand and feel every bit of it. I am committed to try all the suggested ways to calm my nerves and balance out what goes through my senses now that I am more aware of it.
Just want to say thank you, Bo, as this article did create a resonant in me that it brought me to tears when I was at the last part where you wrote, “an empath in full flower is an extraordinary thing to witness: vulnerable yet resilient, intuitive yet grounded, and deeply creative, expressive, and magnetic”.
I could not find a description for myself before except for vulnerable and over-enabling, both seems to only get myself in trouble. But now, I know with practice, I can be something more centred and fascinating. Thank you
thankyou this has been a helpful resource
sincerely a burnt out empath
I’m…an empath. I’ve never heard myself described so exactly. I mean the inside me. I feel hopeful. Thank you.
Thank you for that very deep and detailed article. I appreciate your approach for giving solutions!
I have always been able to read other’s emotions, and tend to feel as if I never let them go. This is new discovery for me, and I feel it will be hard to control it all. Thanks for your article. I have somewhere to start.
I often have an overload of emotions pouring in from everyone. Thank you so much for this!
You’ve asked for additional help, and we’ve now dedicated a special portion of our Instagram Feed to Embodied Empath tips. Check it out; our first is designed specially for parents of empaths. Enjoy!
I’m only 15 years old. I have been dealing with being an empathy for what seems like forever. I have been trying to figure out ways to deal with it. All my friends come to me for advice and I don’t want to say no and dealing with their problems takes a huge emotional toll on my body. Lately I haven’t been able to have anytime to get space and recoup from it and I don’t know what to do until I read this article. everything that ways said in this article was totally me at least I know now that there are others like me.
I’m so happy to see a 15 year-old empath writing in. When you’re able to address these patterns at an early age through embodied movement and physical boundary practics, it really helps. Stay tuned to our Instagram, where we’ll be posting on “repair practices” and more. Warmest wishes to you!
I have known for awhile that I was an empath… I have read many things. This has been so much clearer and specific. Right now I am hitting a place where it is no longer cutesy. My spouse is ill and my elderly parents have finally moved nearer to me. My only sibling is also on a journey to diagnosing and making a plan for several things such as strokes and kidney disease. Plus the sick and hurting friends. I actually vibrate with all this going around me… how everyone feels, what everyone is dealing with, and what I can do to make these crises better. I am the go-to. I am strong, balanced and constantly aware of my health physically, emotionally and spiritually. But sometimes I just want to end it all because I feel too much.
Jacqui, please know that every empath, once embodied, can feel strong and balanced- not just for or on behalf of others, but for ourselves, in a way that we can benefit. If you’re not there yet, you will be with time and embodiment work. And if you are wanting to end it all, I feel compelled to urge you to ask for help from healthcare providers- or go to a local emergency care place as a start, to make sure that it doesn’t overwhelm you. And I’m repeating myself here, but much of this work needs to come through our bodies and not our minds. In honor of you and some of your fellow empaths who are also suffering, in my next blog I’ll write about the Empathic Differentiation exercise, which is a game-changer. Do take care of and value YOU, ok? That goes for all of you!
Thank you so much for writing this. I needed to read this. I’ve been exploring the fact that I’m empath and this read pretty much nailed how I feel. I have health issues, lupus, that are emotionally triggered. I’m currently in an acute flare with kidney involvement but I know exactly why it’s come about.
I’m a 19 year old male and I was brought to tears by this article (which is extremely unusual for me). Commenting on articles on websites other than FB is also unusual for me.
I’ve been an empath for as long as I can remember, but I have always felt strong anger towards certain people in my life that I couldn’t get away from, mostly my mother. After reading this, I’m realizing that the anger was rarely my own, and when it came from within me, it was stemming from my need to avoid the constant energy-drain of being the sole provider of my mother’s emotional support, even as a small child.
Of course, this lack of energy coupled with sudden outbursts of anger (when I reeeeally needed space) was labeled as mental illness. Yes, I was extremely depressed for most of my childhood, but the ‘problem’ was not emitting from me, I was simply a relay station. I was hospitalized twice, at ages 10 and 12, for my “behavioral problems”. Naturally, this convinced me that I was just a piece of broken equipment, which led to a long phase of ingesting every drug I could get my underage hands on. A phase from which I am still recovering.
