Since I was a little girl, I always felt things more deeply than other people. I was the girl in science class who wouldn't dissect the frog, because I couldn't stand the thought of hurting an animal (yes, I realize they're dead but still). I remember seeing the commercials on TV about animal abuse and starving children, and I would come undone. I noticed that when others would watch the same commercial, they would feel sad for a moment, but then were able to move on with their day. I, on the other hand, would become haunted by these disturbing images and feel a deep sense of pain and injustice that I couldn't shake.
As I got older, I started to resent myself for not being able to control my emotions and was deeply ashamed of my sensitive nature. I began to reject and hide this intuitive, sensitive, and emotional aspect of myself. By the time I entered the corporate world, I had pretty much mastered my emotionless poker-face and fully leaned into my masculine energy. This tactic seemed to work, for the most part, except for right before my period. All of a sudden, the PMS would hit, and all of the emotions and feelings that I had been bottling up would suddenly come bursting out in uncontrollable waves — typically aimed directly at my unsuspecting partner or family members.
To help me deal with these emotional outbursts, I decided to see a therapist. On the day of my first appointment, I sat nervously in the chilly waiting room outside of my therapist's office. A few minutes later, she opened the door, and I stood up to greet her. Standing in front of me was an ethereal, unkempt woman with wild, wavy hair that was peppered with grey streaks. She wasn't wearing any shoes, had ripped mom jeans and an old T-shirt on, and her fingers were speckled with chipped black nail polish. As I followed her into the small, dim room and sat on the worn, auburn leather sofa, I couldn't take my eyes off of her — she just looked so free and so naturally beautiful.
As I began to tell her my dilemma, she listened carefully and occasionally scribbled some lazy notes on her loose sheet of paper. After leaving that session, I couldn't get this woman out of my head. She was completely at ease being herself and had embraced all of her imperfections, wearing them as badges of honour. She had no shame and no shadow — and I wanted to be just like her.
I continued to work with my therapist for many years and still try to see her a couple of times a year. She helped me to see my emotional and highly-sensitive abilities as my unique superpowers. Ones that allowed me to be highly intuitive and tuned in to all of the energy around me. Being able to feel and absorb other people's emotions enables me to be nurturing, open, and naturally helpful. Finally, she helped me to find a safe way to lean into all of my feelings, but not to necessarily feel the need to act on all of them.
Now when a deep emotion triggers me, I allow myself to feel the full wave of each feeling — the high and the low. I need to allow myself to ride out this wave before making any big decisions and trust that the truth and clarity will come in time. I avoid making decisions from the emotionally charged high or low points. Although this is still a work in progress, I'm also learning to feel empowered in asking others to wait while I take the time I need to consider offers and invitations. Over the years, I've also picked up some tried and tested methods to help me handle all of this abundant energy and emotion.
Here are the techniques I use every day to embrace and protect my unique empathic gifts:
Feel your feelings — When most people have a negative or strong emotion, their first instinct is to get rid of it and try to feel happy again. It is essential to allow yourself to feel the full spectrum of your emotions and learn to lean into them. Dealing with your feelings will enable you to avoid trying to numb them later with drugs, alcohol, and food.
To do this, I use Geneen Roth's process from her book: Women, Food, and God. I allow any emotion that I'm experiencing to come forward. I begin to notice what is happening in my body and try to describe what it looks like and how it feels. For example, if I'm feeling anxious, I usually feel like there is a tight elastic band around my heart. I picture this in my body and lean into the sensation of the elastic band tightening around my heart. I send breath into this area of my body and tell myself, "I see you, anxiety, and I feel you." Eventually, the sensation begins to soften, and the elastic band begins to loosen its grip.
Illuminate your shadow — Over the past few weeks, I've been doing an online workshop, called Unblocked Shadow, which teaches you to work through your shadow aspects. Scott Jeffrey defines our shadow as, "The dark side of our personality consisting chiefly of primitive, negative human emotions and impulses like rage, envy, greed, selfishness, desire, and the striving for power." The workshop has guided me through uncovering all of these shadow aspects that I have learned to block or reject within myself subconsciously. Through these exercises, I am learning how to integrate and accept these shadow aspects, so they lose their power to trigger me.
Cleanse your aura — People with empathic abilities tend to pick up and hold onto a lot of energy, so it's essential to clear this out of your system. Once a week, I do this 10 Minute Chakra Balance Guided Meditation for Positive Energy to feel more balanced. When I'm feeling weighed down, I know that I have to move to release the stagnant energy from my body. I do a workout and try to incorporate some cardio into my routine, whether it's running, doing a HIIT workout, or even just dancing and singing around my house. If you're looking to try something new, consider Qi Gong — it's a quick and straightforward way to release stress and tune into your energy field.
Replenish your energy — When you feel everything, life can become overwhelming. I make time to be alone regularly and allow myself to recharge and replenish. My favourite way to feel more balanced is to spend time in nature. I walk my dogs every day, as seeing them bouncing around and so happy instantly lifts my mood and sense of gratitude. I also have a plethora of self-care routines that I turn to when I'm feeling exhausted and drained. I have a hot bath, savour a warm cup of tea, read a book, or pamper myself with an at-home spa night. I try to surround myself with supportive and positive people and avoid any narcissists and energy vampires. I also love Alexis Smart's flower remedy for empaths, called Pathos.
Do your morning pages — A dear friend of mine recently gave me a book called The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. In her book, Julia Cameron guides readers through a 12-week program, which teaches students to harness their creative talents and skills. One of the activities is called morning pages and consists of free-hand journaling every morning throughout the entire duration of the program. As I've been doing these morning exercises, I feel that I can unpack and work through my thoughts and feelings and can move on to the rest of my day with a sense of relief and ease.
Drop into moments of joy — Whenever I'm feeling low or heavy from all of the stagnant emotions or energy I'm carrying; I try to create a moment of pleasure. Even if it's for a few minutes, I go and do something that makes me happy. Sometimes that means dancing to one of my favourite songs, literally jumping up and down for joy, or stepping out into nature and feeling the sun on my face. It doesn't matter what it is, as long as it takes you out of the current situation and lifts your vibration.