Advice for the Empath – Step on that crack!!
I recently finished reading The Empath’s Survival Guide by Judith Orloff, MD, and I found it to be amazingly helpful in many areas of my life. A lot has changed in my life since the day I first began searching “reading people” on the Internet after hearing a compelling story from a friend who shared his experience with his gift and realizing that I, myself also had that ability. I found the word “empath” and from there I did extensive research on the topic. I immediately ordered my first book Positive Energy by Dr. Judith Orloff and it opened up a whole new world for me! I learned so much about myself and was finally able to understand why I interact with people the way I do. Then, I contacted a friend I knew was also an empath and she and I created what is now the largest group for empaths on Facebook: Empath Support Group, a beginner’s group for those just discovering that they are empaths, or for those who have known they had this gift, but did not know how to shield themselves from the emotions of others. The group really took off and empaths were able to connect to one another and find answers to their many questions. We are constantly evolving and learning about our gift and The Empath’s Survival Guide provided so many helpful practices and ideas to help me on my path. I will share what I have learned in short segments, because if you are like me, you don’t like to read anything that is too long! The first part that I highlighted had to do with the difference between “having empathy” and “being an empath”. This has been touched upon many times in our group and on this website, so I will skip the explanation there, however; Dr. Orloff goes on to say that, “Empaths feel things first, then think, which is the opposite of how most people function in our intellectualized society.” For me this really rings true and I feel that this is why I often react to things inappropriately in many situations. I feel the emotion and react to it before I have had the time to think about it, process it and provide a proper response. An example of this was when we were moving a couple months ago. The move was disorganized and there were some people helping us that I felt were angry at me because I had not organized the move better. Instead of thinking first, I started apologizing profusely to my husband about not being more organized and not “having a plan for the move” even though, for the life of me, I could not figure out exactly how I could have done that in the first place. Later on, my husband told those people that we could handle it from there and assured me that it was not my fault at all. I am training myself to analyze the situation first and not to respond so quickly to the situation as I would have in the past. I still struggle with it, especially in the field that I work in. There are always many strong emotions. One thing I heard many years ago that I always try to remember is this: when you think people are thinking about you or talking about you, they most likely aren’t. They are too busy worrying about who is thinking or talking about them. As an empath, I struggle with thinking that the negative emotions I am feeling from others are toward me, but I am training myself to stop automatically thinking that every upset person I come into contact with upset with me and I will mentally reason with myself that they are most likely upset about something totally unrelated to me, and furthermore, if they are upset with me, they will either confront me about it, or let it go. Either way, it will be resolved. I just have to make the conscious decision not to let those emotions bother me. It is almost like having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (I actually do have that also) and forcing myself to step on that crack on the sidewalk. So my best advice is: step on that crack. Train your brain to think about the emotion before reacting to it and you will be well on your way to controlling your empath gift.