(with the help of close friends, eastern philosophy, and being a hemisphere away from my mom)
I guess at this point I’m just letting out what I didn’t realize was bottled up in the first place. and what better way to do that than telling my story to the whole internet, right? So, thank you for writing this article. I know I’m not the first to say that and I won’t be the last. And you would be fine if nobody said so. But I’m thanking you for me. I’m thanking you because when someone helps you find the beginning of the path to inner peace, you thank them.
I love you,
Hey Patrick, Thank you for writing in. About a year ago a young guy of 20 came to one of our clinics. In the first 5 minutes it became clear that he was an empath. He was stoked to begin to undestand it and, importantly, talked about the use of cocaine and alcohol to try to regulate his nervous system because he didn’t know how on his own. This embodiment work is the real deal, and as you say, some of the things that make us feel broken actually make sense in a larger social context. We’re relay stations, as you say- or perhaps lightning rods. You might like the article (not blog) on this site called “Ode to the Unbroken.” And stay tuned for our Yoga, Mindfulness, and Embodiment for Empaths course in early 2016.
I felt as if what I had been feeling all these years has been summarized here….I couldn’t really understand and somewhere hated myself.But now it’s good to know that I am an empath and these are just parts of my personality.I am different from others.Thanks Bo
Thanks. I’m a male and as of late have been having a difficult time. I am amazed by people like yourself that take the time to put this kind of information online. Very helpful. Metta.
I found this link by accident, looking up some other information.
l came across the word ’empath’ when reading an article which highlighted that
many people with Asperger’s Syndrome are Empaths. This was due to their sensory levels.
I think because society do not know enough about these various issues, which I now call gifts and therefore, look upon them as negative, we then become negative, and depressed as that’s how we interpreted the information given to us. However, I also believe that those same people have a deep yearning to become us.
It’s so important to get to know who you are. Inward first, then outward. We are deep for a reason. If we weren’t we’d be like everyone else.
The following excerpt kept me strong and I’ve learned so much about myself in the process.
The excerpt: “Inner strength is better than outer strength, because if you can stay strong inwardly, you can handle anything that comes against you outwardly, and still keep moving forward”.
When I read this I knew deep within me I had something special, as many people would’ve given up based on external problems coming their way.
I wholeheartedly believe things are going to change. We have to now learn how to look after ourselves. Being # 1! Although, it may seem hard, its not impossible.
Thank you for this article! I thought I was alone
Oh wow, thank you so much. Right on time ??.
Thank you so much for writing and publishing this article!! You have no idea how much i appreciate an article like this right know….well maybe you do.. since your an empath
I didn’t think I would ever find other empaths. This article is exactly what I have been needing for some time now. I’m 22, and I have known that I am an empath for a few years now. I am highly sensitive to other people’s emotions and energies. I have been around some people that left me physically ill from their energies and being drained. I always want to help my friends and family, but I end up taking on the worries and everything that they are going through. There is always a toll taken on my physically and mental health when I can’t take the kind of break I need to recover. My family has their issues, and I pick up on those wavelengths constantly. I end up having sleep problems and not having the energy to do much, which leaves me being considered lazy.
It also doesn’t help that I inherited a bit of my family’s psychic abilities that make me even more in tune with my surroundings. Those are a little harder to explain. I can pick up on when the spirits in my home are in the room with me. I sometimes have visions of events in the present or near future that I knew nothing of beforehand. I just get a voice in my head that says what happened. This last one will sound really strange if the others don’t already. I like to play scratch offs sometimes, and I will have an extremely strong pull to certain scratch offs from time to time, and there will be a voice other than my own in the back of my head that says the number of the scratch off that I should get. Whenever that happens, it is always a winner. I know that sounds insane, but that is exactly what happens.
Wow, what an incredibly informative article! I have always known I was an empath but did not completely connect certain behaviors to it(connecting deeply/disassociating, labeling people safe/dangerous, needing downtime after big groups, etc.) I am now 45 and for most of my life I have gone through a cycles of….what’s wrong with me, can’t I just be normal? Why do I get depressed for no reason? Why do people always want to tell me their problems? Why can’t I stay in that space of purely expressing love for myself and others without being affected by the underlying knowledge of the energies really being exchanged? Anyway, this article has been such a lightbulb for me today! Thank you, thank you for sharing. What a gift you have given the empaths of the world:))
I’ve been reading this and I’ve been suffering with this empath stuff for a long time. It’s very strong and I feel so much from everyone, I can tell what people are when I see in them. I feel their energy, electricity! I’ll try your suggestions because I’m getting sick from it.
