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Emotional Freedom for empaths: How to know when you take on feelings of others

By Michal Spiegelman

A few weeks ago, I asked my students to introduce themselves at the beginning of a Reiki class and to share what brought them to Reiki. A significant number of students reported that they wanted to learn how to manage their emotions. A few women said that they were exhausted from feeling the thoughts, emotions, and energy of others. Most of them knew before attending the class that they were empaths, but a few had no idea that their sensitivity has a name.

We are energetic beings, and all day long, we pick up energy from around us. But some of us are more sensitive than others. We care, we feel, we want to help and fix, and we lack emotional boundaries that are absolutely necessary to effectively serve others.

If you are an empath, you don’t only take on the feelings of other people; you also absorb energy from the collective. The heavy energy of the planet is definitely affecting you.

How do you know which feelings belong to you and which belong to others?

Cyndi is a nurse who recently completed her Reiki training. Cyndi sees patients every day and recently spent time with a patient whose story was so heavy, dark, and sad. On her way home later, Cyndi suddenly felt like crying. She was aware enough to realize that she was not experiencing her own feelings but those of her patient. She sat in her car doing some cleaning, protective exercises and using Reiki to help her clear the emotions she had absorbed. She felt much better.

During her busy day, Cyndi has to wear her professional hat. An automatic armor comes up, and she disconnects from her feelings so that she can support her patients. She doesn’t have the time to process emotions before moving on to the next patient. But as soon as she puts down her protective armor and things quiet down a bit, the feelings surface.

Emotional freedom is not an option when your armor is up

Our armors of protection were created when we were young. Whenever we felt unsafe, unheard, or unloved, we put up a wall so we didn’t have to feel the unpleasant feelings.

If you suffered from trauma in your childhood, this armor helped you survive. As an adult, whenever you’re triggered, you automatically go into protection mode.

You shut down in order to protect your inner child—your 6- or 7-year-old self, who felt unsafe.

As an adult, this armor no longer protects you. It limits you.

Your armor tells you:

“Escape! A feeling is coming!”

“Numb! It’s going to be too painful if you don’t.”

“Are you a softy? There is no reason to cry!”

Why do we feel the emotions more at the end of our workday or at night?

During the day, your armor goes up automatically. You suppress the emotions. You hide all the feelings you absorb from others. There is no time to process them, and the noise around you is a good distraction.

We can’t sleep because our minds are always trying to understand things that happened throughout the day.

When things quiet down at night, you relax, your armor relaxes a little bit. That’s when the emotions surface.

Many empaths say that they don’t sleep well at night. That’s not surprising. When we don’t take time during the day to reflect and process emotions, our minds get overactive at night when everything around us is still and quiet. I wrote more about it in my blog, “Can’t Sleep? Anxious at Night? You Might be an Empath.”

There are times when the emotions surface earlier in the day when you switch gears from one mental space to another like what happened to Cyndi. As soon as she got into her car at the end of her workday, the feelings took over.

Walking with your armor up all day prevents you from experiencing the emotional freedom you want. So what can you do?

Plug “armor down” time into your day

If you go, go, go all day long, your armor will go (or run) with you. You need to consciously plug in time to sit quietly with yourself, connect with your body, check in with your heart, and allow yourself to feel. Many of the empaths in our community report that giving themselves Reiki for 10-15 minutes in the middle of the day helps them to feel emotionally free. What’s cool about “turning this job over” to Reiki, which is the pure energy of the universe, is that you don’t need to work hard to feel. Placing your hands on your body and aligning with the universal energy does the work for you. I encourage you to read more about Reiki and consider learning this powerful practice so you can develop emotional freedom.

I start my day with “armor down” time when I give Reiki to myself and meditate every morning. I end my day with another session of Reiki and meditation in the evening with the intention of clearing the energy I absorbed during the day. Throughout the day, I check in with myself, connect with my feelings, and clear whatever needs to be removed.

But what if you don’t know if the emotions belong to yourself or to others?

  1. Become mindful of your body.

    Your body knows. When the feelings are not yours, it will tell you. You will experience a sudden change of mood with no clear reason. In a recent Facebook live I hosted in the Thriving Empath Facebook Group for women, I asked our members how their bodies tell them when they pick up emotions from others. Many of them said their shoulders tense and stomachs clench, and they get headaches. They also feel heaviness over the heart and tightness in the throat area.

  2. Become mindful of your emotions.

    Once you listen to your body, become mindful with your emotions. Sit quietly, hand on your heart. Catch your breath. Just breathe. Talk to your body. Talk to your heart. Ask them how they feel. Let the answer come up from within. Name the feeling, and give it compassion. My 8-minute “Honor Your Feelings” guided visualization will take you through the whole process.

  3. Use the tools to clear your energy.
  4. A question I am often asked is what is the best tool to clear energy. Unfortunately, I can’t provide a “one size fits all” answer. For me, the most accessible and easy tool that has helped over the years is Reiki, but I use many other tools to support that process. I present a list of valuable tools in my blog, “11 Ways to Clear Energy for Empaths and Sensitive People.”

I am dedicating this blog to the incredible women who engage daily through my Thriving Empath Facebook Group for Women. Your vulnerability inspires me. I write about you and for you. Your willingness to thrive and to get emotionally free is admirable!

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