Empath overwhelm is something that many of us have experienced in the past, even if we’re not aware of what exactly it is. It can flood us with negative emotions, causing incredible amounts of stress and anguish, and the worst part is that these emotions are being absorbed from other people in a way we can’t control. But before we get into Empath overwhelm, we first need to address the term “Empath.” Just what is an empath?
Technically, this term is not recognized in mainstream psychology. If you look up the definition, the word is associated with “parapsychology,” pseudoscience and science fiction. But those who suffer from the negative effects of being an empath will tell you that it’s a very real experience. Empaths are supposedly able to feel other people’s emotions. In essence, they are extremely intuitive people, with the ability to tell when a person is lying, for instance. However, this ability is not something they can switch off at will. It’s always on. That means walking down a crowded corridor or through a mall can feel like being bombarded with the emotions (negative and positive) of every single person they pass. This can lead to what’s known as “empath overwhelm,” an experience where the empath becomes completely overwhelmed by all of these energies and emotions that they’re forced to absorb into their own minds. Obviously, this is not a nice sensation.
But is there any basis to this in mainstream psychology? The short answer is yes. While psychologists today might not refer to these people as empaths, they recognize the existence of people who are highly sensitive to other people’s emotions, and those who are very intuitive, with the ability to “read people like a book.” Another key term that is used extensively in psychology is empathy. Empathy is a very real phenomenon, and we can clearly see what happens when people are born without this ability – they grow up to be sociopaths. Carl Rogers once defined empathy as the ability to “perceive the internal frame of reference of another with accuracy and with the emotional components and meanings which pertain thereto as if one were the person, but without ever losing the ‘as if’ conditions.” What he means is that this ability is something that happens in our minds. According to him, we are not actually experiencing the exact same emotions that others are feeling – we are merely imagining what we think those people are feeling. According to Rogers, we could be getting it wrong some of the time. I suppose that’s the key area where the “parapsychological” definition of an empath differs from the mainstream psychological definition of “empathy.”
Regardless of what you want to call it – empathy or empath, both abilities sometimes result in the same thing – a crushing feeling of being squashed by negative emotions that aren’t even your own. So how do you stop yourself from being flooded with these unwanted energies? As it turns out, there are some easy methods you can try in order to stop empath overwhelm.
A great way to get things off your mind in general is to exercise. Empath overwhelm can feel like a rushing, uncontrollable sensation that causes panic and tons of stress. Exercise has been clinically shown to reduce these stress levels. It’s been common sense for thousands of years that exercise calms the mind and reduces stress, but we now have the actual scientific data to back it up. Exercise reduces the amount of stress hormones in the body, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It stimulates the release of endorphins, chemicals that boost your mood and act as natural painkillers. Exercise in general helps you take time to focus on a task that is simple and repetitive, and it’s the perfect way to get your mind off things. There is also a specific set of exercises designed to deal with stress, called Autoregulation exercises. These exercises have demonstrated results in getting rid of stress, and all of the paranoia, restlessness and panic that is associated with empath overwhelm.
There is also something to be said about the link between physical discipline and mental discipline. It’s strange how linked the mind and the body are. Mental stress can lead to physical ailments – in fact it’s an often repeated statistic that 90% of all illnesses are caused by stress. And it goes the other way too – athletes who suffer from serious physical injuries almost always experience crippling depression as a result. So it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think that developing your physical power and discipline would lead to higher degrees of mental control. This would be an invaluable tool in dealing with empath overwhelm.
Speaking of mental discipline, we have known for thousands of years that the best way to attain this is through meditation. Empaths are people who would benefit immensely from regular meditation. The whole point of this age-old practice is to be alone with your thoughts, focusing on the here and now. The aim is to clear your mind, and if done right this practice can be instrumental in clearing out all of those unwanted emotions that you may have picked up and absorbed by people throughout the day. There are many online guides on how to meditate, but the general idea is to stay exactly in the moment – not letting your mind wander to the future or the past, or to imaginary things. Think about what is happening in that exact moment. But don’t strain too hard to stop thoughts from happening – merely watch them pass by like clouds, without getting involved with them and letting them interfere with your meditation.