I feel as though you were staring into my soul as you wrote this! I’ve known for years that I “felt too much”, and my way of coping with it has been to build a shell so hard and immobile that I have become known to my family as “unfeeling” or apathetic….but they can’t see my inner struggle to walk the line of functioning adult. When I’m quiet or not talking while they’re unloading their pain/illness/depression, it’s not because I’m thinking about the laundry I have to do, I’m thinking about how I can support them without feeling their pain as though it’s my own. My daughter is like me, and I’ve known it since she was tiny…I used to refer to her as “emotionally intelligent”, but now I’m going to start teaching her how to be mindful (and successful) with her gift. Thank you for giving as an idea of where to start!
I have been reading about empaths over the last two weeks and I majorly identify with the characteristics. I’ve never seriously practiced yoga or know anyone that practices for anything other than physical excercise. So, with this new information that no one I know will understand or be able to guide me…what do I do now?
That is a great question .. Can someone please shed some light on this direction that needs to be taken ?
Thank for flagging the question, Lou- see my reply to Jonda.
Jonda, we’re publishing an article in next month’s Yoga Journal on boundaries through the body. Stay tuned- we’ll have the pdf up on the “articles” page of the website for all to read. Try those practices; they’re a wonderful start. We also have a new, shorter online course coming next month that covers embodiment.
I’ve read this post before, when I was first learning about myself and everyone around me 🙂 I just came back to it now for some reason, and wanted to say thanks. Just had another “I’ve jumped out of the airplane without a parachute and almost forgot I had wings at the last minute.” moments. Wanted to let everyone out there know: it does get better, maybe harder, but you can be stronger and quicker on the uptake if you remember to trust yourself (higher self, soul, spirit, etc) above all else, because you are the only one that can let you down, and you only need you to get back up, although most people have more than that, too. Namaste!
Thank you so much for this article and web site. I have been a nurse for over 30 years. I thought I was alone with these feelings and abilities. I would be drained at the end of a shift or week with nothing left for myself or my family. Have been a magnet for family, friends, patients and complete strangers. I felt everyone’s emotions and pain sometimes just walking by them in a mall, in the hallway of the hospital or at church etc. It has been a burden at times. I could not tell anyone of these abilities and overwhelming feelings and intuitions. I don’t want to make it more than it is, but respect it. Now I finally understand after all these years. I will look into some of techniques to deal with this. Some of which I have happened upon already by accident . As a Christian Empath. I have found the Eastern Orthodox Prayer of the Heart, or Jesus Prayer a meditation prayer very helpful. Again thank you. Respectfully.
I am so thankful I read this just now. I read a few other sites articles about Empaths and I found myself gasping as I would go down the different checklists of traits of an Emapth. One, because I couldn’t believe I had every single trait and two, that someone had actually verbalized or put into words what I’ve been feeling my entire life.
I was raised by a narcissistic mother. I’ve known that for about 3 years now. I never could explain the depression, anxiety, “feeling” days of the week and seasons, feeling the energy of a room and/or house, knowing immediately when someone is lying and what they are feeling, seeing songs in a specific color(s), garnering an army to feel validated in my anger in blaming someone who has done something hurtful, predicting random events that have nothing to do with me personally but come to pass, reading strangers using tarot cards exceptionally well, having unexplainable stomach pains that 8+ doctors couldn’t diagnose but went away when I left a toxic relationship . I’ve always had a sense that I was connected to something unidentified or unknown but now I know I am an Empath to the fullest degree. Incredible.
I feel validated just by reading this article as well as others on the subject. I don’t feel so alone. I am still in my 20’s and have had a lot of awakening experiences the last 2 years and feel this discovery is quite poignant. It’s so helpful knowing I am not crazy, have a disorder or am just a weak/sensitive individual.
This is long winded but I just wanted to say thank you for writing this. The comfort of reading others who this also perfectly described makes me feel so much better.
