What is an Empath, you ask… An Empath is a living being who is able to experience what another living being is experiencing. In some ways, it’s a low-level form of telepathy. Empaths are able to pick up on the pain and/or emotions being radiated by someone else, and they often feel them as they would their own. This ability comes in handy – for example it is very beneficial when working with animals or humans that aren’t able to communicate verbally. There are, of course, drawbacks to having this ability. Feeling the pain and emotions of another can be confusing, overwhelming, and tiring. There is also the potential for losing oneself. With grounding and shielding, one can protect oneself from potential dangers.

Empaths are drawn to career fields that revolve around the desire to help others: veterinarians, nurses, teachers, social workers, counselors… Many, without realizing what they are doing, are able to use their ability to pick up on non-verbal communication. Veterinarians often have a knack for knowing what’s wrong with their patients, which is great because there hasn’t yet been a translator made that can translate “meow” into “my tummy has been hurting since my human changed my food”. Nurses often want to know “where does it hurt”, and not all of their patients can give verbal answers. Teachers work with young children who are still learning how to articulate their thoughts, and yet teachers usually seem to ‘understand’ what their students are trying to express.

Empathic abilities aren’t reserved for humans alone – many animals have them as well. In a way, it’s a survival mechanism. If an animal doesn’t like someone, there’s almost always a good reason. It makes me smile when an animal meets me for the first time and they realize I can ‘hear’ them. I’ve seen dogs stop in their tracks, perk their ears up, cock their head to one side and then the other, looking at me as though I were a puzzle they wanted to figure out. And the conversations I’ve had with some cats have been hilarious! Like the cat who declared I should have greeted him first and foremost, as he was the most superior being of the household (and not the dog who greeted me at the door with his tail wagging just begging for attention).

Being an Empath can often be confusing. An inexperienced Empath, especially one that hasn’t figured out that they’re an Empath, could well have very abrupt and intense mood swings. Imagine being in a happy, upbeat mood while getting ready for a party, and then out of the blue being on the verge of tears for no apparent reason. Chances are the Empath had just been in someone else’s energy field and the other person was going through a hard time. Some Empaths have been known to avoid large crowds as the press of emotions from so many people can be overwhelming. Others have been known to withdraw from friends for periods of time because they need a break from all the ‘white noise’ they feel on a daily basis. An Empath might turn down an invitation to a party or social event. They don’t intend to be anti-social; they simply don’t have the mental strength needed to be around a cacophony of emotions.

When thinking of joy and happiness, which are light emotions, one might think of a harp – something light and harmonious that plays quietly in the background. In comparison emotions such as sorrow, anger, and fear could be represented by a gong – loud, deafening, and discordantly harsh. Empaths who are surrounded by emotional ‘gongs’ day after day often complain of feeling tired or drained. Not surprisingly, some are prone to headaches or other physical side effects such as a stiff neck, tense shoulders, or a sore back. This is caused by an automatic desire to shield oneself from the unseen dangers, and instinctive attempts to block the harmful energy radiated by an outside source. Some Empaths, such as those who are social workers or counselors, face the danger of suffering burn out – partly because they are dealing with strong emotions on a daily basis, and partly because they ‘take their work home with them’. They want to help all the broken people and they can only do so much to make the pain go away.

When I think of all the Empaths I know, one thing that keeps coming up is how they ‘lose themselves’. Empaths (myself included) can take on not only the emotions and physical pain of others but the personality traits, mannerisms, and quirks as well. For example, I recently took part in a seven week workshop and one of my co-attendees was a fellow Empath. By the end of the second week, I noticed I was mimicking her hand movements – the way she moved her hands during a conversation or the way she touched her face when she was thinking about something. And each time I caught myself using these mannerisms, I would mentally chastise myself – even though it was totally unintentional. So, you can imagine what might happen with close family members, friends, even lover “They walk alike, they talk alike, they even dress alike…” Empaths will pick up on catch phrases, fashion preferences, hobbies, bad habits. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell what an Empath’s “default settings” were, they collect so much from people they come into regular contact with.

And that brings me to the topics of Grounding and Shielding. Grounding is much like what it sounds like, grounding oneself to keep connected to something solid. By grounding one’s Energy, one can – well – keep one’s feet firmly on the ground. Shielding helps to protect one from outside influences. Either of these can be simply done. While there are crystals that can be purchased to help to either end (Black Tourmaline, Red Jasper, Hematite, Jet, Black Onyx, Obsidian) one doesn’t always have a piece close to hand. Clothing choices help, believe it or not – black clothes are protective and shielding. I’ve found, though, that working with one’s own Energy is often times the best method. Breathing is a simple method, yet very effective. A few deep breaths help bring a person into clear focus: drawing in fresh and clean Energy, breathing out the bad Energy (visualize all the darkness as a smoke that leaves your body as you exhale). “Earthing” is another good method. This is best done out doors with your shoes off, but hey sitting in a crowded room works in a pinch too. Stand (or sit, if need be) with your feet shoulder width apart, and visualize all the Energy you don’t want to hold onto slowly seeping into the ground beneath your feet. The cleansing breaths work well with this exercise, too. With each exhalation, feel the heavier Energy flow down and away from you. Shielding can be something as simple as visualizing yourself surrounded by an Energy field. I’ve heard of various images used; ribbons streaming from the Universe to surround you in shimmering light (White for protection, Pink for love, Light Blue for healing), a circle or cocoon of light, pulsing energy… Which ever works best for you (or makes the most send), use it. And frequent meditation helps keep one connected to that Light/Energy, which would make it easier to draw on/from when it’s needed.

Once one knows they have Empathic abilities and they learn to work with them, the drawbacks (fatigue, headaches, etc) lessen. But it isn’t something that happens overnight. Heck, I’ve known about my gifts since my late teens and twenty-five years later I’m still learning to work with them. There is no magic wand that can be waved to bring about the changes you want, there is no easy solution. And the more you work with your gifts, the stronger they get.

If you’ve found this blog at all helpful, please share it with others. Thank you.

The Bruja Roja
(originally published June 15, 2015)