Struggle with the burden of empathy? Lucy Cridland-Smith shares how to navigate life as an empath and
how to use this personality trait in a positive way.
I have often thought that life would be easier if I just didn’t notice things. The rubbish on the street, people driving when they could walk, the child standing alone looking lost, the parent at the gate with no one to speak to, the amount of plastic used for our weekly shops damaging the environment and our seas. Life as an Empath is really rather hard. You see, we notice everything and we even sense how others are feeling without them telling us. Every look, comment, action, we see everything and are often powerless to ignore or change it. Not only do we mentally notice things but there is also a physical effect on our bodies. Things can literally make me feel sick to my stomach and I cannot just switch off the reactions.
10 traits of an Empath
Judith Orloff, M.D. the author of The Empath’s Survival Guide: Life Strategies for Sensitive People, is a Professor of psychiatry at UCLA, states the trademark of an empath is ‘feeling and absorbing other people’s emotions and/or physical symptoms because of their high sensitivities’.
In her book, she lists her top 10 traits of an empath.
- Empaths are highly sensitive.
- Empaths absorb other people’s emotions.
- Many empaths are introverted.
- Empaths are highly intuitive.
- Empaths need alone time.
- Empaths can become overwhelmed in intimate relationships.
- Empaths are targets for energy vampires.
- Empaths become replenished in nature.
- Empaths have highly tuned senses.
- Empaths have huge hearts but sometimes give too much.
She also says that ‘being an empath doesn’t just mean having a lot of compassion. In many ways, empaths don’t have the normal filters other people do. They take in a lot of what’s going on around them and are very sensitive to noise, smell, and excessive talking. This means they are easily overwhelmed in crowds and can be exhausted after just short periods of time in social situations.’
Recently I moved to the countryside. I had lived my whole life in big cities in the UK and rather than feel energised being surrounded by people, lights and sounds, I felt overwhelmed. It was almost as if I could feel the collective stress of everyone. Whatever mood I had been in at home, by the time I had been around others I would feel worked up. I would come home in the evening feeling at the end of my tether and yet nothing had really happened to cause it. The countryside at least gave me some respite. People walk around my small town saying hello to each other and with the vast amount of retirees, there are lots of happy people who are certainly not stressed.
Empathy as a Superpower
When your body feels things, to the extent I do, it is really hard to remain happy, calm and collected. I look at others who don’t seem to sweat the small stuff and feel jealous, I wish I could go through life not noticing because my journey would definitely be easier!
But, you see I can’t. I have been born with the power of being an Empath. And whilst it is hard to see everything and really ‘feel’ it in the pit of my stomach, I should look at it as though it were a superpower. Isn’t it good that I notice the child stood alone so that I can go and talk to them? The lone parent at the school gate, who I can introduce myself to and make them laugh. When my child comes home from school crying because friends have been mean, we cuddle and cry together, she at least is understood and supported, even if her mum is a bit mad.
Being an empath had the ultimate reward for me when I was helping my dad to nurse my dying mother. She had been living with breast cancer for 12 years but eventually, it came back and she had metastatic breast cancer in her bones and brain. She was struggling to know what was going on towards the end and finding it hard to communicate her needs but I seemed to know what she needed, just by looking at her. In a moment of lucidness, she said that she wished I could care for her full time as I knew what she needed without her even having to ask. In moments like that, I can cherish the fact that I am an Empath.
So, if you are an Empath, how can you navigate the world with the least amount of pain? Firstly, you can never change other people and how they behave but you can change how you react. This is a slow process but you can teach yourself to take a breath and try and calmly respond.
Secondly, try to keep away from people or social situations which you know won’t make you feel good. This might feel like a really difficult thing to do but we all have people who have a knack at making you feel rubbish. So rather than putting yourself in those situations start being more selective with what you accept invitations to and try to avoid those people. Saying no feels hard at first as you can feel guilty but when you start to notice that you feel better for being more selective, it gets easier.
Finally, try meditation. I find meditation hard because I don’t seem to be able to turn off the internal chatter but again, I am trying. I am trying to do a small amount of grounding meditation whether it is when walking the dog or just taking myself off to a quiet room for half an hour every day. Just giving myself time to relax and connect and to be calm in my body and mind. With meditation, you may just be able to get yourself centred and strong and it may just give you a protective coat to face the day.
words by Lucy Cridland-Smith
Founder George & Mae CBD Oils
Subscribe to our Newsletter + receive our Sugar & Dairy Free E-Recipe Book, In The Hip & Healthy Kitchen.