Thank you for publishing this. 🙂 Until about a year ago, I never knew the actual term to describe myself. I always called it my gift. I have always felt it was a gift God gave me to help others. That God would lay someone on my heart to pray and intercede for them. All things have a cost and one of the costs of this gift is being sometimes swamped by others’ feelings, being immersed into those I care about and losing site of self nourishment of my soul. I give too much of myself sometimes. This is a great article and I thank you for posting it. 🙂 God Bless! Jules
Don’t get rid of it.
It’s not an affliction, it’s a gift.
It took me years to understand that.
One of the most powerful gifts, that will allow us to continue to compromise and move forward together. When morality stops being disseminated by books of ages past; it is those of us who can truly KNOW each other, who must help bridge the gap.
Spread the love, your intention is much more powerful than you know. Help reduce our dependency on predeterminations.
Understand that suffering, beyond the first glance, is not always so. If you allow pain/suffering to be inevitable, then so to can joy/happiness.
Perspective will change the universe.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life .. This is a direct reflection of me, and who I am. I have just never put a label on it. There are times that I cannot watch certain violent or tremendously sad movies .. it is “too much”. I am drawn to happy, clean energy , that is where I draw my strength. But ALWAYS a first responder to tragedy and people in need of love, hugs, etc… but yes, it is draining. I have read and just scratched the surface today and will be delving into channeling this , so that myself and those around me live and love a happier life.
Thanks so much Bo. This resonates with me and makes sense… It also makes me feel kind of worried because it sucks. I never really wanted to be me, I wanted to be like the others, I know this is not true though. It makes me feel sad that I do run on emotional crumbs and i give a lot. I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish I could receive more… but I guess I am afraid I will be hurt. but anyway, My goal is to love myself and I am sure this will help me on my path….
Dont know how to express my gratitude , came to know about emotional empath personality few days back and today as I write this feel more relieved and embrace myself being of the type with full acceptance. Good to know that there were others like me and generous enough to offer help and advice . I also had situations where I used to feel overwhelmed amid group of people or colleagues , strangers often see me as timid and shy . Worst being a sales professional I used to find myself lost and drained when situations demanded my professional skills, despite all hard work put in or efforts I found myself unable to cop up and was in the verge of being broken down . With this articles I hope I can reinvent myself to someone I visualised to be. Thanks once again. God bless you.
I am an empath with RA and I think the stress from being so sensitive and not knowing how to properly deal with contributed! This article is unlike anything I’ve read on this subject and I am so grateful to have come across it. Thank you!
Thank you so much for posting this…recently I discovered that I’m an empath..and my sensitivities have been increasing dramatically the more yoga, meditation, and reading about it I do. This really helped me become more aware of how all of the emotional junk gets internalized…I just thought I was an over-sensitive and emotional and craazy person that doesn’t know how to control her emotions & heart. Thank you thank you thank you. I’m ordering your book asap!
Actually I’m a Reiki practitioner and the reason I am is because I was looking for a solution to deal with my empath gift. I called a gift because I use it to help people but the emotions and feelings keep affecting me a lot. I use Reiki then to heal and deal with my energy attraction from people and places. These are all the characteristics I have as empath:
Can’t be in noisy places, I’m disconnected from social media, news and newspapers, can’t deal with narcissist people, can’t stand loud noise, love to work healing people (Reiki), a very high intuition and can tell even what somebody is thinking and know that person in 5 minutes or less, can’t stand injustice, can’t go to a funeral because I feel the last feeling that person felt when was dying, I’m a magnet for people in need of comfort and counseling. if I still telling I’m not going to finish. Is not easy to be an empath, I keep learning how to deal with it. I love your article as it describes all the things I’m going thru. Blessings for everyone.
Please note that this comment has been edited to remove potentially over-stimulating material on behalf of other empath readers. Thank you.
how do i learn how to block negitive energy
Thank you so much for your wonderful and helpful insight!
I can remember when I was young I was told I was always too sensitive, and yes, I felt very “alien” to this world, it took several years to understand I was an empath.
Yes, I have to be careful and for sure you will not catch me at a crowded shopping mall, but if I can connect with someone deep enough to help, it’s all worth it!
