Empaths process the energy of others through their own energetic and physical bodies. As empaths, we may have been picking up others’ “stuff” since childhood, and have most likely wondered what on earth was wrong with us.
But emotions and feelings that we thought were defining us, are not even our own. In this article, I define 6 types of psychic empathy and suggest some ways of protecting ourselves from an overload.
The Six Empathic Gifts
1) Physical Empathy
A physical empath is someone who can experience another’s state in her own body. For example, as a Reiki practitioner, I can feel the physical issues, aches, pains, or previous trauma of my clients.
Some may get strong headaches or sensations in their hands that come and go for no apparent reason when they are around others.
Medical empathy, which is a type of physical empathy, lets us diagnose other people’s issues by what we are feeling in our own body.
This can be a very uncomfortable form of empathy that would make us feel like hypochondriacs if our energy field is very open, because we would basically be taking on the symptoms of other people’s illnesses, usually for a very short time.
2) Emotional Empathy
As the name suggests, emotional empaths are feeling the emotions of others as if they were their own.
This can result in rapid mood swings and emotional overload. It may be very difficult for us to distinguish between our own emotions and those of others because we will often feel them with equal intensity.
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When we don’t know we have this gift and have a very open energy field, we may be getting too invested in the issues of our loved ones. We may want to help others so much that we will start taking on their problems, instead of trusting them to work things out on their own.
Unchecked emotional empathy is often tied to codependency and lack of boundaries in a relationship. We can get lost in other people’s energy, which leaves us drained and uncentered.
3) Intellectual Empathy
Intellectual empaths take on other people’s thought processes. Those of us who have this gift can easily join our consciousness with someone who is learning and therefore make excellent teachers.
This also means having the ability to see and understand everyone’s point of view.
The downside of intellectual empathy is that we may get too invested in someone else’s thought processes and mistake them for our own.
While we can easily convince others, because we can literally get inside their head, we may be just as easily misled, convinced and loose track of who we really are if we are not centered.
4) Animal Empathy
An animal empath has a particular affinity with certain species of animals.
Typically, this will be just one species, such as cats, dogs or horses. An animal empath would know what it’s like to be that animal, what it feels, wants and fears.
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Some animal communicators will have this gift. People who have a collection of unusual animals (such as snakes or spiders) may have an empathic affinity with the species.
5) Environmental Empathy
Environmental empathy is an ability to join in consciousness with Mother Nature.
It goes beyond mere plant or animal empathy in that we develop a feel for the whole ecosystem, and may get upset or unwell when ecosystems get damaged when trees are being cut down, or when there is some shift in the environment.
An environmental empath would also get an intuitive feel for what it’s like to be in a particular landscape – she would feel very differently when she is in the desert as opposed to in the forest.
Obviously, all of us appreciate the different environments, but for her, it’s almost as if she knows what it’s like to be a desert, to be a forest.
6) Place Empathy
Place empaths pick up energetic residues from places – in other words, they tune in to the energies of people who have frequented or lived in a place. Those of us who have this gift get an intuitive feel for what it’s like to be in a particular building or neighborhood.
A house may feel creepy or unpleasant, or we may feel very uncomfortable in places such as funeral parlors or police stations.
It is almost like having a relationship with a place, be it a house or a whole city, and being able to tell what it is like very early on, without additional information.
How to cope with being an empath?
Being aware of our empathic gifts is the first step to protecting our energy field more effectively. It is very liberating to realize that what we are experiencing is not our “stuff”, that there is nothing wrong with us.
Many empaths have been labeled as “weird” or unstable since childhood. We may have shut down, or been drifting in the sea of emotions and thoughts that are not even our own.
The first step is to bring awareness to our feelings and triggers. What causes me to become more open energetically? Is it pain and emotions of others? Is it anger or someone offending me unjustly, and me trying to put myself in their shoes, just to find some explanation for their behavior?
Once we pinpoint the problem, we can start working on separating ourselves from energies that cause overwhelm.
2) Meditation and stillness
Getting into our own body and being grounded is important for empaths. Meditation helps maintain focus and abstract from thoughts and feelings that are blocking clarity of perception. Being present in the now helps us center ourselves, and become aware of our feelings.
When we are centered, we are less likely to be influenced by the energies of others.
3) Energetic protection and clearing
It is important to learn tools for daily clearing of our energy field, and for maintaining spiritual protection. There is a plethora of teachers and healers out there, just find one that resonates and learn techniques that work.
I personally ask high beings to repair my energy field and to cut all the cords between myself and other people who have connected with me energetically. I also ask to draw back my energy to me and to fill up and restore my aura.
We need to take our power back, instead of over-identifying with another. It is important to get centered and notice how I feel at the moment.
Overall, stepping back into our power and learning to control our empathy requires determination and practice, but empathy is only a gift when it serves us. It does not help anyone, not us, and not our loved ones if we are unable to function because of emotional overwhelm.
Author: Inga Nielsen is a Reiki Master, a holistic healing practitioner, and a world traveler with a lifelong interest in spirituality. Her greatest passion is learning – and helping others to learn – to live from the soul, through what is commonly known as the Akashic Records. More information about Inga can be found on her website healing-radiance.com