Empaths are typically defined as people who feel the emotions, feelings, and energy of other people, many times with much more intensity and severity, than the person from whom they originate. Countless people who self-describe as Empaths or Highly Sensitive People, are frequently the receivers of tremendous amounts of Shame. As a child, I received the message on a regular basis that my feelings were too much. I was consistently told if I was going to cry about what was happening on the television that I needed to cry in my bedroom alone. There have been countless examples throughout my life of my feelings and emotions being "too much" for other people. The subtle message that is received, when countless people tell you that your feelings and emotions are too intense, is that you are not good enough. The way that not “good enough” manifests itself differently for every person. The way that sensation or message of not being good enough becomes internalized can be (but is not limited to) the following: not healthy enough, not mature enough, not in control enough, not sane enough, or not put together enough. Throughout my twenty years of working with people, I have worked with countless people who are gutted because a relationship ended. The only explanation they have for why this relationship didn't work is that they were "too much." I have talked before about my husband, whom I love deeply, and how in the beginning of our relationship he didn't understand my feelings at all. Sometimes, he would even go so far as to ask me if I could turn my feelings down. Because I love him and know him so well I can tell you that he didn't intend to Shame me, and he didn't mean to negate my emotional experiences. The reality was he just didn't understand feelings and emotions. I could easily make this blog all about how clueless or even harmful non- Empaths are. However, I am not sure how that helps anyone. My goal with this blog is to educate and empower people who self-describe as a Highly Sensitive Person or an Empath, teach people how to treat us while simultaneously developing Shame Resilience. As is my typical approach, all of the suggestions in this blog are concepts I have applied to my own life. My recommendation is to take this list and slowly (and one thing at a time) incorporate them into your life. My solutions include: 1. Stop Apologizing For Your feelings: I spent a lifetime apologizing and excusing my feelings and emotions. The problem with apologizing for being human is that it sends the message that our feelings and emotions are not okay. If we are having a conversation and I become emotional, and I apologize for that, what message does that send? When we stop apologizing, it implies an acceptance of our feelings and emotions. Which allows us to make room for the vulnerability of having feelings.
2. Decide to Be Authentic: Part of my commitment to myself is that I want to live my life as authentically as possible. Because I am working to be as authentic as possible, I typically live my feelings out in the open. If something touches my heart, I am likely to tear up. If I am reading a blog to my husband, for example, and it renders me emotional than I cry.
3. Recognize Our Superpowers: For most of my life people have acted as if innately knowing what people are feeling or experiencing was a horror. I now view it as a superpower because I have changed it from viewing it as a detriment to an asset. I began to recognize how fortunate I am that I can detect how a person is feeling without them specifically stating what and how they are feeling.
4. You Are Capable of Being Wrong: Many times when people are new to the understanding of what they have the potential to do, they believe their understanding of what they feel at all cost. It is crucial to keep in mind that all any empath can do is to know their perception of the feeling or energy of another person. Each and every person is the expert about themselves and their feelings.
5. Keep Your Boundaries Strong: One of the best things I have done for myself is to establish and enforce boundaries. Boundaries help us to stay safe without giving all of ourselves to other people. One of my personal favorite boundaries is that I want to be aware of the energy, but I am unwilling to absorb others’ energy.
6. Drop The Need To Judge: I have worked with countless Empaths and there is a common theme. Many of them get caught up in the habit of judging themselves for their emotional responses or the inability to control their emotions. When we can just acknowledge that something is happening rather than placing a value judgement on it, life goes smoother.
7. Feel The Feelings As They Come Up: I’m a huge advocate for feeling each and every feeling and emotion that comes into my body. My experience is if I don’t feel these feelings, than it is likely that they will come out in some other way. A few months ago, I shared a situation that had occurred with my husband. I told him I was just so angry. He told me to not hang on to the anger. I explained to him that I had no intention of holding on to it. But I needed to value it and honor it because it came up for a reason. I’m not suggesting that we spend six hours feeling a feeling, but I do think everything that comes up is worthy of recognizing it.
Working with people who ascribe to the label Empath or Highly Sensitive Person, is one of my passions. I hope that you found this blog helpful and I would love to hear back from you about how you navigate the Shame of Being an Empath.
Shame Busting Coach, Jenn Bovee works with people all over the world. Jenn helps people to recognize and enforce that Shame has no place in their lives. Learn more about Jenn here: www.JennBovee.com