Again, my sincere thanks…
This is a very helpful read– but many articles recommend being alone to diminish the feeling from people, but I feel my partner all the time– even when he is underwater, scuba diving 2000 km away. Any advice for managing this better? It has been an incredible connection to have, but I need to primarily live through my own emotional world, not his. I need to prioritize my own emotions sometimes– that is how two people often navigate challenges successfully. Each are pillars at different times, instead of both dissolving under the same stressors.
A super-wise observation that you want to be embodied in your own emotional (and also sensory, cognitive, spiritual, etc.) world. Try the new article on setting boundaries, now posted above at the end of this blog.
I am a 73 year old empath. I am not new to working on self or helping others. For fifty years I have been learning and exploring consciousness, forty of them as a new-age Spiritualist-Lightworker-psychic, teacher, recovering alcoholic, addiction counselor. I sure have used the concepts of over-sensitivity, over-stimulation, lack of boundaries, attempts to numb the pain and many other insights as tools to help myself and others. From what my sisters have indicated and what I remember of my early development and my IQ test, I seem to have a fairly high learning capacity. Never the less, a few weeks ago, looking at Meetups in my area, I came across the Meetup for Empaths. I realized that Empath was a statement of a way of being that could unify what I hold true on a cosmic and a personal level. As I age I seem to be becoming more empathic when it comes to others. I am picking up more of others suffering, yet not realizing who I am picking up on. Then, quite soon, it is revealed that a trauma has occurred and to whom. I wondered why I was becoming increasingly cranky despite all of my training and “wisdom.” Now as I explore the concept of Empath, I am able to utilize what I know. Grasping the essence of Empath, I am more able to identify to my partner the effect of the urgency in the tone of voice used. I realize I am picking up on family, governmental and social urgencies and upsets as well. Using “Empath” has relieved me a great deal already. I have a lot of tools from my past and I was frustrated by my own perspective. Now I am able to feel better just realizing what’s going on. Thank you for working in this field and thank you for this forum and thank you for existing.
I haven’t read this whole article. As an empath, I seem able to only handle information in bits and pieces, probably because the emotional influx from the information has to be digested. But I just want to say THANK YOU for writing. Most of my life I felt like a freak (before I knew I was an empath) and so alone. Having someone be able to put my experience so perfectly into words is like sending out a lifeline to someone who is drowning in the water. I’m very grateful that you understand this….
“Empaths are unusually vulnerable to emotional contagion, to “catching” others’ emotions in much the same way that you’d catch a cold or flu. But it doesn’t stop there: empaths get physically ill and suffer from anxiety, depression, chronic stress, professional burnout, and pain syndromes more often than their less empathic counterparts. And empaths often need lots of down time after social engagements, “recovery periods” at the end of a workday, or extended intervals of being alone. They can feel fundamentally different from others: As a conference-goer recently put it, “It’s like I’m an alien from another planet—no one understands me, and sometimes I don’t even get myself.” The empaths I work with often confess a deep-seated fear that this “alien thing” means something is wrong with them, that they’re somehow damaged.”
Wow I am speechless which doesn’t happen very often in my life. Bo, saying thanks just doesn’t seem to be enough for the understanding reading your blog has given me. I am a senior and never knew why I felt so “different” from other people or seemed to notice other’s anguish while everyone seemed oblivious to what was so obvious to me. I live in Toronto and sometimes the busyness which I used to love just drains me. I will definitely pick up your book “Yoga for emotional balance”. I have found that meditating to some amazing chakra clearing cd’s has helped tremendously and now I’ll add your book to my daily practices.
Thank you so so so much for this article, right now all I can think is how does this person know me so well I’ve never even met this awesome lady! Its like you know me too well, someone completly jsut “get” me, ya know?
I came across your acticle because I was seeking out help, I knew that the spinning of pain had to stop but I could never figure out what it was… so if its ok, could I share a bit about my story with you?
