As a very empathic person (a VEP :)), I have spent a lot of energy over the last few years learning how to manage my overactive empathy and establishing better energetic boundaries with those around me.

I have noticed that many other people, especially clairsentient, sensitive, intuitive and lightworker types often have similar problems with their empathy and energetic boundaries.  I decided it might be a good idea to do a series of articles on my own experiences with empathy: how I realized mine was a problem and how I learned to turn my empathy off, as some people haven’t even realized that their empathy is a problem.  They just know they have weird tendencies to feel bad around other people.

So, this is the first article in this series and it talks about the signs of overactive empathy and I relate many of my own experiences.  The second article will tell you how you can reduce your overactive empathy.

First of all, let’s define empathy, and then I’ll tell you how you can find out whether your empathy is running you.

What is Empathy?

Empathy is the ability to temporarily step out of your experience and step into another person’s experience, and perceive it as they do, whether it’s an emotional, mental, physical, intellectual or spiritual experience.

Empathy is a gift most people have, to varying degrees.  But if you have the gift of empathy, you NEED to know how to turn it on and off.  Ideally, you want to be able to use it at will and then turn it off when necessary.  Some people with empathy naturally know how to do that.  Others don’t.

This is what I see the energy field and energetic boundaries of a person with their empathy turned off as looking like:

This is what it looks like when your empathy is activated:

You become a porous being.  If you were a bowl (so to speak!) two minutes ago, now that your empathy has been triggered, you’re a human colander.  You have openings in your energy body where your energy goes out to others (so you can put yourself in the shoes of another person.)  And also what happens is that energy goes into you – so you soak up what’s going on around you; from other people, places and occurrences.

When you are a balanced empath, it is a wonderful thing, and truly a gift because empathy allows us to see things clearly from the perspective of other people so it makes for good relationships.

Empathy arouses compassion in us.  It allows us to connect with and care about others.  If we can feel and relate to what other people are going through, then we are more motivated to offer our help.  So, empaths tend to be giving, caring people.  Empathy is also kind of cool because it also allows us to move past the veil of separation and experience oneness; what it is like to be another person.  It’s a psychic gift, one that I use in readings often and one that you can use as well if you are empathic.

But if you’re someone who doesn’t yet know how to turn your empathy off, your empathy will be triggered by something and you will usually forget to turn it off, you may not even be aware that it’s ‘on’.  Maybe you’re walking around with your empathy on all the time.  That’s when it affects your quality of life.

The disadvantages of having overactive empathy (when you don’t know how to turn it off…)

This is a spectrum – it ranges from being a nuisance to actually being quite debilitating – such as  when you take on other people’s physical and emotional pain and you’re crippled temporarily by it while you process it and try to work out what the heck is going on.

If you can relate to any of the below, you have some work to do on getting your empathy under control.  If you can’t, then you probably don’t need this article!

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Overactive empathy in relationships

Have you ever had a relationship where you feel what someone is going through so much, when it’s something they’re struggling with, and you really want to help them?

That’s all good and well, but what if you want to help them so much, you start taking on their ‘stuff’ and their problems?  What if your boundaries become blurry and you take on responsibilities that aren’t yours?  What if you stop allowing them the responsibility and the opportunity to create change and want to create it for them, directly or indirectly?

Overactive empathy is linked to co-dependence and poor boundaries in general and healers have a hard time with this because they’re so often empathic.

Overactive empathy in the social setting

When your empathy is triggered in a social setting, you are so focused on the people around you.  You may be subtly reading them intuitively, you’re listening and noticing intently – it’s like you’re diving into their energy.  If everyone else in the room is in colour, you’re in shades of grey because you’re not centred in yourself; you’re lost in everyone else’s energy. If your empathy is turned on in a social situation, it means you enjoy the experience less because it can be rather draining, sometimes overwhelming and a bit of a strain.

This used to happen to me a lot.  I’ve been told that when I meet people for the first time, I can come off as a bit intense and it’s because all my energy is going out to people – I’m meeting them not just as a person but as an energetic being.  Is this appropriate?  In a reading, yes.  In a social setting, no.  And I’ve gotten a lot better at getting that under control and being a normal person in social interactions 🙂

Overactive emotional empathy

Have you ever been completely floored by someone else’s emotional pain?  This has happened to me several times.  When I was living in London, the brother of an acquaintance had committed suicide.  When this person came to my flat, I didn’t know how to shake off their pain after they had left, even though I didn’t know him very well and theoretically his pain should not have affected me so much.

When I was supporting a bereaved relative of mine several years ago, I had the most extreme experience of taking on someone else’s pain.

I was not bereaved.  But when I began supporting my bereaved relative, I found myself completely overtaken with grief.  At first I didn’t know what was happening.  I just assumed I felt bad for my relative.  But for about a month I was completely out of action.  I cried all day, I felt pain like I had never felt before in my life.  The funny thing was that when their pain began to lift, so did mine.

Several months later, an intuitive who sees auras told me I was carrying a terrible empathic emotional burden on my shoulders and it wasn’t mine; she told me to let it go.

This kind of overactive emotional empathy is totally needless and inappropriate.  It didn’t help anyone for me to be overwhelmed with pain (quite the opposite), but I didn’t even know what was happening and why I was in such pain.  So I didn’t know it was my empathy out of control.

Place empathy

This is when you enter buildings and walk past certain places and take on the energetic frequencies within that place.  I did some interpreting once in Spain.  I had to go to the police station and interpret for some people who were being accused of some crime.  The energy in the police station felt like desperation, sadness, apathy and cruelty and many other nasty things.

Afterwards, energetically I felt like I’d been beaten up and I felt out of sorts for a few days.  Again, that would not have affected me if I had known how to turn off my empathy.

Physical empathy

Do you feel the aches and pains of other people?  Physical empaths can get horrible headaches, and they may feel like hypochondriacs.  What is often happening is that they are like sponges, taking on the physical pain of others.

These are just of the most common types of empathy. There are many more types, including intellectual empathy, empathy with animals and plants.

If you identified with any of the above, to a smaller or greater degree, then you will want to read my next article on ‘How to turn off Empathy’ (posted in the next few days) in which I will share the three things you need to know in order to turn off your empathy.

Please leave a comment if you have something to share about your experiences with overactive empathy.

Read the next article in this series: How to Turn off Overactive Empathy.

Looking to heal your overactive empathy? Download the free preview of my book The Empath’s Toolkit: A Guide to Recovery for the Overactive Empath below!

Intuitive Experiment Worksheet

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