Do you consider yourself an emotionally sensitive person? Do you ever feel like a sponge, soaking up the feelings of others, whether you want to or not?
You’re not alone, sister. I get it and I’ve been there. You’re an empath. Being an empath is when you’re affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, thoughts, health and moods. We feel what they feel. It’s a gift, especially for the healers, teachers, and transformers, but it can also be a curse.
As an empath myself, I know the benefits and costs of this way of being. I’m one of those highly sensitive people. If I walk into a grocery store, hospital, or seminar without a sense of rootedness, I can feel overwhelmed by the many feelings around me.
As a former school teacher in an underserved school district in the Bay Area, my empathic ways made it very hard for me to stay in the field because I felt a little too much. My students lived in worlds where gang violence, drug abuse, and accumulative trauma added up week after week, and I found myself crying on my walks home from school, unsure of whose emotions I was feeling: mine or my students’? It didn’t seem appropriate for me to teach my kids to read when they struggled for safety outside of the classroom. My sweet students’ nervous systems were working overtime, constantly questioning who they could trust and whether or not they were safe.
That was A LOT for me to handle, and because I wasn’t yet trained as a somatic facilitator and life coach, (and wasn’t even aware of what an empath was) I would leave the classroom day after day energetically drained and burned out. On top of that, I was always sick with a cold. I blamed this on the normal germs in the classroom, but after really looking into this, my body was simply working overtime, feeling for me and my students.
I had no idea how to facilitate learning without losing myself in the feelings of others. I felt the fears, shame, sickness and worries FOR my students. Sure my empathy made it easy for me to know how my students were doing emotionally and helped me sensitively connect with them in really powerful ways, but I was missing a valuable tool for healing.
Detachment. There’s a huge difference between feeling FOR someone, and feeling WITH someone in empathy. When we feel for, we lose our own experience and suffer, when we feel with someone, we stay connected to our side of the court and grow in grounded power. When we feel for others we lose ourselves and sometimes violate another person’s process. When we feel with and hold the space for, as a witness, as a holder, we don’t take on their pain as our own. We have more capacity for clear seeing and clear knowing, and as a result we stay healthy, grounded, and open.
Our intuition thrives when we stay on our side of the court.
This video will explain how I coach as an empath without losing myself in the process:
Feeling for others isn’t the way of the healer. I’ve learned this the hard way. When I was in the 4th grade, I got pretty sick. My grandmother came to live with my family shortly after my grandpa passed away, and she needed a great deal of care due to her achey body suffering from arthritis.
As a young empath, with zero understanding of my ways of feeling, I did what I knew best: I felt for her.
Without consciously knowing it, (and without any scientific proof) I felt her arthritis and took it on inside my body. I developed a form of arthritis called spondyloarthropathy. I had to quit all of my sports (athletics were my entire life), take giant anti-inflammatory pills every morning, get blood tests every week, get my swollen knee drained from time to time, and commit to tons of physical therapy in order to get my body back. This healing process took two years.
I use caution when sharing this story because, I get it, this might sound nuts. But after all the work I’ve done over the years to better understand my psyche and spirit, this makes way too much sense. It’s no coincidence that two weeks after my grandmother moved in with me that I developed arthritis. This is the power and demise of the empath.
Then, this past spring, my dad was diagnosed with Cancer. I went home to our house to help out the week of his surgery, and low and behold, I developed an infection in my uterus and bladder. What? My dad’s prostate had Cancer, so my body felt like it had to feel it for my dad. It took me a while to move through this one, but this was the final wake up call I needed to turn my empathic ways around.
My Dad is Cancer free now (thank God), and the most important lesson I’ve received from this journey is to let him heal on his own, in his own way. Detachment here is key.
Today I have ownership over my empath ways. This is what happens when you bring a shadow to the light. Revealing this “blind spot” and then transforming it has been so important for me as a facilitator and coach.
Today I use my empath ways for good. I can redirect the empath when she’s trying to take on the feelings for others. I have a way of noticing it, feeling it, and then redirecting it in ways that serve me and my community in more appropriate ways. I’m no longer (as) exhausted after leading retreats, I barely ever get sick, and I have more access to my intuition. I know how to distinguish which feelings are mine, and which feelings are my clients’, friends’, or even the world’s. It’s been pretty liberating. Do I still feel depressed from time to time when the world suffers? Yes!
Now I simply ask myself this question, “Is this pain mine?” If it isn’t, I say a prayer for healing, and let it go.
So with that, I want to thank you for reading my story. We might have different perspectives and beliefs, but I want to appreciate you for respecting my understanding of the empath. I’m sure my own understanding will transform and shift over time, but this is where I’m at now.
It feels right to get this newsletter out before leading my favorite retreat this weekend, Celebration of Woman. It’s an emotionally intensive weekend, an epic experience for women to get in touch with their feelings and heal traumas from the past so they can step into their full potential. It’s a HUGE weekend, and luckily this newsletter reminds me how to stay on my side of the court while simultaneously facilitating a healing experience.
Thank you so much for reading, and if anything opened up for you after reading this newsletter, please respond by replying to this email. I’d love to hear from you!
All my love,
P.S. Do you desire support in your own leadership as an empath? Sign up for a discovery session with me and we’ll get your empowered leadership back on track. This free session is 45 minutes long and it’s perfect way to distinguish if your empathy is hurting you or supporting you. Together we’ll get your inner Empath back on board with who you are and what you came here to do. https://chrissybradysmith.com/discovery-session/
I’m a Life Coach for Wild Women Leaders who want to change the world. Our planet is crying out for transformation that only you can create and deliver, but the first step in making a positive difference is getting clear on your message. That’s where I come in. I’ll help you find your message using your Wild Woman Wisdom, a new paradigm of leadership requiring emotional depth, innate trust, vulnerability, and a strong container where it’s safe to fall. As your coach, I’ll hold the safest space possible for you to crumble, because in the fall you realize how high you can rise.