For years I had always felt like a big part of me was missing and that part I was refering to was being an EMPATH except I never kn ew and it explains me 150%! I was seeking out help because my emotional, mental state were affecting my physical state (such as depression causing me to not wish to eat, or wanting to go out, and feeling such deep pain where I even found breathing hard, and the only thing that I could do was lay on the ground crying from the extreme deep pains of others which I had been carrying for years with out realizing) through this I discovered a big part of who I am and why! I realized why I will carrying things that are not mine and should have never been, why I feel like I can’t fit into groups, why I get too attached and I feel like people reject me when really it goes down to them, it was never me… it shows why people always come to me for comfort, and it explains why I take on others problems or I create walls from bad and super painful experiences but the problem with a wall is that even though it stops pain from coming in, it doesn’t let any pain get out. This is only a small fraction of everything and now I don’t feel like life is like a life sentence!
I was completly falling apart for years, until I found your post and realized this huge part of me… this was the part of me that I never knew was even there, and I feel so much peace, and I now I feel free and everything has fallen into place, and I can handle being emotion but I can have my feet steady on the ground!!
Thank you so much! I feel so blessed to know about this!! I wish you all the best always BO and I wish to keep discovering more about what being an empath is! Please take care always and blessings always!
And once again thank you so much! thank you, thank you, thank you…
Thank you for writing in, and don’t forget to check out the Yoga Journal on boundaries; you may find it helpful.
I can relate to so many things in this article. Today is “bring your dog to work” day…I don’t have a dog, but MANY of my co-workers do. My manager had a headache and other physical ailments. I picked up on the extra energy of having the dogs, the barking, the dog’s running around, the smells, the treats, the laughter and “fun”, and I just couldn’t match it (that is what I tend to do, that, or completely isolate into my own world). I also picked up on my manager’s energy, and I was feeling so overstimulated. I myself got a headache, and I just wanted to leave. It seems sometimes that my energy and attention is requested from so many different directions, or I have to at least be alert and aware of them. Sometimes it is too much. Thank you for this article.
Hello and thank you.
I have known I was an empath for most of my life; for a long time I just didnt know it had a name. In my past I have often suffered from mystery illnesses, even going as far as experiencing a heart attack like episode at one point from pulling in the emotions of those I care for so deeply that I felt lost. I knew I had to find a way to disconnect myself but was lost as to the actual procedure.
It is one thing to understand that you need a certain thing but wholly another to learn how to practice it. I have recently begun exploring meditation to soothe and let go of the imprints I carry of those around me. It has been helping me to find myself. Another commenter mentioned feeling like a baby robin, and i feel that is so apt. Without the cloak of other people, it can leave you feeling exposed. But suddenly there is also peace inside. I used to escape regularly to forested places, farther from other people to try to dissociate but now i try to bring that calming energy of trees to me via medititation.
I hope this makes sense lol. I wish you all peace and happiness
Thank you so much for this article. It’s everything I’ve been taught over the last 15 years, yet lost sight of after leaving the comfort of our tribe, home, and ashram to re-enter the fast-paced corporate world in a location across the country. I needed this reminder of the empath’s (my) power within and the importance of a daily yogic therapy approach that’s structured as a ‘coming home to refuel’ vs. another ‘to do’ as part of an already taxing day. Blessings 🙏🏼, Char
Thank you for this really interesting blog post. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the link between Empaths and trauma survivors? I’m do embodied trauma healing work with clients and I’ve noticed that all the traits that people describe about empaths match the symptoms of a dis-regulated nervous system as a trauma response. So I’m wondering if they are one and the same thing? And perhaps this is what buddhists talk about when they refer to the lotus growing out of the mud?
I don’t wish to take away the sense that being an empath is a gift, I equally don’t like the word “survivor”, but if they are not the same thing, then I am confused about what the difference is…
I also notice that your suggestions to help protect empaths are the same suggestions I would give to clients for trauma healing to build resilience.
So I’d love to hear your wisdom on this!
Thank you 🙂
Thank you, so much this article really help me realize and keep me in alignment. Today was emotional day thank you again!
Wow. I have always known I was empathetic and kind. I started working in a nursing home with dementia patients and that’s when I really really truly realized I was an empath. After my shift I am literally sick. And I’ve been trying to figure out how to deal with it. For the first time in my life I’m going to do something for myself and join yoga. This article was mine blowing. I read it out loud and I felt like you were speaking to me
Thanks for this article. It was overwhelming and reassuring to know that someone knows and can diagnose us empaths’ agonies from so close. I’m feeling clear and determined to use several tools and techniques mentioned in the article. Thanks a ton!
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