Have you ever been told or felt that you were ‘too sensitive’? Do you tend to pick up on emotions or subtleties of people that others don’t seem to notice? Do you find yourself avoiding the news, or when you watch or read it, you get overwhelmed or very emotional?

The first time I came across this term was eight years ago. It wasn’t long after I’d found out I had early cervical cancer and subsequent treatment. That year of my life was extremely hectic with a lot of change. Realising that my life was in danger seemed to cure me overnight of my less-than-caring attitude towards myself. Soon after my diagnosis I broke up with a very toxic and selfish partner. Later that year I also broke things off with a schoolfriend who’d turned nasty and abusive. I was open to what was next.

And then one day, out of the blue, I was scrolling through social media and came across this blog by the well-known author and psychiatrist Dr. Judith Orloff. As I read, I couldn’t believe how much I resonated with her descriptions and found myself exclaiming ‘yes!’ to every question she asked. I looked her up and found an audiobook of hers, Positive Energy Practices, and ordered it. It was the beginning of uncovering an enormous piece of myself that I’d not been able to place for so many years.

Not knowing I was an Empath, not understanding that my way of existing was not only valid, but shared with so many others, had impacted my life so negatively. I used to watch how other people could weather certain situations with an ease I could only dream of. People I found difficult to be around were easily tolerated by those I considered more capable than me, and I frequently judged myself on my seeming inability to just brush things off, or to not ‘let’ things bother me.

What is an Empath?

Count how many of the following questions you answer yes to:

·         Have you ever been told you’re ‘too sensitive’?

·         Are you generally aware of people’s moods or the energy in a room?

·         Do you ever get overwhelmed by noise, lights, smells, people touching you unexpectedly, or having strong reactions to how clothes or other objects feel?

·         Do you or did you used to find it difficult to lay boundaries and enforce them?

·         When someone else is very emotional, do you find yourself feeling the same, or do you cry when other people cry?

·         Have you found it difficult to accept that not everyone’s intentions are pure all the time?

·         Do you need regular time alone to recharge?

·         Do you have an affinity with nature or animals?

·         Even if you enjoy socialising, do you find it zaps your energy quite quickly?

·         When you see other people treating others, or animals, or the earth badly, do you feel depressed, extremely upset, angry, or find yourself avoiding the issue because it’s too much?

·         Do you find yourself drawn to helping others frequently, or have you in the past?

·         Do you find it difficult to be productive in certain environments?

·         Have you ever had premonitions, inexplicable ‘knowings’, or unspoken connections with others that seem out of the ordinary or strange?

·         Do you tend to have vivid dreams or visualisations?

·         Can you easily tell when someone isn’t telling the truth?

·         Do people often share deeply personal things with you about their life without you prompting them?

·         Do people frequently come to you for help when they’re going through something difficult?

·         Are you very heavily invested in justice and treating people well, regardless of who they are or where they’re from?

·         Do you struggle to conform to mainstream everyday life i.e. working a corporate job, being around materialism, or being around too many people?

·         Have you often felt misunderstood or unseen?

If you answered yes to ten or more of these statements, then you’re probably an Empath. If you answered yes to all, or almost all of them, you’re probably an intuitive Empath!

So what does this mean for you?

1. Firstly, self-care and regulating your day-to-day life, making sure your environments are not overly stressful, and making time for yourself to recharge, are going to be important for you to be at your best and feeling as well as possible. That includes relationships; if you’re surrounded by a lot of negative people, complainers, people who talk at you and not to you and anyone who, when in their company, drains you quickly, it’s going to make managing your life difficult. If your energy is constantly under threat from everything in your surroundings, it’s going to make emotional and energetic stability difficult.

The upside is that once you do learn to manage things, and are prepared to make the changes you truly need, you’ll see yourself bloom in a way you probably never have before. We cannot change what we are, so when we embrace and nurture our differences, that’s when we get the best chance to become healthy, happy, and functional people. In all of my time coaching Empaths, I’ve watched people go from stuck, drained, and struggling with their mood, to creating beautiful lives for themselves that fulfil and energise them, and make them happy! Being an Empath is a gift, if you trust it and begin to respond to and nurture all of those things that bring you deep relief, joy, and warmth.

