The Empath LabelFeb 07, 2022
Do you call yourself an empath? I did. For a long time. I was looking for a way to explain why I was so sensitive, how I was able to feel other people’s emotions, why I always needed down time after being in a large group. So I went searching for answers and stumbled upon the label of empath. It made sense. It helped explain why my eyes tear up when someone else starts crying. Or why I’m able to read people so well and know what’s not being said. Or why I prefer authentic conversations over weird and awkward small talk.
Being empathic can be draining and overwhelming. It can make you feel like you’re destined to a life of isolation in order to keep your senses from being overpowered. And for all those blog posts and quizzes and healers you’ve turned to that say you can’t change, that you’ll have to find a way to live with this, I call bullshit. You have to understand it for what it is, and then you employ tools to help navigate situations, practicing until you’re able to change how you view it and how you respond.
What do I mean?
Empathy is both your greatest gift and your curse.
No one IS an empath. It’s not a label, or a badge of honor, or a title, or an identity. Empathy is a bridging tool that allows us to relate, feel, and understand the contours and context of different scenarios going on around us and outside of us. Think of it like a computer program or an app where you feed info into it and it spits out the result. Empathy is how we assess any and all situations. It’s how we process the data.
The curse aspect is that we pick up the energies of everything around us: other people’s energy; the energy of the planet; the consciousness of humanity; what’s happening to the collective as a whole; the energies hitting the planet (gamma rays, ultraviolet rays, etc.). We pick up all of these things and internalize them, buying them as our own. It makes everything in our inner world chaotic because we are constantly being hit with emotions, thoughts, and beliefs from everything and everyone around us.
So, what do you do?
It’s simple, really. You ask questions. For every emotion you feel, ask: is this even mine? If the answer is NO, return to sender. Do not take it in to play with or process; do not take it on as yours. It does not belong to you.
Certain conditioning can make this a little sticky to navigate. For example, if you are running a savior complex program or fancy yourself a martyr, then you might have some resistance to stopping your habit of solving everyone’s problems. If you measure your self-worth by how much energy you take on every day, you might be reluctant to change your ways. If you use your gift of being able to read other people’s emotions as a way to externally validate your existence, you might balk at the idea of ending this practice.
But ending this pattern, this way of operating in the world around you, is exactly what you need to do if you want to heal.
If you’re in this empath camp, you might be feeling some serious resistance right now. Maybe you’re feeling panicked at the thought of not knowing how else to be, or threatened by the prospect of removing a self-imposed label. I hear you. But I promise you this: extricating yourself from the empath loop will create healing and growth in ways you can’t yet imagine.
The inability to tell self from non-self is the biggest obstacle to healing and to moving forward. Recognizing self from non-self allows you to get to a whole and healed state. When you start asking, “is this mine?” you begin to take accountability for what is truly yours and to hold space and witness that which belongs to someone else. When you carry someone else’s pain or burden, it means they don’t have to take accountability for their own experience. This is actually a disservice to them. It prevents them from having to deal with their own stuff, to dig in and heal their traumas.
How much clearer would you be if you didn’t have to sort through everyone else’s stuff all the time? Emotions and energy from your mom, dad, children, siblings, family members, boss, coworkers, friends, partner, spouse? What if you only had to see through your own eyes and didn’t have to operate from someone else’s trauma? How liberating would this be? How much lighter would you feel?
It starts with a question: Is this even mine?