There are other similar exercises that can be almost as effective as meditation in dealing with empath overwhelm. A simple thing to do is simply get some alone time. The actual cause of empath overwhelm is being around too many people. So it only seems logical that a great way to stop empath overwhelm is to find a quiet room and be alone with your thoughts for a few hours. Another thing to try is to employ breathing techniques. You’d be surprised what taking deep breaths can do in terms of calming yourself down. Breath in through your nose, and out through your mouth. Focus on nothing except the task of breathing. There are also additional types of more complicated breathing rhythms and techniques that are specifically designed to have a calming effect on your mind.
Don’t Bottle It Up
When you experience empath overwhelm, the most important thing to remember is not to bottle up the emotions you are experiencing. If you push all of those problems, fears, and contradictions that you’ve absorbed from others into the deepest depths of your subconscious mind, they will only surface again, stronger than ever, to haunt and torment you. This has a very real psychological implication, and it’s known as a “repressed thought.” Freud was one psychologist that was obsessed with the idea of repression, and knew full well its possible consequences on the human mind. Many studies have explored the negative effects of repressed emotions, and some studies even suggest that it can lead to higher levels of stress, higher blood pressure, and a higher chance of developing disease. So you really owe it yourself to avoid repressing these emotions that you have absorbed (which may be other people’s repressed thoughts in turn).
So what should you do to to avoid bottling up these emotions? Isn’t the answer simple? You must confront them. The only way you’re going to be able to deal with these negative energies and troubling emotions that you’ve been flooded with is by confronting them. Head on. Although you might feel dread and paranoia when processing these emotions, you need to have the mental discipline to actually think about what you have discovered about people and the things they’re struggling with, no matter how disturbing these things are. This is why it’s so important for empaths to meditate or at least get some alone time during which they can process and better understand the things they’ve been exposed to. Once you have completely explored these disturbing energies and you fully comprehend them, letting go of them will be as easy as exhaling.
Knowing When To Help
If you believe that empaths have a power that is beyond merely “imagining” what other individuals are thinking, and that they’re actually fully experiencing the exact same things people are feeling, then it’s important to consider the implications of those abilities. You know what they say – with great power comes great responsibility. And if you are indeed aware of the problems and difficulties that the people around you are going through, don’t you then have some responsibility to help? Whether you believe that or not, the fact is that helping people feel better and deal with their issues is one sure way to stop those emotions from being flooded into your own mind. If someone goes from depressed and miserable to joyful and confident, chances are you’re not going to be overwhelmed by their negative emotions anymore.
On the other hand, you can’t possibly take it upon yourself to solve the problems of every single person you pass by on a busy street. That would be impossible. Empaths can easily get to the point where they’re willingly accepting everyone’s emotional baggage, and this can be way too much to handle. If you’re spending all your time thinking about other people’s issues, you leave no time to think about your own issues. And this doesn’t help anyone. So there is a balancing act you have to achieve between accepting the responsibility to help people with their problems, and realizing that you have to put your own well-being above others sometimes.
Pour Those Emotions Into Art
Another way to get rid of all that emotional baggage that empaths accumulate is to do something creative. Art can involve a wide range of different disciplines, including writing, acting, sculpture, painting, and endless other examples. But with each type of creative outlet, empaths will experience an incredible amount of release when it comes to all that negative energy that has become attached to them. Art is primarily a very relaxing activity. This can really help with getting rid of stress in general, so it’s not just helpful for empaths. It’s also one of the most ideal ways to clear your mind, much like meditation or exercise. This is because there is only one task at hand to complete, and you can give your complete focus to it, forgetting all of the things you’ve been faced with as a result of your empathetic abilities. Artists can attest to feeling a sense of “zen,” where they feel like the art is being created on a subconscious level and it completely takes them out of whatever trouble they might be experiencing.
This amazing phenomenon has also been explored in mainstream science, and the results are extremely interesting. One such study explored the benefits of art therapy in dealing with traumatized adults. Empaths might not be exactly the same as traumatized adults, but they are probably experiencing similar symptoms, as well as dealing with the traumas of other people that they might have absorbed. The study found that “In half of the included studies, a significant decrease in psychological trauma symptoms was found in the treatment groups, and one study reported a significant decrease in depression.” This is real evidence that engaging in art can effectively help those suffering from empath overwhelm.
Are you an empath dealing with “empath overwhelm”? Do you know a friend who’s an empath and think this article might help? Leave a comment below!