2. If you don’t account for this side of you and integrate it into your day-to-day life, it can lead to depression, anxiety, or dysfunction. Before I knew I was an Empath, I didn’t know what to make of my knowings, my intuition, or anything else. The only thing I knew to do was ignore it and suppress it. I can look back now and see the many times my intuition was screaming at me to make a different choice, or to give me information I desperately needed, and I ignored it. It landed me in terrible situations over and over again.

Following it, on the other hand, has led me to a plethora of incredible things. It’s changed almost my entire friendship circle, with a few good ones from the past still hanging on. It’s kept me away from jobs that would have quickly made me sick and miserable. It’s lead me towards a path of professional fulfilment, adventures, healthier partners, and so many other things! It’s also helped me to learn all the things I needed to know in order to continue improving my life; books, coaches, therapists, anyone and everything I’ve needed to transform myself into an empowered person who loves their life.

3. Not everyone is going to understand or be interested in your Empath side, and that’s okay. Discernment became a massive skill I learnt early. I was so excited about finding a part of myself, but I quickly learnt that some people were really awkward, disinterested, or completely rejecting of the concept. As my occupational therapist once said to me ‘people with less sensitivity will find it difficult to conceptualise what it’s like to be more sensitive’, and I have found that to be generally true.

However, this is really a blessing! I know it’s a cliché, but when one door closes, another opens. Whilst living your new truth may restrict your previous pool of connections, it does open the door to more people like you. And also those who are comfortable with you living your truth and support you in it, whether they get it or not. I still have people in my life who aren’t into anything spiritual or Empath-orientated, but they don’t try to shut me down or convince me that my version of life is wrong or misguided. They accept that this works for me!

What an Empath isn’t

Being an Empath is so often conflated with codependency. Codependency is an adaptive, and completely changeable set of behaviours. It is not a disorder or condition, although it can negatively affect your life if it isn’t addressed. Codependency usually develops in childhood as a response to living in an emotionally turbulent upbringing. In order to survive we switch our focus to others whenever we’re not alone to reduce conflict as much as possible. This means our sense of boundaries and appropriate behaviour can be completely distorted, or in some ways missing.

It’s not unusual to feel like you have no frame of reference for what’s acceptable, healthy behaviour. Some of my friends supported me for years in understanding situations I found myself in. I’d explain to them what had happened, then ask them where the boundary should be, and who was responsible for what. It took some time, but I got there. I’m now extremely confident about what’s acceptable behaviour and what I’m within my rights to say. I generally don’t need any help with this anymore and don’t second-guess myself. If I don’t like something, I’m allowed to change it!

Something I wish someone had explained to me at the beginning

Empaths are prone to developing codependency, but it is not automatically a part of it, and healing from your codependency doesn’t mean you won’t be an Empath anymore. It does mean, though, that it’s much easier to cope with, to the point that it can actually be highly enjoyable and something you really value about yourself.

Once I realised I needed to heal my past traumas and codependency, I considered that I might lose my spiritual gifts, or weaken them. I decided that I couldn’t stay where I was anyway, so I’d just have to risk it and see. To my amazement, not only did I retain my experience as an Empath, but with all of this new energy and claiming my space back, my intuitions, dreams, and senses became even more attuned! I used to feel shy, scared to challenge anything, even gently, yet now I can lovingly point out or question someone when I know they’re spouting a loud of BS (the more it annoys people, the more it makes me laugh!), and my friends do the same for me! A friend said to me only the other day, ‘can you just let me be a mess and stop asking really sensible questions?!’. We laughed and I let her get on with it.

I want all of my fellow sensitive souls to thrive and have lives that they absolutely love. And we so commonly get left to struggle alone. It doesn’t need to be that way and I would love to connect with you and introduce you to other people like you to show you what’s possible!

If that sounds good to you, I’d love to invite you to join my group!

Harris x