If you often feel like Deanna Troi – i.e. you pick up the emotions of others like a radio picks up stations – you’re an empath. It’s actually a real thing. Many psychologists and other experts call it emotional contagion. Neuroscience attributes it to something in our brain called mirror neurons. Personally, I attribute it to being especially receptive to the electrical charge, and the invisible emotional patterns (like radio waves or music), that emanate from another person’s body and energetic field. While most everyone has some degree of sympathy and empathy, some of us (i.e. “empaths”) are especially sensitive.
If you wonder where you fall on the scale, or you want to verify your suspicions that you’re an empath, here is a quiz on the Psychology Today website to measure your susceptibility to emotional contagion.
As beautiful as it can be to be in harmony with others – to know what they’re feeling and to heal and comfort them with your empathic gifts – you’ve probably noticed that being an empath comes with its challenges. For example, many of us (myself included!) have challenges with being in large crowds. With so many emotions flying around in one place, it feels overwhelming and we have to make a special effort to feel grounded and safe. Similarly, empathic people must work a little extra hard at perceiving where we end and another person begins. Otherwise, it can be challenging to know what we want or how we feel, which in turn makes it challenging to assert ourselves or follow our hearts desires. Not to mention, can just feel crummy when we take on someone else’s “stuff.”
With all of this in mind, here are 6 ways you can shield yourself while still benefiting from your heightened intuitive abilities and healing gifts.
1. Good Magical Hygiene. While the remainder of the suggestions are in no particular order, this one is first because I truly believe that this is the most important. We empathic people must practice energetic hygiene practices every day. What I mean by this specifically is that we must get in the habit of a daily meditation/visualization practice that involves grounding, clearing, and shielding our energetic body. (Here is a more extensive blog post I wrote about magical hygiene. Here is another.) While this has an immediately positive effect in helping us delineate between our own feelings and those of others, and also in keeping us clear and positive while preserving our inherent psychic gifts, it also builds in effectiveness over time. When we become accustomed to living from this grounded, shielded (i.e. shielded from the challenging effects of others emotions without being shielded from a healthy emotional openness and receptivity) place, it gets more entrenched in our consciousness and becomes our default for how we perceive and interact with the emotions of others.
2. Vibrant Physical Health. Our bodies are electrical. Feeding them with healthy food, clean water, positive self-talk, and exercise literally increases the potency of our electrical emanations. And because you are an energetic being, you might think of yourself as a radio signal or a lightbulb. The stronger your energy, the more powerfully you radiate your own personal patterns and spiritual light. When you’re potently radiating positivity through your body and electrical field, it becomes less likely that your energy will be overtaken by the challenging patterns of others. In other words, a potent electrical emanation makes your own emotional patterns more vibrant and contagious than the emotional patterns of others.
3. Protective Jewelry. I have a necklace made of little mirrors that I love to wear when I’m going to Hollywood or somewhere else that’s packed with challenging emotional patterns such as desperation and loneliness. (There are good things about Hollywood, too, of course, but if you’re an empath and you’ve been to certain parts of Hollywood, you know what I’m talking about.) When I put it on, I set the intention for it to reflect all negativity back to where it came from, and to help me stay emotionally protected and safe. I then visualize and imagine it doing this. Additionally, I like to clear and reset its energy by setting it in sunlight whenever I feel that it needs it. Similarly, you can empower crystals or symbolic jewelry to protect you. For example, you might choose white quartz, hematite, turquoise, or a pendant with a pentacle or other protective symbol. As long as it feels powerful to you, and you set the intention, it will do the job.
4. Energetically Shielding Fabrics. Normally, I avoid the Staples Center like the plague, but when we received the amazingly generous gift of tickets to the Rolling Stones concert last year, what was I going to do – not go? No way. Luckily, my wise friend, the author Ellen Dugan, taught me that silk neutralizes and shields from emotions and challenging vibrations. As you probably know, I’ve vegan, so I don’t feel right about going out and buying brand new silk, since I don’t want to contribute to the exploitation and killing of worms. However, secondhand silk, or silk garments made with salvaged fabric, I personally feel fine about. So I draped myself in silk and off I went…And I felt totally fine. Never in my life have I felt so OK about being in a huge concert venue. My stomach didn’t cramp, I didn’t break into a cold sweat, and I didn’t pick a fight with Ted for no reason. What’s more, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a miracle! (Thanks again, Ellen!)
5. Morning Journaling. Every day, when I wake up, I write three pages without stopping. I started this years ago when I read The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, and I never stopped. It helps with so many things, not in the least of which is boundaries. How, you wonder? By getting me familiar with what I truly think and how I truly feel. I honestly couldn’t count the number of times I was surprised by something that I felt when I saw it written on the page. When we know how we really feel deep down, it helps us to recognize the difference between our thoughts/feeling and those that belong to other people. It also helps us to discover if there are things that we need to assert or forgive, or actions we need to take in order to feel more like ourselves.
6. Visualize a Circle. In many cases, empaths can benefit from imagining a circle of light around ourselves, in which all our own thoughts and feelings reside. Then, when we speak to and interact with others, we can make a point of clearly drawing from what is true for us, rather than from what the other person is feeling, or what they want to hear. This can be especially helpful when we’re having an emotionally charged conversation with someone. Because as empaths, we can sometimes feel like changing what we’re going to say or how we’re going to say it when we pick up on what the other person is feeling. In some cases, this can confuse our best efforts to assert what we need to assert. For example, maybe we need to end a romantic relationship, but we have trouble saying so definitively because we can feel the other person’s desire to continue the relationship. Or maybe we need to discuss a childhood challenge with a family member, but it’s hard to do so in an honest and forthright way because we’re so aware of how that family member will feel when we begin to approach the issue. Visualizing a circle allows us to be compassionate and emotionally present while staying grounded in where we’re personally coming from emotionally when we speak to others about our feelings and choices. Although it takes courage, this is so important to do when it comes to living in an authentic and soul-nourishing way.