What is an empath?
An empath is a person who can feel the emotions of others as well as (or in some cases better than) their own emotions.
This is not just the idea of empathizing with people. No, an empath is capable of reading the feelings of other people.
How? It’s not easy to explain, but in the simplest terms: When you are around people — familiar or not — you can sense how they are feeling. Their joy, sorry, pain, anger…it’s like you, as an empath, are a movie screen. They are a projector playing their imagery on your psyche.
Most people do not intentionally project how they are feeling. But some people do. Empath or not, you have probably experienced a situation where someone gave you a look — or — you just FELT an emotion you know was not your own.
Everyone I know, at one time or another, has had someone mad at them or excited to share something with them — and you just felt it like a wave of heat radiating off that person.
Empaths tend to feel those emotions ALL THE TIME from other people. Mostly it is weak and passive. But strong emotions — and uncertainty like we are all facing presently — make it come out clearer and far less passive.
This is a uniquely challenging experience.
Imagine a dodgeball bombardment
Let’s say you were ten years old playing dodgeball. You are the last one standing on your team — and the other side has ALL the red-rubber balls. Everyone throws at once — and no matter how good you are you’re getting hit.
THAT’S how the world feels currently to empaths. Like there is no dodging, no cover — the bombardment of the emotions of others is an ongoing thing.
Mind you, that’s not to say that we don’t have ways to cope with all that emotion coming at us. Most empaths put up shields, of a sort.
Think Star Trek or Star Wars, here. Like the sci-fi notion of shields, empathic shields are energy shields. But instead of deflecting blasters or phasers, they deflect other people’s emotions.
Like the sci-fi shields, these will fail under repeated assault. Also, sometimes someone has a new kind of “weapon” that penetrates the shields like they are not even there.
How does an empath raise their shields?
First, you know as an empath that everyone has the potential to project their emotions your way. You also recognize that certain situations will create different emotions — and make them particularly intense.
In preparation for that, you keep your senses guarded, so as not to absorb what others are feeling.
There is a great line in Star Wars where Obi-Wan instructs Luke to “Stretch out with your feelings.” An empath does that passively more-or-less all the time. When you are around people, you tend to raise the shields to deflect their emotions and not encounter them quite as intensely.
Even when you are alone you can feel the emotions of people — but that’s a matter of collective consciousness, and I will circle back to that later.
Raising your shields lessens how much you sense from other people. But it’s imperfect, and SOME people — those who intentionally project their emotions — seem to take an unholy glee in attacking shields to take them out.
I have found, in my experience, an alternative to raising the shields.
Despite not wanting to feel the emotions of other people, many empaths will touch and take hold of emotions that come their way.
Also, the effort of raising the shields can invite more impacts of emotions. I don’t entirely know why, but that’s been my experience.
This is why I learned another way.
Instead of shielding, I envision myself as a permeable mesh. Emotions and their energy don’t easily stick to me or bombard me — because I let them pass through me.
Being an empath, for the most part, is a gift. It allows you to sense when someone is sad, or in need of a shoulder to cry on or an ear to hear them out. Empaths are better attuned to the feelings of others, and “read” what they need.
This lets you connect with people via the sixth sense. You can bond and empathize more readily, and help with compassion, understanding, and offering kindness where needed.
But sometimes it is overwhelming. This is why learning how to have the feelings and emotions of other people pass through you — without impacting you — can be so helpful.
The way I have done this is thus: I imagine myself in a fast-flowing river. The waters are emotions. I am a permeable mesh, and water passes through me. Yes, sometimes a leaf or other debris will get caught — but they will eventually pass through or around me.
I have considered trying to teach this method via guided meditation to others.
Why are your empath friends having a tough time right now?
As mentioned earlier, even when you are alone you can feel the emotions of people. This is because of the collective consciousness.
First — remember that EVERYTHING is energy. You, me, the screen you are reading this on, the planet we live on, the galaxy we live in, and all the subatomic particles within everything. At its core, ALL is energy. It just takes different and various forms.
Reality is perceived individually, separately, and uniquely. But there are aspects we all agree on in general, and that forms a collective consciousness.
Collective consciousness is the interconnection of mindfulness between everyone in a given community. It is made up of thoughts, feelings, and resulting actions on them.
Okay, so that being said — emotions are a huge part of the collective consciousness. And for the past six months or so it has been dominated by uncertainty.
Uncertainty is not a singular emotion, either. It is comprised of various combinations of fear, anger, concern, irritation, loss, grief, rage, hopelessness, uneasiness, hope, rejection, and more. It’s a complex, multifaceted sensation that varies from person to person.
Between COVID-19, Trump and the election, Black Lives Matter and protests, science denial, and various other happenings hitting intensely all at once — even the least empathic people are feeling the current emotions of the collective consciousness. And they are exhausting.
If you are not an empath, I would suspect you can currently feel the raw, intense emotion of people you may not have any connection to. Quadruple that, at least — and you will have some understanding of how and what empaths are feeling.
How can this be helped?
The first step is to practice mindfulness. Being mindful puts you in touch, in the now, with your conscious awareness. Then, you can know what you are thinking as well as what and how you are feeling.
The second step is to get control of your emotions. You can work on releasing negativity and finding ways to deal with uncertainty so that you are not just projecting it to the world at large. This takes practice, and how you deal with and/or release emotions is going to be unique to you.
The third step is to treat others how you want to be treated. Simply put, do unto others as you would have done unto you. Be the change you wish to see. Practice kindness, compassion, and empathy for people — whether you know them or not.
I am NOT saying you should ignore the crap going on out there. But I am saying to be more cognizant of your reactions to — and feelings about — it all. Don’t give more hate to the haters — that just fuels them and wears down the empaths further.
It doesn’t matter if you believe in any of this stuff or not. What does matter is that the world could use more kindness, compassion, consideration, and empathy. That is the best means to better ends for everyone.
Your empath friends are having a tough time right now. But then, everyone is. Please consider this in your actions and interactions ongoing. Are you thinking and feeling in ways that improve matters or just contribute to uncertainty and negativity?
Whatever the answer is — be kind to yourself, as well as compassionate and empathetic. Then share that with the world at large.
Thank you for your consideration.
Know that you are worthy and deserving of using mindfulness to find and/or create the reality in which you desire to live. When all is said and done our thoughts, feelings, and actions matter, as do our acts of kindness, consideration, compassion, and empathy.