My guess is that, if you're reading this article, your either currently identify as an empath or wonder if this would be a good word to describe you as a person. If you feel as though your emotions are "on high" more often than not, and that you regularly have the experience of "stepping into" the emotions of other people, using an empathic title for yourself would only be fitting!
I've had the pleasure of publishing a new book especially for empaths. My previous book, Esoteric Empathy, focused specifically on magick and Paganism, but my new book, The Everyday Empath, takes a broader metaphysical approach and is for any spiritual person from any walk of life. After a decade of empathic research and experience, I am blessed to be able to share my findings with beloved empathic kindred across the globe.
You've probably heard self-described psychics say that everyone in the world is psychic to various degrees, and that psychic powers are not supernatural or paranormal. It's true! The same holds true for empathy. Everyone in the world is a developing empath. While titles such as, "psychic" and "empath" can be empowering, and can be accurate terms of description, the truth is that we are all psychic and empathic to one extent or another.
Unlike sympathy, empathy is an emotional "merging" with an external emotion, whether it be from another person, animal, environment, or even a media source. Emotions are all around us; it is the shared language of earth's inhabitants.
Empathy isn't just some New Age flight of fancy for sensitive snowflakes. Empathy is very much rooted in biology and science alongside spiritual experience. Our bodies are wired for empathy. In fact, it is agreed upon in the scientific community that empathy is an evolutionary trait that encourages social bonding and the success of any given species.
Our brains contain what is termed "mirror neurons," which help our minds understand the feelings of another. These neurons are what allow for an experience called "emotional contagion," referring to one person catching and experiencing the emotion of another…or, in other words, empathy.
Science and spirituality are inseparable. Spiritual and mystical systems recognize that, by way of this physiological process, energy is exchanged. The word "energy" itself is admittedly vague and has a multitude of definitions, especially in the English language, so feel free to reference the term in the way you personally understand it.
Emotional energy, in particular, is an empath's natural area of focus. Empaths are primarily focused on the emotional plane, which can be a challenge when the mental and physical bodies are equally in need of attentiveness. Highly empathic experiences can often feel incredibly overwhelming. However, there are some simple techniques that empaths can utilize to help gain energetic balance in everyday life. These techniques and numerous others can be found in my aforementioned books about empathy. Safe journeys, dear kindred.
- Filter the Emotions: Emotions can come on very quickly. It's easy to become reactive and responsive to emotional stimuli at a ridiculously fast rate. Those who experience high amounts of empathy on a regular basis should make a regular practice of running the emotions through a mental filter. Because empaths primarily operate from the emotional body, we can invoke more accurate self-awareness by cognitively thinking about the emotions we are experiencing. Recognize the emotion, feel the emotion, and then consider its source. When we take a step back and bring it to the mind, we can more easily trace the origin of any given emotional experience and notice if we are overreacting. Cognitively processing our emotions also helps us respond more gracefully and mindfully in social situations.
- Conduct the Energy: Emotional energy from outside sources can sometimes feel inundating. However, we are not merely emotional sponges; we have the ability to and capability of conducting emotional energy outside of ourselves and into something more positive… something healing. Empaths are natural healers and, of course, we must first work on ourselves. The next time you feel overwhelmed by emotional energy, try expressing yourself—your own thoughts and feelings—instead of simply absorbing and expressing those of others around you. Transform and transmute the emotions you are receiving; make them into something sacred and positively influential. Empaths are not only influenced—we ourselves are equally influential.
- Shield Yourself: Thoughts, emotions, and spirituality are deeply interconnected. Through a bit of creative visualization, we can create intentional spheres or shields of protection. Some empaths do this on a daily basis, some only do this before engaging socially, and some (as with me) will reinforce energetic shields monthly, on the full moon. Whatever the case, there are numerous shields that a person can regularly visualize and construct around themselves. Be sure that the shield you regularly visualize is a "permeable" shield, meaning that it should let in the good stuff and deflect the bad stuff. Ideal visualizations for shields of this nature include white light shields, crystalline shields, and shields of glass.
- Meditation, Reflection, and Prayer: Individuals who experience high levels of empathy tend to navigate life's ups and downs better when they allow themselves some amount of alone time—not to mention a healthy amount of sleep. Self-care is vitally important for sensitive souls to thrive. Life ain't easy, but we do have some amount of free time that we can devote to personal practice. Personally, I allow enough time in the morning to shower, practice at least five minutes of asana yoga, five minutes of seated meditation, and five minutes of prayer or spiritual work. I can’t recommend a combination of these elements highly enough. This, in conjunction with incorporating self-care routines and even days off (gasp!) can make a world of difference for those who are emotionally sensitive.
- Tools of Protection: There are countless ways by which we can protect our emotional energy and dampen the influx of external vibes. Based on my research and personal experience, the primary gemstone for helping block an overabundance of external emotional energy is black tourmaline. The most notable herb for this purpose is yarrow. Many empaths believe that by carrying these on person, or by meditating with these tools, the level of external energetic stimuli can be quieted to a noticeable degree. Most empaths do not carry these on a daily basis, normally utilizing these tools and others "as needed." I would add that a person should also carry stones, charms, medicine bags, herbs, and other tools with which they personally resonate. Or simply nothing at all, depending on the person. Everyone's energetic and emotional constitutions are a bit different, so we must experiment with a variety of metaphysical, physical, therapeutic, and cognitive approaches to working with high amounts of emotional energy in daily lives.
- Create and Serve: Empaths are not "love and light" all the time. In fact, if our emotions and thoughts are misaligned or out-of-whack, we can be anything but warm and fuzzy. In order to combat defensiveness, sadness, and emotional self-obsession, it is imperative that we learn to conduct our emotional energy both creatively and through service. The act of creating art—regardless of the expressive medium—helps emotions be put into a tangible abstract form. Even the act of keeping a journal is cathartic in a creative sense. Additionally, empaths can strike an energetic balance by serving others. Whether volunteering at a food bank, animal shelter, or nonprofit organization, or whether by taking up an entire career dedicated to helping others and the world, the act if service in its innumerable forms is an empath's greatest key to achieving emotional equilibrium.