“I am an empath. But for the first thirty years of my life, I didn’t know it, and I certainly didn’t know how to cope in the world as an empath.
At my lowest points, I was in total despair, with no clue of who I was, what value I had to offer the world, or how to improve my circumstances. I endured over three decades thinking that everything I felt was mine. I withstood being labeled emotional, fragile, unstable, or too sensitive. I was internally tormented, wondering why everything affected me so strongly. I thought I was too weak or unfit to handle the “real world.”
When I wasn’t conscious of the fact I was an empath, I simply believed what everyone told me. That’s Stephanie. She’s just emotional. Or dramatic. Or moody. Or weird. Once I became aware of the concept of being an empath, it helped . . . a little. But at the same time, it opened up an entirely new world with which I was completely unfamiliar. Yes, there was a name for “this thing I was,” but now what? I still had to figure out the daily task of living life.”
These words open the introduction to my upcoming book, The Evolutionary Empath. Through my spiritual awakening (read: bumping around in the dark, sucking my thumb in the corner, and cussing at God), I have gained some hard-won wisdom and perspective on living life as an empath. After emerging (scathed, definitely scathed) from the spiritual crucible, I realized it was my passion to share what I had learned with others to make their journey less painful, shorter and to offer them tools and perspective to understand what they were going through. That is my vision for this blog column.
So what exactly is an empath?
The short version is: we are highly sensitive beings. We came to this planet with a more refined “energetic physiology” that makes us prone to feeling e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. From other people’s emotions and problems to communicating with the unseen realms to oversensitivity to light, sound, and crowds, it is a challenge to live in our bodies. We perceive things other people don’t. This means many of us have the common experience of being judged, ostracized, ridiculed and even punished for our empathic gifts. And then subsequently suppressing our gifts so we could appear “normal.”
Sadly, that strategy only works for a while. It’s like holding a beach ball under water. It takes a lot of strength and focus to keep the ball from escaping our restraint. Shift your attention even a little and…sproing…the ball comes shooting up.
It’s like that with our true nature. We can only hide, deny, or ignore who we really are for so long before it starts affecting our relationships, job, health, happiness, fulfillment, and dreams. The real us is desperately trying to surface.
For most people, the pleading of our authentic expression remains unconscious for years until its compelling cries reach critical mass and become conscious. If we don’t listen, it often shows up in the form of crisis: sudden loss of a job, divorce, health issues, an unexpected move, financial trouble, near-death experience or something similar. Or even several at once!
As empaths, we have incredible gifts to offer this world. In a future blog, I’ll go into more detail about our cosmic mission (we are here on purpose!). For now, know that the reclamation of your empathic gifts – the sensitivities you’ve had to hide – is an important undertaking! For your own mental/spiritual/emotional/physical health, and for the planet and everyone around you.
So where do you begin?
Really, the answer is anywhere. Start with developing an energy hygiene practice. Start with learning to draw boundaries. Start with healing your wounds and forgiving your transgressors. Start with reading a book, taking a workshop or working with a healer.
One of my shamanic teachers, Linda Star Wolf, talks about the spiral path. She says, “The simple truth is that our culture doesn’t offer a healthy model for change. Change is not a linear process; it does not follow a straight line, nor does it happen in a circular fashion. . . .vThe spiral path is really an alchemical transformation map of shamanic consciousness. The spiral movement takes us through sequential experiences of symbolic death and rebirth on the pathway of changing something in our lives.”
That’s why there is no simple “do A, then B then C” prescription. In our left-brain-dominated society, we crave a linear model, a step-by-step set of instructions (and one without all the pain and excruciating self-examination, too, please!). Sorry to disappoint you, but that’s not how it really works. But at the same time, it should be freeing to know that there’s no wrong place to start and no wrong order to go in!
When my spiritual awakening began, I was dealing with change in practically every area of my life, examining and redefining everything from my relationship with God to what it meant to be a woman to what my life’s ambitions were. My career, marriage, finances, and self-concept were all in flux simultaneously. They are all interconnected and affect each other. This is why it doesn’t really matter where you start. It just matters that you start.
So on your path to becoming a conscious, fully self-expressed empath, just put the proverbial foot in front of the next.
You’ve already done the hardest part of the job…acknowledging you are an empath. Once you acknowledge and accept something, you bring it into the realm of the conscious where you can then begin to examine and interact with it. It is painful to deny; it is freeing to accept.
So say it with me…”Hi, I’m Stephanie and I’m an empath.”