You’ll have heard the term ‘empath’ mentioned a few times recently. Once linked, in my mind, to a more ‘spiritual’ meaning, it’s now a term used by doctors and psychologists too.

There’s a lot of information out there about the meaning of being an empath and how it can affect your life. This is a diagnosis that you’d need, especially if you feel ‘sensitive’ to other people’s emotions as you may truly be an empath.

According to Psychology Today here are some signs that you could be one;

1. Empaths have big hearts and will always be there for you but are often told that they are “too sensitive” and need to “toughen up”. They can also take on other’s pain.
2.  Empaths are highly attentive to other people’s moods, good and bad. They feel everything, sometimes to an extreme.  They take on negativity such as anger, or anxiety, which can be exhausting for them.
3.  Many empaths are introverted and can be overwhelmed in crowds.  They tend to prefer smaller groups.  Even if an empath is more extroverted they may prefer to limit how much time they spend in a crowd or at a party.
4.  Empaths experience the wold through their intuition. It is important for them to develop their intuition and listen to their gut feelings about people.  This helps empaths find positive relationships and avoid energy vampires (more about them in a minute)
5.  Empaths need time alone and can find being around people draining, so they periodically need time alone to recharge.   For example, empaths like to take their own cars when they go places so that they can leave when they please.
6.  Empaths can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships.  Too much togetherness can be difficult for an empath.   Especially dangerous ones such as narcissists, who lack empathy and only think about themselves.  These people can make empaths believe they’re unworthy and unlovable.
7.  An empath’s nerves can get frayed from noise, smells or excessive talking

So here’s my ‘take on’ of the above. I’m an empath for sure. As a little girl I would rush in where others feared to tread and even many years later, in London, would be found trying to stop a fight and bring peace and harmony to any situation. However, in many circumstances the saying “forewarned” is “forearmed” could never be more true, even if I had understood the word and why I felt so different.

I’ve always been able to ‘see’ people clearly and although that level of intuition is amazing it can also be difficult if you’re not trained to ‘listen’ to your gut feelings. Only too often I’ve been with a person who I’ve felt ‘uneasy’ about but never acted upon, i.e. get the hell out of dodge. No, in most cases I’ve plunged straight into becoming a friend, confident, mentor or even ‘fixer’. That has never worked in my favour as in some cases I’ve absorbed the energy of the other person’s traits and this has been a negative experience for me and, in some cases, a dangerous one. In fact, just in the last two years I’ve had two very specific incidences where I ‘absorbed’ the energy of the people I was with. The first occasion was when I went into a nightclub. I had not had one drink but the minute I entered the club I felt ‘jittery’, highly anxious and a bit ‘paranoid’. I quickly realised that most of the club were in a kind of ‘high energy state’ either from the music played or alcohol and drugs. It was actually the first time I’d ever experienced it in such a strong way and it literally took my breath away.

If you are an empath be careful of who you hang out with.  I’m sure we have all found ourselves maybe in a circle of friends who are negative and who constantly put others down?  My advice is to be very careful – we are, after all, the sum total of the five people we ‘hang out with’ the most!  So always be with the happy and smiling people even if they seem ‘different’. Different is good!

The second occasion was within in a large group of people. The environment was very noisy and everyone shouted or talked about their previous week’s highly dramatic life events. The cigarette smoke was very dense and gave me a headache, and all I could hear was ‘white noise’. I felt overwhelmed, nearly fainted and had to quickly say my excuses and go home. Once I was home I was fine. I had simply been ‘overwhelmed by the energy. Most empaths are sensitive to chemicals and that include cigarette smoke even though many empaths smoke, drink or consume drugs themselves. As much as I ‘used’ to smoke whenever I’m surrounded by it I also feel quite ill and nauseous when I’m surrounded by it. The same applies to foods. I’m all sixes and sevens after eating ‘bad’ food.

I feel people’s emotions as if their suffering were my own. In fact, when I watched ‘Cry Freedom’ back in the 1980s I was so overcome with emotions that I sat crying forever until I had popcorn hurled at me by my friends. Many years later, the same thing happened when I was watching ‘Les Miserables’ at the cinema in London. My friends could not believe I was crying and I have often been asked “What are you crying for”?

Once you discover you’re an empath, my advice is to learn how to protect yourself from energy vampires, especially narcissists with whom you have a relationship.  They ‘pray’ on empaths as they see us as people who can help. But what often happens, is that you end up being destroyed, as the energy vampire slowly, bit by bit, sucks up your energy until you have very little left to give.

However, now that I know I’m an empath and one of those special people I don’t feel silly saying it anymore either; previously I felt soft and a walkover but I’m more clued up on why I react to certain people or situations in the way I do. Apart from that, I strangely love being in big crowds and go to festivals and large clubs, however, only too often, and this happened recently at Bestival, after a short period of time I had absorbed a few energies and felt flummoxed. At that point I had to step back and chill out. Again, it happened on Saturday that I stepped onto the dance floor at a club, all was good, but within an hour I sensed a change in the mood of other people on the dancefloor. More booze had been drunk, glasses were being smashed and glass littered the floor. It was definitely home time for me!

My favourite ‘top tip’, that you do every day, is that you simply say to yourself ‘shields up’. I love this!  It sounds like you’re in a Marvel comic movie or better still you’re one of the Avengers! Yah, you’re not only an amazing person but you’re now, with your shields up, a superhero! Being an empath is a special gift, embrace it but ‘own’ it too.

As you know by now, I blog about all sorts of stuff from feet, hugs, love, Winnie the Pooh, and other important daily life experiences. It’s all about sharing my pennyworth, in particular the last four years of my life where I’ve worked hard on myself to understand myself and others.

Knowing yourself and why you do what you do or react in the way you do to people and situations is one of the keys that unlocks the door to happiness. It will definitely improve your relationships with your partner, friends, family and work colleagues and that can never be a bad thing.

For more information on ‘survival’ you can refer to ‘The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People’ by Judith Orloff M.D. Dr Orloff is an assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at UCLA California.  You can also check out the ‘Mindful Productivity Blog’ by Sarah Steckler.

With love,

Tracey B x

Lifestyle Consultant