Being a highly sensitive empath is a challenge and I am not alone in working through all the hurdles that come along with empathy. I meet the most incredible empaths through my work and the messages are often quite similar. Challenges with boundaries, challenges with feeling overwhelmed by others, challenges with navigating groups, and challenges with always feeling compelled to fix/ rescue everything and everyone around them.
As a young empath I felt everything and had no idea why. I assumed there was something wrong with me because I could be feeling fine one minute and crippled with pain the next, with no injury or explanation. I could be happily going about my day and within moments feel completely buried by emotion. Facial expressions were confusing and hard to navigate because often what I could tell someone was feeling was not congruent with what I was pretty sure they were feeling. I was often labelled as anxious or a hypochondriac. I got quite used to seeing myself that way as well. I resorted to self criticism and self loathing assuming that I must be doing something wrong or not using the right skills or I wouldn't be feeling this way. I didn't want to feel everyone else's stuff but had no idea how to stop them from invading my space.
My understanding of empathy has changed dramatically over the past couple years. The more time I spend working in energy and watching the movement of energy through our body in response to our beliefs, the more I recognize that as empaths we need to be present with our beliefs about our boundaries, about the roles we have chosen to take on, and about what expectations we believe we need to meet to be lovable and safe.
I have been a strong empath my whole life, and I learned very early that if I supported, met the needs of, and fixed the environment and people around me I would feel better. There was a direct correlation between rescuing others and feeling better and I didn't know why but I did learn very early to do everything I could to meet the needs of everyone around me so I could feel at peace. Instead of learning that others needed to be responsible for their emotions and I needed to learn how to manage mine, I learned that the sooner I could identify a stress or pain in someone around me, the sooner I could appease them and the sooner I would feel better.
With all of this running subconsciously behind the scenes, I was developing bad habits for controlling my environment with my energy and empathy without even realizing I was doing so. Empathy became a survival skill. Most empaths ask the same question, do you think I was born with empathy or do you think I developed it over time? I believe both. We all have empathy, we all have intuition, we are born with it. We also have the capacity to develop it to incredible levels to interact with our environment.
If you grow up in a volatile environment or an environment that felt unsafe, you may begin, as I did to become very efficient at feeling out everyone and everything in that space to feel safe. If I felt anger, I either appeased it or ran from it. I called it my "spidey sense" and although I didn't fully understand it as empathy and intuition I always trusted it. As a result I developed what I would describe as the skill of throwing around my energetic feelers into every situation to determine if I was safe. This might seem like a great skill to have but it is exhausting and one of the reasons as an empath you might be feeling so exhausted. As my energetic capacity grew and my sensitivity to other's energies grew I was becoming more overwhelmed by others around me. Even though, I wasn't wanting to feel everyone else around me, my survival mechanisms were so engrained that in a heightened way I was still scanning everyone and everything in my environment. My energy movement was still following my early programming and my subconscious belief system that I had to be constantly reading my environment to feel safe. It wasn't others stepping into my energy, it was me stepping into theirs.
Similar subconscious habits can develop around empathy and feeling loved. There are so many beliefs that I could use as an example here, and I will do a video or blog about the power of our beliefs to move our energy, but for this example let's use an example like "I'm only lovable when others are happy" Let's first honor that parenting and adulting (well actually humaning) is difficult so there is no intention to blame or point fingers. As a child if you perceive that people around you are not present because of their own trauma, stress, anger, health challenges whatever that may be, you will do what you can to create connection. As an empath, if your experiences were anything like mine, you would likely use those skills of empathy to figure out how to make the environment a better one for the person(s) you wanted to connect with because when people feel better, they are better able to connect and if someone is finally connecting with you, you feel loved. If you navigate this belief system, you will likely land on a belief that sounds something like, "I am only lovable or noticeable when others feel happy". Your energy will follow whatever your belief system is, so if you believe you are only lovable when you keep everyone happy, your system will be working overtime behind the scenes to scan your environment to figure out who is unhappy so you can fix them so you can feel better.
For me, a big belief system that my energy follows is "if I rescue everyone, I will finally be able to experience physical relief". Given my life experiences as an empath it is understandable that I developed this belief; however this belief is not loving to me and it is not loving to others.
Firstly, is the reminder that no one needs to be rescued. Every experience we have is an opportunity for growth and enlightenment and we need to do the work. Simply analogy: we would be concerned if we sent our kids to school and found out that our kids sat there while the teachers did all the school work and wrote all the tests. We don't need teachers to do the work, we need teachers to guide students through learning it for themselves. We are all teachers and we are all students.
Secondly, my perspective of happiness, my perspective of joy, my perspective of physical pain comes from within me and is maintained by my beliefs and the ways in which my energy follows those perspectives and beliefs. Even if I were hypothetically able to "rescue" everyone around me, once everyone was rescued I would be met with the realization that those pains are still within me and not because of others. It is through my interactions with others that I am being made aware of the pain, memories, beliefs that I am still holding onto ( I will write more about mirrors in another blog).
So why do I repeat the affirmation "I am a guide not a rescuer" to myself each day? Because I have old programs of belief that direct the movement of my thoughts and energy in a way that are no longer serving my highest good. Because I have come to learn that those pathways of thought that I have travelled down so many times need redirecting, and it will take time, it will take patience and it will take compassion, but I'm worth it and so are you.